Thursday, February 12, 2009


There are a lot of problems with CARE's proposed access bill in California: elitism, compromise, rejection of rights and grassroots, and its decision to go for a bill in the midst of California's economic dissolution.

After several comments posted in my earlier blog entry regarding the so-called constitutionality issue in records access in California, I intended to a make relatively short comment, but decided that topic and some other thoughts really need a separate entry. Below I discuss the constitutionality issue and make a couple observations on the coming California Fiasco.

This is not meant to be a definitive response. My comments are mine only, and do not represent CalOpen, which is perfectly capable of taking care of business itself.

The California Adoption Reform Effort (CARE) has shown little inclination to learn the history of past California records access campaigns, organize California adoptees outside the Amen Corner, build long-term relationships with leggies, or learn the lay of the Cal legislature, even with their pricey navigator…er... I mean lobbyist... at the helm.

Judging from CARE’s past disinterest in constitutional studies (see BB Church) and its recent lame de facto attempt to acquire a CalOpen-commissioned legal study (now in the possession of Bastard Nation) on state constitutional repercussions of a clean bill, suggests that it hasn’t commissioned research of its own, nor does it really care what research might say anyway. Seasoned rights-based activists working access bills know that CARE’s cry that pols have already evinced “privacy concerns” is a given. Pols hate controversy. “Privacy” is always “controversial.” (except when the government wants to snoop on us). It is always an issue when adoptee records access is concerned. Good research and preparation are what good activists do before they jump into the fire. CARE won’t win over everybody, but the hat they're holding in their hand won’t go up in smoke either, if they know what they're talking about.

CARE poobahs, however, just “know”that a clean records bill won’t pass state constitutional muster, a rather strange decision from an organization that claims its arguments are "non-emotional" and based on "statistical and empirical data.” Perhaps they’ve contracted Sylvia Brown to save them the trouble of actually paying for a study of their own (which may or may not back them up) and publishing the document for their supposed constituency to read and decide for themselves. Or maybe they're just lazy.

According to deformer logic, the way to pass a bill is to scissor out this and this and this until the bill is one big black hole in which to shove certain classes of unworthy adoptees. The bill has no value to anyone but the people who want their names on it. Those who fail to meet deformer criteria-- born the wrong year, lack parental consent, or some other arbitrary standard are, in the vernacular, shit outta luck.

If the bad bill fails, the same old deformers come back with the same old bad bill, with the same old "strategies" the next year and the next and the next and the next.

If the bad bill actually passes, riddled with exclusions (tiered access, disclosure vetoes, white-outs, mandated CIs, a registry, and whatever other sell-outs they can come up with), deformers claim victory, ignoring that they have eviscerated rights and created a vested interest in secrecy where none existed before, that most likely cannot be divested. In other words, certain classes of adoptees are screwed. If it saves just one....

How do deformers explain their logic to the shut-out and disenfranchised? They don’t.

A couple years ago the Massachusetts ABC group conveniently removed their names and contact information from their webpage, when, with their consent and support, their bill went south, excluding about 33 years of adoptees from access under their proud “access” law.

Records access is “non-partisan.” We would all love to support a clean bill in California, no matter who promotes it, as long as we know it is put forward by principled activists who know when to hold 'em and when to to fold ‘em. New Hampshire Senator Lou D’Alessandro knew. Sen. D demanded an up or down vote and got it. So did California Assembly Member Anthony Pescetti a few years ago, who pulled a bill. With CARE we know this won’t happen.

One of the most bothering declarations from CARE, outside of its claim that records access is not about rights, is its trivialization and marginalization of experienced, successful rights-based legislators and activists, articulated in its letter (see previous blogs below).

The Shut Up We Know What's Good For You Principle practiced alike by "friendly" deformers, the National Council for Adoption, the ACLU and anybody else who rejects adoptee autonomy is well articulated here:

There is going to be little room for debate on this if the time comes - we are being represented by a legislator who is in this to pass the legislation, not to make a statement.

Did Alabama Representative Jeff Dolabare fight a rights-based, no compromise campaign just to “make a statement”?

Did New Hampshire Senator Lou D’Allesandro and Representatives Janet Allen and Mike Whalley fight a rights-based, no compromise campaign just to “make a statement”?

Did Maine’s Representative David Farrington and Senator Paula Benoit fight a rights-based, no compromise campaign just to “make a statement”?

Did California Assembly Member Anthony Pescetti, sponsor of CalOpen’s AB 1349 (2001-2002) (and here) who had the integrity and moral fortitude to pull the bill rather than see it ruined, fight a rights-based, no compromise campaign just to “make a statement”?

Did Helen Hill in Oregon, Alabama AWARE , the New Hampshire coalition, and OBC for ME fight rights-based, no compromise campaigns just to "make a statement"?

Did CalOpen fight a rights based, no compromise campaign and give up its much-loved bill "just to make a statement"?

To say that the ideology of inclusion is merely a "statement" reduces the very real sacrifices of time, money, energy, family, friends and jobs that these pioneers and heroes made to nothing more than stunt status--a sideshow. I was at the statehouse in Sacramento the day that CalOpen decided to pull its bill. I saw the frustration, the anger, the open weeping of some who had worked so hard to get their bill as far as it had come. This was no stunt. This was courage.

CARE tells everybody outside of the anything-is-better-than-nothing crowd to go piss up a rope. We’re “professionals.” We know best.

CARE ignores both the historical successes in Oregon, Alabama, New Hampshire, and Maine and repeated deformist failures across the country including Minnesota, Connecticut, and bleeding New Jersey. It writes adoptees and bastards out of their scenario.

CARE has admitted that it will gut its clean bill to get something passed—hardly something that makes sense under a rights-for-all-based process (but then theirs is "wish based," anyway) or will gain the support of everyday bastards and adoptees.

This begs the question:

Who is really “making a statement’?


And what is it?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


A few minutes ago I posted a long blog, We've screwed up your state, now we're coming to screw up yours--California Adoption Reform Effort: if you don't like compromise, go away. After it was up for a few minutes the entry seemed too long. I have gone back and divided it into two parts: (1`) The Letter and (2) Comments. I have now posted The Letter first, followed by this. I suggest you go below and read the The Letter First.

Zen fascists will control you

100% natural
You will jog for the master race

And always wear the happy face

...California Uber Allies. Jello Biafra, Dead Kennedys

For the past few weeks we've been watching the formation of a new "adoption reform" organization in California: California Adoption Reform Effort (CARE). CARE consists of a few Californians, lead by adoptee author/filmmaker Jean Strauss who lives in Washington State and Stephanie Williams, a pricey lobbyist formerly with the Cal Trucking Association. It's advisory committee is cattle car Who's Who of mostly deformers, industry hacks, and out-of-staters.

According to CARE's webpage, the organization is "dedicated to providing adult adopted citizens access to a non-certified copy of their original record of birth."

Unfortunately, for Cal Adoptees, the CARE webpage shows us that it is just the same old deformer hag prettied up in a prom dress and talking from a commitee-written script.

According to the CARE webpage (my emphasis):

California Adoption Reform Effort is united in opening as many birth records in California as politially feasible.

Nothing appears on its webpage about a rights-rooted campaign. Instead CARE refers to "wishes" and desires" which apparently the state has a duty to grant to the adopted and their "birthmothers." (QUESTION: has nobody told CARE that "birthmother" is considered "the N word" by a lot of people, especially mothers, effected by adoption?)

Not satisfied with modeling itself on the successful legislative Alabama, New Hampshire, and Maine campaigns (a ballot initiative as Oregon's is economically unfeasible in Cal), CARE promises to run a "different" campaign.

How different? It's all rather vague.

CARE says its arguments are "non-emotional" (bu, remember, are "wishful.") It's scheme is based on "statistical and empirical data," but CARE fails to elaborate on what this ""statistical and empirical data" may be. Its "non-emotional" arguments, though, seem to include pleas for medical information, which CARE claims is a "right" denied California adoptees, the protection of "birthmothers" and adoptees from "businesses and institutions who profit from the unconsented[(sic] representation of adults"...and protection from incest. (!)

The subheading on CARE's original webpage read: Striving to provide a bridge for adopted citizens and their families to information that could save lives.

It was recently updated to read: California's effort to compassionately open birth records for adult adoptees while respecting state privacy laws!

Inexplicably the graphic used to illustrate this bridge is that of the Brooklyn Bridge, not the Cal-iconic Golden Gate. Catch it while it's still up!

Upfront: CARE tells us it will compromise-- will sell out the rights of all for favors for some. (It would be interesting to know just how many CAREists already have what most don't.) CARE says that two states have never sealed records. Kansas and Alaska, which is true. It says another seven unnamed states have unsealed their records which is untrue. Obviously Oregon, Alabama, New Hampshire and Maine have unsealed obcs for all adult adoptees upon request and without restriction. We assume that CARE is also including Delaware, which has a disclosure veto and Tennessee which has disclosure and contact vetoes. But, what is the 9th state? Whatever, it is clear that CARE considers states that give "birthparents" special rights over obc access and their adult offspring are "open" states. They are not.

Upfront: CARE declares the 1935 law that sealed California adoptee's birth certificates was "well-intentioned" and "seemed prudent at the time." Obviously somebody needs made aware of Georgia Tann's work in California.

Upfront: CARE infantalizes adult adoptees by confusing open adoption with adoptees' right to their obcs by saying that "CWLA and the Evan B. Donaldson Institute "advocate at least some degree of openness in adoption."

Upfront: in a letter (see text below) from CARE to a select group of potential members, CARE defines itself as "professional" not "grassroots" while claiming adoptees need to be heard. The just need "navigated" by professionals in suits who you pay to lead you around by your needy noses. CARE, in fact, tells non-compromisers to hit the road. BTW, membership in CARE costs $85 a pop.

Upfront: in this same correspondence, CARE claims that the opening of all obcs would violate the California State Constitution and bring on lawsuits, but fails to explain why. A "professional" organization, arguing rights, not reunion, would commission legal research to back up a rights argument before it started. CalOpen, in fact, did just that, but they refuse to give the document up to CARE.

Assemblywoman Fiona Ma has agreed to sponsor CARE's bill, which is being fast tracked. CARE is trolling for co-sponsors and endorsements. So far, CARE says it is a "clean bill" but virtually admits that it will be amended and watered down. The bill hasn't been printed yet. A hearing is scheduled for March, but no date has been set. I will write more about this bill in a separate blog soon.

Jean Ulrich and a number of seasoned Cal acativists have revived California Open to hold the line on CARE and its "experiment" ( CARE's word for what they're doing.) In the early 2000's Cal Open's clean SB 1349 made its way up to Senate hearings. Under threat of the bill being compromised out of recognition, CalOpen and its sponsor took the high road and withdrew the bill. I was there when it happened. It was a sad day, but also an honorable day. We did the right thing.

CalOpen's new page went up over the weekend as well as a MySpace page. Facebook is forthcoming. Jean and CalOpen need help to stop this bill from being compromised, and if it is compromised to kill it. CalOpen will be partnering with other groups. It also need help from us--especially help from California adoptees, their families, friends and anyone with a California connection. We cannot let California bastards and adoptees be written out. We are not lab rats!

BB Church momentarily came out of retirement to blog on the upcoming California Fiasco. He also has posted the above letter. Go here to read his thoughts.

ADDENDA: 2/9/09, 3: 25 PM: BB Church has just published a stunning critique of CARE. Go to the link directory about this and read it.

Monday, February 09, 2009


A few minutes ago I posted a long blog, We've screwed up your state, now we're coming to screw up yours--California Adoption Reform Effort: if you don't like compromise, go away. After it was up for a few minutes the entry seemed too long. I have gone back and divided it into two parts: (1`) The Letter) and (2) Comments. I am posting the letter first. I suggest you it first; then read the comments posted in the entry above this.


For the past few weeks we've been watching the formation of a new "adoption reform" organization in California: California Adoption Reform Effor (CARE). CARE consists of a few Californians, lead by adoptee author/filmmaker Jean Strauss who lives in Washington State and Stephanie Williams, a pricey lobbyist formerly with the Cal Trucking Association. It's advisory committee is cattle car Who's Who of mostly deformers, industry hacks, and out-of-staters.

Bastard Nation has obtained a copy of an email sent by CARE "president Jean Strauss" to approximately 20 potential supporters. Theirvague but very real ideology of compromise is laidout, politically correct language ordered, "privacy" deified, compromise flogged, and experienced grassroots activists told to jump off the Santa Monica Pier.

----- Original Message -----
From: Jean Strauss
Sent: Wednesday, February 04, 2009 11:12 PM
Subject: C.A.R.E.'s strategy moving forward...

Dear Everyone,

First off, thank you to all of you who were able to attend the Sacramento meeting this past Saturday. My apologies for taking so long to correspond to the entire group about what transpired at that meeting, and in the time since, but this is the first day I have had any free time.

The meeting was highly productive and positive. As we were able to inform those in attendance, in the last three weeks of January, the California Adoption Reform Effort grew from a concept to a reality. We are now a licensed professional organization with bylaws, an executive board and council, and a general membership. As of February 1st, CARE became a dues paying membership organization. We now have the structure in place to actively welcome full members, seek funding and support, and move forward with our legislative work. I'll be sending out a general invitation to join via our website in just a few days (probably this weekend). Your support (and the support of many others) will be the only way to achieve our goal of providing access to original birth records for as many California adult adoptees 18 and older as possible.

Our bill was submitted the third week of January, and we have an enthusiastic and very distinguished author in Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, the Majority Whip of the Assembly. In the next two days, a co-author who will be announced. We are currently involved in daily work in preparation of our first hearing sometime in March. We have been pursuing endorsements, and have begun district meetings.

Our effort is a professional one, not a grassroots one. We are being guided through the labyrinth of the California legislature by Stephanie Williams, a lobbyist with over two decades of experience walking the halls in Sacramento. Our strategy, language, and any ultimate success, will be largely due to her expertise and hard work. We would not be where we are without her, and supporting her is an important aspect of our membership.

One of the first hurdles we have to overcome as a group is how to educate others within the adoption reform movement about the strategy we are undertaking in California. It will be crucial to our success that people understand that our strategy in the California Adoption Reform Effort is solely based upon the legislative process that exists and what will work within that process. Hence, this is not an effort to 'right a wrong' or a 'fight for our Constitutional rights'. Our approach is a non-emotional one based upon statistical and empirical data. Thus, ours is 'an effort to update an antiquated and outdated policy established in 1935 (the sealing of adoptee birth records) so as to be able to provide adult adoptees with information about their origins so that they will have the ability to know their ethnicity, their nationality, their exact date and time of birth, and their original name as a protection against potential incest.'

The difference in language (and emotion) will be necessary within the confines of the legislative process. The results will be what we want to achieve - even though we're not using the 'language' we're used to using to express our needs. This is not an easy thing to ask of all of you, and yet it will be an important contribution of each of you to this effort if you are able to master it. I realize the italicized text above doesn't verbally capture the emotional impact that sealed records have had upon adoptees who've faced a lifetime of secrets, nor does this language relay how those secrets have often eroded self esteem and contributed to a the feeling of 'second class citizenry'. I know many of you are interested in being involved in access legislation because you believe access to your original information (all of it) is your constitutional right, and the constitutional right of your children. I am with you. Yet I believe we must use tools that will help us get the job done. The language of 'constitutional and civil rights' commonly used in access legislation appeals stands in direct opposition to the California Constitution. If we use this approach, we will, I have become convinced, fail.

There are other, equally compelling reasons for adoptee access and they can be made from data and 'unintended outcomes' of the original code which sealed the records. It's less emotional, less sexy, less what we're all used to saying and feeling - but it's language that will work with legislators and their staff. After walking the halls of the Capital this week I am convinced of two things: we have a highly competent lobbyist representing our effort and her strategy for getting this legislation through this maze has the best potential for achieving legislative change to sealed records policy.

Many might say that this 'quieter' and very precise language and strategy was not needed in other states which have achieved openness, and many may wonder why Oregon, our neighbor, could succeed without having to play this 'game'. In Oregon, a single donor helped fund a statewide measure which was voted upon by citizens. To do that in California would cost between $3 and $30 million - and the result would most likely be the same as Oregon's: a lawsuit would be brought that the proposition is unenforcable because it would be unconstitutional. Oregon was able to prevail in their lawsuit, and much of the legal debate was elegant and helps our cause. But it does not address the very real difference between our two states constitutions. A similar legal battle in California would be far less likely to end in a positive outcome.

The first amendment of California's Constitution is all about privacy. Privacy is so important in our state that there are even privacy committees. We may be the only state in the Union with such a strict and overriding concern regarding privacy. To pass our bill, we will have to address the privacy obstacles that will be in our path.

We have submitted a clean bill (this means it has no amendments or compromises attached to it). We are asking for one thing and one thing only: that every adult adoptee over the age of 18 be allowed to have a non-certified copy of their original record of birth. It is a simple bill - but it is not an easy challenge. I know there are some for whom compromise represents a 'sellout'. You probably should not join C.A.R.E. We welcome your support, and we want a clean bill, but we are already facing very complicated maneuverings which will probably mean we are facing some compromise. There is going to be little room for debate on this if the time comes - we are being represented by a legislator who is in this to pass the legislation, not to make a statement. I say this after only one day of walking the halls. Privacy has already come up. It is not the concern of just one legislator, it's the concern of every legislator we've encountered.

I say all this not to be discouraging but to be honest and clear. Our author and lobbyist need our support for the path they see to success. They are interested in helping our group provide access to original birth records to as many adult adoptees as possible, and I believe we have a good shot at succeeding if we can achieve a broad understanding among triad members and friends for the need for this strategy, and for the nuances of language that will be necessary to succeed at our goal.

I know that many of you have taken the time to submit new language for our website and organization. Know we've been reviewing all of it and running it by the people who will be working this bill through the tricky seas ahead. What ends up on the website and in postings is going to be the result of legislative vetting.

I have often cited a quote of Thoreau's when trying to help people understand that triad members are the voices which should be listened to as adoption policy is revised. To highly paraphrase Thoreau,

To navigate an ocean we should seek the counsel of shipwrecked mariners rather than find our way based on the advice of those who've never been out of sight of land.

Our lobbyist and author are the mariners who must chart this course. They know, much better than any of us, how to navigate these waters. Only through their wise counsel and honesty will we arrive at our destination.

All that said, we also won't arrive there without the support of all of you, and many other friends. Please consider joining our effort and encouraging others to as well. We have an opportunity to do much good here. My apologies if much of this has sounded didactic and rather heavy. I'm just trying to relay what I have learned about the situation we face. I'm thrilled to be involved and honored to know each of you. I want us to succeed...

Many thanks to all of you for your time and patience and good wishes!


Jean Strauss