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New Jersey SCS1406 (A1406/S799) ACTION ALERT and update

On Monday the New Jersey Assembly’s Human Services Committee heard testimony on A1406 (The Assembly’s version of the New Jersey Senate’s S799.) The bill has become a mangled beyond repair attempt at what was originally intended to be open records legislation. At this point the two bills have been combined and are now known as SCS1406.

This is not an adoptee rights bill.

An unknown number of adoptees will be left behind by this bill, further, it would actually SEAL the records of any child entering the New Jersey child welfare system by way of the “safe haven” baby dump system.

In short, any records this bill would open will come at the direct expense of the rights of other adoptees, abandoned children, and boarder babies (see below.)


ACTION NEEDED-

The bill has now been released to the full Assembly.

Email contact is convoluted at best. For the moment, at least, this page has a full contact list, click on each individual  Assemblyman or Assemblywoman’s links (not the Senator links) and you’ll find phone numbers and other contact information . You can also utilize the “Contact your legislator” button to come to an email contact form for each Assemblymember. I’ll do some further digging and see if I can come up with a better means of contact.

Also see Bastard Nation’s latest action alert urging letters to the Governor-  BASTARD NATION ACTION ALERT: Please Write New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to Veto SCS799.1399. I will post it in full at the end of this post.


Personal Commentary-

I submitted testimony opposing the bill, but was unable to be present at the hearing. I listened to the full audio the afternoon and early evening of the hearing.

Bastard Nation: The Adoptee Rights Organization also submitted testimony in opposition to the bill.

There are other opponents to the bill, a number of them ideologically opposed to women’s autonomy and free agency, but I am sadly unaware of any other adoptee rights organizations who have held the line and fought against this disastrous bill, holding out for a bill that would instead provide full equality to all adoptees and for the abandoned children and boarder babies of New Jersey.

To say that is a disappointing state of affairs is an understatement. Watching organizations and individuals actually supporting this bill that would actually seal records for a number of adoptees and other children has been disappointing to say the least.

It reveals a lack of comprehension of the importance of standing for the rights of those often most vulnerable, unable to speak on their own behalf, with no real political representation and those whose rights are all too often deemed ‘expendable.’

I approach this as I do all adoption related legislation, from the personal perspective of both one who was left behind and whose rights were deemed ‘expendable’ in the Ohio adoption ‘reform’ effort AND from the perspective of someone who was apparently a boarder baby, born in a hospital to an identified mother but who was taken into the foster system, not home with her. Which is to say, I know a thing or two from personal experience about precisely the damage that this bill in New Jersey stands to do.

Sadly, far from an actual open records bill, A1406 will by default, SEAL the records of kids entering the New Jersey child welfare system via the “safe haven” or baby dump program.

The bill’s attached statement spells it out in plain English (emphasis mine):

In the case of a child who was surrendered pursuant to the “New Jersey Safe Haven Infant Protection Act,” the State Registrar shall deem that the birth parent requested nondisclosure and shall not provide the birth parent’s name or home address, if recorded on the child’s birth certificate. The Division of Youth and Family Service (DYFS) in the Department of Children and Families is directed to notify the State Registrar when a child is surrendered pursuant to that law to enable the Registrar to identify the certificate of birth in order to deem that the birth parent requested nondisclosure.

For any child passing through the “safe haven” intake path, they will be treated from the outset as if they were vetoed from birth, by default. Their records will be sealed from them, barring a parent later being able to somehow prove they are the parent and also somehow remove the auto-veto, these kids will be screwed for their lifetimes.

As I’ve documented here on my blog before, New Jersey is one of the states counting boarder babies, those born in hospitals to identified mothers into it’s baby dump system. (See New Jersey- Boarder Babies being folded into “Safe Haven” statistics.)

As these abandoned children and boarder babies enter the child welfare system, some will be adopted, but others will enter the foster care system. Normally, a child’s records are only sealed upon adoption, but under New Jersey’s A1406, all of the kids deemed “safe haved” would have their records sealed, thus producing for the first time a NEW set of kids with sealed records, some of whom would be foster kids with sealed records. This is unprecedented nationally.

A1406 would also enshrine in New Jersey law a newly constructed state granted privilege, that of parental disclosure vetoes over adoptee’s access to our birth certificates.

It is, at it’s core, a conditional access fake “restoration of adoptee rights” bill that includes a provision for contact through intermediaries, a provision in the vetoes that “birthmothers” must sign over medical, cultural, and social histories if they want the veto, otherwise their veto is disreguarded. (This essentially extorts personal medical information out of mothers if they want to use the state constructed veto, a likely HIPAA violation.)

The bill once again creates the intentional conflation around the term “contact preference form.”

Oregon, Maine, New Hampshire, and Alabama’s “contract preference form” has no force of law behind it, they do not not bar adoptees from gaining access to their original documentation.

New Jersey’s 1406’s so called “document of contact preference” on the other hand is actually a disclosure veto cloaked in the language of “preference.” It WOULD prevent adoptees from gaining access to their original birth certificates.

This is precisely the form of “language creep” I’ve warned about in relation to these contact preference documents for years now. As I wrote in my earlier post, Adoptee Rights 101: Class Bastard and how to recognize a genuine adoptee rights bill, the first “contact preference form” was created as part of the struggle to open Oregon’s records. It was not in the ballot measure Oregon voters voted on, but was a later addition.

Section 7 also merits special attention as it too is antithetical to adopteed people, and our familys’ civil rights, our right to avail ourselves of legal remedy in the wake of wrongdoing:

7.    (New section)  a. A person, firm, partnership, corporation, association or agency that has placed a child for adoption shall not be liable in any civil or criminal action for damages resulting from information provided by the State Registrar pursuant to this act.

b.    An employee, agent or officer of the Department of Health and Senior Services who is authorized by the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services to disclose information relating to the certification of birth pursuant to this act, shall not be liable for:

(1) disclosing information based on a written, notarized request submitted in accordance with this act; and

(2) any error or inaccuracy in the information that is disclosed after receipt of a written, notarized request submitted in accordance with this act, and any consequence of that error or inaccuracy.

In short, it would create a liability shield.

Without the ability to pursue our rights in a court of law, we have no hope of our rights being upheld.

This is a massive gift to the industry (as well as the government itself.) Section 7 is little more than a government bail out for erasing industry and state misdeeds in the course of handling our information.

Need a real world example of whose rights this stands to curtail?

Take my post about a story from New Jersey, Catholic Charities offers up another lifetime’s worth of lies and false “reunion”, in which the supposed “reunion” New Jersey’s Catholic Charities facilitated turned out to be just another lie once revealed by a DNA test.

The Adoptee was mismatched and the Family in question was left with no means by which to regain genuine information about where their child actually went other than pursuing the matter in the courts.

As the article my post is based upon, Three decades after adoption, DNA test reveals painful truth, points out, sometimes the courts are the only recourse left open to individuals and families who get screwed by the state and those facilitating in the “reunion industry:”

Angry, and worried about his first-born son’s fate, Ryba consulted with a private investigator. He even tried to file missing person and kidnapping reports with the New Jersey attorney general’s office. He said he was turned away.

As Ryba continues to search for answers, he recognizes that a lawsuit may be his only option. But so far, he has been unable to find an attorney willing to take his case. He also worries about the cost.

Yet New Jersey 1406 stands to close off precisely those legal options. It takes away the final avenue left open to those with no other recourse.

For the liability shield aspects alone, this bill then becomes antithetical to adoptees and our families’ rights.

Obviously, these are but a few of the many fatal flaws with the legislation.

Bastards holding out for a genuine adoptee rights bill, yes after the 30 years of pre-existing work in New Jersey which STILL have not resulted in a clean bill this year, find themselves in some weird middle.

We do not support the bill.

Other adoptees and bill supporters have co-opted so much of the terminology and the core arguments of genuine adoptee rights efforts, yet they utilize such in service to supporting a bill that will ultimately seal yet more records, those of some of New Jersey’s most vulnerable and politically voiceless kids.

The Bastard Nation action alert makes it plain:

Promoters of the bill have co-opted the language of the real adoptee rights movement and real obc access laws by equating their bill to Oregon’s law, which through ballot initiative, restored the right of all that state’s adoptees to the unrestricted right to their own original birth certificates.

Opponents of the bill fight it for their own reasons, (some of which are altogether little more than industry ass covering.)

Bastards oppose it from our own, uniquely Bastard-centric stance (as well as a stance  supportive of our parents, particularly our mother’s genuine personal medical privacy rights.)

This makes us distinct from the factions arguing  both in support and opposition who gave testimony at the hearing. We are a third thing; Bastards opposing the bill from a position of wanting to ensure equality in the eyes of the law WHILE supporting our families’ medical privacy.

Family medical information is best left to families, not newly constructed state bureaucracies, exactly as it is for non-adopted individuals.

I cannot speak for others, but for myself personally, this puts my personal position in close alignment to for example,  Senior Mothers Adoption Activist Coalition (SMAAC.) But then, being situated thusly should surprise no one who has been reading along as I self identify as both a Radical Feminist and a Bastard.

I see no inherent contradiction in supporting the genuine rights of Mothers and simultaneously supporting Bastard rights.

It is primarily the lies of the industry and surrounding culture that set adoptees and mothers against one another politically. In reality, more often than not our interests, particularly in seeing all our personal documentation restored to us tend to align more often than not.

As for the hearing itself, we certainly heard plenty of that pitting Mothers against Bastards and blathering about “balancing rights.”

It was quite possibly one of the most ensnared in non-sequiturs,  reunification-centric, conflationary and extraordinary uses of co-opted language hearings I’ve ever endured listening to in all my years of Bastard activism.

The usual false tropes were brought up:

  • many on both sides arguing their stance would result in further abortion reduction/curtailment (whether one used such to support or oppose the bill, the core argument is antithetical to women’s genuine reproductive autonomy. Each individual woman who determines for herself she needs an abortion is a sample of one. When the state begins to set goals for ‘how many is too many women always pay the price.)
  • false notions of presumed/alleged/expectations of “birthparent privacy” and supposed “balancing of rights” (which the courts have repeated rejected, see both the Tennessee and Oregon cases. Oregon was appealed to the supreme court, but rejected, finding that the circuit court had correctly decided the matter.)
  • the intentional conflations surrounding  “contact preferences” (a contact preference form is not a disclosure veto, nor contact veto)
  • the same old same old “opt in” vs “opt out” irrelevancies (both stances support legislation that still curtail Bastard access)
  • alleged “needs” for counseling and intermediaries (as we are considered somehow distinct and separate from other adults deemed legally competent to conduct their own interpersonal and family affairs)
  • registries and vetoes as some form of adequate substitute for adopted people’s equality (similar to my point above, though also a demand that the state construct systems to collect, maintain and dispense deeply personal information such as personal medical histories as somehow cognized as some form of adequate substitute for adopted people’s full legal equality to nonadopted people)
  • opening records to provide some kind of psychological “wholeness” or “completeness (not a rights based argument, rather it reduces our human/civil/identity rights down to what would be a mere state granted-or withheld- privilege confererred almost out of pity upon poor needy and emotionally defective adoptees)
  • falsely tangling in family medical histories to original birth certificate access (non-adopted people get no medical information with their OBCs, nor does the state construct systems by which to collect and pass along such deeply personal and legally protected private information for non-adopted people)
  • etc.

But by the time the hearing was well underway, it was down to everything from facebook privacy settings to outright lies such as (paraphrasing now):

  • nothing is really secret, anyone who really wants to find the information will
  • 90% of inter-country adoptees already have their information/less than 10% could be considered confidential
  • Adam Pertman of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute outright claiming he has “no horse in this race,” when he himself is by his own admission at the hearing an adoptive father and employed by an organization in the very business of promoting the “normalcy” of adoption and adoption as a positive outcome
  • Pertman also claimed that going forward those who needed to could always avail themselves of “lawsuits.” Had he actually read section 7 of the legislation, he might have noticed A1406 would specifically curtail New Jersey adoptees and their families right to utilize the courts in relation to information released via the legislation
  • the repeated insistence that New Jersey’s “safe haven”/baby dump records are already sealed (then why would this legislation propose to seal them?!?)
  • Treating Oregon’s “contact preference” refusals as if they were somehow the same as what New Jersey would experience when Oregon’s preference forms are not in any way legally contact prohibitive and do not bar the adoptee from receiving their original information (i.e. comparing apples and oranges)
  • etc.

Put simply, the hearing was a trainwreck, with nonsense and nonsequitors flying by a mile a minute, with co-opted adoptee rights arguments being used in support of this catastrophic bill.

As for genuine Bastard activists?

We’ve been both personally trashed for daring to say anything about ‘another state’s bill’  (never mind the effect it will have on other states, the national precedents in it, the degrading of the term “contact preference” in it, and the fact that it’s actually a sealed records bill and that SOMEONE has to stand for the genuine rights of ALL of New Jersey’s adoptees, boarder babies, and abandoned children) AND simultaneously trashed for not being present at the hearing. (Never mind some of us have real lives, families, and other obligations that made being there impossible.) It’s been ugly.

I may or may not write to that further at a later date. Suffice it to say, I have much to say about what I’ve been seeing as of late out of many so self professed advocates for adoptee rights.

After a hearing the that lasted roughly 5 1/2 hours, the committee voted the bill out to the full Assembly:

Committee Voting:
AHU 6/14/2010 – r/ACS – Yes {6} No {0} Not Voting {0} Abstains {4} – Roll Call

  • Vainieri Huttle, Valerie (C) – Yes
  • Rodriguez, Caridad (V) – Yes
  • Angelini, Mary Pat – Abstain
  • Biondi, Peter J. – Abstain
  • Fuentes, Angel – Yes
  • McHose, Alison Littell – Abstain
  • O’Scanlon, Declan J., Jr. – Abstain
  • Prieto, Vincent – Yes
  • Tucker, Cleopatra G. – Yes
  • Wagner, Connie – Yes

An audio archive of the full hearing can be found online, just click the “listen” link next to”Monday, June 14, 2010, 2:00pm Committee Room 16.”

Postscript of sorts-

Throughout our ‘community’ particularly online (be that on mailing lists, in blog posts and comments, in newsletters or even individual’s facebook posts and comments) I’ve watched people’s assumptions are unraveling. Sides are being chosen, and yes, long term friendships have come apart over organizational or individual decisions to either support or oppose  fatally flawed legislation. I’m not merely speaking about New Jersey, but also more broadly, pertaining to Illinois, South Dakota, and other states.

This year has been brutal with roughly 15 states ‘in play’ and next to no clean bills.

New Jersey is its own particular version of Bastard hell in that adopted people and their families have been banging their heads against that particular brick wall for 30 years.

Yes, people are dying.

But as I’ve said over and over, there’s not a Bastard or a Mother, or a family member on this planet that isn’t dying. One can come out to a dead 50 year old just as easily as they can an 80 year old.

The fact that people die is no excuse to gut someone else’s human/identity/civil rights as part of a personal shortcut in HOPES of getting yours (provided of course, you end up being one of the lucky ones not vetoed if the bill passes.)

On the one hand, it’s been hard to watch and truly sad to see these coming aparts yet sadder still to see those willing to sell the rights of the person standing next to them down the river.

Watching in real time as individuals embrace the idea that other adopted people’s rights can be cast aside. The usual promises of “we’ll come back for yours later” sometimes accompany such, but more often than not, it doesn’t.

Regardless of what people say, the reality is both that after people get theirs most pack up and go home, leaving those left behind by such legislation to fend for themselves with an even smaller pool of activists, AND the real bottom line, incremental strategies have never worked, not once, not in a single state.

Don’t be fooled, what bill gets passed will be with adoptees for at least some of their lifetimes.

No state that has ever passed a fake “open records” bill has ever gone back to clean up the toxic mess left in its wake. No state has ever expanded access after a bad bill has passed.

If New Jersey is any measure, bad bills such as the “safe haven” baby dump bill are only followed by proposed tightening and even further sealing in the aftermath. New Jersey’s bill seeks to even further curtaial abandoned children’s rights and access, not expand it.

On the other hand, observing this heart wrenching and tragic process has also clarified a lot.

Today we have a much clearer picture of who stands firmly for full Adoptee equality and who is willing to settle for variations on the theme of second class citizenship. Who believes we can settle for less than being treated equally under the law, and who feels substitutes and further forms of state control, shame, and screwing over both other adoptees and in New Jersey’s case, boarder babies and abandoned children constitutes some sick version of ‘good enough’.

Bastard rights seem to have a lot of fair weather friends.

When the going is easy, there are plenty of people around. But when it comes to standing equally strong for the rights of those all too often left behind? The field clears out quite a bit.

Not that I needed the reminder, but once again, observing this process, this winnowing of who stands strong and who is willing to settle for less than full equality, has taught me in very tangible terms who understands the core concept of class Bastard, and the necessity of protecting the rights and access of the most vulnerable and all too often deemed ‘expendable.’

It has also taught me who doesn’t; who is ok with screwing over someone else to either ‘get theirs’ or ’settle for what we can get now.’

Call it a personal decision, but my support, my time, and yes, my resources have been and will continue to be given accordingly.

Having been left behind by a deform measure, I’ve always understood, that when it comes to Bastard Access- either we all go together or we don’t go at all- “Nobody gets left behind. Or forgotten.”

stitch-b.jpg

Disney’s fictional characters Lilo, Nani, and Stich have a very great deal to say about notions of leaving people behind. They explain it in terms so simple any child can get their arms around it:

“Ohana means family, family means nobody gets left behind. Or forgotten.”

It’s amazing, yet sadly predictable to see some really do consider our real lives, our rights and our real real life families worthy of less.


Full Bastard Nation action alert-

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

BASTARD NATION ACTION ALERT: WRITE NEW JERSEY GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE TODAY TO VETO SCS799/1399

BASTARD NATION ACTION ALERT
Please distribute freely!

Please take a minute to write short letter to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and ask him to veto SCS799/1399 if it reaches his desk. The bill passed out of the Human Services Committee on June 14. (NOTE: These are the numbers used by proponents. Two bills have been consolidated and are also known as SCS1406).

SCS799/1399, promoted as an Adoptee’s Birthright Bill, sells adoptees down the river, by creating a new, special 12-month temporary ”veto right” for “birthparents;” thus, exempting the state’s adopted adults from equal protection and treatment regarding the release of the government-generated public record of their births. Promoters of the bill have co-opted the language of the real adoptee rights movement and real obc access laws by equating their bill to Oregon’s law, which through ballot initiative, restored the right of all that state’s adoptees to the unrestricted right to their own original birth certificates.

New Jersey is a key state. If this restrictive legislation is enacted serious harm to the genuine adoptee rights movement throughout the country could occur.

Read SCS799/1399 here
Read SCS799/1399 statement here

SCS799/1399:

*includes a 12- month open enrollment period, starting after the Department of Health and Senior Services releases regs for SCS799/1399 implementation, that allows “birthparents,” to file disclosure vetoes–wrongly called a “contact preference form”– before obcs, past and future, are unsealed.

*authorizes the State Registar to replace the original birth certificate of those subjected to the contact veto/disclosure veto with a mutilated copy of the obc with all identifying information, including the address of the parent(s) at the time of birth (if they appear on the cert) deleted.

*requires “birthparents” who file a contact veto/disclosure veto to submit an intrusive and probably illegal medical and family history form to activate the veto.

*requires “birthparents” who file a contact veto/disclosure veto to fill out the same intrusive and probably illegal medical and family history form.

*seals by default all “safe haven” birth certificates, even though many “safe haven” babies are boarder babies, born to identified mothers and abandoned in hospitals shortly after birth. Some of these children may never be adopted and will never have a genuine birth certificate.

The fiscal note in the original bill has been removed, but the the sub bill mandates the Department of Health and Senior Services to mount an extensive media campaign to inform birthparents of their “special veto right” and other bill “initiatives.”

A typewritten letter or handwritten letter,
no longer than 250 words, is preferable.

Use Veto SCS799/1399: The Adoptee’s Birthright bill in the header and include your name and address.

Governor Chris Christie
PO Box 001
The State House
Trenton, NJ 08625-0001

If a letter is not possible, send an email through the template here.

Bastard Nation’s letter:

Dear Governor Christie:

Bastard Nation: the Adoptee Rights Organization, the largest adoptee civil rights organization in North America, opposes SCS799/1399: The Adoptee’s Birthright bill. We ask you to veto it if it comes to your desk. The bill is currently awaiting a voice in the Assembly.

SCS799/1399 will permit some New Jersey adopted adults to receive their true and accurate original birth certificates. Others, through compromise language in this bill, will receive only a false and mutilated certificate with the name and address of the parent(s) bureaucratically excised by the State Registrar by order of the birthparent(s).

Bastard Nation rejects the special right of birthparents to remove their names from the birth certificates of their own adult offspring. No other parent has that right. Birthparents should not have different rules.

Since 1999 four states have restored to adoptees the unrestricted right to their own birth certificates: Oregon through state-wide ballot initiative, and Alabama, New Hampshire, and Maine through legislation. Why should New Jersey buck the tide and pass a bill that continues to treat adoptee access to their own birth certificates as a favor, not a right–a right that the non-adopted enjoy without a second thought? Please veto SCS799/1399 and tell the legislature to return with a new clean bill that restores the right of access to all the state’s adopted citizens.

Yours truly,

Marley E. Greiner

Executive Chair

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