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“National Adoption Day:” a celebration of sealed records & inequality

Over roughly the past week 4,500 kids have been adopted as part of America’s hypernatalist “National Adoption Day” (”NAD”) rituals, the vast majority of them have also had their records permanently sealed.

Each year this so called “National Adoption Month” (”NAM”) builds to a frenzied peak culminating in courtroom based media friendly spectacles of mass adoptions.

As kid after kid is processed their adoptions are finalized in assembly line fashion.

But the key feature of the day (many of the events held on Friday this year as “NAD” fell on a Saturday) is that in the course of those adoptions, the vast majority of those kids lost access to their authentic documentation, their original birth certificates.

All but 6 states are sealed records states, so unless one happened to be “celebrating” National Adoption Day in Oregon, Alaska, Kansas, Alabama, New Hampshire or Maine, another key aspect of those observances was a celebration of sealed records.

“National Adoption Day” like all adoptions in sealed records states offers up a Faustian bargain, the State will give these kids “permanency” but (in most states,) only in exchange for their access to their original birth certificates.

It is rarely left up to the kids themselves to decide.

The cost of a home should never be one’s identity.

“National Adoption Day” must be recognized for what it is from the adoptees’ perspective rather than the adoption industry’s perspective; it represents the single largest number of sealed records of any day of the calendar year. A collective loss of thousands of kids original identities one stroke of a pen at a time.

The implications to the adoptees themselves last a lifetime.

From the point of adoption finalization forward they will not receive equal treatment under law in relation to accessing their own original birth certificates (OBCs). Their original documentation is impounded by the state, locked away from them (in some states, literally locked in vaults)  often never to be restored to them.

To foster kids in particular, who are adopted at ages when they are old enough to remember family members, siblings, and original homes that loss can be devastating.

But all adoptees living under the sealed record systems lose their equality.

Many adopters at these ceremonies are unaware of this aspect of adoption. They see a long desired child finally being granted to them. As to what comes years down the road, when the adoptee’s paperwork or lack thereof begin to cause problems for the adoptees themselves isn’t even on their radar.

While “NAM” was originally focused on foster adoptions, often by extended family members, the events have morphed over the past 11 years.

Foster adoptions are still front and center, but as I’ve documented previously, even foster adoptions can be just another path to gaining a newborn. When foster care becomes a means by which to provide children to adopter demand rather than solutions for kids, even foster adoptions must come under scrutiny.

But alongside slamming through case after case of kids in the foster system, plenty of  inter-country adoptions are also rubber stamped through as a part of the “NAD” ceremonies. Kids from Ethiopia, China, and an assortment of other countries have been added to the mix.

National adoption day rituals are all about mass spectacle, it’s about numbers, it’s about processing through as many cases in a single day to grab media headlines as possible, complete with cupcakes, clowns, balloons and teddy bears.

Not on the agenda are these kids civil rights, equal treatment under law, or preservation of identity.

Step right up, have yourself a teddy bear, an adoption certificate, and a sealed original birth certificate, next!

“National Adoption Day” is only slightly over a decade old, yet already, it has grown to the point of a little under 5,000 adoptions being rammed through on that single day.

The coalition that has built this Frankenstein beast, made up of the adoption industry, government officials, social welfare organizations, adoption marketers,  pediatricians, and children and foster care advocates claim over that past decade nearly 30,000 adoptions have pushed through in NAD ceremonies.

Front and center throughout “NAD” are faith based adoptions (largely for christian movement growth) and the role played by the White House office of Faith Based and Neighborhood partnerships.

“NAD” serves a very special purpose theologically within the context of the broader “orphan care” ministries and efforts.

As for adoptees ourselves, there are a number of criticisms of the event, from the comodification of adoptees, and the sealed records, on through to how some adoptions may be sped through the process in order to meet that late November date, to name just a few.

The pressure to produce children available for these spectacle events in courtrooms, civic centers, private venues, and even the superdome is very great. Each year, the expectation is to try to produce more adoptions than the previous year’s event. What that means to the kids, their families of origin, and their rights remains simply unexamined.

Bastards who dare question these events and what “NAD” means from the adoptee perspective are unwelcome. We’re perceived as spoilers, who ‘intrude on everyone’s happy day.’

Yet we are the experts.

When it comes to adoption, we ARE adoption.

We know what some of these kids are in for down the road and we know what can happen when  later in life adoptees try to apply for passports or even driver’s licenses only to be told our state created amended birth certificates are “unacceptable.”

We know that today’s media stunt is merely that, a stunt.

Unless and until the core inequalities are rectified these events merely focus on quantity, not quality, let alone adoptee equality.

Thus “National Adoption Day” becomes a day not about adoptees as individuals but about adoption, the act.

It is about repeating that act over and over again before the cameras, not about the lifelong needs of adopted people.

As a an adoptee, adopted out of the foster system myself, I find this spectacle disgusting, commodifying, and all about form, not substance.

Substance, would require treating adopted people equally and treating their individual adoptions with the full gravity the situation entails.

Instead, bystanders are treated to what the cameras show them, the state acting as a machine, processing as many kids as possible on a single set  idealized date.

The framing is that of the adopters point of view, they celebrate as today they got what they wanted.

The industry and other social movements focused on adoption as a growth tactic celebrate any +1 they can get.

Adoptees on the other hand, lose basic rights all others take for granted when adoptions are finalized in all but the 6 “equality states.”

That’s nothing to celebrate.


That said, I leave readers with a few snapshots from these celebrations of adoptee inequality:

Secretary Sebelius Hosts Special Event in Washington D.C. To Celebrate National Adoption Day (link opens a PDF)

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will host a special National Adoption Day event in Washington D.C. Friday to celebrate the adoption of 25,000-plus children from foster care over the last 10 years.

Sebelius will be joined by Joshua DuBois, director of the White House office of Faith Based and Neighborhood partnerships, U.S. Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA) and U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), who will speak at the Hubert H. Humphrey Building, 200 Independence Ave. S.W. Rita L. Soronen, executive director of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption will speak about the impact of National Day and the importance of foster care adoption. Also sharing the stage will be the Executive Director of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute Kathleen Strottman, and Deputy Assistant Secretary and Inter-Departmental Liaison for Early Childhood Development, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Joan Lombardi.

53 children welcomed to new homes

A special event was held at the Oncenter in recognition of National Adoption Day. 53 children were formally adopted during the event with the help of local judges.

Note that under half were from foster care.

At least 25 of the children adopted were from the Onondaga County foster-care system.

Newly adopted, Angel stars in probate court

Angel-in-probate

Photo: Ned Gerard / Connecticut Post

Probate Judge Paul Ganim’s bench featured dozens of fuzzy brown teddy bears.

Angel, who was about to become a Bauro, eyed the teddy bears while entering the courtroom. Before Ganim could finish his opening remarks, Angel blurted: “Can I have one?”

“Angel,” Ganim answered, waving the Bauros and Bauro-to-be to the bench. “So you’re adopting a couple of parents?”

Angel nodded.

“Well, you’ve got a big job ahead,” Ganim said. “You’ve got to make sure they have food, that their laundry is done, that their lawn is mowed. Are you ready to take on this job?”

“Yes sir,” Angel said.

“Because truly, an adoption is a two-way street,” Ganim added. “For years and years to come.”

“Years,” Angel said.

The gift of family

Six courthouses in Massachusetts finalized 149 adoptions of children from foster care as part of an annual statewide celebration of National Adoption Day.

Families grow at adoption day

Meanwhile, in Hadley, the ceremonies upstairs were punctuated with cries from restless children.

But downstairs, cakes bearing each child’s name were waiting, and Poppie the clown, also known as Melha Shriner Al Surprenant, was fashioning hats out of balloons.

A family is born as National Adoption Day arrives

“I have a deep love for all my kids,” Collamer, 40, said of her preschoolers, “but with her it’s very profound. I could never imagine going back to the way it was, without her.”

That might have been the case, though, if she had adopted from a Kyrgyz or Kazakh orphanage, as she once contemplated. Collamer was willing to spend the $40,000 cost of an international adoption, but realized the limitations were too great. Some countries don’t release orphans to single parents, and investment doesn’t guarantee returns.

Passaic County celebrates Adoption Day

Deciding to go to China to find their children, rather than go the domestic route, was about more than just trying to avoid the “beauty pageant’ they mentioned earlier.

“We also didn’t want someone knocking on our door some day,” said James, who said he and his wife don’t think they could handle having the biological parents walk into their lives.

Enabling all this?

It’s all taxpayer subsidized by way of tax credits (see It’s National Adoption Month & the IRS Has Good News) and Federal subsidies to the states for moving kids off the foster care rolls, see my post Federal bonus bucks to the states for moving kids out of foster into adoptions (regardless of the damage.)

Thus this “National Adoption Day” brought to you by the federal bailout bucks for the adoption industry.

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