Annette Baran was one of those rare people in adoption: she listened to bastards and learned. She abhorred adoption secrets and lies. Going against her social work training, she worked for decades, with much opposition from “professionals,” lobbyists, and adoption bagmen, to undo the damage caused by the adoption industry. She may have been a traitor to them, but she is a hero to us.
No one enjoyed kicking Annette around more than Bill Pierce, founding president of the National Council for Adoption. His NCFA Factbook 3 (no longer online) is full of attacks on Annette’s “junk science” of adoption openess and honestly. Annette was, in fact, one of the most radical thinkers in AdoptionLand I have ever known. In her lifetime she moved from being the keeper of adoption secrets, to advocating open adoption–and records–to promoting guardianship and simple adoption over the closed secret system. Annette believed in adoptee dignity, integrity and identity. She believed that each of us have a right to our own identity, history, and documents. She believed the industry must take responsibility for the damage it has caused and continues to cause.
Since I knew Annette mainly by reputation I can’t speak to any deep personal relationship. We emailed occasionally, and I met her only once: at the 2004 Kansas City AAC conference. During her opening keynote address, Annette, much to my surprise, took a few moments to acknowledge and celebrate Bastard Nation and our leadership in the struggle to regain our rights.
Longtime adoption reform activist and poet Maryanne Cohen knew Annette well and wrote the following memorial, posted with Maryanne’s permission, below.
A small bright bird
Filled with life
she graced the space she filled
Always moving, never still
except to listen to a friend
which she did with full heart
Her kind eyes saw you
her silence let you fill the cup
Her words were milk and honey
on any hurt or fear
I knew her as grey but never old
Her spirit ever young, eager
for the next adventure, the next laugh
the next delicious shopping trip
Annette knew what to buy, and where to find it
What to read, I loved every book
she led me to, her wisdom
carried on, oblique, in other’s words.
She showed me the lipstick that won’t wear off
said, “it will change your life”
Her sense of style impeccable, unique
A joy to see
A joy to follow
My Yiddishe Mama, witty, wise
down to earth, a true friend
Annette stood before a crowd
at an adoption conference once,
and said “I am sorry
for what my profession has done,
for what I have done”
That’s all, no excuses, no justifications,
No Big Buts……
Just courage, integrity, intelligence and class
She laughed at fools, the pompous, the self-righteous
She cried with those who truly grieved
Now we grieve her, her valor, her light gone from this world
But she shines on
In blessed memory
In her work we take up
In the quest for truth and justice
She shines on…….
Mary Anne Cohen
Rest in Peace, Dear Annette
The good race is run.