Inquiring minds want to know…what’s happening with the American Adoption Congress?
For as long as Bastardette can remember, the AAC has been a dysfunctional obtructionist organization. My first AAC conference was in Irving, Texas in 1997 when certain Powers-that-Be fired adoption ethicist and therapist Anne Babb from the presidency. Anne, heavily pregnant (with twins, I think) walked into a board meeting as president and came out a mere mundane deported back to Oklahoma never to be heard from again except at a Bastard Nation conference a couple years later.
In 1998 the AAC declared that Bastard Nation-backed Measure 58 in Oregon would set back adoptee rights 20 years but sent us $100 towards the campaign. Well it’s almost 20 years later and the AAC continues to promote (like it did then) and pass dirty bills that leave tens of thousands of adoptees behind and Bastard Nation continues to promote (like it did then) and pass clean bills that have opened the records of tens of thousands of adoptees without restriction—and left no one behind.
In 1999, AAC president Jane Nast, who succeeded the hapless Dr. Babb, refused to support Bastard Nation’s Belly of the Beast protest at the old National Council for Adoption office in Dupont Circle in Washington, held in conjunction with the AAC conference in Tysons Corner, Virginia. When some AAC board members declared their desire to attend the protest, Nast called an “mandatory” board meeting and warned that failure to attend it( by marching with Bastards down E 17th Street instead) would bring automatic expulsion from the board.
In 2008 THE AAC held its annual conference in Portland, Oregon to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the passage of M58, the very ballot measure that the organization had earlier claimed would set adoption reform back 20 years and only fully supported towards the end. You’d have thought that M58 was an AAC project. Neither M58 petitioner Helen Hill ,( a resident of Portland) or other petitioner Shea Grimm, (Bastard Nation co-founder and Executive Committee member) were offered a role in the presentation. According to an AAC official, conference organizers didn’t know how to contact Helen, (though she is a well-known figure in town, has a FB page–and there’s always Google) yet I ran into Helen on the train the first day of the conference–on my way to the AAC booze cruise lunch on the Williamatte. She had no idea that the AAC was meeting in Portland, much less celebrating M58 with or without her.
The AAC has consistently folded under the slightest pressure to compromise its “principles” in order to get “something passed.” That something has been Disclosure Vetoes and Disclosure Vetoes disguised as Disclosure Preference, Contact Vetoes, white-outs, redactions, and tiered access based of birth or other factors. Scratch a dirty bill and you’ll find the AAC, an affiliated organization or Indies latching on to the AAC example. Delaware, New Jersey, Montana, Ohio, Indiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Illinois, Missouri, and Washington State are just a few states that have been jammed by AAC-led Deform, Inc’s baby-step solutions to the problem of Class Bastard and institutional adoptionism. Getting one’s name on a law has been more important than securing adoptee equality. The unfortunate by-product of this is that the time, money, and energy spent on killing their bad bills could be used to pass clean bills. As a result Bastard Nation, whose mission for the last twenty years has been legal equality and the restoration of OBC and other adoption record access for all adoptees without restriction, gets the rep of the “bad guy.” Groups that claim to agree with our non-compromise position but pile on restrictions, prevaricate to their members and placate special interests and politicians to negate those rights, but maybe cause some personal “reunions” are repped as the “good guy.”
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t and haven’t been good people in the AAC. There are. They’re just not in the leadership and decision- and organizing-making positions. Many have been drummed out or ignored until they crawled away to recover what life they have left to sip mimosas by the pool and dream of what might have been. Incredibly, those thrown under the bus include AAC founder and mother of the adoptee rights movement Jean Paton. Her rise and fall with the AAC is well-documented in E. Wayne Carp’s Jean Paton and the Struggle to Reform American Adoption
Over the years AACers, some in high (or formerly high) positions, have told me in confidence (which I won’t reveal here) their personal horror stories regarding mendacity favoritism, and what they considered legislative, and organizational incompetence. I knew the AAC was in real trouble a few years ago when a couple leg. chairs resigned. I disagree with the AAC’s legislative strategy but I also know that both of these women were talented lobbyists who don’t seem to have been replaced by anyone a tenth as diligent—or maybe anyone at all. During the “town hall” discussion at the close of the 2015 AAC annual conference, “leadership”reportedly refused to respond to questions about alleged serious violations of organization bylaws and transparency, lack of communication, legislative issues, mass firings and disappearances of board members and representatives, and other organizational problems. When past problems were brought up, leaders played dumb or maybe they weren’t playing. The AAC has long been known as ahistorical and revisionist.
A few days ago we got quite a shock (really!) when we were invited to “like” a new FB page “Right the Ship” created by former AAC officers and members to take back control of the organization from its current apparatchiks. Since this call to action comes from people who have deformed clean bills I can’t be real impressed with the effort. But I can be impressed with the allegations made about current AAC “leadership” Just when I thought nothing could surprise me…. I’ve been assured that this is the tip of the iceberg.
What could be left?
Here’s a list of allegations published on Facebook:
February 29, 2016
To all friends and supporters of AAC:
A group of AAC members and former leaders, in consultation with attorneys familiar with the organization’s mission and history, remain deeply concerned about the viability of the American Adoption Congress and its future under the current and incoming interim appointed Board of Directors. These concerns are rooted in the ongoing unresolved issues outlined below.
Though required state government and IRS filings appear to be up to date (the organization’s 2014 Form 990 IRS filing has yet to appear on Guidestar.org — the public domain for non-profits — but that does not mean the document was not timely filed), and the conference committee is functioning, the rest of the organization is crumbling.
- In a time of great national momentum and progress in legislative reform, the Legislative Committee has not functioned for over a year, and the AAC is rapidly becoming viewed as irrelevant in the legislative reform community.
- A “rebranding” meeting was held in Atlanta last fall. Four interim board appointees resigned shortly after the meeting. There has been no public mention of the content and outcome of the meeting, what the intended “rebranding” looks like, or why the abrupt resignations happened.
- There has been a mass exodus of board members and state representatives, leaving an unprecedented number of vacancies.
- There has not been an effectively functioning executive committee for over a year. Cindy McGuigan appears to be operating as both President and Treasurer, and the position of Secretary has been vacant for some 18 months. This situation could potentially jeopardize the AAC’s non-profit status if not immediately rectified.
- Membership requests for financial reports and minutes of board meetings have been ignored. This raises serious concerns about the administration of and accountability for the interim board’s activities and the AAC’s considerable assets. Should AAC fail, these considerable assets could be given to other non-profit organizations not necessarily of our choosing.
- Membership is down approximately 25%.
- Not only has current interim president Cindy McGuigan failed to provide any meaningful response to concerns raised at the 2015 Cambridge conference Town Hall meeting, for the first time in memory, no Town Hall meeting is scheduled for the 2016 Denver Conference. This is not behavior consistent with leadership committed to transparency and responsiveness to the AAC membership.
- On February 23 Cindy announced four new Board members whose three-year terms will start on March 28. There was never any announcement about who was on the Nominating Committee that selected these candidates. Under the By-Laws, the Nominating Committee is to be made up of 51% non-Board and 49% Board members. The new Board members appear to have been personally selected by the President.
- No annual election has been held for a few years and no one on the Board at this time was legally elected to the Board by the membership; rather, they appear to have been selected and appointed by Cindy. This is a clear violation of the AAC By-Laws. Historically, interim appointments are made only to fill mid-term vacancies created by resignations, but those appointees must still appear on a ballot and be voted on by the membership, whether regional or national.
- Only one Decree and one Beacon have been sent out over the past year, while communications via Facebook and Twitter imply that all is well with the organization. This is clearly not the case.
This list of concerns is incomplete, but if the issues outlined in this letter are not immediately rectified with full transparency, we feel that it is in the best interest of the AAC for the membership to call for immediate nominations and elections in order to bring the Board into compliance with the By-Laws. Should any current interim appointees be affirmed by a vote of the membership, we will respectfully abide by such a vote. However, we believe that immediate and sweeping changes are required, and we seriously question whether such changes can take place with the existing interim Board.
We believe that the future, even the survival, of the AAC rests with a new leadership team willing to run for the Board of Directors. Will you volunteer or solicit someone you think can do the job?
Eileen McQuade, past AAC president
Carolyn Hoard, past AAC president
Pam Kroskie, past AAC president
You can read what the bylaws actually say here. The insurrgents have a real point, but If the AAC has such disregard for its rules, regulations and membership, why wouldn’t it have equal or worse disregard for adoptee rights?
The AAC has been irrelevant to the adoptee rights movement for decades—almost from the beginning, claiming to support adoptee civil rights and the restoration of OBC access while pimping dozens of reunionist bill that restrict access equality. It has repeatedly privileged reunionism, therapy, and special corporate interests over our rights. Organizational snafus, such as listed above are serious but pale in comparison to how the organization has dumped, or in fact, never realized, its so-called political mission.
Here’s the AAC’s current statement regarding our civil right to restoration of adoption record access. (Emphasis mine):
The American Adoption Congress supports state-by-state legislative efforts to obtain access for adult adoptees to their original birth certificates. The AAC prefers unrestricted access to this document for all adult adoptees but will accept compromise legislation if, in the opinion of AAC and local supporters, such a compromise is necessary to obtain the greatest access for the greatest number of adopted persons.
So we support equality unless we don’t. Is it any wonder that those of us in the rights arena consider the organization irrelevant?
A few years ago Tom Atwood then president to the National Council for Adoption, told me that Bastard Nation was the “only one at the table. You do what you say you’ll do.” That’s what happens when organizations carry out their mission and don’t wishy-wash around compromising their core principles. Today, NCFA, has bigger issues to tend and has had the wisdom to acknowledge that times change. It is pretty much out of the anti-adoptee business.
Unfortunately, NCFA has been replaced by a weird ménage of feminists and anti-feminists, anti-aborts and pro-aborts, civil libertarians and the usual handful of secret-keeping state leggies all of whom are obsessed with adoption secrecy (which they like to frame as a “balance of rights”) and keeping Class Bastard in our place. As adoptees it’s bad enough to be a marginalized social and political class; even worse when we are marginalized by enemies who render us political objects to be beaten, hammered, mutilated, and used to further their own agendas which have nothing to do with us or ours. It is even worse when the “loyal opposition” within the movement, as exemplified by the AAC and its off-shoots, endorses by action, the arguments of special interests devoted to hamstringing the adoptee rights movement for their own benefit. Adoption Deform, Inc (Deform, Inc for short).is complicit in the current farce throughout the country (particuarly in Missouri and Indiana) to pass bills creating more bureaucratic restraints and hurdles on adoptees while pretending to enlarge the pool of adoptees eligible for records. The new Indiana law won’t even release the OBC; just maybe some information–for some.
I hesitate to use the favorite AdoptionLand insult– “Stockholm Syndrome–” generally implemented against anyone on Facebook who denies Primal Wound and the popular adoption-ruined-my-life meme. If anyone deserves the title, though, it’s Deform, Inc and it’s AAC flagship. Some of the most hardcore bastards in the real adoptee rights movement I know, including myself, are “happy adoptees” Some of the most hardcore deformers I know hide behind keyboards moping about their miserable lives whining “we don’t have any rights.”
Shortly after Oregon’s M58 passed, Bill Pierce, the president of our then chief opponent The National Council for Adoption declared that sealed records were dead. We sorta thought so too, especially after Alabama (for pete’s sake!) restoration came on the heels of Oregon. Even though we knew Pierce’s dirge wouldn’t be broadcast live the movement was on a roll!
Then something funny happened. Bad bills started popping up all over the country when previous to Oregon only one or two bills of any kind were introduced a year. Bastard Nation had proven that unconditional restoration of OBC access was possible, yet the AAC and its satellite groups and friends ramped up deform measures. And continues to do so. The message: If clean access and equality can be passed in Oregon and Alabama (and later New Hampshire, Maine, and Rhode Island), then we can at least get something passed (with disclosure veto, redactions, etc.) in fill-in-the-blank. We’ll come back later, when the political climate is “better” and pick up the rest.
Only that hasn’t happened and won’t. Does anyone seriously believe, for instance, that the Ohio General Assembly will enfranchise the 259 left- behinds from SB23.who got Disclosures Vetoes slapped on them? Deform Inc, Ohio (aka Adoption Network Cleveland) by acquiescing to reunionism and political pressure from the President of the Senate cut (or at least allowed) a deal that sold the rights of Ohio Class Bastard down the Olentangy by accepting a sunsetted “right” of birthparents to withhold their names from OBCs via a Disclosure Veto. Ohio is not about to break its agreement with birthparents. In other words, 259 Ohio adoptees now have the “right” to mutilated copies of their OBCs while everybody else gets the real deal. Does anybody in Deform Inc. care? Apparently not.
Here is Megan Collins’ story. Megan’s OBC was redacted. After months of stonewalling from the state and ANC, she receiived a second redacted OBC, only less redacted.
Speaking for myself only, I believe that there is a place for the AAC in AdoptionLand, but that place is not in adoptee rights. There are plenty of other areas for them to it to muck around in–especially with its penchant for Primal Wound (which has moved from theory to “fact”), and adoption-professional pandering. To be fair, the AAC has done some good work. Early on they were on board opposing baby dump (safe haven) laws, and we worked closely with them during the Hague negotiations. I’ve always appreciated Fred Greenman’s legal work when Oregon adoptacrats appealed (unsuccessfully) the passage of M58. Then, Fred’s not a professional do-gooder or an incompetent, narcissistic bitch kitty.
Facebook posts indicate that the current AAC administration believes it has done nothing wrong and otherwise ignores the pile-up at its front door. This entropy reflects its historic refusal to support adoptee rights except in name only. A solid platform might help to create an actual reform organization that could in the future take on a role in civil rights, but until that happens it would be foolish for anyone to put trust in any legislative campaign they or their offshoots claim as their own. Even with a strong platform there is no guarantee that the AAC would go straight: put its money where its mouth is and go to the mattresses for genuine adoptee rights. Why is it so difficult to hold to principles of equality especially when that equality is achievable.?
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Without any political allies, this will not be a successful effort. A useful tactic could be to:
-Enlist the AMA to support open records as a health and public health necessity (have the U.S. Surgeon General come out and say this publicly to shame state lawmakers and their supporters of closed records),
-Demand a full public apology by the American Psychological Association (APA) for the scree its members have printed for decades and still continue to print that brand adoptees as having imaginary disorders never proven by rigorous science (similar to what happened for conversion therapy),
-Keep the focus on a national effort directed at Congress.
I agree that Bastard Nation’s strategic objective is the one that requires full attention. The barrier remains with state bureaucracies that will never relinquish power voluntarily to powerless individuals on the principle that states need to exert power for the sake of exerting power (this is a dysfunction of modern bureaucracy and bureaucrats more than a malevolent intent). However, there is clear intent here by the Christian Right to keep up the adoption fantasy wrapped in secrecy as a antidote to abortion in their own minds (without any evidence to support these failed idea). States remains loose canons for right-wing activist agendas that require rigorous daily monitoring, unfortunately.
A model law and model communication is what the United Kingdom has on its books. https://www.gov.uk/adoption-records/accessing-your-birth-records. Unless a working model is shown (why isn’t this being done now?), this is all insider ball no one cares about. If no solution is offered, as was seen with the legalizing of gay marriage, no one will care. Offer a positive vision, not the model of squabbling adults trapped in their individual anger and “issues,” which is likely how people perceive adult adoptees now. And I’m one of those adoptees who refuses to embrace the “woe is me” I’ve seen for decades among many whining adoptees and social workers/therapeauticians milking this for all its worth. And yes, many adoptees are whiners. Jean Paton has this right for decades, by the way. She focused on solutions, not whining.