Well, I hold the rather dubious honor of being the very first sucker, er, customer (perhaps?) of the new California “Leno Law” to facilitate adoptee sibling contact through a Confidential Intermediary. Let me also be the first sucker who fell for this swindle to state this law isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. I suppose Assemblymember Leno can rest his little head at night thinking he has accomplished some noble deed for which we all ought to be grateful. In fact, the law is a mere frippery, another scam designed to try and remove the rather gale-force wind from gathering in the sails of adoptees who see this charade for what it is. More “I feel good, applaud me” crap from Sacramento that one supposes is applauded by the daytime talk show kleenex-wielders who love happy endings but would rather not hear the truth.
The truth is, this law was flawed from the start. I know because I’m the first dumbass taken in by the carnival hucksters up at CalState DSS-ASU who promoted this swindle as if they thought of it themselves. Which any sane person would know cannot be true because none of those clowns have ever had an original thought in their heads to speak of. But, at least it was free. Which is about all one could say for it. However, a certain Lori Walbridge up at DSS-ASU was rather unhappy with the law. She said, “Well! It’s nothing more than a back-door attempt at getting the identity of the birth parents!” Oh, horrors! We can’t have that! Someone might have to act like an adult! Well, anyway, I was asking Lori for the paperwork to fill out for this atrocity when she stated they didn’t have any. That it would take a year to put something together. Lori regaled me with how swamped they were with this new law. Uh-huh. Then how come my ticket says “Customer 001”, Lori? Well, finally, I talked to Don Mencarini who said I need to petition the court of my adoption because they need to appoint the CI. I said, come on, Don! I’ve already wasted a week here on these phone calls! Why not use me as a test subject and we can work together to make this better for people. No, says, Don, petition the court.
Fine. So that’s what I did and quoted the law to the letter in my petition. Do you suppose a family court judge knows family law? If you said “yes”, you would be wrong. Why, that’s what the Legal Research Department is for, wouldn’t you know? Indeed, a judge earns the Big Bucks to sit there and let someone else interpret the law. The judge evidently could not look up this law herself. I guess all those books you see in judges’ offices on TV are actually purchased from “Books By The Yard” and have such lawyerly titles as “Mating Habits of Mediterranean Fruit Flies” and “Collector’s Guide To Nineteenth Century Austrio-Hungarian Postage Stamps”. Because, it would appear the state law books are not present to be consulted. So that’s where my petition sat for over 30 days. In Legal Research while some paralegal probably fresh out of matchbook-cover paralegal correspondence school perused this law to see that the law I quoted word-for-word—gee, imagine that!—matched the one in the law book the judge should have cracked open herself. She was probably too busy denying some adoptee petitions for original birth certificates, so I guess it’s to be expected.
The day arrived when I got the ruling from the judge and she had to rule in my favor as much as she probably wished she didn’t have to. But she covered her six by making a court order that ordered CalState DSS-ASU to be the CI. Yes, the judge dumped it right back into Don’s lap. Yeah, Don couldn’t cooperate with me in the beginning, but now here was a court order telling him he had to be the CI. So, Don got the ball rolling by finding my maternal brother. He couldn’t find my paternal siblings. He then started calling my brother and telling him Gods know what. “Hi, I’m from Social Services and you have a brother you weren’t told about. He wants to talk to you. You need to fill out a Waiver of Confidentiality if you want to talk to him.” That’s probably how it goes. Or something equally as charming and heartwarming. He never returned the messages Don left on his machine. So Don sent a certified letter and my brother phoned. Don gave him the sales pitch. “And if you act now, you’ll get this combination potato dicer and birth records denier!” My brother said he was very interested. Now, at this point, you’d think they’d say, “Great, we’ll give your brother your phone number!” and they’d be done. And you would be dead wrong. Because the government needs their damnable paperwork. They sent my brother the waiver. He never filled it out. So, guess what? No contact, no information exchanged.
Now, Don is emailing me all the time about this. “Good news! We found your brother! And he said he’s very interested in contact!” Great, send me his phone number! Not so fast, pal! We need our WAIVER! Since July (it is now late October as I write this), Don has been sending me these emails telling me how he called my brother again and my brother is mailing out that waiver that week. Of course, I can’t dump this all on Don. My brother seems to be playing his own games. But, ya know, wouldn’t it be nice to be talking to my own brother myself and finding out exactly what the issue is myself for my own peace of mind? The end result with the CI system is that in a situation such as mine, you really have no way of knowing if it’s your sibling torturing you for whatever reason or that the CI handled the thing with chain mail gloves rather than kid gloves. What’s more, if at this point you now decide to hell with it and hire a private investigator to find your sibling, the well is poisoned. Your sibling may have already decided against you, thanks to the ham-handed contact by the CI.
You must ask yourself this: Would you entrust a total stranger to call a member of your family and mediate a very sensitive personal issue between you and that person? No, of course you wouldn’t. So that’s the conclusion you ought to arrive at with CI systems. You have that one chance in the first five minutes of that phone call to make or break that contact and/or reunion. The CI is a total stranger. Imagine you got a call from someone you didn’t know who knows more about you than you do at that point, thanks to our charming closed records system. Then this person says “Surprise! You have siblings!” But, also think on this. Why are we being deprived of this emotional first contact? Why are we deprived of that experience just as important in our lives as any other major event? Why does some total stranger get to have that first contact with our siblings? I ask, is this right? And I answer that it is not. It is an obvious intrusion into our personal lives. We lose that experience of being the first to talk to our own siblings forever.
You must also ask yourself: Why we are not trusted to contact our siblings ourselves? Why must a CI be the gatekeeper here, as if we are but small children unable to handle this ourselves? Oh, the right to privacy? Yeah, uh-huh. Then how come around election time I get tons of unwanted phone calls from various jerks and charlatans running for public office? yet, a phone call from one sibling to another is not to be tolerated simply by virtue of their births. As if we are not to be trusted. What must we do? Write on the blackboard, “I will not talk to my own blood kin without permission” 500 times and then go stand in the corner and await the CI? This is an outrage! They act as if we are psychologically unfit to initiate contact ourselves. If this is so, then shame on that same government for continuing the damaging practice of adoption! It cannot be both at once. Adoption cannot be a good thing while at the same time rendering adoptees psychologically “damaged goods” who cannot be trusted to talk to their own siblings without some CI doing hand-holding. The adoption advocates want to promote adoption as that good thing while, at the same time, making very obvious accusations that adoptees wanting to search are stalkers. In a very real sense, we are presumed guilty without chance of being found innocent.
Finally, the CI system is an emotional purgatory where you sit in limbo hoping the CI can convince your siblings to fill out the damnable waiver or consent form. Bear in mind, in California’s new CI system, no information can be shared. Your sibling wants to know a bit about you before filling our a form titled “Waiver of Confidentiality” which is what the California CI system requires. The CI cannot tell them anything about you, even if you say to do so. Because the privacy is a weird paradox where it violates “confidentiality” to tell your siblings about you as much as telling you about them. By the way, this also means the CI cannot tell them of a genetic disease they ought to be tested for. Yes, I have the email from CalDSS to prove that. So, let’s say your siblings don’t want contact with the birth parents. The CI cannot tell them you’re not some stalking horse for the birth parents; that you’re just a sibling who wants to talk to their sibling. Thus, this system is a self-fulfilling failure by which two things are accomplished. The first thing is all the so-called reformers and feel-gooders get to act like they’ve done something and also shut us up at the same time. The second thing is when it fails, they can say, “See? No one wants contact. We don’t need open records.” The truth is, the CI system is an unwarranted intrusion into personal lives by the government. How they can sit there and whine about “privacy” and then shove themselves into an intimate, very sensitive reunion between siblings separated because of that same government’s sham of adoption policy is to see the hypocrisy for what it is. The government kept siblings separate and continues to separate them by insisting on CI contact rules. If this were Iran doing this, we’d hear all about how tyrannical such a practice is. Instead, the government expects us to see CI contact as some kind of a gift. But the truth is, it’s just one more of the endless humiliations heaped upon adoptees. A humiliation where, like Oliver Twist, we must beseech the government with the pitiful plea of, “Please sir, may I have my siblings?”
Part 2 of Confidentially Yours will be posted in the next day or so. Other essays by Kevan will appear here occasionally.
Kevan Taylor-Perry is a Bastard National and Army veteran. “You can be trusted with a weapon, but not your own identity and siblings”.
Kevan, Thanks for exposing how the CI system and sealed records corrupt adoption by exploiting the most vulnerable (the adopted person). Back in the 1990s, I went through similar CI system crap in Missouri trying to get identifying info. CI told me I had a bio sister (I didn’t know I had) Bio sis had to sign a waiver before CI could release her identity to me, or my identity to bio sis. Bio sis agreed over the phone, but CI said bio sis didn’t return the waiver of confidentiality; therefore, no identifying info could be exchanged. Isn’t freedom of association a protected right guaranteed under our US Constition?
Well, the whole need for a waiver in the first place is ridiculous. The California “Leno Law” actually says this in the AMENDMENT to the existing law:
“(g) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), a biological sibling who
seeks contact with an adopted sibling for whom no waiver is on file
may petition the court to appoint a confidential intermediary, which
shall be the department or adoption agency that conducted the adoptee’s adoption. The intermediary shall have access to all records of the
adoptee and may locate and attempt to obtain the consent of the
adoptee and adoptive parents, if appropriate, to make the disclosure
authorized by this section.”
Just as sticklers as they are for that damn waiver, I can be a stickler and say the law DOES NOT say a waiver must be given, but only CONSENT OBTAINED. Color me didactic, but “consent” is defined as “permission”. Usually, an affirmative answer like “yes” means you agree.
I will never forgive State of California DSS and Don Mencarini for this. They are tyrants and cowards more interested in covering their own asses than in doing what is right.
Oh, and by the way, the form for sibling contact is titled:
“Waiver of Rights to Confidentiality for Siblings”. The form they have for contact between birth parents and adoptees is titled:
“Consent for Contact”
Anyone smell a rat here? I do. And the rat’s name is Don Mencarini.
The instructions on the form say:
“This form must be witnesses by a representative of the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) or a California (CA) adoption agency licensed by CDSS, or notarized by a Notary Public.”
It also has a box to be checked that says “By signing this form, I voluntarily and knowingly waive my rights to the confidentiality of personal information known or contained in the files of the CDSS or the CA licensed adoption agency and give my consent to the CDSS or the CA licensed adoption agency to disclose my name and address to my sibling so he/she may contact me.”
BUT!!!!! The “Consent for Contact” form for birth parents /adoptees has the same box to check that says:
“By signing this form, I voluntarily give my consent to the CDSS or licensed adoption agency to disclose my name and address to my birth parent(s) so that he/she may contact me.”
NOW are you smelling a rat? I am and his name is still Don Mencarini.
Oh, and a separate form exists for siblings under 18, so they can’t claim that’s the whole reason for the threatening language in the sibling waiver.
Part of their whole deal must be keeping this CI system about as well-known as the putative father registries. I live in California, am active in the adoption reform community, get lots of adoption emails daily – and I have heard zilch about any CI system here!
However, the California Birth Index does make searching much easier that it is in many states.
Well, I just got off the phone with Don Mencarini at CDSS today, 01NOV07 1520HRS MST.
He told me he did mail my brother the health information I sent. At least he did that. But when asked why this law requires the negatively worded waiver as opposed to the sweetly-worded Consent for Contact form for birthparents, he dumped it Leno’s lap. LOL! He told me, “The Assemblymember who wrote the bill is responsible.” Ya don’t say! If Don is to be believed. And that Leno is the one who stipulated a waiver as opposed to just giving consent over the phone.
Well, well, well, if we are to believe Sir Don, then it appears our pal Mark Leno is just as I described. The truth is probably something more than that. It’s probably more like CDSS was TELLING Mark Leno what to write and he was happy to comply in order to look like the Shining Knight on Horseback.
Personally, I wouldn’t buy a used car from Don OR Mark Leno. I can tell you this Ford Pinto of a CI law dropped the tranny, blew a head gasket, and blew all four tires just pulling off the damned lot. I suppose now they can sell the new CI law as, “Yep, this is a great like-new CI law! It’s only been used by a little 40 year old guy in Flagstaff, Arizona! Hey, take it today and we’ll throw in some new seat covers.”
WTF, over? Roger that.
ARGH! I feel ya, Kevan. I’m going through exactly the same thing with Holt International right now.
Third party in this case equals a CORPORATION. Like I can trust THEM to represent my interests, when they’re the people who sold me in the first place! I can hear the conversation with my possible sister now, “this crazy girl keeps insisting we contact you because she thinks you might be her sister. You can see what she wants, or maybe if you ignore it she will go away.”
Back door to finding your parents my arse…separating sibling groups is/should be a criminal offense. Nobody’s going to be hurt by allowing us to make first contact ourselves.
That waiver stinks and I hope you can find a legislator to help Californians get the language changed.