Yesterday I did a few legislative updates, and it really struck me while doing them–as if I didn’t already know this–that hardly anyone cares about adult adoptees or adoptee civil rights–especially those who have the “authority” to fix things legally such as policy and lawmakers. When compared to the speed which Safe Haven Baby Box legislation passes, records access for adults, even with the successes of the last couple of years, runs a very poor second.
Adoptee Rights: The Pace is Agonizingly Slow
Starting in 1998, 13 states have passed clean bills that restore the right of all their state-born adoptees to obtain their Original Birth Certificates with no restrictions or conditions; and in some states, even more documents. Kansas and Alaska never sealed records. So in the last 26 years, 15 states have legally acknowledged the right of adopted adults to their own OBCs and passed legislation to restore that right. (Minnesota will unseal our records on July 1, 2024) We could have a couple more next year, too. A clean bill was recently introduced in Michigan, and I’ll write about that in a day or so. Wisconsin has a live bill, and a bad bad bad bill that needs to die sits in the California Assembly.
Here is the Bastard Nation 2023 Legislation page with links to earlier years.
Support for adoptee civil rights is pretty much limited (surprise!) to national and local adoptee rights and adoption reform organizations along with occasional related groups. We do not have a big bankroll. Adoptee rights activists and organizations do not receive overt support or enthusiastic money from outside sources such as other political organizations, civic organizations, churches, and private foundations. Adoptees who demand the restoration of their rights, instead, get attacked in legislative hearings and social media and sometimes in the press as “troublemakers,” “ungrateful, and all around “disturbed.” Or, we are ignored.
Safe Haven Baby Boxes: The Pace is Agonizingly Fast
Compare this to Safe Haven Baby Box laws. Since 2015, 18 states have passed laws that amend their traditional safe haven laws to allow anonymous “desperate mothers” to stick their babies in a box-in-the-wall and walk away; thus guaranteeing that their children will lack fully-formed Original Birth Certificates and identities, as well as obtain social,and medical information, with little hope of retrival–just the opposite of the demands the adoptee rights movement. Sometimes, SHBB bills are filed right behind OBC access bills and end up in the same committee; thus sending a confused and mixed message to lawmakers. Adopted people who oppose box legislation are portrayed by box pushers as “hating adoption” or “had a bad experience.” Pam Stenlzel, president of the SHBB Inc board and its hotine coordinator and counselor says that adoptees who oppose boxes suffer from “serious mental challenges.” She is adopted herself but has no interest in her own rights, much less the rights of millions of adopted folks in the US. We can just lump it.
In 2023 so far, 7 states have passed new SHBB laws and 4 more passed bills to tighten their already draconian laws. (SSHBBN 2023 Legislation page.)
Of the 18 states that have passed baby box laws in the last 8 years, 11 of them have installed at least 1 box. Indiana hosts the most with 109 working boxes and another 4 decommissioned for various reasons. The Home Rule States of Florida, North Carolina, and New Mexico have installed a total of 7 boxes with no state law. Five boxes or similar devices outside of the SHBB system operate in Arizona and California. Total as of Wednesday, November 8, when the Bardstown, KY box opens: 180 in the SHBB system and 5 independent.
Of the states that have restored OBC access to their adopted people Alabama and Maine have legalized baby boxes. No procedural regulations have been written for Maine, so no boxes have been installed. News reports vary, but The Kids to Love Foundation has pledged to fund up to $18,000 each for 10-12 locations in Alabama..
Unlike adoptee rights advocates who are pretty much on our own, Baby Boxers have an entire army of supporters who either don’t know about or don’t care about adopted people or their rights. SHBB Inc, directly or indirectly receives tens of thousands of dollars from other non-profits, churches and ministries, businesses, fraternal organizations, and private foundations to promote dehumanizing baby boxes and facilitate anonymous birth, anonymous parents, anonymous adoptees, and blank OBCs. The organization’s latest IRS 990 indicates that its assets exceed $1 million.
Here is a list of known donors and supporters of baby boxes. It does not include politicians, mayors, governing bodies, or fire departments and hospitals whose support is a given since the boxes could not be installed without their support.. The list is huge and varied and can be surprising in scope in some communities. Public funds, which I haven’t added to the list yet, have been allocated to pay for baby boxes in San Antonio, Texas and Beach Grove, Indiana to a total of a little over $$500,000. SHBB Inc likes to claim that no public money funds them.
It gets worse! Here is a list of over 100 targeted communities where boxes are planned. The number changes every few days.
The Imbalance: The Pace is Agonizingly Dumb
The slow but steady restoration of adoptee rights to records and identity and the rapid legal destruction of those same rights for a tiny number of babies slated for anonymous adoption makes no sense in a sane society. But who says that today’s society is sane? No, I won’t go there today.
The Adopted and our friends and allies, who know that we cannot have our rights while those same rights are being taken from a new generation, are the only ones who seem to have a problem with this. If lawmakers aren’t willing to recognize this imbalance then they don’t see us. They don’t care about us.
There is no real ending here, just an observation. SH/SHBB laws are changing every session, becoming tighter, becoming more inclusive, and becoming more private industry-friendly. Some states now are washing their hands of legal abandonments and turning over custody of SH/SHBB babies to private adoption agencies. In Indiana, the SHBB capital of the world, drop-off locations now aren’t even mandated to report the babies to the state. Instead, these lost babies can be taken directly to a private adoption agency and placed in the hands of their “forever family” a few hours after birth. This is trafficking. This is nuts. This is dumb.
(No, it will never be X!)