A few minutes ago I posted a long blog, We’ve screwed up your state, now we’re coming to screw up yours–California Adoption Reform Effort: if you don’t like compromise, go away. After it was up for a few minutes the entry seemed too long. I have gone back and divided it into two parts: (1`) The Letter and (2) Comments. I have now posted The Letter first, followed by this. I suggest you go below and read the The Letter First.

Zen fascists will control you

100% natural
You will jog for the master race

And always wear the happy face

…California Uber Allies. Jello Biafra, Dead Kennedys

For the past few weeks we’ve been watching the formation of a new “adoption reform” organization in California: California Adoption Reform Effort (CARE). CARE consists of a few Californians, lead by adoptee author/filmmaker Jean Strauss who lives in Washington State and Stephanie Williams, a pricey lobbyist formerly with the Cal Trucking Association. It’s advisory committee is cattle car Who’s Who of mostly deformers, industry hacks, and out-of-staters.

According to CARE’s webpage, the organization is “dedicated to providing adult adopted citizens access to a non-certified copy of their original record of birth.”

Unfortunately, for Cal Adoptees, the CARE webpage shows us that it is just the same old deformer hag prettied up in a prom dress and talking from a commitee-written script.

According to the CARE webpage (my emphasis):

California Adoption Reform Effort is united in opening as many birth records in California as politially feasible.

Nothing appears on its webpage about a rights-rooted campaign. Instead CARE refers to “wishes” and desires” which apparently the state has a duty to grant to the adopted and their “birthmothers.” (QUESTION: has nobody told CARE that “birthmother” is considered “the N word” by a lot of people, especially mothers, effected by adoption?)

Not satisfied with modeling itself on the successful legislative Alabama, New Hampshire, and Maine campaigns (a ballot initiative as Oregon’s is economically unfeasible in Cal), CARE promises to run a “different” campaign.

How different? It’s all rather vague.

CARE says its arguments are “non-emotional” (bu, remember, are “wishful.”) It’s scheme is based on “statistical and empirical data,” but CARE fails to elaborate on what this “”statistical and empirical data” may be. Its “non-emotional” arguments, though, seem to include pleas for medical information, which CARE claims is a “right” denied California adoptees, the protection of “birthmothers” and adoptees from “businesses and institutions who profit from the unconsented[(sic] representation of adults”…and protection from incest. (!)

The subheading on CARE’s original webpage read: Striving to provide a bridge for adopted citizens and their families to information that could save lives.

It was recently updated to read: California’s effort to compassionately open birth records for adult adoptees while respecting state privacy laws!

Inexplicably the graphic used to illustrate this bridge is that of the Brooklyn Bridge, not the Cal-iconic Golden Gate. Catch it while it’s still up!

Upfront: CARE tells us it will compromise– will sell out the rights of all for favors for some. (It would be interesting to know just how many CAREists already have what most don’t.) CARE says that two states have never sealed records. Kansas and Alaska, which is true. It says another seven unnamed states have unsealed their records which is untrue. Obviously Oregon, Alabama, New Hampshire and Maine have unsealed obcs for all adult adoptees upon request and without restriction. We assume that CARE is also including Delaware, which has a disclosure veto and Tennessee which has disclosure and contact vetoes. But, what is the 9th state? Whatever, it is clear that CARE considers states that give “birthparents” special rights over obc access and their adult offspring are “open” states. They are not.

Upfront: CARE declares the 1935 law that sealed California adoptee’s birth certificates was “well-intentioned” and “seemed prudent at the time.” Obviously somebody needs made aware of Georgia Tann’s work in California.

Upfront: CARE infantalizes adult adoptees by confusing open adoption with adoptees’ right to their obcs by saying that “CWLA and the Evan B. Donaldson Institute “advocate at least some degree of openness in adoption.”

Upfront: in a letter (see text below) from CARE to a select group of potential members, CARE defines itself as “professional” not “grassroots” while claiming adoptees need to be heard. The just need “navigated” by professionals in suits who you pay to lead you around by your needy noses. CARE, in fact, tells non-compromisers to hit the road. BTW, membership in CARE costs $85 a pop.

Upfront: in this same correspondence, CARE claims that the opening of all obcs would violate the California State Constitution and bring on lawsuits, but fails to explain why. A “professional” organization, arguing rights, not reunion, would commission legal research to back up a rights argument before it started. CalOpen, in fact, did just that, but they refuse to give the document up to CARE.

Assemblywoman Fiona Ma has agreed to sponsor CARE’s bill, which is being fast tracked. CARE is trolling for co-sponsors and endorsements. So far, CARE says it is a “clean bill” but virtually admits that it will be amended and watered down. The bill hasn’t been printed yet. A hearing is scheduled for March, but no date has been set. I will write more about this bill in a separate blog soon.

Jean Ulrich and a number of seasoned Cal acativists have revived California Open to hold the line on CARE and its “experiment” ( CARE’s word for what they’re doing.) In the early 2000’s Cal Open’s clean SB 1349 made its way up to Senate hearings. Under threat of the bill being compromised out of recognition, CalOpen and its sponsor took the high road and withdrew the bill. I was there when it happened. It was a sad day, but also an honorable day. We did the right thing.

CalOpen’s new page went up over the weekend as well as a MySpace page. Facebook is forthcoming. Jean and CalOpen need help to stop this bill from being compromised, and if it is compromised to kill it. CalOpen will be partnering with other groups. It also need help from us–especially help from California adoptees, their families, friends and anyone with a California connection. We cannot let California bastards and adoptees be written out. We are not lab rats!

BB Church momentarily came out of retirement to blog on the upcoming California Fiasco. He also has posted the above letter. Go here to read his thoughts.

ADDENDA: 2/9/09, 3: 25 PM: BB Church has just published a stunning critique of CARE. Go to the link directory about this and read it.


  1. “The California Adoption Reform Effort (CARE) seeks to provide adult adoptees with uncertified copies of their original records of birth. This record contains accurate information regarding ethnicity, nationality, date, time and place of birth. In addition, the original birth record contains a given name or “baby last name” which is non-identifying yet serves as a protection against potential incest.”

    Somebody please explain the last sentence to me. Why would the name be “non-identifying”?

  2. Hey, Gaye, that’s an excellent questions. I missed that one all together!

    And I’m still wondering how an obc can protect someone from potential incest. I suppose if your obc said that your mother’s name was Winifred Tisane Snagglepumpkin from Via Doloroso, California and that matches with your boyfriend’s mother that might be a hint that something was wrong, but other than that…

  3. I realize that we all grow tired of the battle and that, sometimes, we have to retire from the field to rest and lick our wounds. Clearly this has been the course of action in California for a while now after a herculean effort went awry. But the unfullfilled desire of triad members for open access combined with a dicey economy has created a business opportunity for an out-of-work lobbyist and weary veterans have apparently bought her sales pitch. This is sad! Not only do they lead with their chins (we know we’ll have to compromise) but they are already conceding defeat.

    I don’t doubt there might be a compromise proposed. And realistically, I can admit that California might be one of those states where reform is impossible given current circumstances. I don’t consider compromise a dirty word — our nation was built on it. But some of those compromises were repulsive. It’s a question of what and when? So, perhaps, a strategy aimed at changes the circumstances through public education is in order BEFORE we bow to the inevitability of a compromise we just cannot swallow.

  4. Gaye: If your birth surname (most likely that of your mother but not necessarily) was Smith or Brown it sure as H— would not provide any guarantee against incest. In my view, it would not even be identifying since those surnames are so common. But, frankly, if you had a fairly common surname at birth then even if they gave you your parents’ names, you would not necessarily have identifying information. You would need a great deal more information if the woman who gave birth to you was Susan Brown, for example. My last name is fairly unusual and I know two other women in my state with the same name as me! I think it’s a question rather like “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” And I think it’s meant to confuse rather than illuminate an adoptee’s identity. Wait! That’s perfect! The status quo, which some sage said was “Latin for the mess we are in.”

  5. Marley, I am glad that we have you and Ron to blog about this because it is so important that everyone understand what is going on and what is being put forth. If I were a CA born adoptee, I would be calling my state reps right now & explaining that I want a clean bill or no bill at all. The bill that I have seen (whether it is the final version or not, I have no idea) leaves the control of OBCs in the hands of the judges. That isn’t a bill that I could support. I guess that the idea of a group of people coming into my state & trying to pass a bill without any grassroots organization, just isn’t how it should be done. It appears to me that they think they are somehow smarter or richer or prettier than the rest of us & that they can get things done that those who live & work in the state can’t. It’s an odd mindset in my opinion. Why can’t the message be to look at what AL, NH & ME have done. Look & do it the way they did so that you can be proud of the end result.
    Janet Allen

  6. “”In addition, the original birth record contains a given name or “baby last name” which is non-identifying yet serves as a protection against potential incest.”””

    WTF!! Damn would I like to hear this CARE group clarify the last 7 words of that sentence…maybe I’ll ask them!

  7. “In addition, the original birth record contains a given name or “baby last name” which is non-identifying yet serves as a protection against potential incest.”

    This the magic talismanic word the obstetrician, midwife or doula whispers in your ear before they smack you on the rear to protect you against warts and incest… In case you don’t remember it they write in on your OBC in cord blood…

    No really, this is some serious mumbo jumbo. This whole incest thing is a ghost story CARE is going to tell legislators around the campfire while they cook s’mores on twigs and peer apprehensively into the darkness.

  8. I’ve read through the CARE stuff and a lot of it does not make sense. If it is not about rights, what is it about?? I get the feeling that they think that they can sneak through an adoptee rights bill, put one over on the legislators, by calling it something else, and meekly pleading about their “needs” and “desire” and “adoptees are dyin” rhetoric.

    That seems really naive and bound to backfire. It is clear they are eager and willing to compromise. My question is how far? Worst case scenario I could see this turning out like MA or with a mandatory registry and intermediary system.

    I feel bad because I like people on both sides of this, but it looks to me like a disaster waiting to happen.

  9. Open records legislation has been pushed many times in the California legislature. It is apparent to many of us at this point that open records legislation such as the type passed in Oregon just isn’t going to fly. Its not a question of what is morally right. Its a question of what the Assembly will do. Those who are holding out for pure open records here are butting their heads against a stone wall.

    It would be nice to take open records before the people as an initiative, but the cost of doing this is prohibitive.

    What is left are two unsatisfactory alternatives. Either we fight for years to try obtain a pure open records law or we accept some type of odious compromise. I’m not sure where I come down on this.

  10. Anonymous wrote:

    “Its not a question of what is morally right.”

    This is where we disagree. I think that what we think of as the “adoption community” is a self-selected, very small percentage of people whose lives are impacted by adoption, and by extension that this “community” represents a tiny percentage of California adoptees. One of the reasons that I, personally, stepped back from adoption politics is because I didn’t feel that any of the national groups involved in records access had developed effective outreach strategies to the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of adult adoptees impacted by their political actions.At some point even the most principled of activists needs to step back and do a reality check. Adoption World doesn’t operate that way, though. You an go to conferences across the country, year after year, and see the same faces.

    Groups like CARE, that take it upon themselves to represent the interests of adoptees, owe those adoptees a voice in this process. It’s not enough to hold meetings with a few dozen people, it’s not enough to claim unity in a community that cannot be said to be representative. Until CAEE commits to real and effective outreach to California’s adoptees, CARE has no moral authority to bargain away their rights through compromise, regardless of how expedient that may seem to them as a strategy.

  11. BTW – I emailed them for an explanation on the “non-identifying baby last name” statement. No answer yet.

    There’s just way too much shell game going on there. I get it that they’re going to compromise – but what logic and data (as opposed to emotion) are they going to use to magically get a bill (any bill) passed?

    I’ve never seen rights won by merely applying logic. If someone opposes you on principle (think “abortions will skyrocket!”) then no amount of pure logic is going to sway them. You have to challenge them and get in their face – calm but determined, not belligerent. Otherwise they can dismiss you – if it isn’t that important to you, why should it be important to me?

  12. “Open records legislation has been pushed many times in the California legislature. It is apparent to many of us at this point that open records legislation such as the type passed in Oregon just isn’t going to fly. Its not a question of what is morally right. Its a question of what the Assembly will do. Those who are holding out for pure open records here are butting their heads against a stone wall.”


    You don’t know that. You simply don’t know that. That is your guess.

    If that is your feeling on the matter I ask you to avoid all open records efforts. Why enter into a fight you don’t believe you can win?

    I don’t want a predetermined loser fighting on my behalf thanks. If you believe in defeat—accept it and go home.

  13. This post had perhaps been one of the first I’d read regarding C.A.R.E. One of the items I’d remembered reading was about the Brooklyn Bridge reportedly on Care’s page.

    In retrospect, perhaps Care should have chosen to display the new span of the Bay Bridge. You know, the one damaged in the 1989 earthquake. The one that has run grossly over budget, to include a couple design changes at the last minute, and still hasn’t been fixed 20 years later. The new span, which will take 4 times as long to complete as it’d taken to build the Bay Bridge in the first place.

    Much more appropriate symbol for Care.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *