Thursday, January 27, 2011

Oprah's sister

Oprah Winfrey’s discovery of her secret sister made big news recently, and this has led to a lot of talk about the reunion of family members separated by adoption.

I was listening to an NPR discussion of the topic in the car yesterday, but had to snap the radio off because what was being said got me agitated. I have strong views about this subject and didn’t want to unnecessarily raise my heart rate while driving.

Here’s the thing: All human beings have the right to know who they came from.  It is knowledge that is more than mere information, it is connective tissue. It is identity.  

Can you imagine not being allowed access to your own birth certificate? That's a reality for six million American adult adoptees.

Although the closed adoption system has undergone reform in the last few decades, and the need for adoptees to know their heritage has come to be widely understood, most sealed adoptions records remain sealed.

There are only two states that never participated in the sealing of adoption records (Alaska and Kansas) and six other states that now allow access, but most do not.

I was raised by a family that was not biologically mine, but I was never legally adopted. The issue of sealed adoption records does not affect me personally, but I sure do understand the need to know. I sure do support the right of anyone, anywhere, to know who they are.

There's lots, LOTS, more I could say about this issue, but don't want to get too wound up. I'll just say how happy I am for Oprah's sister. Wow.


maggie's garden said...

Back in the late 50's my aunt had 10 kids she wasn't able to care for and the courts decided it best to take them away from her. The kids were placed in Maryville Academy in Des Plaines Il.(orphanage). I felt the loss of my cousins as well as they feeling the loss of each other. Some were put in foster homes others adopted out...they just got lost from us...but 5 of them found each other when they were in their early 20's. I still feel the loss of my cousins to this day. I wonder where they that is the other side of that I guess. It really sucks what the state does, and I'm not sure why they can't give some closure to the ones lost in the system. I have a right to know my cousins as parents looked for years trying find the others to avail. I always hope that some day one by one they will knock on my door.
I'm sorry you've had to go through that. I'm hoping you got to see who your biological parents were on your birth certificate.

gwendolyn said...

There's LOTS I could say about this, too. I won't. But I'm glad that Oprah took it to the national discussion level. And that you and others are starting to speak out. It takes some guts. Wish we all had bullhorns. Or we could a do a flash mob. In Lansing or Washington.