Members of "the adoption triad" - adoptive parents, children who were adopted and those who have given children up for adoption - gathered on the Capitol steps Wednesday to ask that adoption rec-ords be unsealed.
"I was adopted, and when I was very young I gave my son up for adoption," said Jayni Anderson Searle. "It seemed like the right thing to do at the time. But I didn't realize he'd be gone forever."Searle's brother, who was also adopted, found his natural parents. That just made it harder for her, because her file is closed. "I want to know about my medical history, why my hair is brown and my skin dark. I want my son to have the opportunity to find me if he wants to."
About two dozen people carried signs to protest laws that seal records in 47 states. Kansas, Alaska and Hawaii have now opened their records. "Help! I'm being held prisoner in an adoption agency file drawer," read one sign. Another said, "Birth parents care forever."
They chanted, "No more secrets, no more lies. We want all our family ties!"
The rally, organized locally by Charlotte Stanten and Kathryn Sill and their support group, "Love thru Adoption Means Birthparents," (LAMB), is part of the American Adoption Congress' campaign to change the laws that surround adoptions. Stanten and Sill are both birth parents. Daily, they said, they are haunted by a simple question: Is my baby alive?
Proponents of new legislation don't want sensitive records made public. But Stanten said they believe records should be available to the 6 million who have been adopted and the 24 million who have adopted children or given them up for adoption.
Steve Rich describes himself as "complete."
He was adopted as an infant, and while he loves his family, he always wondered who he was. A year ago, he became obsessed with the question.
Luck played a major part in his success: His name at birth had inadvertently been left on a legal document. He had the good fortune to be a "junior." So he backtracked and placed hundreds of phone calls until he found someone who knew his father, who is now dead. He finally got a lead on his mother. They have been reunited.
He now has two families. In a medical emergency he can pick up the phone and get medical information. He's also learned some interesting facts about his heritage. His great-grandfather was a full-blooded Cherokee. His family has been prone to alcoholism and emphysema, "things I need to know."
Both adoptive and birth parents seem to embrace openness, Rich said. "Private attorneys are using the openness to get people away from state agencies for adoption. People are attracted to that because they know that they will someday want to know. . . . "
Roger Sprague has been plagued with medical problems most of his life. Now that he has children of his own, he'd like to know about his genetic medical history. And since his adoptive parents died, he's been lonely for "roots."
"I'd like to know what I am. Who I am."
Sprague's 10-year-search has been fruitless so far, but he's not giving up.
"My situation is a textbook case of how things should go," Rich said. "That's why I'm here today. These people have a right to know the same information about themselves that I've gotten. Unfortunately, all you can do at this point is find a loophole or get someone to slip up and tell you something."