Letters

It's the money; Birth pains

It's the money

As the wife of an immigrant, I am much more familiar with the bureaucracy and snail-like pace of the INS than I would like to be. I think there must not be any agency, public or private (with the possible exception of any long-distance provider), that has the power to infuriate more than the INS.

However, as deplorable as the INS can be with its bewildering regulations, interminable waiting periods, and infuriating lack of organization, I think Mr. [Joe] Pappalardo misses the mark in "The kids aren't all right" (June 1).

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True, the INS is desperately in need of reform. True, these undocumented immigrants are missing out on higher education through no fault of their own. But let's throw caution to the wind for a moment and try a little logic, shall we? There's a little fact that Mr. Pappalardo deftly omits from his article that is widely known among college students: A college education is readily available to natives of other countries. Regardless of where they come from or reside, legally or illegally, there is virtually no immigration obstacle to overcome in order to obtain a student visa. An American education is available to anyone who is accepted by a university, regardless of their immigration status, provided that they apply as an international student.

Since we're not talking about the legality of these students entering American universities, let's focus on the real issue...money.

Because my husband initially came to the United States on a student visa, I am aware that, contrary to Mr. Pappalardo's comment that international tuition "dwarfs" the rates paid by Texas residents, international tuition is about the same as out-of-state tuition, and neither is astronomical. Mr. Pappalardo quotes Ms. Ana Yañez Correa as saying, "If these kids have been going to public schools for as long as they can remember...why should they be denied a university education?" The same question could be asked regarding the children growing up in South Oak Cliff, because those American children face the same basic issue--the lack of ability to afford an education. While it may be true that the students Mr. Pappalardo writes about cannot afford international tuition, I can sympathize only insofar as I sympathize with anyone who has ever had their hopes dashed because of a lack of money, immigration status notwithstanding.

The fact that these kids are missing out on an education they so much deserve is sad, but the burden of blame should be placed on their parents, not the INS. Instead of wishing on a star that the INS would suddenly cease to be "heartless and cold," somehow benevolently grant their children citizenship and offer them a free college education, perhaps these parents should have considered the cost and started college savings accounts for their children like the rest of us do.

Lenore Ludlow
Via e-mail

Birth pains

I was reunited with both my birth mother and birth father about two years ago. I went through the mutual-consent registry at the agency that had placed me in my adoptive home. However, despite ongoing contact with both my birth parents, I still cannot get my original birth certificate without a judge's consent ("Prying open the past," June 8).

This is not about people seeking reunion; this fight is about people, adults who happen to have been adopted, fighting to get the basic truths about our lives.

The State of Texas gives me an amended birth certificate. I know I am adopted; I always have. My adoption papers and my family affirm that. My birth certificate should reflect the true and correct facts of my birth, but it does not. It is a government-mandated work of fiction. Why should I have to beg a judge to give me the truth about my birth? Am I somehow less a human or less a citizen?

I'd also like to make the point that giving adoptees their true birth certificates does not end any privacy for birth parents. The general public cannot access birth certificates. Only the adoptees would be able to get copies of previously sealed certificates. In upholding the Tennessee open-records statute, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals found that parents do not have a right to privacy from their own children.

Pam Hannah
Austin

Lisa Singh's article was right on target. My dog has her original birth certificate, so do Cabbage Patch Dolls! Adoptees deserve theirs. It isn't a privilege, it is a right! I'd be very curious to know whether the Gladney Foundation was a campaign contributor to any or all of the Bushes.

Lisa, thank you for taking the time to bring this issue out in the open. You should check out the Mending Wall's Web site, which shows how many adoptees have died because they didn't have their own medical records. I wonder how many young men died in Vietnam needlessly because their birth date was altered by a year on the Amended Birth Certificate. Ditto for those who could use the money from Medicare, but their Amended Birth Certificate has been altered by a year backward. Is it going to take someone like Bush waking up one day to find out he is married to his sister to get these laws changed?

Linda Hammer
Via e-mail

The articlewritten by Lisa Singh was a very good portrayal of the issues facing the adoptee rights movement here in Texas. However, I want to address birth parent rights, specifically the rights of the small minority of birth parents who say they do not want to have contact from their birth child.

I am a social worker. I have been involved in child placement in Texas for the past 27 years. I know there are birth mothers who do not want their birth child to contact them. They are a small minority of all birth mothers, estimated to be between 2 percent and 5 percent of the total number of birth mothers. These numbers have been verified over and over again all across the United States by search and reunion professionals. In agencies/adoptions wherein shame and guilt were reinforced in the placement process, these numbers are higher. In agencies/adoptions wherein adoption was supported as a truly loving choice, these numbers are lower.

The bottom line is that 95 percent of birth mothers would love to hear from their birth child. Was the choice they made 21-plus years ago a good choice? Only the birth child, now an adult, can really answer that question.

However, we must protect that minority of birth mothers who do not want to have this question answered--who do not want to see their birth child. The best way to do that is to set up a system wherein they can have the greatest assurance possible that their personal statements on this issue will be delivered to their birth child. If this document also contains health and other information adult adoptees most often need, the probability of an unwanted contact will be greatly reduced compared to those contacts now happening with the current system in Texas.

The current adoption registry system in Texas is not the way to have that assurance. Most adoptees and birth parents do not even know the adoption registry system exists. The large majority of adoption reunions are happening because of personal searches outside the registry system. Consequently, a significant percentage of those birth parents wanting no contact are being contacted by their now-adult birth children against their wishes. These adult adoptees did not know their birth mothers' wishes. If they had, the large majority of those contacts would not be happening as they are now in Texas.

The best way to set up a system to ensure that such contacts are eliminated to the fullest extent possible is to have a system whereby birth parents can file personal letters with their child's original birth certificate. These letters would be released with the original birth certificate to the adult adoptee.

Denying basic birth information to adult adoptees does not work in helping to protect the privacy of birth mothers. Treating adult adoptees as adults will work.

While not all adult adoptees requesting a copy of their original birth certificate are planning to search for their birth parents, whenever an adoptee searches, the securing of the original birth certificate is the most common first step. Thus, with this letter attached to that original birth certificate, a birth mother can have the greatest assurance possible that her letter, and her wishes, will be delivered to her birth child if that now-adult child is searching.

There are judges who routinely release original birth certificates to adult adoptees with no questions asked. Judge Gaither here in Dallas has done that for years. He has a large file of "Thank you" letters to prove the value of that practice. However, his court's time and resources are very strained because of the rest of his workload. The courts should not be used in this manner.

Judge Gaither is one of the strong supporters of this bill that will again be proposed by state Rep. Tony Goolsby in the next legislative session. With the proposed legislation, adult adoptees will be able to get their original birth certificates just like the rest of us. They will also get any original letters that their birth parents may have chosen to have filed with the original birth certificate.

The proposed adoption legislation will also, from this point forward, give families in the adoption process the option of retaining their child's original birth certificate and receiving a decree of adoption instead of a falsified birth certificate. Currently all adoptions in Texas involve a falsified birth certificate used to indicate that the child adopted was born to the adoptive parents. There may have been a need for such mandated documentation at some time in the past. Now with single parents adopting, when a male parent adopts, such a birth certificate can become a true conversation piece. He gave birth? People should have a choice as to how to document their child's adoption.

Again, thank you for publishing this article. We must have laws in Texas that truly reflect the reality of adoption as a loving choice. An adoptee should not lose basic human rights in the adoption process.

Bill Betzen
Board of Directors
Texas Coalition for Adoption Resources and Education
Dallas

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