Full show notes: http://www.adopteeson.com/listen/105
Episode Transcription by Fayelle Ewuakye. Find her on Twitter at @FayelleEwuakye
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Haley - You’re listening to Adoptees On. The podcast where adoptees discuss the adoption experience. This is episode 105, Becky. I’m your host, Haley Radke. Today we are welcoming back a guest from season 1, Becky Drinnen. Becky shares some life and reunion updates with us, including some tears and very special moments. And then we shift gears and talk about what adoptee activism and advocacy really look like. If you’ve ever wondered what you can do to get involved, this is the episode for you. We wrap with some recommended resources and as always, links to all the things we’ll be talking about today are on the website, Adopteeson.com. Let’s listen in.
Haley - I’m so pleased to welcome back to Adoptees On, Becky Drinnan, welcome Becky!
Becky - Well thank you Haley, it’s great to be here today.
Haley - You were one of my very first interviews in season 1, episode 4 and I asked you back because you have some big updates. So I'm gonna give Cliff Notes version as best as I can to catch you all up to speed on Becky’s story. But I do recommend that you go back and listen to season 1, episode 4, because Becky’s a great storyteller. And you’re gonna wanna hear it from her words, but here’s my Cliff’s Notes. And you’re gonna have to tell me how I do, Becky, okay?
Becky - Perfect.
Haley - Okay, so Becky was born in the baby scoop era and as far as she knows, her birth mother didn’t even see her when she was very first born. Becky was adopted and she was the first child adopted in the family and they had planned to adopt again, but they actually had bio kids after. So you’re the oldest in your adoptive family, and in the 1980s, you found some records that you had access to because of a crazy law and now records are open in your state that you were born in. But in the 80s you did have access to your first mother’s name, and you had a friend call her and the first, some of the first words that you heard her say was, “What is she trying to do, ruin my life?” And so that was really challenging, we talked about that secondary rejection and how hard it was. And then later on you did have a conversation with her a number of years later. That was a little bit more lengthy and you had some answers from that. But you were able to get some answers from an aunt, you saw things on Facebook from your bio mom and her kept children. And you had this really amazing in between 6 degrees separation but it wasn’t 6 degrees with your brother. You had a friend that actually knew your brother. And he worked really close to you at the time that we talked. And from your understanding, your birth mother had never told her husband or her kept children and that was likely the reason for the secondary rejection. And then we also talked about, your amazing searching skills of how you found your first father. And you talked briefly about your reunion with him and your other siblings and then I think it was even weeks after we had talked, he passed away. So we did a little update on the show with that. I think it was a couple episodes later. And so that’s where we left your story. And I know you have big updates since then, but again I wanna pass on my condolences to you for the loss of your dad and that was a couple years ago when we talked. So here we are.
Becky - Yes, well, you did a great job with summarizing that. It was kinda hard to summarize a lifetime worth of searching into a couple of minutes and you did a great job with it. So thank you.
Haley - I tried to be under a minute, but I don’t think I did it.
Becky - So yes and probably you know, one of the things that did happen since I was on your podcast the first time was, that my father passed away, three years and eleven days after I first met him, he passed away. And that has been very difficult. You would think that it wouldn’t be so hard after you didn't spend a lifetime with him, and I understand that my grief has not been the same as the people who have been around him all of his life. But in some ways it’s almost I think, more intense because I think a lot about what I missed out on. And what could have been if I had had more time to spend with him and get to know him. But that said, I'm very, very grateful that I have the opportunity to get to know him because you can’t get to know somebody the same. There’s so many adoptees who have found parents after they have passed away. And it’s great to hear stories, it’s great to hear all of the stuff, but I feel very fortunate that I had that opportunity to actually connect with him and get to know him for the person that he was, myself.
Haley - And you are still in touch with his other children? His existing family?
Becky - I am. It’s not frequent contact, you know I had hoped for a little bit more frequent contact than what we have, but our lives are very different and there’s enough distance that we don’t see each other a lot. But yes, I am still in contact with 3 of my 4 siblings to some extent and with my stepmother and with aunt and cousins and some other extended family. And that’s a good thing.
Haley - Well I am so glad you had those 3 years and 11 days but I understand that, the grief of you know, we hope for more time and especially when you’re like, so looking forward to reunion and it’s, and it goes well and then it’s taken away. So yeah, I understand that. Okay so what’s your other update, Becky?
Becky - So that was my sad update. And now I have an extremely happy update and it just goes to show you, that you just never know what’s gonna happen in this whole journey of search and reunion. So as we talked about in the previous episode, I've known who my mother was since I’ve been in my early 20s. I've made contact with her back when I was in my early 20s and then again later. And though we stayed in a little bit of touch, in touch a little bit, I never, I’d always held out hope that we would meet. But really was trying to be realistic about those, the chances of that happening. So over the years, in the adoption community, people have expressed to me that I had the right to reach out to my siblings regardless of how my mother felt about that. And while I've always acknowledged that I had that right, and that we had that right to knowledge, it has always been my choice that I was not going to do something that I knew was expressly against my mother’s wishes at that point in time. I always reserved the right to change my mind. But I always have respected that desire of hers. Even at the cost to me. What I did do though, is I spit in tubes and put DNA out in databases and I did that for a number of reasons. I actually didn't need to do the ancestry DNA kits for search purposes, but first of all I thought, maybe I could help somebody else make those connections by having my DNA out there in those databases. And I’d always figured it would help me learn more about my family. When I first got those results, I had a few distant matches, but nothing close. So last year, in 2018, in March, I was looking at my email and I got this email notification from Ancestry that I had a close family match. So I logged into Ancestry, I was at work, so I was doing this on my phone. I logged into Ancestry and I see that match that I recognize as my sister, my half sister’s name. This would be my birth mother’s youngest daughter. And you know, I got excited but yet I wasn’t allowing myself to get too excited because I knew there could have been a lot of different reactions from my sister. And the way Ancestry works, they don’t really recognize half sibling relationships. They look at it as a first cousin match or close family. So there’s a lot of ways for people to try to not acknowledge what those relationships could be, especially when they have no idea. And I was pretty sure that my sister had no idea that I existed. Then shortly after that, I get another notification and I have a message in Ancestry’s system. And that message was from my sister, she was saying that we had, we were a close family match when she got her results. And she wondered what our relationship would be and wondering if I could help her with that. You know the excitement took over at that point but I was also very aware from other people that I had talked with who have had these DNA matches, that it has to be handled sensitively. And so I took some time, I took most of the rest of the day, I don’t think I got a lot of work done the rest of that day. But what I was trying to do was figure out how I wanted to respond to that. Because one thing I knew, I wasn’t going to respond back in email and say, well you’re my half sister. You don’t know it but your mother had a child before she got married and before you guys were born. Wasn’t gonna do that. I had kinda formulated a response that let her know that I knew what the connection was and that we should probably talk about that by phone rather than back and forth through messages. But before I had a chance to send that. I got another message on Facebook messenger and that message read, “Hi Becky, I received my DNA results today. We came back as a close match. I’m quite the sleuth by nature and discovered we are actually sisters. I cannot emphasize enough how excited I am.” And at that point, I’m probably gonna get a little bit choked up a little bit here, but being the person who was actually reached out to and to find out that somebody that I had sought after and had wanted a relationship for so long was actually reaching out to me and sharing her excitement to find out that she had a sister that she didn’t know about, was overwhelming to me. I remember standing in my living room and telling my husband about it and just I just broke down crying. Because it was, it’s been a long path. And I could have never written that type of an answer, because it really could have been a much different response from her. It could have been, leave our family alone, we don’t want anything to do with you, I'm not going to acknowledge who you are. But what she had done is she had searched for me. She told me later, that when I didn’t respond to her message to me on Ancestry within about 15 minutes, she started digging around on Google. And she found quite a bit of information that I had been public about that she was able to figure out that I was adopted and put enough pieces together. But it made sense and when she played out all of the options, the only option that made sense to her was that her mother had given this child up for adoption and so before she had messaged me, she actually left work and went home and asked my mother and had gotten that information confirmed before she reached out to me.
Haley - Whoa!
Becky - That was like, one of those days that, after all of those years, I never expected it to go as well as it did. And what’s even better is, in that, in the almost year since that has occurred, we still, I’m in contact with both of my sisters, my brother, and my mother. Pretty amazing.
Haley - Wow. That is pretty amazing. I am, I am dumbstruck. I also love in her message to you, “I’m quite the sleuth by nature.” I believe I called you Sherlock Holmes the last time we talked.
Becky - So you think there’s a biological basis for having sleuthing skills?
Haley - I guess there is! Wow. Okay, do you know how that conversation went between your sister and your mother?
Becky - I really don’t. I think it was, I think that my sister had a pretty good feeling that it was going to be something that was difficult for my mother to talk about. And I think that she wanted to make sure that she was pretty sure of her facts before she asked her about it. You know, as much information as she could have. So you know, I think it was more of a conversation that said, I'm right about this, correct? That type of thing. I don’t know. I can only imagine what was going my mother’s mind at that point in time. I don’t know but, clearly it was time for that to come out. And the super interesting thing about all of this is, I think that my mother is really happy to be in touch with me. So it hasn’t been, I think it was more that the fact that it had been a secret for so long, certainly not that she did not want to know me or be a part of my life.
Haley - She didn't know how to tell everyone, right?
Becky - Think about that. You keep a secret, I was 55 years old at the time that that connection happened. I mean, think about that, having that for 55 years, having social workers tell you and parents tell you, we’re never gonna speak of this again. And then all of a sudden it’s out in the open. I mean those secrets fester and I don’t think they’re ever good for your inner life. To have secrets that are eating away at you. And I think it was pretty clear to me from my first conversation with her that she was interested in me, and it had certainly had a major impact on her life that there was a child of hers who was being raised by other people and she had no idea where that child was or how that child was. But I really can't speak for her, I don’t know what was going through her head. But I can imagine it had to be pretty emotional.
Haley - Well I remember we talked before about how important having in person connections are with adoptees and you also said, “and also with first parents so we can have a passion for them and an understanding.” So I think that your work in investing in those relationships has probably brought you to just a real greater understanding of what she experienced and you know, even in our last episode when you talked about that first, when your friend called her. And it was like this shocking message from her. You still were so you know open and had this real desire to connect with her and you didn’t really hold that against her I feel like. I don’t know if I’m putting words in your mouth. I think that your work, your healing work really is evident in all this whole process. What are your thoughts on that?
Becky - I would agree with that. I think that I've never, I mean you go through phases where you know, there’s the anger and all of those different emotions that you have to process in this journey. Especially when there’s rejection and secondary rejection. I think that learning about baby scoop era in general, learning about the impact of adoption on first parents, about learning about how adoptions were handled by social workers and by society in general in that period of time does give me a level of compassion. Because, and even when it comes to adoptive parents and some of the things that adoptive parents say and that level of possessiveness and sometimes a lot of adoptive parents have a lack of empathy towards first parents. So many different things. It’s just the way things were. It’s not really an excuse. But that can’t be changed. A period of time in history that happened, I would like to think we know a little better now, but I hear enough stories that it doesn’t always work that way. So yes, I think that healing work is absolutely key. And I think everybody has a responsibility to do that to be able to be fully present in a relationship with anyone for that matter. For first family member, any family member.
Haley - Okay, so you know adoptees. I know you do, you do work with them. Let’s talk about that a little bit later. But you know what I mean, legislative work and et cetera. So you know there’s a honeymoon period in reunion. And you're a year in and you say the relationships are good. What are you, what do you think is gonna happen in the future? Are you guys really similar? Do you have similar things that will keep you in touch longer do you think? Building close relationships, what do you think? I know you can’t tell the future, but what are your hopes for your reunion with your siblings?
Becky - Well I do think that these relationships that will continue with each of my siblings. I feel like I can find some connection with them whether it be temperament-wise, interests.
Haley - Detective work.
Becky - Yeah, detective work, yes, there’s always that too. We connect through our love of our grandkids and family. We really were raised similarly, similar type homes. It’s amazing how you know, adoption is supposed to bring you too something that’s so much different and better, but in my case what I've found is both my adoptive family and my birth mother’s family, there’s a lot of similarities in how we were raised. And so I think that helps with that connection. I feel comfortable with each of my siblings. I feel my comfortable with my mother. And I think what’s really interesting, and I don’t think we touched on this at all when we talked before, Haley, but one of my sisters and my brother both have places at this prive campground that’s in the same state where we live. And my husband and I actually bought a private lot with a camper and all of the, everything that goes along with it over at that same campground last fall. So you know, it’s a great opportunity for us to be able to, it’s something we do. We’ve camped for years, we’ve camped most of our marriage. And to find out that there’s that connection with my birth family that they also like the outdoors, a little bit different style of camping than my husband and I have done in the past, that we decided that we were ready to go that permanent camping route instead of hauling a camper around. Anyhow, and we actually loved the place where they're at, so it’s really been a joy to be able to go over there and be able to have our own place but still be able to connect and be in close proximity with my birth family. My mother comes and stays with my brother at his cabin, pretty frequently, so I get to connect with her there as well.
Haley - That is so fun! I love that. Oh that’s so good. I just want to give you an opportunity to give us some advice. You know, for people who were in your situation and had secondary rejection and I know other adoptees who have gone ahead and reached out to siblings with mixed results. But you were very patient and even in replying back to that connection on Ancestry. You waited and she reached out and do you have advice about that? Or thoughts, something that you wanna say to other adoptees that have been or are in your secondary rejection situation?
Becky - That’s a super interesting question. And one of the big pieces of advice that I remember being given a number of years ago that has guided me a lot is that, as adoptees, we have a right to knowledge, but relationships are a two way street. So I had the knowledge, a lot of knowledge without having the relationship. I knew that a relationship was what I desired so I feel like what my desired outcome was, really guided a lot of the choices that I made. I think that everyone should, needs to do what they feel in their heart is right for them. That’s what guided me is, a very strong sense that I was doing the right thing even though it was painful for me to know that there were people out there that I knew that I was connected to biologically that didn't know about me. That’s a tough thing to live with, it really is. But I tried to keep focused on what was important to me and what, how I would want to be treated if I were in that situation. And I think that’s, it’s kind of that golden rule, do unto others. And it’s easy to think about lashing back when people aren’t treating you the way that you would wanna be treated. But as difficult as it is, that’s what I've always tried to do. And I think that, that basic human decency and how, treating the other people in the way that they deserve to be treated, regardless of how they treat you, that type of thing is really important for adoptees to keep in mind. And we are a lot of times, we react out of hurt. And that rejection’s a hard thing to take. And taking your time and reacting in a measured way instead of just a knee jerk reaction, I think is helpful to keep in mind.
Haley - And you have these relationships with your siblings on the other side. And that are not as close and I think maybe you have said last time that one of the siblings was not super impressed that you were around.
Becky - That’s a fact. Still isn’t, as far as I know.
Haley - So how do you deal with that when you have the happy welcoming and we have things in common versus the not sure about you or not as many things in common, not just to like compare and contrast relationships, but you’re in a unique position where you can see kind of both sides. And how do you manage that emotionally? You know, do you want more from them or are you okay with where things are? I know you touched on that a little bit before, but just for advice purposes, again, for adoptees that are in your situation, kind of navigating the trickier relationships.
Becky - For me it goes back to what I mentioned a minute ago, that the right to knowledge is very different from the fact that relationship is a two way street. And you know, I will always keep the door open. I still have hope that at some point, my sister who’s not thrilled that I exist, will want some level of connection. I think some of that has to come about naturally. I don’t want, I’m not gonna force a relationship on anybody. As far as advice, I think we have to be open and we have to be clear about what we look for in a relationship. But we also have to take those cues from other people as well. I enjoy the time that I spend around my siblings from my other, on the paternal side. They're nice people, I like them. I think if we were closer in proximity, I would hope we would spend a little bit more time together. I don’t know how that would go. But it again, it just goes back to that, the treating people as you would want to be treated. And to be honest, I could probably do a better job of being the one to reach out and to them, instead of waiting for them to reach out to me. I could grab a birthday card and put it in the mail or something like that. So it goes both ways, you’ve gotta look at where, what you’re investing in that relationship as well as what they're doing as well. You have to acknowledge sometimes it’s really, it’s not a natural type thing to find out that you had a parent who had a child that you didn’t even know about so many years ago. It’s a weird kind of thing. You know, we look at it from our perspective as an adoptee, but how does that feel to be on the other end of that too? I think about that sometimes.
Haley - Okay, I know that you are very involved in adoptee activism in a variety of ways and you’ve, you know taught me some of those things just for me watching you go to different events. And so I want you to talk to us a little bit about that. You know, a lot of people come and they listen to this show for the first time and they’ve just done a Google search to find adoptee support and that’s how they came to the podcast and they don’t necessarily know that there are people working all the time to open up birth certificate records to us, or support adoptees in different ways, to become activists themselves. So can you talk to us about that? There’s a whole other side to being an adopted person, if you wanna like, get your hands dirty.
Becky - Well there is, and there are a lot of different ways that you can become involved in different types of support for people that are impacted by adoption. A couple of the things that I've done are, well first of all just let me say, I think this Adoptees On podcast is absolutely a gift to the community of people who are touched by adoption. And not just adoptees, I know that you speak mostly with adoptees, but I think a lot of first parents could really learn a lot from listening to a lot of our stories as they are portrayed through your podcast. I think that you’re a voice for adoptees, your podcast is a voice for adoptees in this community. But as far as the ways I've been personally involved, since I have been connected to adoption network Cleveland, I've done a few things. I did some work on the bill that Ohio eventually got passed that came into law in 2015. I've also been a co facilitator for a support group for people that are affected by adoption. It’s not just for adoptees, but for all members of the adoption community. And that’s actually, when you think about it now, some of the things that are coming out, people that are donor conceived, with DNA testing, people who are finding out that they have unattributed parentage, I think is the official term for it. But finding out—
Haley - NPE, right? Not Parent Expected.
Becky - Right. So there are a lot of different ways. And if you find out you're donor conceived or you find out that the parent who raised you isn’t your biological parent, it’s some of the same feelings that an adoptee would deal with. That those people would deal with. So I co facilitated a support group for about the last four years or so. And then I've also been connected with the adoptees rights coalition. The Adoptee Rights Coalition is a very small group that’s not all over the place. But what we do, do each year is, we have a presence, a booth at the National Conference for State Legislature so I’m not sure I have that acronym right but it's for all of the state legislators come together for a conference each year to learn about all kinds of legislative things. And we have a booth there where we talk about what model, what legislation should be for unrestricted access to birth certificates. We’ll talk with legislators and some of their aids about what it takes to get a bill passed. And to try to connect them with other people who have done some of that same kind of work.
Haley - So wow, that’s a lot. Okay. I would like if you can, can you break down, this is gonna be a big ask, what it takes to change legislation in a state. And now I'm in Canada, and so we have similar kind of styles of government but not exactly the same. What does it take to bring attention to the rights of adoptees to have access to their original birth certificates and we talk about clean bills and those kinds of things. Can you just talk about that like, process?
Becky - Sure and I think I’ll talk about that because Ohio’s law change is what I am most familiar with. I think I’ll talk about it in those terms. And I think the first thing I will say is it takes a committed group of people who are in it for the long haul. This is not.
Haley - And how many people?
Becky - So Adoption Network Cleveland was actually formed by an adoptee who like me, had the right to her birth certificate but did not feel that it was fair that adoptees who were born after her were faced with sealed records. And she actually formed an organization to support people by adoption. And then she moved it into advocacy. So she built a coalition of people of volunteers. And some of those volunteers came and went over the years, over a 25 year period of time. That’s how long it took from the time that she formed Adoption Network Cleveland until a bill was passed that with a few restrictions, gives everyone who’s adopted in the state of Ohio, access to their original birth certificate at age 18.
Haley - Okay, so you’re not kidding about a group of people in it for the long haul.
Becky - Absolutely. Now, hopefully there has been some advancements that make that a little bit quicker, but, to be honest, right now, there are still only 9 states in the U.S. that have unrestricted access to, for adoptees, to their original birth certificates when they become adults.
Haley - And that means they can just apply and they get it. And nobody can like, a first parent can’t like put a veto on their record? What other kind of restrictions have you seen?
Becky - Well first, in Ohio, there are a lot of different levels of restrictions. And part of this comes about because a lot of the argument against opening up records for adoptees has been birth parent privacy. And one of the ways that, because the way a legislature works, they are, it’s kind of that give and take, so everybody gets a little bit of what they want. And so one of the ways a number of states, because there are now 11 states that offer access with some level of restriction. And in Ohio, what that meant, was that for a year’s period of time after the bill was passed and signed into law by the governor, a birth parent would have the right to say that they didn’t want their name on the birth certificate that was released to the adoptee. If they did that, they had to put out, they had to fill out a complete social and medical history that would be given to the adoptee. Now the adoptee would still get their birth certificate. The birth certificate would still have their name at birth, the only thing that would be redacted on that, would be the name of the birth parent. Which is, it really is ridiculous, but what I will say is, we had a clean bill. We had a clean bill that went all the way through the house. We had a clean bill that made it out of the senate committee and it made it to the senate president, it was ready to be brought out to the floor for a vote. The senate president was refusing to bring it to a vote without, with it being a clean bill. So you know, at that point, the options were, do you try to negotiate the smallest possible restriction to access or do you stop and you know, do you just say forget it and start all over again? The environment that Ohio was faced with, is that there were 4 cosponsors of this bill who all had a connection to adoption. One was an adoptee, one had adopted siblings, one was an adoptive parent, and one had birth parents in her family. So being able to pull that together again and then you know it just, it was a very tough decision because to take something that had been a clean bill for so long and then get these little bit of restrictions added in at the last minute, was very disheartening. But starting all over again, how long would that have taken and how many birth parents and possibly adoptees would have died in that period? Because the period covered in Ohio that weren’t open yet were from 1964 to 1996. Some of those birth parents you know, depending on how old they were at the time, could be passing away. So that’s one of the, the goal is unrestricted access and while I would prefer to see unrestricted access everywhere and I think that states that have restricted access should go back and try to make those changes to get it unrestricted, sometimes it just doesn’t always work out to be what you would like to be in a perfect world. But when you look at it from our standpoint, it’s really frustrating to think, everybody else in the world has a right to that document. It is an official record of their birth without any—
Haley - When you’re talking about this birth certificate. Well, you can have it, but we’re gonna white out the first parent’s name. Like, I already have a birth certificate with my adoptive parent’s names on them, I don’t need one with nobody’s name.
Becky - Right!
Haley - Okay. So that 25 years, that’s a long process. What are some of the ways that people start doing this? So you start building you know a connection with other people. And then what do you do? Like how do you
find someone to sponsor a bill? That sounds like that’s pretty far down the road in the 25 year period.
Becky - Yes, well and it is, you know I think in different states, there’s probably a lot of different ways to getting a bill in place. Really the key is having a group of people who are committed to working on it who have a connection to adoption in that state. Either they’re, and I think it’s really important that they be constituents of the people in the legislature who are willing to come in and testify for this bill. It’s important to have first parents, it’s important to have adoptees so that they can speak about the impact that having open records would have on their lives. And I think it’s really important that first parents are willing to speak up about that because in most cases, they may not want the fact that they gave a child up for adoption public. But statistics will show over and over and over again, the greatest majority of women do not want to be kept a secret from the child they gave up for adoption. So you know, having people who are willing to testify to that is important. But to have to be able to testify, what you have to be able to do, is get a bill on the floor. And so what that takes is, finding cosponsors who are going to be passionate about records access. Senator Bill Beagle in the state of Ohio was that voice for the Ohio law change. I think it was probably one of his favorite bills that he worked on. But it takes the sponsors that care enough about it who are willing to do the negotiations and you know, work with their colleagues to get the, to get the adoptee access bills put before the senate and the house in their state.
Haley - So finding people that are in the state, or province, and have a connection to, or are willing to build a connection to legislatures, politicians, that have the power to do it.
Becky - Absolutely. And I think that everybody, there are states like, I think New York is an example right now. They have a number of different groups that are working on access laws and I don’t think that that’s helpful. I think that if there are a number of groups working on access law changes, that they need to figure out a way to work together so that they’re presenting a united front to the legislature and do the congress people that they reach out to.
Haley - Yeah, it’s interesting in the online community to watch some of those things, it’s frustrating because I'm not, I'm Canadian and so I have no say in any of those things that are happening in the U.S., but I'm trying to build connections in Canada, but looking on as someone who feels that they can't do anything and to see the behind the scenes, like the fighting, it’s sad. It’s really sad. I understand, I'm sure there’s reasons for some of that, that I'm not privy to. But it’s really, it’s sad to watch when, if you could work together, I don’t know, maybe things could go faster. It feels like a lot of wasted energy goes into that, behind the scenes fighting.
Becky - Well it does. But when, you know the larger group of people that are working for that change and everybody being on the same page, I think that’s always gonna benefit the effort.
Haley - Okay, so it sounds like if this is something that people want to be, get into, you wanna be looking for other adopted people or other members of the adoption constellation in your state. That sounds like the most effective way to be working on this. So how can you do that?
Becky - One of the ways that you can do that is if you reach out to, if you look on Facebook, the Adoptee Rights Coalition has a page, a Facebook page that you can send a message through. And by doing that, a lady, there’s several people who are administrators on that page. But there’s a lady named Gaye Tannenbaum. And she is, I mean this is, she’s very passionate about getting this work done. And she has a lot of resources and a lot of information about what states are working on what bills. And who in different states is working on a bill for access. And you know, somebody will get back with you fairly quickly to be able to tell you, if in your state there is something that is being worked. If you’re starting from ground zero in a state. Like for instance, I know right now that New York state and Texas have strong coalitions and there’s a lot of work being done. There’s other states like California that I don’t think as much work is being done. A lot of it is going to be, you’ll have to be a networker and a, and a community builder to be able to build that type of thing if you’re starting from scratch. It’s work that’s important, it needs to be done, but I don’t wanna make it sound like it’s, you can just snap your fingers and pull together a group that’s willing to work for this.
Haley - Absolutely. And I mean, that’s, it’s nice to have a realistic picture. Like is this something I wanna get involved in, and you gotta be passionate about it, because I know people burn out really quick on some of these things.
Becky - Absolutely.
Haley - But also, you know, if you're gonna be the one to start the group and start the networking in your state or province, it’s amazing to just be connected with other people who’ve done it before you and can, you know, give you more in depth advice than Becky and I have gone into today. Because I kinda wanted like, the overview pictures so you could kind of get an idea of what it looks like. So what are some of the things that you have done? I know you said you, you’ve actually worked a booth at a trade show for legislators essentially. What are some of the other like, practical things, like what does it look like to do work on this? Putting work in quotation marks, it’s real work, but like what does work mean?
Becky - So work is really about, in many ways, telling your story, just like you ask people to do on this podcast. One of the things that is important is, to, you can submit testimony. When there’s a bill that’s being heard in the state legislature, you can submit testimony either in writing or by going and submitting it in person to a committee that is hearing testimony. So I've done that, for the state of Ohio. I've also written letters of support for bills in other states. It’s really most effective when you are a constituent of the state where the bill is being heard. So what I would say is, if you’re aware of an effort in your state, the state that you live in, even if the adoption that you’re connected with happened in another state, get involved. because any state legislator is going to want to be doing things to make constituents of their state happy, their voters, the people that are gonna potentially vote for them happy. I think it’s also important just to show support for efforts that are happening in other areas. Because really beyond writing some letters and showing support and maybe sharing some Facebook posts for an effort in California, if for me, living in Ohio or for you living in Canada, there’s really not a lot that you can do. But I think that the more our stories get out there, and the more people hear it, you know for instance, you can’t go a week in the media today without hearing a story about a reunion somewhere. A lot of them, that are coming about form DNA testing or, it’s just been amazing to see the people who have been able to connect because of that. And you know, that’s I think, another place, and maybe if you wanna talk about this a little bit later, or if you don’t have time for it, that’s fine too, but the fact that the DNA databases are so large today is really making a difference. That really should have an impact on how, how legislators look at these laws. From now going forward. Because the whole privacy argument really doesn’t hold water when you’ve got people that are finding a second cousin match and starting to ask questions about who in your family might have placed a child for adoption in 1972. So I think being vocal about that and making sure that you’re talking about how DNA testing changes that argument that have kept records closed for so long is important too. And you can do that if you’ve got a blog, you can do it when you’re talking to somebody, you know, in a conversation. You can do it in a church setting, there’s just many ways that you just need to be willing to make your voice heard.
Haley - Definitely agree with that. I think it’s so important to just be talking about it all the time because we don’t realize the influence our stories, even small snippets of it have on people’s perspectives who have no relation to adoption. I've been witnessing that firsthand in my own life. Before we go do recommended resources and I wanna give you a chance to do one more plug for DNA and talk about the importance of that. And also is there anything else that you would tell adoptees like, okay, here’s your chance. Why is it important for adoptees to get involved in activist or advocacy of some time?
Becky - So if you’re an adoptee, nobody else knows other than another adoptee, what it is like to live with all of the issues that come out by being adopted and living with all of these unknowns that you grow up with. So by being vocal about that, with state legislature, or just somebody who has been against open records, maybe they’re not a legislator, but just feel that it’s the wrong thing to do, they’re never gonna have their mind changed unless they hear from the people who it has impacted.
Haley - Yes! I agree.
Becky - Do you wanna talk about DNA more?
Haley - I wanna, well I do wanna ask you about DNA because I think you were the first person to say this to me. I don’t think we recorded it on the air, but maybe we had a conversation on messenger or something, just about the importance of DNA testing even if your search is complete and you didn't need DNA. Why is it important for people to get tested?
Becky - So DNA testing is something, and I think, I’ll put a little bit of a disclaimer out there, because I know a lot of people have been uncomfortable with it a little bit lately because of some of the criminal cases that have been solved using basically the same methods that we use to find birth family. I'm just here to say that, if somebody that I’m related to genetically is able to be convicted of violent crime because of that, I’m okay with that. That’s just, I mean, they need to be, I don’t see that as you know.
Haley - Well you know what.
Becky - I’m gonna skip all that.
Haley - No, no, no, I'm not, I’m going to say, if you haven’t heard about the Golden State Killer and what’s going on with that, just do a google search for that, and DNA and you’ll understand what Becky’s talking about. And why there’s controversy with that.
Becky - Exactly. But every little bit of a connection, I mean it’s typically not what happened with me and my sister. When people don’t have access to their records and they’re using DNA to be able to try to find family, it’s like putting a puzzle together. Where you’re taking lots of connections and you’re trying to figure out where they all intersect and come together to try to figure out the identity of a parent that you’re looking for. And every little, every new DNA match that you get is all part of putting that puzzle together. So even if you know the identity of both of your parents and your family, by putting your DNA in that database, you may help somebody else with that connection that they need to finally get in touch with somebody. And I think you can see, I’m sure you don’t hear all of the stories of people that weren’t happy to be in contact because they’re not gonna be one of those stories that’s on the front page of media. But you see how many lives have been impacted for the better because they have been able to connect with somebody that in some cases, they didn’t even know existed, ,that they’re related to.
Haley - And even if it’s not for the reunion story, even if it’s for you know, medical purposes, like, there is a reason why so many of us advocate for open records. It’s a human right. So.
Becky - It is.
Haley - That’s what I’m gonna say about that. Thank you, thanks so much for sharing your wisdom with us on all of those different topics, I’m so honored that you would share that with us and hope that you, I know, I know you’ll have inspired some people by some of the things that you shared. Let’s do our recommended resources. And I’m gonna go first. And this is, I've talked about Adoptee Reading before, we’ve had Karen Pickell on the show before, she runs Adoptee Reading. But she has a blog post on her site that is 24 adoptee authored books published in 2018. And these are some books that have recommended on this show before but you can find anthologies on here, memoir, there is even fiction. There are a verse novel, there’s poetry, all kinds of different types of books and I just, I recommend you go and check it out, order a couple, support your fellow adoptees in their work to get their stories out or their creativity out. And that’s a great list to go check out. And then you’ll be like, I just read this and it’s brand new, I mean, published last year, so you’ll feel like you’re in the know. On trend, on adoptee trend, is that a thing? I really appreciate Karen and the work that she takes to curate Adoptee Reading and this list is great, so I’ll link to that in the show notes. And Becky, what do you wanna recommend to us today?
Becky - I am really excited about the resource I have to recommend here today. And I think it’s really appropriate because we have talked about legislative efforts to change laws. And so what I wanna recommend today is a documentary about adoption called Adopted For the Life of Me by adoptee and filmmaker Jean Strauss. She has generously made not only that documentary but about 50 other documentaries that she has made about adoption available on Vimeo, on the adoptee film channel. So I believe that Haleyh’s going to put the url for that in the show notes.
Haley - I will.
Becky - There are so many nuggets of wisdom that Jean pulls out of people, she has followed efforts to open records in a number of states. She’s just an amazing individual and the generosity that she has shown the adoptee community by putting so much of her work out on, for free public view, I think really takes legislative efforts. It’s a help in the effort to open records in different areas of the country.
Haley - Fantastic. And you also, you mentioned here, I want you to talk about it. That she has an adoption memoir as well, Beneath a Tall Tree.
Becky - She does. She wrote this a number of years ago. It’s not in print anymore, but you can still find used copies on Amazon. And it is just a very insightful, it’s a pretty big memoir. But it’s just very insightful in all of the things that she learned about herself and about others and about adoption as she went through her journey. And how she closes it all out, I think is the most powerful part of the book. And she likens putting all of these pieces together as starting with a blank canvas before she knew anything. And then over time, of what she’s learned, she’s been able to paint that canvas with stories of her ancestors and you know, and therefore of her. And it’s very beautifully written. And there’s just a lot of insights that, it’s not new, like the lists that Karen Pickell have so graciously put out for us to have ideas of books to read. But it’s an absolutely beautifully written memoir.
Haley - Thank you for sharing those and I had no idea that all of Jean’s work was up on Vimeo. When you sent me the link and I was like, oh! And there’s more! There’s more, there’s more. It’s awesome, such a great resource. And also says that this documentary was shown on PBS, like these are like legit you know, awesome things to check out.
Becky - Absolutely.
Haley - How can people connect with you online?
Becky - Well you can find me on Facebook and that’s where I’m most often on social media. I'm Becky Conrad Drinnen on social media. I also have a very neglected blog at this point at puzzlesandpossibilities.com.
Haley - Perfect, I will link to all of those in the show notes. Thank you so much Becky, again for coming on the show and sharing your story with us, part 2.
Haley - This time next week, I will be in Washington D.C. at the American Adoption Congress Conference. And I'm so excited to be sharing a keynote message there that highlights adoptee voices and the importance of us telling our stories. Very much in line with what Becky and I just talked about. I would love to have you come and join us there. You can check the American Adoption Congress website to see if you can still register online or it might be just in person now. And check the Adoptees On Facebook page for information about the meetup, the listener meetup, I’d love to meet you in person. If you’re coming to the event, please let me know so we can make sure to say hi. And I’m probably bringing along some stickers, so you can grab some Adoptees On swag. And I just wanna say a huge thank you to my monthly Patreon supporters, I couldn’t do this show without you. And I have been recording special episodes. If you love the podcast and you just can’t get enough, there’s a whole other podcast happening over on Patreon that is called Adoptees Off Script. And every week I talk to an adoptee and we deep dive things that we maybe wouldn’t talk about on the main feed. But of course, we share with our listeners over on Patreon. So if you would like to sign up and help support the ongoing costs of producing this show, Adopteeson.com/partner has links and details for all of the levels of support that you can tryout. Thanks so much for listening, let’s talk again next Friday.