Pamela is an adult adoptee, living in Lexington, Kentucky, was born in Waterloo, Iowa, in 1974. Although Pamela’s roots are scattered all over Iowa, she considers Kentucky to be her home.
Over the last ten years, Pamela has dedicated much of her life to not only work towards healing regarding her adoptee journey but also pouring into the adoptee community. She’s created resources for adult adoptees and built relationships with adoptees all over the world!
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IA HF855 – A bill for an act relating to access to a copy of an original birth certificate by an adoptee or an entitled person, providing for fees and including effective date provisions. (formerly HF 723, HSB 226)
I want to share that I am honored and proud to know Michelle Spear, one of the leading forces at Iowa Adoptee & Family Coalition behind this bill being passed. For over seven plus years, Michelle and many others have worked tirelessly to get Iowa laws changed for adopted adults to obtain their OBC’S. I have been cheering them on from states away during this time because I am an Iowa Adoptee, but I have lived in Kentucky since I was 17 years old. I have built a relationship from afar with Michelle and have admired her dedication and hard work in all these years to DO SOMETHING! Her hard work, and dedication hasn’t gone unnoticed. I am eternally grateful!
I remember being told of my adoption back to 5 years old and asking when I could find my biological mother. Year after year of my childhood, I received the same response. “Honey, the records in Iowa are sealed, but when we get enough money for an attorney, we will get the sealed records opened. But right now, we don’t have enough money.”
Sadly, my adoptive mom knew who my birth mother was my whole life, so this was just a lie. I was spoon-fed this lie to simmer my desire and curiosity to know my biological family. However, it never calmed down my desire to want these CLOSED records OPENED and find my people. I can remember wanting my Original Birth Certificate from the beginning of my life.
As I learned of this new Iowa Bill HF855 passing, a wave of excitement and long-awaited happiness has come over me the last few days because of Bill HF855’s passing; I will be one of those adoptees. Finally, a dream come true, and one that I always thought was so far out of reach I would go to my grave never getting to see my OBC.
While I celebrate this massive milestone in adoptee rights, SOME adopted adults in the state of Iowa will not be able to receive their OBC.
Bill HF855 is subject to redaction at the birth parent’s request. Instead of point fingers at the Iowa Adoptee & Family Coalition that this bill is not a clean bill, I point fingers at the entire adoption system that has set adoptees up with fighting this fight, to begin with. Let’s shine a light on the ROOT of the problem, and not those who are spending year after year fighting tirelessly to shift the laws in Iowa.
While I was overcome with multilayered emotions that I would be getting my OBC in the near future, I was equally sitting in the sadness for many of my fellow adoptees. It seems we’re still infantilized, being treated like perpetual infants who have never grown up.
This saddens me to the core of my being.
The perplexing emotions that have swept through me the last 24-48 hours are complicated at best. One minute I am crying happy tears, and the next, I am crying sad tears. Such significant steps that SOMETHING is moving in the state of Iowa regarding adoptees to have their OBC’s, but we still have so much work to do. Thank you to all who have been there for me during this time!
Part of me is so happy I will finally receive my OBC, and so many other adoptees will as well. I honestly never thought I would be alive to see my OBC and that I would be one of the adoptees who go to their grave, never laying eyes on it. Yet, I always knew Michelle was doing her best to TRY to get something moving in Iowa in the back of my mind.
It might be viewed as insignificant to many who have never lived without their birth certificates. Still, for many adopted people, we have been denied the right to obtain this simple piece of paper that most non-adopted people might take for granted. When someone is adopted, their OBC is kept secret, filed away in a cabinet, and the adopted person is generally never supposed to lay eyes on it as long as they are alive. They are never supposed to know who they are or where they come from. This knowledge is kept locked away for eternity.
What’s the big deal about having your Original Birth Certificate?
I want to know what information is on my OBC. Did my birth mother name me? Is my birth father listed? Does it have the correct birthday? Does it tell how much I weighed? It’s a tie to my truth, and no law should stand in the way of me having it.
I used to take care of a 86 year-old dementia patient named Pauline. I would go get her to bed at night, and even when she forgot her kids, and grandkids names, she would lay awake and stare at the ceiling and say, “I was adopted out of a home in Louisville, I never found out who my people were, but I always wondered who they were and where I came from. Were they looking for me?”
Even when she forgot many other things in life, she always remembered to her dying days she was adopted, and it haunted her not knowing who she was and where she came from.
How many Pauline’s have died before every learning their truth?
How many will continue to die before learning their truth?
I can share from the experience of building relationships with adoptees for over a decade that many feel like we aren’t alive because we feel like we were never born. Much of this goes back to being denied the right to know who we are and where we come from and to know our birth stories. Our OBC is a direct tie to our history and birth story, and every adopted person on the planet deserves to know their truth.
I also know that adoptees are 4x more likely to attempt suicide and they are over-represented in jails, prisons, mental health, and treatment facilities. These staggering statistics are alarming at best, and we have to understand that the closed adoption social experiment has failed and failed adopted individuals miserably.
Why are we still giving birth mothers anonymity and allowing adoptees to pay the price of shame and secrecy for life? It’s a fundamental human right to know who you are and where you come from. We all have a right to know who our siblings and biological families are. Adoptees are fighting for a document that most people have, and this document shares their truth. Hiding this truth never has been and never will be in the best interest of any child.
Truth and transparency are the only way to go, and anything rooted and grounded in secrecy and lies is only harming adoptees. We can’t heal from secrecy, lies, and half-truths because we don’t know what we’re healing from.
I’m a firm believer that every adopted individual should have UNRESTRICTED ACCESS to their original birth certificate under the law. While Iowa Bill HF855 is a shift I am eternally grateful for, we will continue to have work to do in Iowa and any other state that isn’t allowing unrestricted access to adopted adult’s original birth certificates.
I urge anyone who might read this article to share their voice and speak loud about the unjust treatment adopted individuals experience worldwide, just because we’re adopted. It’s never too late to get involved with supporting adopted adults and push for unconditional access to our OBC’S.
While I’m celebrating for Iowa, and I am celebrating for myself, I am celebrating that step by step, year after year, changes are happening for adopted adults. It’s just deplorable, so many people support adoption, but they don’t realize they are also supporting secrecy, lies, and half-truths.
ADOPTEES ARE DYING, NEVER KNOWING THEIR TRUTH!
We can’t afford to turn a blind eye any longer.
On the flip side, I’m honored to be a part of such a significant milestone for my home state of Iowa and show up to celebrate with them. Wednesday, May 19, 2021, I will be traveling to Iowa for the Governor’s formal signing of bill HF955 into law, allowing Adoptees to Access their Original Birth Certificates. I will spend less than 24 hours in Iowa, but I wouldn’t miss this event for the world! On January 1, 2022, I will be able to apply for my original birth certificate.
Wednesday, I will be wearing YELLOW as a sign of remembrance for Adoptee Remembrance Day, as well as all tribute to all the Iowa Adoptees who died before they ever found their truth. I would like to invite anyone attending this historic event to join in with me to wear yellow as well. I know my emotions will be running high, as many emotions will be that day. I have close friends attending, I will be in great hands.
I want to say a special THANK YOU to my close friends and family who have supported me through these past few days and my journey in general. Keila, Damia & Damond, Thanks for your continued love and support! Thank you Jennifer for being my side kick through this whole thing. Thank you Taylor & Clarita for covering work so I could go! You all have no idea how much your support means to me, and even just listening to me and saving space for my sadness and tears is healing in a million ways. I appreciate you, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
For all those who have had a part in this bill moving forward, Michelle, Susie, and the rest of the tribe… I salute you all, I thank you, and I love you. I will always hold a huge space in my heart for your efforts, your sacrifice, and hard work!
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Pamela A. Karanova
The views and opinions expressed in this article are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova