My Sentiments on Iowa Bill HF855

My Sentiments on Iowa Bill HF855

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)

For more information on this bill, visit here.

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.

Here’s why.

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.  

#simplepieceofpaper movement

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!

Love, Love!

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

Adoptee Dreaming & The Island of Lost

[DREAM] – Indulge in daydreams or fantasies about something greatly desired.

[LOST] – Having gone astray or missed the way; bewildered as to place, direction, etc.

Dreaming – One more adoptee robbery to add to the list of LOST. The traditional concept of dreaming has been out-of-place for most of my life.

While other little girls were dreaming of what dolls they wanted for Christmas, I was dreaming of finding my birth mother, living in mental torment every day. She was nowhere to be found.

While other little girls were celebrating their birthdays, I was wishing my birth mother would come back to get me, feeling like an outsider on the island of LOST.

Being adopted comes with a heavy cost.

While other little girls were thinking about one day getting married and having children, I was obsessed with finding my birth family. Who were they? Where were they? Why haven’t they come back to find me?

While other little girls were dreaming about what college they wanted to go to, and what they wanted to be when they grew up, I was fighting the world to find out WHO I AM? Where did I come from? Who do I look like? Why am I so tall?

While other little girls were playing with barbies and baby dolls, I was searching for my people. Everywhere I went, I was looking for them. Who matches my hair and skin tone? Could they be my people? Is that my mother?  Is that my sister or my brother?

While other little girls excelled and enjoyed school, I was riddled with anxiety and fears about the previous nights traumatic experience in my home. Concentrating on school and school work was impossible.

While other little girls were playing outside with their friends, I was trying to escape the prison I was adopted into. Chore lists the size of poster boards was all I knew. The work was never done. Ever.

While other little girls were watching Saturday morning cartoons, I was searching in my adoptive moms filing cabinet looking for any clue as to who I really was.

While other little girls sit back in awe as they hear their birth story shared by their families, I had no birth story. When you have a birth story, you feel real. Feeling REAL has always been a struggle. Having no roots contributes to the magnitude of being on the island of LOST.

While other little girls were having sleepovers and telling their friends which boys they liked, I was rubbing my adoptive moms back, feet and legs. Brushing her hair and putting makeup on her. Running her bath water and scrubbing her back. Fetching her Pepsi’s and pills.

While other little girls were being spoiled by their grandparents, I was recovering from witnessing my adoptive mom trying to commit suicide. Over and over. Trauma wounds piled up.  

Mental torment was my constant companion, and I did not have time for typical little girl dreams. A childhood misplaced, but I have survived. It has taken me 46 years to feel even a little alive.

I must make up for all the lost little girl dreams, it seems.

I want to be free, with the sunshine all over me. I want to see the rainbows even on the darkest days and climb trees to the top. I want the teardrops to stop, to sit on the mountain tops and make new memories with those I love, nonstop.

I want to love and be loved with no agenda. I want to be surrounded by friends where I do not have to censor my thoughts. I want to connect with mother nature because we are one – This is just for starters.

I am not close to being done.

I must make up for whatever has been lost, no matter what the cost. The future belongs to me, but I must be the one to see. Brightness is all around, no more letting others let me down.

Smile. Be Free. The future is bright but only if you see that beauty surrounds us in everyday life. I have learned to embrace feeling LOST, because being adopted comes with a hefty cost.  I’ve learned that in feeling lost, I’ve actually been found.

Dream little, dream big, I must be true to me and do whatever it is I love to do. It is never too late to look myself in the mirror and embrace what I see, the key is learning to love ME.

This is my adoptee reality.

It’s time to take back what was stolen from me.

Dead Man Walking

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I began searching for my birth family as soon as I found out I was adopted around 5 years old. Everywhere I went, I was searching for HER, my birth mother. As I reached my early 20’s I had already found my birth mother.  

But what about HIM? 

Where was my birth father…

When I asked my birth mother who my birth father was she said, “He didn’t know anything about you, and he wouldn’t want to!” She refused to give me any information, and that was that. I learned quickly if I wanted her in my life, I better never ask about him again. 

Soon after our very first meeting, she shut me out and I never heard from her again. I was heartbroken. I didn’t give up and I still very much wanted to learn who my birth father was. Occasionally I would call her home, to see if she would answer but she never did. Her husband answered on one occasion and we had a brief conversation. What did I have to lose?

I was never giving up in finding my truth. 

He expressed knowing who my birth father was, but that he was sorry to tell me he had passed away, and he heard that he had been shot many years ago. I asked him his name, but he said he couldn’t remember. He said there was no reason I needed it because he didn’t exist in this world, he was gone, forever. 

This was in 1996 when we didn’t have the internet, social media or DNA testing. Believing my birth father was dead never set well with my spirit. Deep down in my heart, I said to myself, “If he’s dead I still want to know his name, and I still want to see his grave.” I was never giving up on finding him, until I found my truth. 

No one would help me.

No one supported me. 

 I was up against the world and the legal closed adoption system. Born in the state of Iowa, these laws have been sealed since July 4, 1941. That was 79 years ago. This is 79 years of adult adoptees fighting against the grain for their truth.  It’s 79 years of living lies. It’s 79 years of secrecy and shame with adoptees plagued by the stigma attached to unplanned pregnancies, paying the price of this life sentence and even when we find our truth, the magnitude of the loss impacts every area’s of our lives. 

And we’ll find our truth If we’re lucky that is. 

Over 20 years had passed of no contact and I received a Facebook message my birth mother had passed away. I made the choice to go to her funeral, after I was invited by my birth sister. In 2011 I buried the woman I met once, who I dreamed of knowing my entire life. This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I was introduced as “The daughter she gave up for adoption” and invisible from her obituary as if I didn’t even exist. It was beyond hard. 

Being surrounded by her friends & family, I started asking questions. I was able to get confirmation of who my birth father was, who his family was and how he was tied in to my birth mother. I was told he was a friend of the family, and he was about 10 years older than my birth mother. He lived off the land, with his brothers and parents all living in Leon, Iowa close to the Missouri border. I was told he was married at the time of my conception, and he knew nothing about my existence. But the real question was, IS HE STILL ALIVE?

“Yes, yes he’s very much still alive.” said a friend of my birth mother. 

So you mean to tell me I was told he had passed away, but that was a lie? That’s very much the way the story goes in my journey. It happens to adoptees all the time! The same trip to Iowa for my birth mother’s funeral was the same trip I drove to Leon, Iowa and showed up at my birth father’s doorstep.  

I will never forget November 11, 2011 arriving at his door and seeing his face for the first time in my life. It was a surreal experience. The man I had been told was dead, was very much alive, walking and talking. The internal nagging and turmoil of the unknown had come to an end, and I was looking at his face. Our visit lasted about an hour. He expressed he knew nothing about me, but if he knew about me he would have kept me. He wasn’t accepting of me, and over the last 9+ years I’ve given up hope on us having a relationship. 

I now have my truth. 

I know my truth. 

I have seen my truth for MYSELF.

I had to fight like hell to get it.

I would like to encourage my fellow adoptees to keep searching even when you’ve been told they have passed away.  Don’t give up! I encourage you to get DNA testing to make sure the person you’ve been told is your biological family FIRST. And if you’ve been told they have passed, I wouldn’t believe it until you know by DNA that’s your people, and then you are standing over their grave. 

I’ve seen countless adoptees be given falsified information by the adoption agencies, time and time again. I’ve seen outlandish stories written in identifying and non-identifying information that’s turned out to be completely false in attempts to throw the adoptee off from finding their people. I’ve seen this same paperwork say the biological father has died in a tragic accident yet they are found very much alive. 

I’ve seen it all.

Many adoptions are rooted and grounded in secrecy and lies. 

Please don’t believe what you are told. Verify with DNA your father is who they say he is. If you’ve been told he’s passed away, never give up until you are standing over his grave, but ONLY if this is the person who your DNA says your father is. This goes the same for biological mothers but it seems with many of them relinquishing without our fathers consent, it’s usually our fathers we’re told are dead, vs. our mothers. 

 We know DNA is changing the game for adoptees. If you are still searching, I truly hope you find the answers you are looking for. Everyone on earth deserves to know where they come from. Don’t give up! 

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