Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Baby Veronica: What Adoption Does to Adopted Persons from a LegalPerspective

By Julie Stromberg

I have recently engaged in some discussion and debate surrounding the Baby Veronica case. Right here on Lost Daughters, several of us expressed our thoughts on the case as adult adopted women. The fact that we are all adult adopted women here gives our points of view a solid base of actual experience from which to form opinions. 

As is often so typical when adult adoptees dare to raise questions regarding the ethics of the adoption industry from a legal standpoint, a few folks felt the need to comment on our Baby Veronica round table discussion. As is also so often typical, some of those folks resorted to accusations, generalizations and stereotyping of adult adoptees instead of acknowledging the points we made and furthering the discussion in a productive way.

I personally made some observations about the legal impact this adoption would have on Veronica as an individual, adopted person. A commenter responded by informing me that my "(apparently) unhappy adoption experience does not translate into every child's experience." This commenter chose to address the points I made regarding Veronica's legal rights, and the impact of adoption's legal process on her, by making conclusions about me personally. I always find this sort of thing interesting because the legal aspects of adoption directly impact all adoptees--every single one of us. Our individual, personal experiences (about which this commenter knows absolutely nothing) have nothing to do with how all adoptees are treated from a legal perspective.

That said, I would like to utilize the voice that I have here at Lost Daughters to once again shine the spotlight on what adoption does to adopted persons from a legal perspective. These facts directly impact Veronica Brown now that South Carolina has finalized the adoption. So her case serves as a timely example.

Open Adoption
I have seen many comments, here at Lost Daughters and elsewhere online, in which the people posting seem to feel that at least Veronica will be in an open adoption. These commenters seem to believe that this automatically guarantees that Veronica will maintain contact with her natural family members.

The truth is that open adoption agreements are not legally enforceable in Oklahoma or South Carolina. The adoptive parents in this case might be offering continued contact now while the press is watching. But they are not legally bound to uphold any promises made. They can decide at any time, and at their discretion, to cease contact with any member of Veronica natural families and there would be no legal repercussion.

What this means is that adoption does not grant Veronica, as an individual, the legal right to continued contact with her own family.

Amended Birth Certificates
Like all domestic adoptees, Veronica will be issued an amended birth certificate stating the adoptive parents are her biological parents. This will be the only version of her birth certificate that she can legally use. The original will be sealed away and Veronica will not have access to it, even in adulthood. Neither Oklahoma nor South Carolina currently grants adoptees the ability to even view their original factual birth certificates. As such, Veronica will forever be forced to legally pretend she is the biological offspring of the adoptive parents.  

What this means is that all legal ties to her Cherokee background will also be severed through adoption. Which also means that all legal ties to her descendant's Cherokee background will also be severed because of her adoption.

Forever Bound
This is what adoption legally does to adopted persons. Legally, we are never considered an individual party to our own adoptions. And the rules don't change once we reach adulthood. We are forever bound by legally falsified documents and agreements made when we were children.

These legal aspects of adoption have nothing to do with the personal experiences of each individual adoptee. All adopted persons--those from foster care, those from stepparent relationships, those from private agencies--are subject to these legal rules that result in us being treated differently than all non-adopted persons. All adopted persons. Every single one. Veronica included.

That said, all I ask now is for adults who comment only on how Dusten Brown didn't support his child while she was in utero; how Christy Maldonado had no right to keep a child from her father; or how Matt and Melanie Capobianco are selfish--please stop for one moment and consider Veronica, the innocent child involved in all of this adult infighting.  

Think about what her legal rights should be as an adopted person and then ask yourself if the current adoption system actually provides her with those rights as an individual citizen.

Julie Stromberg
When the time came to think about college, I decided that my career path would encompass either child psychology or journalism. Fortunately for all the young people out there, I opted for journalism and earned a bachelor's degree in communications. Since that time, I have worked as a newspaper and magazine staff writer, public relations associate, and marketing copywriter. My professional creative efforts have been acknowledged with several industry awards.

I am also pleased to be involved in several writing and advocacy projects outside of the office. As an adoptee, my advocacy work is focused on changing the common, societal discourse on adoption practices and encouraging reform that would place the emotional needs and legal rights of the children involved first. www.juliegmstromberg.com