Sunday, March 21, 2010

Some of my modest contributions to the cause

I know that there are a great number of people out there who have devoted a lot of time and energy to the cause of opening birth records to adult adoptees and my comparatively recent efforts are modest by any measure. However, if you’re presently like I was just a few years ago, you welcome the chance to jump in and take some action – any action. One of the more satisfying steps I’ve taken was to ensure that I made the Ohio State Assembly aware of my stance on the issue. Hence, in addition to my previous post about sparring with Troy Dunn of the “The Locator”, I’ve also written every single representative and senator in the Ohio State Assembly. Below, you'll find all of the contact information for every member of the Ohio State Assembly as well as my draft note/email templates.

If you are an Ohio resident, you can find your specific representative here:
and your specific senator here:

if you wish to contact all state assemblymen and/or are not an Ohio resident, here is the complete email list:

Ohio Senate
Name(Party) Email
Steve Buehrer (R)
Mark Wagoner (R)
David Goodman (R)
Gary Cates (R)
Fred Strahorn (D)
Jon Husted (R)
Shannon Jones (R)
Bill Seitz (R)
Eric Kearney (D)
Chris Widener (R)
Teresa Fedor (D)
Keith Faber (R)
Sue Morano (D)
Tom Niehaus (R)
Ray Miller (D)
Jim Hughes (R)
John Carey (R)
Tim Grendell (R)
Bill Harris (R)
Jimmy Stewart (R)
Shirley A. Smith (D)
Bob Gibbs (R)
Dale Miller (D)
Tom Patton (R)
Nina Turner (D)
Karen Gillmor (R)
Kevin Coughlin (R)
Tom Sawyer (D)
Kirk Schuring (R)
Jason Wilson (D)
Tim Schaffer (R)
Capri S. Cafaro (D)
Joe Schiavoni (D)

Ohio House of Representatives
Name Party District Email
John Adams Republican 78
Richard Adams Republican 79
Ron Amstutz Republican 3
Kevin Bacon Republican 21
Nan Baker Republican 16
Troy Balderson Republican 94
William G.Batchelder Republican 69
Peter Beck Republican 67
Robin Belcher Democrat 10
Terry Blair Republican 38
Louis W. Blessing,Jr. Republican 29
Linda S. Bolon Democrat 1
T. Todd Book Democrat 89
Terry Boose Republican 58
Barbara Boyd Democrat 9
Edna Brown Democrat 48
Danny R. Bubp Republican 88
Armond Budish Democrat 8
Dave Burke Republican 83
John Patrick Carney Democrat 22
Ted Celeste Democrat 24
Kathleen Chandler Democrat 68
William P.Coley,II Republican 55
Courtney Eric Combs Republican 54
David T. Daniels Republican 86
Michael DeBose Democrat 12
Timothy J.DeGeeter Democrat 15
Timothy Derickson Republican 53
Dan Dodd Democrat 91
Matthew J. Dolan Republican 98
John Domenick Democrat 95
Denise Driehaus Democrat 31
Stephen Dyer Democrat 43
Clyde Evans Republican 87
Lorraine M. Fende Democrat 62
Mike Foley Democrat 14
Randy Gardner Republican 6
Nancy Garland Democrat 20
Jennifer Garrison Democrat 93
Ronald V. Gerberry Democrat 59
Bruce W. Goodwin Republican 74
Jay P. Goyal Democrat 73
Cheryl Grossman Republican 23
Robert Hackett Republican 84
Robert F. Hagan Democrat 60
Dave Hall Republican 97
Marian Harris Democrat 19
Sandra Stabile Harwood Democrat 65
Tracy Maxwell Heard Democrat 26
Cliff Hite Republican 76
Jay Hottinger Republican 71
Matt Huffman Republican 4
Kris Jordan Republican 2
Joseph Koziura Democrat 56
Peggy Lehner Republican 37
Tom Letson Democrat 64
Clayton R. Luckie Democrat 39
Matt Lundy Democrat 57
Ron Maag Republican 35
Dale Mallory Democrat 32
Josh Mandel Republican 17
Jarrod Martin Republican 70
Jeffrey McClain Republican 82
Ross McGregor Republican 72
Robert Mecklenborg Republican 30
Mike Moran Democrat 42
Seth Morgan Republican 36
Dennis Murray Democrat 80
Deborah Newcomb Democrat 99
W. Scott Oelslager Republican 51
Mark D. Okey Democrat 61
John R. Otterman Democrat 45
Matt Patten Democrat 18
Debbie Phillips Democrat 92
Connie Pillich Democrat 28
Raymond Pryor Democrat 85
Margaret Ruhl Republican 90
Allan R. Sayre Democrat 96
Mark A. Schneider Democrat 63
Barbara R. Sears Republican 46
Michael Skindell Democrat 13
Stephen Slesnick Democrat 52
Todd Snitchler Republican 50
Peter Stautberg Republican 34
Gerald L. Stebelton Republican 5
Dan Stewart Democrat 25
Vernon Sykes Democrat 44
Matt Szollosi Democrat 49
Joe Uecker Republican 66
Peter S. Ujvagi Democrat 47
Lynn R. Wachtmann Republican 75
Jeff Wagner Republican 81
W. Carlton Weddington Democrat 27
Brian G. Williams Democrat 41
Sandra Williams Democrat 11
Roland Winburn Democrat 40
Tyrone K. Yates Democrat 33
Kenny Yuko Democrat 7
James J. Zehringer Republican 77

Here is my original email template that I wrote and sent to each assemblyman. You’re welcome to reuse it in its entirety or as inspiration for your own note.

Subject: Providing adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates


As an Ohio adoptee born in [City/County] I implore you to support legislation to make original birth certificates unconditionally accessible to ALL adult adoptees. For too long Ohio has denied the rights and dignity of adult adoptees, the time has come for change.

Since my birth in 1970, I've wondered about my origins for 39 years. I'm frustrated that I should have to justify my need to know my own birth parents to anyone and even more frustrated that Ohio is willing to tolerate the current state of affairs. The bizarre situation that blocks birth record access to adoptees such as me, born between 1964 and 1996, is a testament to legislation run amok. I urge you to try to imagine what it would be like if you didn't know your birth parents and worse, what it would be like to know the state government has that information but denies you access to it because of the circumstances surrounding your birth - circumstances over which you never had any control. The thousands of adoptees, like me, that cannot access our original birth certificates are innocent and blameless in this matter, yet we are adult citizens who are denied the rights granted everyone else. It is time for the Ohio legislature and you, [ASSEMBLYMAN], to take action and quit tolerating the status quo.

The reasons for opening the records are obvious:
1) It is a right.
This is a birthright taken for granted by all non-adopted citizens of Ohio (and the rest of the nation for that matter) and it should not be denied adult adoptees. To continue to deny this right is to make adult adoptees second-class citizens and this is unacceptable.

2) Family medical history.
Family medical history is unknown to adult adoptees and Ohio enforces this ignorance by law. If you choose inaction on this effort, you will be denying people born in Ohio critical tools with which to maintain and plan for their long-term healthcare.

3) Reunion.
An adult adoptee’s desire to know his or her own birth parents is a fundamental need shared by all people. Again, please try to imagine what it would be like to not know your birth mother, but instead discover that the state knows but won’t share the information. Ohio must quit trying to intervene in the affairs of families affected by adoption and allow them to reunite on their own terms.

The arguments against opening the records are flawed:
1) Abortion rates will increase: False and immaterial.
Thanks to the efforts of progressive states like Oregon which opened its records to adoptees almost a decade ago, we now have statistics to support the fact that open records do not adversely affect abortion rates. Since opening records, abortion rates have actually declined and adoption rates have remained steady (see Oregon Bureau of Vital Statistics). Further, denying adult adoptees access to their own birth records simply because this might increase abortions is analogous (if you’re pro-life) to restricting the civil liberties of an innocent segment of the population (adult adoptees) in order to reduce the homicides of another (babies) at the hands of yet another 3rd party (birth mothers). How can this be considered even remotely just or logical?

2) The records are sealed to protect the birth mothers: False.
First, this was not the original intent of the law. William B. Norris, the attorney instrumental in sealing Ohio adoptee birth records testified under oath before the Ohio State Legislature in the 1990's that his goal was merely to protect his young adopted children from the prying eyes of the public and in the worst case the birth parents. He further testified that he didn’t anticipate the needs of his adult adopted children to want to learn about their heritage and regretted the law’s unintended consequence of blocking adult adoptees from accessing this information. Anyone who purports protection of birth mothers to be the motivation for the law is completely wrong.
Second, once the adoptee reaches adulthood, there is no one left to protect. Adult adoptees and their birth parents are perfectly capable of working through the challenging and uncomfortable situations that may arise from reunion. Adults do this every day and they do so without state intervention or protection. Ohio should acknowledge this and realize that placing the concerns of the birth mother over the desire for truth sought by the adult adoptee creates an inequality between the two citizens that is wrong. The birth mother's rights do not supersede those of the adult adoptee, period.

This issue has an obvious and just resolution. Unconditional access to original birth certificates is a birthright of all citizens that must not be denied adult adoptees.

Please exercise your good judgment and leadership and do your part to open Ohio's birth records to adult adoptees.

Thank you sincerely,

p.s. – I welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter further with you should you wish to learn more and/or hear about my personal experiences.


Here is a template draft that I’ve shared with friends/supporters who aren’t themselves adopted. This text makes it easier for your friends to participate as you’ve saved them most of the time they’d otherwise spend crafting a custom note.

Subject: Providing adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates

Dear [Representative/Senator/Governor],
As a person who knows an adoptee affected by Ohio’s closed birth record statutes, I implore you to support legislation to make original birth certificates unconditionally accessible to ALL adult adoptees. For too long Ohio has denied the rights and dignity of adult adoptees and the time has come for change.

Thanks to the efforts of progressive states like Oregon, we now have statistics to support the fact that open records harm none of the adoption triad (birth parents, adoptive parents and the adoptee). Since opening their records abortion rates have declined and thousands of adoptees have requested and received their original birth certificates. Further, the decision of a birth parent to not be contacted is no different from that in any adult relationship. It is obvious that sealing birth records to protect birth parents forces adult adoptees into a second-class citizen status vis-à-vis the birth parent. Why should the birth parent’s decisions supersede those of the adult adoptee? Adults can resolve complicated and uncomfortable situations themselves and do so every day without state intervention. Ohio should accept this and acknowledge that there is no one to protect once the adoptee reaches adulthood.

This issue has an obvious and just resolution. Unconditional access to original birth certificates is a birthright of all citizens that must not be denied adoptees.
Please exercise your good judgment and leadership and do your part to open Ohio’s birth records to adult adoptees.

Thank you sincerely,


If you live in Ohio and are interested in becoming more involved, I noticed that Adoption Equity Ohio is looking for regional organizers to help coordinate the volunteers/supporter efforts to help get the upcoming bill passed.

Well, I guess that’s all for now. I hope this inspires you to action. Be sure to check back as I intend to do my best to keep you informed on how you can help further in the future – especially once we confirm there’s a new bill introduced in the Ohio State Assembly which will require multiple actions from many people to be successful.

Thanks for your time and attention!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

WEtv and The Locator

If you haven’t heard of him, Troy Dunn (AKA “The Locator”), has been on the air via WEtv for some time now. Troy’s entertainment niche is reality TV in which he, as a private investigator, reunites long lost family members through his generous and magical search capabilities. Included among the reunions are those of adoptees and birth parents. If this concept didn’t already make your stomach turn, note that viewer comments to his site laud his selflessness as the reunion services are provided free to on-air participants and given that he is shown on camera walking away from the reunited parties before they can realize he’s departed. Never mind the fact that Mr. Dunn has a completely independent site that provides for-fee search services or the fact that a camera crew bothers to stay behind and video the whole ultra-personal, teary-eyed reunion despite the fact that the main character has walked out of frame.

If you haven’t gathered my opinion on this show from the first paragraph, let me make it plain. I believe Mr. Dunn and WEtv are exploiting the legal plight of adult adoptees for entertainment and profit and I’m quite put off by it. I decided to help the cause by feeding the media beast through a series of posts with which I’d welcome further help.

My first approach was to explain at the show’s viewer feedback blog that Troy should help resolve the cause of adult adoptees’ issue (urging his viewers to advocate state law change to provide adoptees access to their own birth certificates) rather than treating the symptom, of resolving one adoptee’s conundrum at a time. I also approached Troy on Twitter (TheLocator) to make him aware of my post. To his credit he did respond, though, his response indicated the birth certificate access issue was one of politics and not appropriate for his show. From Troy, “I appreciate your suggestions about the show, but I am not going to use the show as a political platform. We have fans from all sides of the political spectrum and I love them all. Reconnecting fractured families is something important to all families, regardless of political persuation(sic). Family is a universal value and THAT is what The Locator show is driving home- the value of family.” My response to Troy was to thank him for the forum and to point out that I wish this wasn’t a political issue – that neither I nor my fellow adoptees had any choice in making it so.
This exchange can be read in its entirety here.(in reverse chronological order – see: “AnOhioAdoptee on October 3, 2009”).

Subsequent to this post, I decided that if the show wouldn’t pursue resolution of the legal issues that actually create a venue for Troy to exploit, that perhaps he would demonstrate his largesse by revealing his highly effective search techniques so that adoptees everywhere could leverage his knowledge without having to pay for information everyone else gets as a birthright. Mr. Dunn never responded. The one-sided conversation can be found here.

My most recent attempt to call out the exploitation was when The Locator was invited to appear on the Oprah show. On both The Locator’s site and Oprah’s, I posted the following:
“I am disappointed that someone of Oprah's integrity would give legitimacy to Troy Dunn. It is hard to understand why the public fails to recognize the exploitation occurring in this man's efforts - especially in the case of adoptions. He continues to provide search services that would be largely irrelevant were it not for the unjust state laws that deny adult adoptees access to their own birth certificates. Please give air time to the root cause of this issue and urge your viewers to support changes to state laws that would restore adult adoptees' birthright: unconditional access to their original birth certificates. ” The Locator site post can be found here and the Oprah site post can be found here(search for “AnOhioAdoptee”). Neither of these posts were responded to or commented on.

I’d like to think that other adoptee rights advocates would avail themselves of this forum that WEtv has provided. They clearly welcome the feedback and if we provide more publicity for the unfortunate shows while making our cause known, I think that’s a fair exchange in the near-term. I welcome thoughts on this. In the interim, The Locator show team has actually provided a new topic asking for feedback on this very point:

Just this week, they created a discussion topic, “Should adoption drama be televised?” which can be found here:

I encourage my fellow adoptee rights advocates to register and make posts conveying how you feel about the subject as I have done. I also believe we should provide support to each other’s posts and contributions (through ratings and additional comments). In the end, we should make the case that the best use of shows such as The Locator are as platforms to make them obsolete through changes to unjust laws.

Monday, March 8, 2010 vote to restore adoptee rights

There is an effort underway that seems like an excellent opportunity to spread the word about the cause and increase awareness. Concerned citizens have introduced an idea on to restore the right of adult adoptees to access their original birth certificates. There have been multiple rounds of voting and as of this post, the idea is just outside the top 10. Please visit the site within the next 2 days and ensure your vote is counted: