Welcome, Contributing Author, Becky Drinnen, from The Adoptee Survival Guide! #flipthescript #adopteesurvivalguide

Qs for Becky Drinnen:

1-  Hi Becky!  First, please share with us a bit about yourself:  Your career, married, kids, pets, where you’re from?

Hi Paige!  It’s great to be here with you.    I’m a proud, lifelong Ohioan.  It looks like Southwest Ohio is the place to be for adoptee writers!  Isn’t it great that Lynn Grubb, you and I all live within a couple of hours of each other?   My husband, Ed, and I have four children and nine grandchildren between us.  And let me just say, being a Mom and Grandma is one of the greatest joys in life!  

I’ve spent most of my work life in Corporate America, with a brief stint in Higher Education.  I work for a small, family owned manufacturer, so I wear many hats at work.  One of my primary roles is Export Compliance Manager.  You think adoption laws are complicated?  You should try to make sense of all the rules and regulations that govern exports from the United States! 

2- Please tell us about your adoption:  When?  Where?  Were you in foster care for any of that time?

[My adoption was facilitated by what was then called Lutheran Children’s Aid and Family Services in Cleveland, Ohio.  I was born in 1962, in the heart of the Baby Scoop Era.  I was in foster care for about three months prior to placement with my adoptive parents.

I asked the agency why I was in foster care for that time.  Their response:  “apparently the three months before she surrendered you were spent attempting to work out the possibility of marriage and evaluating other possible means for her to keep you”.  Once I spoke to my mother, I found out that was a total fabrication.  She wasn’t able to see me or hold me after my birth. In fact, she “surrendered” me before she left the hospital. She was surprised to learn that I was almost three months old before I was placed with my parents.  My personal belief is that the practice of the agency was to make sure an infant was healthy before placing them with adoptive parents. 

Over the last 30 or so years, I’ve been able put many of the pieces of my puzzle together, but nothing about those three months in foster care.  I don’t even have details about my baptism.  A notation that I “was baptized on July 16, 1962 by a Lutheran minister”.  That’s it.  I’ve asked the agency for more details.  According to them, they did not keep records about foster care or baptism.   A direct quote from the current business manager at Lutheran Family Services, as they are called now, during a recent conversation on that topic: “ There were so many babies at that time that it would have been burdensome for agencies to keep detailed records”.  Yes.  Really.  She said that.  Along with, “if your baptism is so concerning to you, why don’t you ask your pastor to re-baptize you”.  Yes.  Really.  She said that, too. 

I say this to vent some frustration on the topic, but also to demonstrate the dark side of adoption.  Adoption marketing portrays two happy parents with their newly adopted infant.  Two problems solved, right?   The marketing doesn’t talk about the trauma a mother shamed into relinquishing her child experiences.  Nor does it talk about the fact that, for all intents and purposes, the period of time between birth and placement was not worthy of even a scrap of paper in a dusty file. 

3- Like me, you were born and adopted prior to January of 1964, which means you had access to your records prior to this past March 20th. When did you become aware that you could search? and at what age did you do it?

I found out that I could get a copy of my original birth certificate through a newspaper article I read when I was about twenty.  The article was about a reunion between a mother and the daughter she placed for adoption. A little sidebar to that article mentioned that Ohio adults who were adopted prior to 1964 could get a copy of their adoption file.   I was in Columbus just a few days later, as soon as I could arrange a day off work.  I don’t have a specific memory of calling to find out the process.  I imagine I could have mailed the request.  But I had the option to request it in person, and in the interest of instant gratification, that’s what I did. 

 I remember the clerk bringing me the documents.  At first I was confused; the first form I saw had the names of my adoptive parents.  It was the information that was needed to create my second, amended birth certificate.  So many of my memories are fuzzy, but I can still play that short little movie over in my head of the moment when I first laid eyes on my first birth certificate.  I had a name.  Laura.  And the mysterious mother I had wondered about for so long had a name, too.  And an age.  She was 20 when I was born.  Just about the same age as I was at the time.  I also remember the clerk asking me if I wanted a copy.  Are you kidding?  I can’t believe she even asked that question!   I walked out of that office with my original identity.  And no idea of what I needed to do next.

I feel fortunate that I happened upon that article.  If not, who knows how long it would have been before I discovered my right to my original birth record.  In the lead up to the implementation of Ohio’s new law in March, 2015, I spoke with several pre-1964 Ohio adoptees who STILL had no idea they could request their records.

4- What were your motivating reasons for searching and wanting to make contact with bio-family?

My Dad was a history teacher.  I learned from him to value the importance of history.  Yet, I was denied my personal history.  The questions I had about the parents who gave me life probably sound familiar to every adoptee.  Who do I look like?  Who do I act like?  Why was I given up for adoption?  Did my mother hold me?  Does she ever think of me?  Does she remember my birthday?  What’s my family health history? 

5- Like me, you also did your research way before the Internet and social media happened. What resources did you use?

Once I had a name, I naively thought finding her would happen overnight.  BG (Before Google), it took a lot longer than it would if I began my search today.  I was also searching with no clue about what to do and how to go about a search.  And I didn’t reach out to anyone for help.  At that time, I really didn’t know that anyone could help me.  I felt very alone in my journey. 

I used some of the same sources that we use today to find people.  It just took a lot longer.  I started with what I knew.  I had a name, an address and an age.  At that time, Ohio Vital Statistics would do a ten-year search of vital records for a specific event for something like $10.  I started with a birth certificate for my mother.  That gave me the names of her parents.  I went on to request a marriage record for her.  Voila, I had her married name.  Next, birth certificates for other children born to her and her husband.  Bam.  I confirmed she stayed married to the same person for a period of time, and I was able to see where she was living when children were born. Phone calls to libraries to check city directories and phone books. And newspapers for obituaries.  It took way more time than it would today, but I was able to find her. All with public records – nothing illegal and nothing that isn’t available to anyone who asks. All the resources I used are what genealogists use every day to piece together their family history. 

6- What sort of changes / reforms would you like to see happen in adoption today?

What a great question. Thanks for asking!   First, all adopted adults, no matter where they live, should have access to the original record of their birth.  It is a basic civil right that every American has – every American except adoptees in closed states.  Restoring access to records is truly not about search.  Some adoptees want their original birth certificates, but choose not to search.  And we all know that successful searches happen every day without original birth certificates.   You and I both know from experience just how powerful and validating it is to hold our original birth certificates in our hands. 

Second, the laws governing adoption need to focus on preserving families and protecting children. I’m not anti-adoption.  However, I think the first priority should be family preservation.   Current laws favor adoption agencies and adoptive parents, not expectant parents and their babies.  Infant adoption is profitable to agencies, which I believe is unethical.  And it should be illegal. Much has been written on this topic.  One great place to start is Claudia D’Arcy’s site, Musings of the Lame. 

 Laws can and should be changed, but we can do more.  As an example, a non profit in my area, Rustic Hope, provides housing, diapers and other baby needs, food, and rides to medical appointment to teen moms. We need to support non profits that provide emotional and material support to mothers in crisis who might otherwise feel they have no choice but to place their children for adoption.

 7- What do you do for fun in your free time?

Let’s just say I wish I had MORE free time!  My husband and I love to travel and to camp.  Our favorite camping spot is in the Smoky Mountains – we head down that way a couple times a year.  I think an out-west trip is on the agenda for this year.   I love spending time outside – walking, or just sitting by the fire.  I’ll take a hike in a scenic location over a man-made tourist attraction any time!  Watching our grandkids play in sporting events is also a big part of our lives.   And reading – I have to make time for books! 

8- I love the advice you gave in your Adoptee Survival Guide essay about not accepting the status quo or “no” for an answer, and that there are many ways to effect change for ourselves and others.  That’s a very powerful paragraph!  Just have to say that!

Thanks, Paige!  As adoptees, we have had a lot of choices made for us.  That doesn’t take away our ability to make decisions and choices for our lives.

9-  How can readers and other adoptees connect with you?  FB, Twitter, Linkedin, blog(s), etc.

 I occasionally blog about adoption-related topics at www.puzzlesandpossibilities.com.  You can find me by searching Becky Drinnen on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, too!

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