Anne was fascinated to learn that her weight at birth had been 6 pounds 1 1/2 ounces and that she had been born at 7:56 a.m. at the Florence Crittenton Home in Washington on Jan. 21, 1950--the kind of information most people take for granted. Before these facts were revealed to her, however, she had always felt that her life began when she was adopted at about age 8 months.
About 18 months ago, Anne (who asked that her last name not be used) undertook a challenge that more and more of the nation's 5 million adoptees are beginning to face, and last month she was finally able to unwind the red tape that hid her mother's identity. The search paid off, she said, for she and her mother now visit on weekends and have become friends.
For help during her search, Anne had turned to the Prince George's County chapter of Concerned United Birthparents Inc. (CUB), a national support group that, in the words of the organization, "strives to make adoption more humane for all parties involved."
CUB members meet monthly in a church in New Carrolton to talk about experiences and share feelings about adoption, said Carol, coordinator of the local CUB chapter, who also did not want her last name revealed. She noted that CUB's logo is "birth parents do care forever."
"The majority of our members are young women" who became pregnant as teen-agers and gave up their children for adoption because of the social stigma of having children out of wedlock, Carol said.
To reach its goal of humanizing the adoption process, CUB is fighting with the courts, legislatures and adoption agencies for opening adoption procedures. "Everyone has a right to his birth certificate," maintains Sandra, CUB's search coordinator, herself an adoptee, who after she gave birth put her child up for adoption.
Linda Burgess, a social worker and writer who is vice president of the American Adoption Congress, says that more court decisions are needed as precedents for opening adoption records. Currently, she said, "Judges want to play it safe."
One judge, Robert Watts, of Baltimore City Court, has been opening records for adoptees since 1974. He observes that "the adoptee carries a severe psychological burden," and that birth mothers may feel guilt for giving up the child.
He has had only positive experiences when he opens court records and reunites adoptees and their birth parents, the judge said. No adoptive parents have ever complained to him, he added. "I've tried my best to get my fellow judges to do it, but they won't." he said.
"Meanwhile, waiting for the legislatures to act and the courts to wake up, people are searching any way they can," Burgess said.
Adoption agencies and maternity homes are bound by law not to reveal identifying information about parents or adoptees, Burgess said, adding, "As a social worker in adoption agencies, I made very detailed records" so that people might identify their relatives.
Current laws and policies make searches for adoptees or parents difficult. "It's a degrading search, it's an emotional search," Anne said. "The laws need to be changed."
"The insult to grown people searching for birth parents or adoptees is terrible," Burgess said, because legal impasses may lead people to lie about their identies.
A group of adoptees launched CUB in Massachusetts in 1976; the organization has since grown to 2,000 members nationally. It has been in Prince George's for five years. Interested persons may call CUB at 262-8894.
Other local organizations are Adoptees Search Organization in Fort Washington, 283-5222; Adoptees in Search in Bethesda, 656-8555; and American Adoption Congress in the District, 362-2688.