December 2005        Vol. 1 No. 19
Please forward and redistribute by print or e-mail. Help spread the word!
BASTARD IN THE TRENCHES
Father Jack Sweeley is One Divine Bastard and Adoptive Parent
“To quote Dickens, ‘It is the best of times and the worst of times.’ It is the best of times because Bastard Nation KNOWS how to get closed records open and we have a track record of doing it. It is the worst of times due to an increasing conservative climate that seeks to further restrict openness of all records on the dual premises of privacy and national security.”
Meet Father Jack Sweeley, this month’s BASTARD IN THE TRENCHES. Father Jack Sweeley is both an adoptee and an adoptive father of three adopted sons, Kun Sun, Warren, and Samuel. Father Sweeley was born and adopted in Massachusetts but now resides in Maryland. He’s been married for over 30 years to Barbara.They have a Doberman pincher and five cats. Father Jack’s hobbies include: genealogy, weight lifting, writing liturgical music, and fantasizing that he is a country music star.
Father Sweeley is on the faculty of Sophia Divinity School and pastor of St. James Catholic Community. He also teaches at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland which is a private Catholic women's college.
“I am a life member of Bastard Nation, a member of the MARTA ExCom seeking to open records in MA, and I interject adoptee rights into conversation whenever possible.,” reports Father Sweeley. “ Adoptee rights to me is a part of the social gospel (see Mt. 25:31-45) and I include it in the classes I teach, make it an issue with seminarians I mentor, and include it in my papers I write and addresses on social justice issues before various groups.”
Some FAQ’s for Father Jack:
Q. Who in your opinion are the biggest enemies of open records today.
A. Our traditional enemies remain and they can be formidable. However, the biggest enemies to me are those within: deformers and Benedict Bastards. They speak from "inside" as representing all adoptees and when they accept compromise legislation it empowers and confirms those legislators who are against opening records. The other major enemy is lack of unity between groups of adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents. If these groups would unify and present one clear demand that records be opened the combined pressure and media exposure would put legislators feet to the fire. ”
Q. What are the most important "strengths" we need to "win the war?"
A. We need to identify state senators and representatives to sponsor and support our bills. We need Bastard Nation members on all state adoptee rights committees to ensure they draft a clean bill and then have the power to have the sponsor pull the bill if it is amended to deny adoptees their full rights.
Q. What changed you from an adoptee into an adoptee Advocate and Activist?
A. Being in Bastard Nation raised my consciousness.
Q. Any anecdote or unusual experience you've encountered since you've become an activist?
A. I have discovered that the majority of the people I talk with agree that adoptees should have their original birth certificates. Then they say, "My cousin, Aunt Suzie or Uncle Harry, sister or brother-in-law is adopted. I don't see what the problem is in giving you your records."
Q. Any opinions or experiences about searching that you'd like to talk about?
A. I searched for my birth mother and found her twelve years ago. When I found her I also found three sisters. A couple of years later one of my sisters told me we had something in common I didn't know about. She told me she had been gang raped as a teenager and forced to relinquish her son just as our mother had been forced to relinquish me. We searched for the son, found him after a year, and he walked her down the aisle when she remarried a few years later.
I used to be a VSN (Voluntary Search Network) searcher and one Saturday morning got a post that said, "Looking for a male born in the mid 1940s near Greenfield, MA, mother born in Bath, ME. This will be a long search as we have been searching for years." By the third time I read the post my hands were sweaty and my stomach was in a knot. That evening I was talking to my sister in Vermont and the next day my birth father in Vermont who was looking for me.
BASTARD NATIONALS ATTEND CONFERENCE
Marley Greiner (photo-right), Chair, Bastard Nation was a presenter at the University of Tampa, Alliance for the Study of Adoption, Identity and Kinship in November. She presented a paper on birth mothers in the movies. Sheila Ganz hosted her film, “Unlocking the Heart of Adoption,” and Maryanne Cohen (photo - left) read some of her poems and a short story. Bastard Nationals Brian Eller, E. Wayne Carp and Jane Edwards were also in attendance.
Maryanne Cohen reported: “... The thing that I found really inspiring was to be among so many really fine creative writers who were writing about their adoption experience from different perspectives and in different styles, but all high quality and all recognizing the complicated and ambiguous nature of adoption, rather than trying to simplify everything into a formula.”
More information on the conference: http://utweb.ut.edu/faculty/ehipchen/keynotes.html
CONTACT PREFERENCE FORM DOES NOT EQUAL CONTACT OR DISCLOSURE VETO
A real CONTACT PREFERENCE FORM, (CPF’s) devised in the Oregon Legislature after Measure 58 was passed, is a respectful way of allowing birth parents to express their most private thoughts and feelings regarding contact with their adopted offspring. This private CONTACT PREFERENCE FORM is attached to the original birth certificate and is given to adoptees at the same time they receive their original birth certificates. All adopted adults in Oregon may get their original birth certificates regardless of the contents of any contact preference forms filed by their birth parents.
Alabama and New Hampshire followed Oregon’s lead. These states also have true contact preference forms in place in their new adoption laws. A real contact preference form has NO bearing upon whether or not adopted adults will be issued their original birth certificates. ALL adoptees are treated equally and are issued their original birth certificates upon request.
NEW JERSEY - A3237/S1093 was heard on Dec. 8th by the New Jersey Family, Women and Children's Services Committee. The bill already had a disclosure veto. Additional amendments were added in committee. The committee added an opt-out provision (white-out) allowing past birth parents to ask for name/address deletion from the copy of the original birth certificate sent to adoptees on request. The second amendment was that a fiscal note was added, asking for one million ($1,000,000) for publicity to inform all concerned about the law. Finally, the contact preference form provision of the bill was converted to a contact veto (i.e. restraining order), which allows birthparents to restrain adoptees without show of cause and for no other reason aside from their adopted status! This amended bill passed the committee by a vote of 3-2. The bills will now go to fiscal appropriations. Bastard Nation continues to oppose this bill.
MAINE - Proponents of Maine’s access bill missed the filing deadline for this legislative session. However, the Legislative Council met in October and voted to allow the access bill to be submitted. The sponsor of Maine’s bill is Representative Gerry Davis. It is said that Maine’s bill is a clear open records bill which Bastard Nation would support.
MASSACHUSETTS - Testimony for SB 959, a clear open records bill, was heard on October 27, 2005. Bastard Nationals Marley Greiner, Janet Allen, Nina Greeley, Fred Rust, and Carla McBrine attended the hearing. SB 959 was well received by The Massachusetts Joint Committee on Families and Children who will vote on the bill shortly. Stay tuned to http://www.bastards.org for the outcome of the vote.
ONTARIO - Bill 183 was passed. This bill contains a contact veto with a $50,000 penalty for violation. It also contains a disclosure veto. Any birth mothers or adoptees may go before a government panel and plead their cases for non-disclosure. Bastard Nation opposes Bill 183.
PENNSYLVANIA - HB 2056 has a disclosure veto which the sponsors erroneously call a “contact preference form.” The bill is in the Judiciary Committee and is expected to be heard soon.Bastard Nation opposes HB 2056.
UTAH - Representative Holdaway has presented a “bill request” that says after January 1, 2007, adoptees would get their original birth certificates at age 21, unless birth parents have filed an affidavit requesting confidentiality. Birth parents may also ask to be contacted when a child [sic] requests a certificate, giving them the option to change their minds. Bastard Nation opposes this bill request.
An Open Letter to Those Who Will Try to Justify HB 2056 in Pennsylvania
New Hampshire State Representative Janet Allen
I have read that we don't understand Pennsylvania’s bill because we were not there long ago when they first put in a clean bill. We don’t understand because we weren’t there when the sponsors of the bill realized they wouldn't get the whole pie so they decided that they needed to get something for "most adoptees". I have also read that this is a "decent" compromise. Spare me.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. You don't need to be an "insider" to have a clue as to the legislative process. Putting in a clean bill that asks for "the whole pie" is no great feat, so stop patting yourselves on the back. Anyone can get a sponsor to submit a bill with minimal effort ~ it's how that bill comes out of committee and off the floor that counts. That is where the real work is done and most obviously, that is where this bill was such a failure.
Decent? How can anyone call this bill decent? Not only have they screwed Pennsylvania adoptees but they have taken a tool that many state groups are successfully using (the Contact Preference Form) and turning it into a disclosure veto. That is the biggest slap in the face to those of us who have worked so hard to get clean bills passed.
What part of the word "preference" don't they understand? A contact preference is just that...a preference. Now they have interchanged it with "veto" and pretend that they are one and the same! I get so angry when I read such ridiculous, self justifying posts. Look, they sold everyone out so don't try to tell us that "we don't understand" or "our state is different" or "this will help most adoptees" ...... we DO understand and that's why we are all so angry.
We understand that you could have withdrawn your bill, we understand that you could have asked to have your bill killed, we understand that you took the easiest way out, we understand that you tried to sell us a crock of baloney with your veto dressed up in CPF clothing and most of all, we understand perfectly well that you sold out adoptees. We understand.
Where The Action Is
Rock the Holidays, Bastards!
BASTARD NATION AUTHORS
*Tumbling Toward Divinity: The Adoption Scriptures by Craig Hickman. http://hometown.aol.com/craighickman/
*The Adoption Mystique by Joanne Wolf Small
*Growing in the Dark: Adoption Secrecy and Its Consequences by Janine M. Baer
*Adoption Politics: Bastard Nation & Ballot Initiative 58, by E. Wayne Carp.
*Adoption: Contemporary Issues:Companion, has a chapter in it entitled, "Adult Adoptees Should Have Full Access to Their Adoption Records," by Bastard Nation. The material in this chapter was taken from Bastard Nation’s Basic Bastard.
*Adoption: Social Issues Firsthand is a collection of personal narratives on varied aspects of adoption.
All of the above books may be purchased at http://www.amazon.com
*The Myth of the Right to Privacy as Justification for Safe Haven Laws
JOIN BASTARD NATION
Editors: Anita Walker Field and David C. Ansardi
c. 2005 Bastard Nation: The Adoptee Rights Organization
Please share Byline: Bastard Nation with your friends and colleagues and with your other e-mail lists. Cross-posting is encouraged. You also have our enthusiastic permission to print out Byline: Bastard Nation and share it with those not on the internet.