Adoption Beat

March 27, 2010

Effective reporting requires homework

Filed under: Uncategorized — adoptionbeat @ 8:56 pm

The article above shows what happens when you accept a politician’s word for it. And that’s why you don’t.

As a public relations professional, I don’t mind when a newspaper prints my news release verbatim. But because I want to maintain a good relationship with reporters and editors, I never spin. Of course, I have no political clients.  My clients are business and not-for-profit organizations, neither of which can afford to be caught spreading half-truths or outright untruths.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for politicians. Sadly, we expect them to lie, so we are only surprised if they tell the truth. I believe that the legislator behind this bill began with all good intentions when she was a neophyte legislator. But she quickly found that she was up against an industry that has considerable financial muscle and who has successfully resisted regulation for a long time. The adoption industry operates in the shadows and aims to keep it that way. I believe she found how much easier it would be to let them dictate what reforms were acceptable. Knowing that most voters know squat about what goes on in the state legislature, she has danced to their tune ever since.

“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…” you’ve heard that old saw. Where the adoption reform community is concerned, they are not about to be fooled again. But the media, other politicians and quite a few triad members swallow the spin she puts on it hook, line and sinker. Only the various hangers-on to the entities involved in adoption profiteering seem to know what’s in this bill.

That doesn’t let the reporter off the hook. One of the primary requirements of responsible reporting is balance! The thoughts and opinions of the bill’s sponsor are represented but the reporter failed to interview, or at least to quote, anyone whose rights will be directly affected by this bill. Why is that? I can forgive the reporter for not reading the bill but not for filing and unbalanced story.

I did what few of those affected by it, who voted for it or who have reported it have done. I read it. All 80-some pages, 21 of which were changes.  Yes, there are circumstances under which an adult adoptee can get a copy of his or her original birth certificate. But it fails to acknowledge adoptee rights. Instead, it mandates search and an exchange of medical records.

Part of the reason the media gets it wrong when it comes to reporting adoption is that they approach adoption as a human interest topic. Adoption reform activists consider it to be a civil rights issue. I cannot imagine that the media would treat a story about the civil rights of any other minority with such a soft touch or fail to include the opposing view.

Adoption Reform Illinois, a coalition of adoption reform groups and individuals who hope to create a greater understanding of the issues at stake, has prepared a detailed analysis of the bill outlining what they say is wrong with it. Their objections are briefly detailed below:

• Voluntary consent to the exchange of medical information does not require government participation.

• Calling an adult adoptee an “adult child” reinforces the concept of adopted individuals as perpetual children and creates a separate class of individuals whose rights are restricted based on their birth status.

• A parental veto allows a person who relinquished all rights to deny another person his rights.

• This advisory group proposed in HB5428 is stacked with entities that benefit financially from adoption.

• The bill legally mandates fraud with regard to public records.

• This statue enshrines mutual consent registries in law even though they have been shown not to work.

• This statute is about search and reunion, not adoptee rights. State-supplied search services are unnecessary when adoptee rights to original birth certificates (OBC) are restored.

• Federal privacy laws in no way impact the release of birth certificates.

• This creates a legal liability of $10,000 for triad members who pursue their own genealogy. Money collected if CIs break the rule do not go to the injured party, they go to DCFS. CIs are not removed from their position when they err.

• The bill holds the state and CIs harmless for mistakes made while messing about in an individual’s business.

• Throwing good money after bad makes no sense. Fiscally and morally, the right thing to do is to restore adoptee rights.

Adoption reform activists give the bill little chance of passing. If there has been a fiscal note issues, it has not been made public. But in a time when the state’s revenues fall far short of the government’s expenses, this bill will be viewed as frivolous by fiscal conservatives. It does seek to raise revenue but no where near what it will cost to create and maintain the files it proposes to keep on every adoptee who seeks basic information about his or her own identity.

I know that newspaper revenues are shrinking and that reporters are overworked but adoption stories are as perennial as the grass. Make some contacts with adoption reform groups. They exist in every state. Reporters, please, put the name and number of an adoptee who is up to speed on the issue in your Rolodex, and use it. If you have trouble, feel free to contact me; I will find a triad member in your state who is in the know and willing to go on the record.

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