Saturday, December 16, 2006

Letter to a Wisconsin Bureaucrat

June 2001

Thank you once again for your prompt attention to these matters. I received a copy of my original birth certificate via fax this morning and look forward to it in the mail.

Your letter states that my search request is now complete. No, it is not. I still want a clean copy of all the documents about me in my adoption file. I trust that you will coordinate this with Children’s Service Society of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

In putting together that clean copy, I would also like you to consider the following. Please share this treatise with all the “powers” that be in your neck of the woods.

With all due consideration to your lawyer and your policies, there is no legislation currently on the books in Wisconsin that supports the policy that the Division of Children and Family Services adheres to regarding the deletion of certain information in my adoption file.

First, my birth father is not “alleged.” Simply because my birth mother was not married when she had me does not mean that I am “illegitimate,” nor does it mean that she does not know who my birth father is. Simply because the judge did not bother to ask her under oath who my father was and thereby “adjudicate” him as my birth father does not mean that Frank East is not the man who made love to my birth mother and got her pregnant on Valentine’s Day 1967 on the campus at Oakwood College. Just this past father’s day, I met my birth father, held him, laughed with him, took pictures with him, and I look just like him. I am, indisputably, his progeny. A simple medical test would refute his “alleged” status to the State and the Courts who remain limited by social mores that, as far as I'm concerned, have been outdated for centuries. It is unfortunate that Frank East's name does not appear on my original birth certificate, written in long hand. Unfortunately, this cannot be amended. It would be more unfortunate if his name were deleted from the clean copy of my adoption records as well, especially since Dania, Florida, which is where he also currently resides, was left in full view on the document the first time I received it.

I will challenge such a deletion should I receive my records without it.

I will also challenge the deletion of the names of social workers, foster parents, and any other “indirect” participants in this historical account of my genesis. After all, that is what it is: history. My history. Not yours, nor your assistant’s, nor anyone else’s currently employed by the State of Wisconsin or the affiliated agency, Children’s Service Society of Wisconsin.

There is no language whatsoever in the Wisconsin Statutes calling for these deletions. The law is very clear on what it does include, and very clear on what it does not. I know the names of my birth father and social workers, and my adoptive mother believes she remembers the name of my foster parents, who, given that they were already grandparents in 1967, are possibly still alive, but more than probably dead. Who’s being protected by your policies thirty-three-plus years after the fact? Are you afraid that I am going to bring suit against Miss Gates, Miss Culver or any of the other social workers that handled my case, or bring suit against their heirs or estates, because they did not handle some aspect of my adoption correctly? Sounds ludicrous, doesn’t it? I cannot imagine the need for protecting their “privacy.” Even though they worked for private agencies, their names should not be deleted from my records.

As for my foster parents, I pose the same question. Is the State afraid that I would bring suit against them and/or their heirs and estates for some lack of care during the sixteen months that I was in their stead? If nothing else, I might like to locate them or their daughters who baby-sat for me in order to thank them from the bottom of my heart for taking such good care of me during the transition from birth mother to my parents. How can your policies disregard this possibility and remain so inhumane?

I will challenge such a deletion should I receive my records without them.

I have been more than saddened and pained by the treatment I received from the bureaucrats and social workers that handled my adoption search and follow-up requests. It should come as no surprise that I had to complete the search myself. How lucky for me that I had the time, determination, and resources to do so. I feel for those who must leave their search entirely in the hands of the State of Wisconsin. (I’m sure there are some happy reunion stories the State can be responsible for and some compassionate workers who bend the “rules” in order to bring joy and a sense of completion to people's lives, but in my experience searching over the last five years, they seem to be rarer than the rarest gems. I certainly hope that you continue to be one of them.)

I am annoyed that my original request for non-identifying medical and social history included many more deletions than required by Wisconsin law. In fact, I was unable to meet my biological grandfather before he died in 1998 precisely because of this broad, presumptuous, archaic, paranoid, and erroneous interpretation of the Wisconsin Statutes that govern the adoption search program.

The social workers have told so many of us that the law requires that our pasts remain full of secrets and lies when in fact the law requires no such thing.

This madness must end.

Wisconsin bureaucrats treat adult adoptees as second-class citizens who have no right to know anything about their genesis, and this must change even if I die trying to change it.

I look forward to receiving a true clean copy of my adoption file. No more secrets and cover-ups and fear and paranoia. I’m all done with that. Your policies are not founded in ethics, morality, or the law. Furthermore, they protect no one, and they need to be reviewed and changed sooner rather than later.

I can only imagine that the disgruntled, disappointed, depressed or suicidal adult adoptee who does not possess the tenacity or the resources may never complete their search when they have to negotiate within a system populated by bureaucrats and social workers who seem to “get off” on their petty little power trips, controlling what information can and cannot be disclosed when they have absolutely no regard for the law. These bureaucrats and social workers do not know what they are talking about, and they should all be relieved of their duties unless or until they become aware of the law and are able to treat each adoptee as an individual being.

You apologized for my experience and stated that you do not know what happened. Simply put, my request was not read. I submitted my birth mother's notarized letter along with a request to receive a clean copy of my adoption file, and I was given a form-letter response, as though I were someone initiating a new search. If I had already located and met my birth mother, then why on earth would I be interested in a document describing the entire search program to me and requesting up-front money for the state to begin searching? Presumably, the bureaucrats were too lazy to read my letter and too lacking of compassion to see the human being behind the letter.

The paternalistic, arrogant, and erroneous instructions and form letters that searchers are given should be criminalized, and I will spend the rest of my life bringing these travesties into the light so that all of us, including those of us who are adopted, can experience the inalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness-principles which have been infused into the articles of the United States Constitution. Will we need to go all the way to the Supreme Court?

I look forward to your cooperation in these important matters and I feel sure that I will soon possess an accurate collection of documents regarding my genesis, my history, my life.


Upon reading the letter, a judge in Wisconsin ordered that a true, clean copy of everything in my adoption file be sent to me. I received it in August 2001.

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Hound Doggy said...

Hi Craig,

I started the book last night and I was quite drawn to the document section in the back. The physical descriptions of your birthmother remind me so much of the non-identifying information I recieved.

I am enjoying the book very much. I am also fascinated by the fact that you self published and I am curious about that. How did it go?

Take care,


Craig Hickman said...

Hi Dan,

A close friend saw no reason for me to include the document section in the back, but I thought it had to be included. That you are drawn to it tells me I did the right thing.

How did self-publishing go? Hmmm. How much time do you have?

It's my third book, so I almost got it right this time. I'm still learning, but it is a welcome challenge. I want to publish other authors' work that is inspired by or created on the farm.

Again, thanks for reading.

Anonymous said...

Powerful voice. You are a wonderful spokesman.

Do you feel weird knowing you had a different name before you were adopted?

Craig Hickman said...

Funny you should ask that I'm going to post all about my naming in the near future.

The short answer is no. I even allowed my birth mother to call me by the name she gave me when I first met her. But no longer.

Anyway, I wasn't above using the J(esus) C(hrist) metaphor in my book as my two first names are Joseph Craig (one of my friends always calls me by both of my names, and he's the only one). In my healing profession, I am almost solely called JC.

I gave myself the name Isaiah, which I used in a lot of my early fiction.

I named by dog JB after my original two names and my favorite author, James Baldwin. JB also happens to be my husband's initials. Sometimes, we call each other JB.

All of my names have meaning.

Anonymous said...

I was actually linked to your blog from a friend of mine... we were discussing adoptee advocate groups and reform initiatives in Wisconsin.

I just thought I'd leave a little note letting you know who's ip is lurking on your blog! :)

Craig Hickman said...

Hi Kate,

Thanks for lurking!

Keep me posted on what's happening in Wisconsin.