The Power of Connection – Ohio Adoptees Continue the Journey
March 20, 2015 was a cool, rainy day in Columbus, Ohio. Umbrellas in hand, hundreds adoptees and supporters gathered together in a downtown hotel lobby to march several blocks to the Bureau of Vital Statistics office to claim their long-awaited right to request their original birth record.
The energy in the crowd during that march to the Vital Statistics office was incredible! Lots of chatter and emotion… everyone in the crowd knew this was a life-changing day. As adoptees waited in line for their turn to hand over a completed request form and $20 in exchange for a piece of paper that had, until today, been sealed — they bonded. Some continued conversations that had begun the night before at the Opening Day Eve celebration hosted by Adoption Network Cleveland. Others talked with spouses, friends, or birthparents who accompanied them on their journey. Still others carried on conversations with strangers who were next to them in line.
Every adoptee in that line knew the day was special. Everyone there could feel it in the air. ]
Some had already reunited with their birth family – they still eagerly anticipated seeing their original birth certificate.
Others were waiting to see what they would learn from the document that was Chapter One of their life.
Some simply wanted the facts.
Some were anxious to search and hoped for a connection with birth family.
Others were unsure of their next steps.
Still others were supporters… standing in a cold drizzle to support a loved one, or a fellow adoptee.
The stories of some of the 400,000 adoptees who were finally able to request a copy of their original birth certificates was big news. All over Ohio, in the national media (Nightline did a feature) and even internationally, when Al Jazeera featured the event!
Enduring connections were made that day. Former strangers became friends. Bonds were formed because each person in that crowd had some connection to adoption. And, for those who desired, the opening of records allowed even more connections to be formed with families separated by adoption.
I attended “Opening Day” with two adoptee friends and fellow writers, Lynn Grubb and Paige Strickland. We had bonded through a writing project. We came as adoptee rights advocates, and to support Ohio adoptees, including fellow author Wendy Barkett. Wendy was one of four adoptees receiving their original birth certificates in a special ceremony later that day. Paige and I are both Ohio adoptees, given the right to our original birth certificates (OBC) simply because of the date our adoptions were finalized (we were both adopted before the records were sealed in 1964). Lynn was born in Illinois and had her OBC because the laws in Illinois allowed it.
Continuing the Journey….
Adoption Network Cleveland created a Facebook group so the connections could be continued. In the coming weeks and months, as those envelopes began arriving from Columbus, Ohio, the connections became even stronger. And the power of connecting to support each other was so very evident. We rejoiced with those who found a birthparent eager to reconnect. We celebrated pictures of reunions with newly reuinted families. We grieved with those who found a grave or a birthparent unwilling to connect. We offered ideas and suggestions for how to search and how to make that important first contact. And sometimes we were just there to acknowledge someone’s experience. Bonds became stronger as we supported each other in a journey of discovery. Over the past year the group has grown as others who were unable to attend have also begun that journey of search and discovery.
Almost one year later, the connection continue and grow. On the anniversary of Opening Day, March 18 – 20, 2016, Adoption Network Cleveland is hosting a gathering for adoptees, birthparents, and adoptive parents:
Annual Adoption Gathering: Continuing the Journey
This gathering will be an opportunity to connect with others on about our experience as adoptees, birthparents, and family members.
There will be SO much to take in during this weekend event.
Nine breakout sessions
- Extended Birth Family Relationships
- DNA as a search tool
- Significant Others (free for significant others of conference attendees)
- Divided Loyalties – Navigating Adoptive and Birth Family Relationships
- Disappointments and Dead Ends in Adoption Search
- Birthparent Panel
- Grieving Losses in Adoption: The Stages of Grief — Getting and Staying Unstuck
- Paying in Forward – What Ohio can do to help Adoption Reform in other states
- Living Adoption Reunion
Two award winning theatrical presentations from New York City:
- Biohazard: A Relative Comedy – written and performed by Sarah Elizabeth Greer
- The Good Adoptee – written by Suzanne Bachner, performed by Anna Bridgforth
Jean Strauss and Betsie Norris
Jean Strauss will be there, with footage from last year’s Opening Day events. Jean will present a keynote on Saturday morning along with Betsie Norris.
There will also be time for sharing at the open mic. Six-word stories from adoptees and found birth family members will also be presented.
It’s going to be a powerful weekend for anyone with a connection to adoption.
The early bird discount on registration is available until February 5th. If you’re not already a member of Adoption Network Cleveland, a one-year membership to ANC is included in the registration fee! This is a great opportunity for connection and support and it will be here soon! Come to the gathering and continue your #journey2unite16 !
I mentioned that I attended Opening Day with fellow adoptee writers Lynn Grubb and Paige Strickland. We bonded on a book project called The Adoptee Survival Guide, an anthology edited by Lynn. That book was published just before “Opening Day”. In the year since, all thirty-some contributors to that anthology conspired to send a copy of the book around the world for each contributor to sign as a thank you to Lynn for bringing us together on this project. That special edition and the passport that accompanied it, finally made it’s way to Ohio where we presented it to Lynn on January 21st.
Thirty-plus contributors, strangers before we came together on this writing project, all connected as writers and adoptees, have formed a lasting connection that goes way deeper than a book project. We’ve found new friends. We support each other. And we pulled together to make sure a book made it’s way around the world in 9 months! Together we can accomplish what is impossible by ourselves.
It happened in this small group of writers. It has happened in the community of Ohio adoptees and supporters. And it will continue, because of the power of connection.