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Archive for Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Distraught woman sues, alleging N.J. helped child of rape find her

June 24, 2009

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— Reunions of adopted children and their birth parents are usually heartwarming moments in which tears flow and broken bonds are made whole in mere seconds.

At least that’s how it usually plays out on “Oprah.”

But that wasn’t the case last Dec. 13, when an Atlantic City, N.J., woman came face to face with the daughter she placed for adoption 30 years ago after being raped.

This short reunion on the woman’s doorstep left her feeling “violated, in shock, and short of breath,” according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, in Camden, and she believes that a division of New Jersey’s Department of Children and Families helped set up the traumatic event.

“Everyone would like to believe that these reunions are so wonderful,” said attorney Matthew Weisberg. “This one wasn’t. They didn’t have coffee together. My client went pale. She is devastated and continues to be devastated because her biological child continues to attempt contact with her.”

According to the complaint, the woman — whose name is being withheld by the Philadelphia Daily News — received a letter from the Division of Youth and Family Services in August 2008 saying that an adopted adult was seeking information about her birth parents. DYFS asked her to confirm her identity and whether she wanted to pursue the matter.

That letter alone was painful, rehashing a “violent, disturbing” incident, the complaint claims, but she believed that her lack of response would suffice as an answer.

“She does not want any relationship with this woman,” Weisberg said.

Nevertheless, the woman claiming to be her daughter appeared on her doorstep four months later.

When she spoke with DYFS after her biological daughter paid the unexpected visit, she was informed that because she had not returned the letter, the office “more or less did what they had to do,” the complaint alleges.

The Atlantic City woman is seeking at least $1 million in damages from the state.

Privacy issues are a controversial topic in adoption today, and the National Council for Adoption believes that identifying information should be released only if the adoptive and biological parents agree in advance, said Chuck Johnson, the council’s chief executive officer.

“The law should protect the rights of everyone, including the birth parents,” he said.

A testimonial on the National Council for Adoption’s Web site tells a similar story, from a woman who was raped at 18 and fears that New York was considering unsealing birth records for adult adoptees.

Bastard Nation, an adoptee-rights organization, believes that adoption records should be open and are tantamount to a constitutional right.

Comments

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 6 months ago

This woman does not deserve money because of this incident. A million dollars? No, there are much better places to put this amount of money. And, just where is she going to get a million from? The daughter? Garnish her wages for the rest of her life? She should have answered the letter and said, do not talk to me, do not visit me, do not call me, do not say hi if you see if on the street. Make a copy, have it notorized, and send it special delivery so that the daughter has to sign it so you can prove she got it. After that it is against the law if this behavior continues, it is called harassment. But, no, no money.

dandelion 5 years, 6 months ago

Just amazing! This Bastard Nation group and Irish have no compassion whatsoever!

dandelion 5 years, 6 months ago

Hey, Irish, do you think this woman isn't thinking she should have had an abortion? She did what all of you anti-choice people wanted. She carried the baby to term, probably suffering the whole time, has managed to get past the horrible memory, then they force it back into her face again. Why does this person keep trying to contact this victim of rape, even after she has made it clear that she doesn't want any contact? She is being victimized again! Does this person want to know the birth father, a rapist? Why, for pointers on how to victimize people? It sounds like they are doing a good enough job. Why don't they just be happy with their adoptive family?

bankboy119 5 years, 6 months ago

Dandelion,

You clearly have no idea what it's like growing up without biological parents.

denak 5 years, 6 months ago

I don't know New Jersey laws governing this type of situation. However, the Department of Children and Famliy Services probably had to follow the prevailing laws. And I think they probably go along the same lines as paternity recognition. If a man is contacted via mail that he has been named the putatative father in a paternity case, he has X number of days to reply. If he does not reply, the state assumes by his lack of response that he is the father. If he wasn't the father, then he would have disputed it. Since he didn't, he is by default, the father,

So, when social services received nothing back from the birth mother saying that she wanted absolutely nothing to do with the young lady, the only thing they had to go on were the laws that were already in place and if they laws say that the information can be released if no objections were made, then social services, by law, had to release the information.

Also, the last thing we should remember is that we only have this woman's word on whether or not she was raped. We don't know for sure that she was. She could be a money seeker,although in this case, I am inclined to believe she probably was raped.

However, that does not mean that she should be awarded damages. It comes down to whether or not social services did anything outside of the law. If they were just following the laws of the state, then no matter how traumatic this may have been for the woman, they did nothing wrong.

I do think that if they were just following the law, then the laws need to be taken into account. I know that there are a lot of states that are opening their adoption records but making exceptions for people who were raped, or who gave the child up decades ago. or whatever. There should be some exception so that something like this shouldn't happen. Also, I think there should be some kind of meeting brokered beforehand rather than just giving the information to the adult child and letting her or him show up on someone's doorstep.

Both of these individuals are probably traumatized.

Dena

gogoplata 5 years, 6 months ago

A million dollars? That is BS. Give her an "I'm sorry" and move on.

madman 5 years, 6 months ago

Ding dong that's wrong. Irish, in your last blog you said something along the lines that if you are raped you should carry the baby and give it up for adoption if you can't learn to love it. According to you, this person did the right thing. I think she did too and I am pretty impressed by her courage too. She has a right to privacy on this. I don't blame her at all for not wanting to face her now, and she shouldn't have too. Not answering the letter didn't give them the right, and for all they know, it could have been the wrong person all together since it wasn't confirmed.

She is obviously not going to be able to sue the daughter. It would be the agency or the state for releasing her private information.

I do feel sorry for the daughter and I understand her wanting to get some answers about her past.

misseve 5 years, 6 months ago

who is to say that the adoptive child was ok? maybe they wanted to say thanks for giving me up... or whatever... maybe JUST maybe this person who is now probably feeling like crap because they have traumatized their mom even more just wanted to didnt intend for that to happen. we are not in any of their shoes and can not speak for any of the parties involved.

BrianR 5 years, 6 months ago

There probably isn't anything in the adoption record that states the circumstance of conception. The adult child might have been equally traumatized to learn that they are a product of rape.

Stuart Evans 5 years, 6 months ago

I feel for both individuals in this case. this poor child is trying desperately to understand who she is and where she comes from. it's terribly unfortunate that she was the product of rape. The mother, obviously wanted to bury this part of her past, and seemingly moved on with her life. Yes, the system failed miserably, imagine that. a government body failing. But to be honest, there is a lot of paperwork involved, especially in larger urban areas because of the sheer amount of adoptions, and unfortunately rapes, that occur. There really should be something in the file that clearly expresses a 'Do Not Contact'. However, people change their minds and their circumstances throughout their lives. She really should have responded to the notice that the daughter was searching. This would have let everyone involved know that she was not ready to address this.

Now, on the other hand, in order to heal herself mentally from this experience, getting to know her daughter might be the very best thing for her. She's obviously still got a lot of trauma saved up over all these years, and having it out in the open could help her a lot.

bankboy119 5 years, 6 months ago

MD,

I understand that the child is looking to fill their needs at the time. But that's the point. And as the biological parent, there are some needs only they can fill. I know from seeing it within my own family, not myself but relatives. There is not an ongoing relationship between my relative and their biological parent but when they were an adult they sought them out even though they were abandoned. (I'm not using abandoned for being put up for adoption, I mean just left as an infant.) Their parent may or may not have wanted to meet them, I'm not sure, but there was a childish (I don't know if that's the correct word) need in the adult to meet their true parent.

Newell_Post 5 years, 6 months ago

If you think the child was traumatized by growing up as a adoptee, imagine the trauma of hunting down the birth mother and being told "go away, leave me alone." This is one good reason birth records should remain sealed unless both parties voluntarily affirm to a neutral party they want to get in contact.

Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 6 months ago

If you feel that way about it, go talk to your state legislature. The law is quite different than your opinion.

notajayhawk 5 years, 6 months ago

This is a tough one, from either side.

One thing a lot of people seem to have missed is that this woman apparently lived for 30 years with her unresolved trauma issues. Unfortunately, in my line of work I deal on an all-to-frequent (like daily) basis with women whose only coping mechanism is denial - pretend it never happened and it will go away. It usually doesn't. It may not be something as dramatic as a child appearing on the doorstep - it might be that blue truck driving by too slowly, that guy in the red coat, the construction workers whistling and laughing as she walks down the sidewalk. One never knows when that shock is going to pop up, which is why it's usually a mistake to just try and get over it alone. I can understand this woman's feelings of being re-traumatized - and it would make perfect sense that, if denial was her only coping mechanism, she would try to ignore the letter.

On the other hand, my first wife was adopted, and my second wife spent years trying to track down her birth father. I could see the longing, the overwhelming need to know "Why?" To go through life thinking that the most important person in that life - the one who gave it to you - didn't want you (even though this is obviously not always the case) is devastating. So too is not knowing whether you might have brothers or sisters, nephews and nieces, grandparents and aunts and uncles, that you may see these people every day and not even know who they are, and them not knowing you.

Various posters on both sides have accused each other of lacking compassion - both people involved here are deserving of that. Unfortunately, this seemed to be a no-win for everyone involved.

bad_dog 5 years, 6 months ago

In the absence of a statute permitting such disclosure of identities and proof the recipient in fact received the notice (certified mail, delivery receipt signature, etc.), a one-time failure to respond to a mailed inquiry should not automatically be deemed consent for the state agency to release this information. At the minimum, a second notice should be sent advising that if no response is received the state agency will presume you are the parent and your identity released to the child. In this case, the DYFS did not even know whether they were contacting the correct person, yet disclosed the name and address of the purported parent.

Although evidence an article was placed in the mail creates the legal presumption it was delivered, it is a rebuttable presumption. Where I live, we receive other people's mail frequently. Likewise, our mail has been misdelivered to others. Given the apparent unreliabiity of mail service today, it doesn't seem reasonable for a state agency to conduct such important business in this manner.

All in all a pretty sad situation for both mother and child.

KansasPerson 5 years, 6 months ago

Here is the story from the local paper. Not much additional info except that the "purported adoptee" also contacted one of the plaintiff's children, who had not known of the adoptee's existence.

http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/news/press/atlantic_city/article_61ea2691-ab50-5933-ae3f-7e00fcee94db.html

feeble 5 years, 6 months ago

Note: I'm not condoning or condeming the NJ DYFS, just stating a fact. This is the same organization in NJ who removed the child named "Adolf Hitler" and his sister, from his birth family under questionable pretext.

bad_dog 5 years, 6 months ago

KansasPerson, please explain how the child was a "purported adoptee".

KansasPerson 5 years, 6 months ago

Lor bad_dog, how can I? It was a quote from the link. I didn't write it.

middleoftheroad 5 years, 6 months ago

While this is a very sad situation, I don't think a million dollars is the answer. The problem is that our first knee-jerk reaction is suit. Should therapy be paid for should the mother need it? Absolutely! I can't imagine how traumatic that visit probably was. However, a million dollars to solve the problem? I really hope that isn't granted unless that's the cost of therapy. Because if we look at this from the other side, should the child be allowed to sue for distress if the birth mother had sent back the paperwork with "do no contact" orders? If you think about it, how traumatic is it for a child to know the birth parents want absolutely nothing to do with them? It's a lose/lose situation no matter which way you slice it.

I'm sure others see this as "heartless" and "cold" but the truth is we have created a society that expects to reap financial gain when something bad happens. Money doesn't fix trauma, heartache, or any other emotion. Yet, we seek that as our answer. So sad...

beatrice 5 years, 6 months ago

No. Roe v. Wade overturned a Texas statute in 1973, and other states had varying laws regarding the procedure.

Did anyone catch the article in the Times about Nixon's views on abortion? Interesting bit of history. Nixon said: “There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white,” he told an aide, before adding, “Or a rape.” http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/24/us/politics/24nixon.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=nixon%20abortion&st=cse The times, they have changed!

notajayhawk 5 years, 6 months ago

middleoftheroad (Anonymous) says…

"I really hope that isn't granted unless that's the cost of therapy."

I wish!

jaywalker 5 years, 6 months ago

When I first read your post, bea, I thought 'oh no! not another 'alleged' comment by a president that some 'anonymous' aide 'supposedly' spilled. I loathe the anonymous sources from the White House. Then I checked the link, and the link inside the link that has the actual audio of Nixon. Man, that's disturbing. He was not a good man on too many levels.

notajay,

I empathize with your spouses. I wonder what the percentages are of adoptee's that wish to seek out their biologicals. I was adopted and can honestly say that I've never once considered searching for my roots. Both my brother and sister have looked into it, but I don't believe they ever went through with actual contact. I guess I've just always been content to see my parents as MY parents. I do know the couple that gave me up were 18 and 19 and freshmen at the U. of Alabama at the time. I've got a full head of hair and excellent health, so I'm satisfied. And I couldn't have had a better childhood. Guess I'm just easy like that.

Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 6 months ago

I had a younger brother that had a great childhood. But there were a couple problems, he had a genetic problem that made him totally deaf in one ear at the age of 5. And, he had a heart condition that was diagnosed at the age of 34. His life expectancy was 5 years. But, he beat the reaper, he lived to be 42. And, there are a couple serious risk factors for cancers also. If you know about them and are screened, you'll be fine. Go see a doctor.

Yes, you're easy. Don't bother to look into it because you might die young because of your ignorance of your genetic history.

I had to let my son go to adoption as an infant, he was born January 19, 1986 here in Kansas. There is no way I can inform him of any of those problems.

When and if it hits, he's going to have to just deal with it and quite possibly die. Just like you might have to. These things are treatable, but without knowing about them, nothing can be done.

notajayhawk 5 years, 6 months ago

jaywalker (Anonymous) says…

"I guess I've just always been content to see my parents as MY parents."

I'm sincerely happy that you became part of a family that deserved and earned those feelings. I did not mean to imply that all adopted children have that longing or even that they should.

Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 6 months ago

It might be a good idea to have a discussion with their birth parents if they want to live a long life. Many health problems are both very treatable and inherited.

But, if you don't know what they are, you very well might die of them.

lawrencechick 5 years, 6 months ago

Maybe this woman should realize she was not the only victim in this situation. This girl doesn't know the circumstances of her birth and probably just hoped to connect with her mother...what a crime. All she had to do was write back and say no. End of story. Hell no she doesn't deserve a millon dollars.

jaywalker 5 years, 6 months ago

" I did not mean to imply that all adopted children have that longing or even that they should"

Not at all, nota, I didn't read such an inference into your post. Like I said, my bro and sis looked into their origins, it was just not something I ever felt compelled to do. I imagine being an adoptee will strike each quite differently.

"This “girl” is a mentally unstable stalker"

Just when you think beobachter couldn't possibly write anything dumber than he has already........

lawrencechick 5 years, 6 months ago

"Somebody in NJ should pay for this"

Ahhh...that magic "somebody". Do you think the adoption clerk is going to dig into her pockets beobachter? It will again be the taxpayers who will pay it. Will a million dollars really help this woman recover from this ordeal?

jaywalker 5 years, 6 months ago

beobachter,

You need help, man. Professional help. And not just one, I'm talkin' a team workin' 'round the clock. Please explain how the girl in question is a stalker. She went through the same channels hundreds of other adoptee's utilize every single year. What exactly did she do wrong? Ya know what, check that. I need to take my dog for a walk and I'm certain she'll grant me a more intelligent response than whatever crapolla you'd come up with.

Amy Heeter 5 years, 6 months ago

Inaction is a action, therefore the woman has no right to any damages. If the situation was so traumatic that a meer letter set her off , then she should have responded to it and informed the agency she did not want any contact with the adopted person.

Katara 5 years, 6 months ago

jaywalker (Anonymous) says…

beobachter,

You need help, man. Professional help. And not just one, I'm talkin' a team workin' 'round the clock. Please explain how the girl in question is a stalker. She went through the same channels hundreds of other adoptee's utilize every single year. What exactly did she do wrong? Ya know what, check that. I need to take my dog for a walk and I'm certain she'll grant me a more intelligent response than whatever crapolla you'd come up with. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I don't know if beobachter was referring to the other article that was posted or not but this adult adoptee contacted her biological mother's other children without the biological mother's consent. The article stated that the other children did not have any idea that the adoptee existed. It would be a bit on the creepy side, IMO, to have someone contact me out of the blue and drop a bombshell such as that, especially given the circumstances of the conception of the adoptee.

I understand the need to find out information and make contact with a biological parent in an adoption case, especially if there is medical information needed but NJ dropped the ball on this by assuming that no response from the biological mother was an automatic consent to the one letter they sent her. That information should not be released without the explicit consent of the biological parents.

I don't know about 1 million dollars but there should be some sort of compensation for turning the biological mother's and her family's life upside down.

jaywalker 5 years, 6 months ago

"She showed up un-invited and not wanted"

And she knew this how, beo? Osmosis? Clairvoyance? She went through the state, the state gave her the address, she went to the address. Here, try again: She went through the same channels hundreds of other adoptee's utilize every single year. What exactly did she do wrong? 'I'm sure your dog is a lot smarter than you'?? Ooo. That hurts. Really hope you didn't pat yourself on the fanny when you came up with that witty comeback.

jaywalker 5 years, 6 months ago

Katara,

No doubt the burden lies on the state and the agency responsible for this debacle, couldn't agree more. I have not heard about the girl contacting the other children, but as beo hasn't come close to referencing such in the slightest I certainly wouldn't give him that much credit.

WHY 5 years, 6 months ago

Lesson learned. Next time have an abortion.

laffn 5 years, 6 months ago

So did the girl go meet the "DAD". Is he still in prison or what? What a freaking idiot this person must be to think that she would be welcome.... I hope she(the mom) gets every penny she asked for and I will bet the state settles this asap. Crazy..

jaywalker 5 years, 6 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

ksmax 5 years, 6 months ago

Should have returned the letter then her privacy would have been upheld. Can't ingnore such important things. They DON'T go away!! I feel sorry for the child (now adult) it is not thier fault that is the way they were conceived. But the "mother" does deserve her privacy....but not a settlement, she neglected to return the letter!

tvc 5 years, 6 months ago

A non-response should be taken as a no. It should be clear that when a woman gives her baby up for adoption, she has no intention of ever seeing the child again. I think even the letter violates her. If at some point she would be okay with the child seeking her out, she should have to contact the DYFS.

Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 6 months ago

The laws of the different states do not agree with your opinion.

KansasPerson 5 years, 6 months ago

beo, why keep calling her a "girl" when she is obviously at least 30 years old?

I have a little sympathy for the 63-year-old mother who was under the impression that "only she had the power to change that arrangement" (of not having contact with the daughter). (This is quoted from the AC Press article.) If she thought that nothing could be changed without her say-so (and who knows, maybe this is what she was told thirty years ago), then she might assume that a non-reply would be the same as replying "no" to that letter. I'm not saying it was the right decision; I'm just trying to see things from her point of view.

However, my sympathy does not translate into agreeing that she is entitled to one million dollars.

passionatelibra 5 years, 6 months ago

As I read the responses I can't help but wonder if anyone commenting has ever been raped and/or given a child up for adoption. No, I don't expect anyone to answer but it might explain some of the comments that seem so callous.

Anyway, I think the bio-mother has a right to be upset and that the policies need to be looked at. Most likely she was so upset when she received the first letter from DFYS that she wasn't thinking clearly. If no one knew she had been through this horrible ordeal in her life, then she was "stuck" trying to deal with it alone yet again.

A person can go through something, think they finally have themselves on back track and then boom! something brings it all back. It doesn't mean that they didn't deal with it properly the first time.

I do not think $1 million is going to solve anything for anyone. Most likely it was just a random number pulled out of the air by her attorney. It gets the attention of the media and people start debating the issue.

KansasPerson 5 years, 6 months ago

I googled NJ DYFS complaints and I got an eyeful!

Granted these people have a lot on their plate, but it does certainly appear that this is not the most egregious thing they've pulled off in the last few years....

Raider 5 years, 6 months ago

A. If she would have responded to the letter, this wouldn't have happened. Her inaction is what caused this. I'm sure there is some sort of disclaimer on there that says if you don't respond we're going to proceed. The state can't be THAT incompetent.

B. Is this really grounds to sue for $1m? Sounds more like greed to me.

C. It happened 30 years ago. Surely to goodnees she's had time to deal with what happened to her. If she hasn't, then that's her own fault. It was 1979, not 1939. There were people and places to help with counsling on these types of issues, and there has been much awareness placed on the subject over the past 30 years.

D. The daughter should have accepted the first rejection and not continued to track this woman down. If any action should be taken, it should be a restraining order against the daughter.

Bottom line, this woman apparently is so weak that she never confronted what happened to her. She hid from it, and didn't take the steps neccessary to cope. If she had, then perhaps she would be better equipped to handle this situation. She was given plenty of warning from the state that the daughter was seeking her out. She chose to ignore the situation, hoping it would simply go away. This is not how the world works. You can't stick your head in the sand and pretend reality doesn't exist.

I know this sounds harsh, and I'm sure I'm going to get flamed alive for this posting. But come on people. 30 years? Surely you can deal with something, no matter how traumatic, over a course of time that long.

jaywalker 5 years, 6 months ago

Raider:

A. I agree, she should have responded. B. I'm not a fan of litigation, but then this suit has more merit than many others we read about on a daily basis. C. Unless you've experienced what she has personally it's best not to speculate on how someone should 'deal with it'. Everyone's different and there's no guarantee therapy of any kind would have released her from such a nightmare. Also, I don't think we actually know that she didn't receive counseling. Maybe she did and it still haunts her to a traumatic level. D. That's pretty silly on a number of levels. Adoptee's seek out their biological parents every day and there many happy reunions. Sometimes the search is due to medical necessities. Saying she needs a restraining order against her is ridiculous at this point.

Jaylee 5 years, 6 months ago

i can tell a couple people are adopted on here.

all i know is that the only strong, legitimate reason i have to contact my birth parents right now is that i have a daughter and at some point will need to know if my blood has any history of diseases or anything.

the reason i have not is that no matter what the situation was, those parents either could not or did not want to handle a child and i cannot imagine a desirable situation that leads to giving up a child. meaning i dont really want to know them, mostly of course.

Raider 5 years, 6 months ago

beobatcher, see quote below. This is why I believe she received the letter. Taken from the article:

"According to the complaint, the woman — whose name is being withheld by the Philadelphia Daily News — received a letter from the Division of Youth and Family Services in August 2008 saying that an adopted adult was seeking information about her birth parents. DYFS asked her to confirm her identity and whether she wanted to pursue the matter.

That letter alone was painful, rehashing a “violent, disturbing” incident, the complaint claims, but she believed that her lack of response would suffice as an answer."

passionatelibra 5 years, 6 months ago

Raider - I experienced something traumatic 20 years ago. I've gone through therapy to the point that my counselor said I was ok not to see her anymore. I had something happen recently that to most wouldn't have been a big deal, it triggered me back to that traumatic event and I put myself back in therapy to learn how to cope with the nightmares again. Most people who know me but don't know my history say I am one strong cookie. 20 years and I still cry every year on that date.

In my opinion, if she is able to function well enough to go on and have a family (I am assuming since she has other children she was able to)... she is a strong woman.

jaywalker 5 years, 6 months ago

May God bless and protect you, libra.

BoiLyric 5 years, 6 months ago

I believe the adoptee has the right to know who she is even if she was the product of rape. Due to the fact, that the biological mother was raped I am sure this brings up a lot of horrible memories, but this child is also a part of her whether she likes it or not. Both of these individuals need to understand the others needs and maybe then they can both find some healing and some peace. I think one thing the biological mother needs to understand is that she relinquished her right's to her child, but the child never relinquished their right's to her. When will adoptees finally have rights?

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 1 month ago

I didn't read all these comments. I do know that reunions of birth parents with their biological parents do not all go well.

I am the father of an infant who was found abandoned at 2400 Alabama, Lawrence, Kansas on January 19, 1986 as a newborn. I was a "surprise father", I had no idea that my ex-fiancee was even pregnant at all. For more information, look it up on Google.com. I'm there for him.

At the time, I thought it best to let him be adopted away. Now, that seems like the worst single decision I ever made in my life.

I sure hope I get to meet him someday so I can die happy.

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