I’m not a staunch defender of the American Adoption Congress, but I’m also not a hater. I’m merely a recent member. But as an avowed adoptee rights advocate, I’m encouraged by the AAC’s recent shift toward supporting an adult adoptee’s unequivocal right to obtain his or her own original birth certificate. This shift is significant, ongoing, and it needs to be supported, strengthened, and secured with an AAC resolution that mirrors another recent organizational shift: that of the AAAA, an influential group of adoption attorneys who recently endorsed “the inherent rights of adult adopted persons to their personal biological family information,” including the original birth certificate, court records, and adoption agency records [AAAA resolution here].
Which means continued destructive and anonymous attacks upon the AAC, ongoing threats of disruptive protests, and concerted efforts to drain financial and volunteer resources from the AAC need to end. Now.
Is the AAC perfect? No. Has it had significant problems recovering from years of board turmoil, going back at least to 2015, if not earlier? Yes. But in talking to people involved and asking my own questions, I believe it is making progress in rebuilding. It is strengthening its policies and responding to demands from members for more transparency. From all that I have seen and from what I have learned recently, it is making progress despite relentless attempts to undermine whatever it tries to do (including the rather absurd effort to schedule conferences that compete directly with the AAC’s own conference, which is the AAC’s largest source of revenue).
Some of the AAC reform efforts are well underway and will be announced shortly. It is my understanding they may include:
- A centralized collection of board and other organizational documents that will make responses to member requests easier, more transparent, and timely;
- An independent financial audit of the organization for 2018, to be completed in 2019;
- Continued publication of financial documents on its website, including required form 990 tax filings as well as ongoing profit and loss statements.
In my questions and discussions with representatives of the AAC, I’ve also encouraged it to create an “ombudsperson” who can assist with dealing with concerns from members and the public. The ombudsperson would, as any such position does, consider member concerns and investigate them fairly independently, with a goal of resolving them and making recommendations for corrective active or change, if necessary. I’ve also encouraged them to assign one person to handle any document requests, and that person would be better able to respond directly to member requests instead of continuing to drain the time and resources of other volunteers and board members.
Opponents have made their points repeatedly and often anonymously and destructively, and the AAC continues to work to address them. But continuing to take anonymous potshots and to work to undermine the AAC financially while complaining about its finances is counterproductive. More significantly, the continued anonymity of “Right the Ship”—a Facebook page led anonymously but obviously by a former AAC board member who was removed from the board more than three years ago—should be rejected. Right the Ship is a failed personal attempt for revenge, not a legitimate vehicle for reform.
It’s time to end petty disputes with the AAC and work toward a stronger organization that, at least for adult adoptees, unequivocally supports unrestricted access to original birth certificates. Those who continue to undermine the AAC through various means should simply concentrate on their own work and let the AAC get back on its feet with a view to the future, which it is doing. If adoptee advocates involved in Right the Ship do not believe in the unrestricted right of access to the OBC, which it appears that they do not, then there are better organizations for them to support. Let’s keep the AAC focused on its shift toward the unequivocal right to the OBC, as the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys (AAAA) has recently done.
Again, I’m not a staunch defender of all the policies of the AAC, nor am I a hater. I’m a member, drawn recently to the organization by the work I do almost daily with its members and legislative leaders. And I’m pleased to volunteer my time at the conference in New Mexico in a few days, spending my own money to be there, to speak, and to meet with influential adoptee rights advocates who will also be there from across the country. What comes out of that conference may ultimately influence the future direction of adoptee rights, at least in relation to OBCs. To continue on that route, however, it’s time for the haters to end their war. It’s time for them to move on.