Being adopted means having two families, adopted and biological. My adopted family is the one who raised and who will forever be my family. Nothing will change that fact. But I also have another family the American institution of adoption tried to hide from me, forever, starting in the first days after I was born.
U.S. adoption, as a fractured and statewide legal system, still denies millions of adoptees and birth parents their family histories and birth records as a long-outdated and harmful form of legal discrimination. It prevents the majority of U.S.-born adoptees from connecting with their biological kin. This tragedy plays out hundreds of thousands of different ways for those who are banned outright by law from knowing who they are and from where they came.
Unlike many adoptees, I overcame the Jim Crow-style laws of the state of Michigan that claimed my birth records were sealed documents, denying me equal treatment under the law as a second-class citizen. Those laws and those who enforced them tried to keep me from knowing my kin. Had this system succeeded, I would have never met my biological family, on my maternal and paternal sides. Had Michigan’s discriminatory practices worked, my maternal grandparents would have never met me in the years before their death.
In 1989, I met my birth families for the first time and began a decades long journey that continues to this day. Here are a few of the many images from my family history, protecting the identity of my family members, alive and deceased. (Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.