Tag Archives: Michigan Discrmination Against Adoptees

Bittersweet one-year anniversary of winning court order for my original birth certificate

One year ago today, on June 17, 2016, Michigan 3rd Circuit Court Judge Christopher Dingell signed a court order requiring the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) to release a copy of my original birth certificate. This decision came more than 27 years after I had found my birth family and knew the names of all my biological kin.

This is what I wrote on June 17, 2017, the day a court order Michigan to give me my original birth certificate: “That’s me on the phone this morning with the Michigan 3rd Circuit Court making the case why an original birth certificate of an adoptee is not a top secret document that should be held under lock and key by a paternalistic state that treats a class of individuals as lesser citizens simply because they were born illegitimately as adoptees. The judge agreed with my points and the facts of the case. Booyah!”

Judge Dingell agreed with facts of my case. Great. We all like to win and see justice prevail.

However, just getting the trial proved almost as frustrating as getting any record from the fanatically-unhelpful MDHHS. (This is the same department that covered up its failings in the Flint lead and water scandal.)

I had to make repeated calls on a weekly basis to get on the court docket. A court date was cancelled without notification or apology.

When the court date came, by phone, the judge’s line of questioning took a bizarre twist, when his questions showed he had more interest in whether my birth father had some abstract legal standing in the matter, not the immorality and openly discriminatory nature of a law that promoted unequal treatment or the denial of a record that should have been given to me nearly three decades earlier, by law.

In fact, the judge took little personal interest in my story at all. What’s more, his out-of-nowhere questions about my birth father had no bearing on my request, as my birth father was dead and more importantly had no legal standing at all in my case. I had already provided the state legal documents in 1989 that should have forced the state to surrender my birth certificate along with other birth records I received.

I will not even begin to discuss the larger historic issue of how paternity issues have historically harmed birth mothers and illegitimate infants throughout history, in often lethal ways, and how the judge’s questions seemed oblivious of historic reality.

The court victory, though satisfying, was another frustrating and also insulting experience that typifies the systemic and discriminatory practices in most U.S. states against U.S. adoptees seeking their equal rights and documents that are theirs by birthright.

No court case should ever had happened, according to at least one approved written statement the MDHHS shared with me after the hearing–see the state’s explanation to question 19 on this summary of the state’s replies to my emailed questions. No official involved in deciding my request for my birth certificate would speak to me on the record, despite repeated attempts to secure interviews with those handling my case.

I wrote a detailed account of my experience on my website, revealing how the state almost certainly broke state law denying my original birth record and enlisted nearly 20 state officials to keep me from having my birth record without any policy rationale or basic human decency. I also alerted more than 20 media outlets about the state’s abuse of power and likely violation of law after I won the court ruling. Only one reporter contacted me, and the newspaper did not write a story.

In the end, the story of an adoptee is essentially the experience of being a bastard–and this came as no shock to me. It is the experience that many adoptees live navigating secretive public health agencies and the courts for many decades of our lives. 

I describe my journey culminating in my court victory in my forthcoming book on my experience seeking justice as a U.S. adoptee. Today, only nine states allow adult U.S. adoptees to access their birth records and, essentially, be treated equally under the law like other Americans in seeking their identity and the most essential identity document humans will own.


Rudy Owens’ adoption memoir sheds light on institution impacting millions of Americans

Rudy Owens, five months old

In 2016, I finished writing my memoir on my lifelong journey navigating the world of American adoption, as an adoptee who was denied any record of his biological past. I will be publishing my memoir and public health history of adoption in 2017.

I was born in Detroit at one of the nation’s largest maternity hospitals that promoted adoption among non-related parents and infants. My single birth mother relinquished when I was three weeks old. My entire family past was erased when the State of Michigan approved my adoption to a new family in May 1965. That family remains my family to this day. However, the post-World War II adoption system that touched the lives of millions of birth mothers and infants like me created record-keeping practices and laws that ultimately withheld my family heritage from me when my name legally changed and I became another family’s child.

The medical, social work, and public health professionals who created this bold new experiment in family creation sought to remove illegitimate children from their kin. Adoptees were expected by society and their adoptive families never to know their true identity and biological relatives. I rejected this model and set out on a three-decades-long journey to find my biological relatives, my past, and ultimately justice. On the way, I overcame Michigan’s discriminatory legal barriers and found my birth family and kin on both sides of my family when I was 24. My years-long journey took me from Detroit to San Diego to a small Midwest hamlet. On the way, I learned about my past, met all branches of his families, and finally reclaimed my original birth documents state vital records keepers vowed to hide from me until the day I died.

On my hero’s quest, I overcame the discriminatory tactics of fearful records keepers and stereotypes by some  birth family relatives. I rose above those who denied me equal legal treatment because I was born a bastard and categorized by state law as an adoptee, with less rights than non-adoptees. My experience demonstrated that searching for one’s origins and asking, “Who am I,” are the most natural acts a human will ever take.