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MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!!!!

November 24, 2019

Of the many newspapers and news outlets sharing the story of our recently ratified equal access bill, this is my favorite article. It is likely because The Buffalo News was the first newspaper I ever read. it was in Elementary School,and I was 4th grade reading for the Buffalo Sabres in their epic 1974-1975 Stanley Cup run. I have lived in Rochester since 1983, but the Buffalo News has remained my hometown news paper.

Over the days since the Governor signed this, and the months since the legislature passed it, I have to dwell on this a lot. There are not enough words in any dictionary or thesaurus to give justice to the raw feelings I have knowing now that in just a few short weeks I will hold that elusive piece of paper that has been denied of me for the past 54 years. I know what it is going to say; that my mother was Kay Foster. She died in 1995 12-years-before my adoption discovery in 2007. Nor to sure if it will list my dad or not; many moms kept that information back. I know my dad. It took 6-years of kicking every stone over trying to find any clues I could find to lead me back home. The best part of ending your search is when both of your birth families revel in your return home after 47 years.

During those 5-6 years of searching we looked everywhere. Studying faces of strangers as we passed each other on the Thruway, looking for people with bendy thumps that matched mine, digging through miles of microfilm at local libraries, posting on public search groups, and practically going door to door across Western New York State. I had company along the way. Laura Brandl- Witherspoon and Priscilla Stone Sharp gave much time and resources to my cause. I found allies in the adoption community who were either likewise searching, or in reunion. They all became my family of choice. We planned support and search groups, we organized huge protests to enlighten state level legislators to the importance of our cause. Since 2009 so many more states have opened restored access, and many more legislators are in support. This was the goal I set out for.

Sacrifices were made along the way. Voices and detractors from my past sought to derail and publicly humiliate me and the adoptee rights movement. I was stalked by people I believed I could count on, as there had been a long history of friendship. This long history tapped back to my early roots in evangelical christian worship from when I attended fundamentalist church worship. Like how where Peter denied Christ 3 times before the cock crowed, I experienced betrayal in it’s darkest and most evil form. These few people did not like that I took the lead over my destiny, and would not settle until I had every single answer. They would rather destroy a friendship of 25+years then to give support to a new political concept:Equality for all.

When faced with opposition like this I followed the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi. he once wrote, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” – Mahatma Gandhi Q Of all of Mahatma Gandhi’s quotes, this means the very most to me on the most personal level. For each of us to “Ignore the haters because once you become successful, the joke will be on them. Gandhi shows why your haters don’t matter. Among all famous Mahatma Gandhi quotes, this one stands out. First I was betrayed by my adopters who chose to lie to me about my origins, and then I was betrayed and abandoned by the people I had considered to be my my beloved and trusted friends. I was left with no one, no one but the adoption community who embraced me with open arms as I went about a 5-6 year search. Friends who rejoiced with me when I found my birth family and cousins and siblings. People were happy for me. People who are strangers, though dear friends because of our adoption connection.

Now I want so badly for all other adopted people to share in the same revelry, joy, hope, and jubilation that we in NYS are now experiencing. We have Texas, Minnesota, Virginia, Florida, California, Kentucky, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and so many, many more states where bills like New York’s need to happen before equal rights for adopted people can be truly celebrated by all.

I hope I get to see the remaining states fulfill within my lifetime.

buffalonews.com
Editorials: Knowing their own truth
New York’s law has long been cruel for many adoptees, who were denied…

Editorials: Knowing their own truth

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It’s been too long…

September 28, 2018

I’ve been away from this site for too long. I admit, I have gotten soft since reuniting with my birth families. I’m not necessarily apathetic, just burned out from the constant struggle adopts face as we navigate through life’s many challenges. The trauma of being a Late-Discovery-Adoptee jumps you when you least expect it. Triggers exist where non-adoptees would never think to look.

Presently there is much adieu about the Kavanaugh hearing for appointment to the Supreme Court. Christine Blasey Ford has guts. She has a lot of guts! I’ve been overdosing on these hearings, I have to ask, has anyone else been finding all this stuff with Kavanaugh’s hearing to be overwhelming and triggering? None of us know what was done then, but to have this all over the news, radio, internet, etc has really been getting me down. It’s triggering stuff I thought I had buried long ago.

We adoptees have far more share of trauma than most others have. I am no exception. I never realized what trauma was even though I grew up in it. For all that sucked in life, I had no way of knowing it wasn’t normal to experience the things I had.

Hearing these stories of sexual assault and rape on women that people are now sharing; it’s hitting me hard enough to leave dents.

I’m lucky. I was never sexually assaulted. Thank God for that. As a guy, I drew the long end of the stick on that one just through gender alone. Still, I’m not immune to assault and battery.

It took me years to talk about it, and I still do not *publicly.* My wife knows much of it, my kids a little of it. It took me 3-years to mention it to my therapist. Even now, 39 years later, I don’t think I could bear witness in a court or in front of any committee to tell what happened to me. It was bad and I still have nightmares. Nothing solves that trauma. This is the first time I’ve bared my soul, but I feel I have to. Fellow adoptees are safe, and understand this sort of shit.

I was 14-years-old walking to school when I was attacked by two men as I walked to school. They were in their mid-20s and were under the influence. Their stolen car was buried in a snow bank. It was obvious they had been out all night long. They took turns hold me for each other so the other one could punch and kick me. I could not fight back. They were much bigger and strong than me and there were two of them. I tried to stand up to them and I’d get beaten down again. It lasted for seemed like forever.

I blacked out at one point. Thought I was going to die right there on the walkway to school. When I came to I got kicked some more. Finally, I got smart, and played dead; like they tell you to do when a grizzly attacks.

I had to crawl into the school, down the hallway, and into the office for help. 39-years-later and I can still describe their clothing, their long, disgusting greasy hair, and the looks on their filthy fucking faces.

The senators, the media, and even common people on social media question Dr Ford’s ability to remember the details of her assault. I have no doubt because shit that happened to me in 1979 is still as fresh in my memory as though it happened 10 minutes ago.

I still freak out when I hear multiple footsteps coming up from behind. I look for things to use as a weapon as I walk my neighborhood; the safest street in America. I know how Dr. Ford feels and what life will be like now, and it’s upsetting me more than I ever could have imagined.

After my attack I was in really bad shape. I had several broken ribs, cuts to my face, busted up lip, torn and bloody clothing, blood everywhere. I had my first serious concussion. We were a very poor family, and in the attack my only pair of glasses were destroyed. Not just the frames, they crushed the lenses just because they could. My winter coat was stained in blood. I had to wear it anyhow. All the kids in school knew what happened. I received no pity or empathy. I was mocked, bullied, and even assaulted again for wanting to press charges against the men who attacked me. Classmates, it turned out, were close family members to the men who attacked me. Like my mom always said, “blood is thicker than water” and I was water.

The police matched their shoe prints to the ones left in the snow, and the one guy still had my blood on his knuckles when they arrested them for the stolen car. They cut a deal to pay for my glasses if my parents wouldn’t press charges. They had no choice than to accept because I needed to see. That was it, all I got for the pain, terror,and trauma. I new pair of medicaid grade glasses. I did not even get an ER visit for my injuries. My parents could not afford it. I had to suck it up while I healed and took more hits when I went back to school. Yes I was not tough enough to fight them off. I felt like I was a failure to my family because my dad was tough, a fighter, and I got my ass kicked in a fight I did not want.

Tonight I cannot stop reliving that as we go through this hearing. It is ripping my heart apart tonight.

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This is why we protest.

November 4, 2015

It’s Your Life

By Jeff Hancock

I was not always an adoptee rights activist. Prior to my adoption discovery as a 41-year-old man I was quite happy as just another member of the human race. It was not until I learned that I was adopted that I also discovered that I am a victim of discrimination. Like millions of other adult adoptees, I am denied access to my Original Birth Certificate (OBC). The following essay is intended to reveal why the Adoptee Rights cause is important and why state governments need to restore our access to our Original Birth Certificates.

The concept is quite simple: We seek only to own what the non-adopted people have. We want to own our identities. We want to be just like everyone else.

Some people want their OBC’s so they can find and reunite with their birth families. Other adoptees want to discover their heritage, ancestry, or faith. Adoptees hope to learn our medical history. Others just simply want to own it. These are all good things, but none are the basis for what we fight for. The foundation of our cause is our quest to be equal to non-adopted citizens. Without our OBC’s we are not equal.

American culture places a great amount of shame upon adopted people. Also shamed are the mother’s who gave birth to us. Our society fears us. They fear what might happen should we be provided the sheet of paper that holds our name as it was recorded the day we were born. Based on false beliefs and outdated myths of the 1930’s, the people elected to represent us choose to deny us instead.

This is why we protest. Just as our OBC’s are shrouded from us the facts are shrouded away from state law makers. The fundamental difference is that while we are denied even a glance of our OBC’s, far too many lawmakers have full access to the facts of restored access and choose to look another direction. The purpose of the Adoptee Rights movement is to educate these lawmakers.

One cannot blame lawmakers for what they have been conditioned into accepting as the truth about sealed OBC’s. it is our intent to work with them through education. We teach them right from wrong while stipulating that sealed OBC’s is WRONG!

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Always the Last to Know.

November 4, 2015

Last year I had the honor of being asked to contribute a chapter to my friend Lynn’s book, a compilation on adoptee topics. Her book is titled “The Adoptee Survival Guide” and is available through Amazon.

Always the Last to Know.

Have you ever wondered why,

Families keep secrets until they die?

This completely takes over who you are,

Carving within you an unbearable scar.

They day I learned that my parents had lied,

The soul within me stopped living; and died.

I felt as though I had just lost my very best friend,

Who was I now? Was I at my start, or at my end?

 

I found a quote soon after I learned that I was adopted. It reads, “The worst thing about being lied to is knowing you weren’t worth the truth.” This quote became my motto as I embarked on my new life as an adoptee. My story is quite complicated at times; it has been just over 7-years since my discovery though it still stings as though it were yesterday. The purpose of this essay is for me to reveal how I have faced the task of being a late-discovery-adoptee, though I am still far from the end of my journey.

All my life I felt a strange absence in my life. It was a feeling of loneliness and loss. I never could quite find the right words to explain these feelings; I always just figured I was an outcast due to being so much younger than the other kids in our family. I had no idea that I could be an adoptee until I began school in 1970. It was on the bus that kids bullied me by calling me “foster kid.” I brushed it off at first because as a 5-year-old kid I had no idea what it meant.

As I grew older I began to take notice of how my family regarded me. I had learned what a “Foster Kid” was, and I began to wonder if at anytime someone would tell me I was only a guest and that another family was coming to take me away? Evidence began to surface. I was not included in my paternal grandmother’s family bible. That same grandmother never provided me with a hand sewn quilt as she had for each of her other grandchildren. Then there was the photograph. It was a Polaroid of me when I was about 2-years-old. On the back of it was written, “Jeff our foster son.”

By the time I was 21-years-old I could not tolerate my internal struggle over my identity any longer. Having grown tired of pussy-footing around the topic with my parents, I threw my cards onto the table, called my parents, and asked, “Am I adopted?”

It could not have gone any worse. Dad yelled, mom cried. Both told me that I was wrong for questioning my relationship to them. Both lied to me and told me I was theirs.

For the first year after my discovery I walked the Earth in “Zombie Mode.” While I was mostly aware of the goings-on around me, I was detached from it all. I took no pleasure doing things that before had brought me great joy. I had no idea who I was; I felt betrayed, rejected, unwanted, and unworthy of anyone’s love. I sought solutions to my emptiness and pain. There were none.

The first time I turned on the radio in my car following discovery I heard a song that I had not before experienced. It was “Mother” written by Roger Waters of Pink Floyd. This new-to-me version was sung by Sinead O’Connor. I instantly became engrossed in it. I immediately bought the album. I played this song repeatedly everyday for the next 5-and-a-half years.

It was one line from the lyrics of “Mother” that has ran through my mind over and over again since my discovery. “Mama’s gonna keep you right here under her wing, she won’t let you fly but she might let you sing” became my theme song. With each passing day I grew more and more resentful of my adoptive parents. I also grew angry with my other mom; the one who gave me away.

While I began my search for family the very same day as my discovery, by 2009 I had no more information than I had the day I begun. I realized that if I were to ever find my family I would need to have access to my Original Birth Certificate first. I fell into the ranks of the Adoptee Rights movement.

My first protest was in Philadelphia during July of 2009. It became one of my favorite life experiences. Like how Moses must have felt delivering the Jews to the Promised Land, I too felt I had finally landed right where I belonged. As we each met each other in and around the hotel over those 4-days I realized that although we each had different jobs and came from different kinds of families, we were all exactly the same within our souls. We each were denied our souls.

When asked, “How to Survive” regarding Late-Discovery-Adoption I drew a complete blank. I wondered, “Have I survived?” At least in the eyes of my fellow adoptees, and the moms who gave birth to us, I appear to be a survivor. Within my mind I have reservations. I am not convinced that adoption is survivable; it affects each of us for our entire life. Perhaps I can best offer some suggestions at how to cope with being a Late-Discovery-Adoptee.

Find a theme song. It seems every LDA has one. For me it was Sinead O’Connor’s “Mother.” For one of my friends it was “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan. While I listened to this song daily, I found it meant the most to me when I was in a long hot bath alone with my thoughts and a few candles.

Be sure to share your story. Revealing yourself to others in the Late-Discovery community is a daunting task. It was the first time in my life that I felt genuine fear. I felt unworthy of having friendships with other adoptees. I was new to the scene while they had known all of their lives. Surprisingly I was immediately embraced not only by fellow LDA’s but likewise from the entire adoption community.

I took a vow the day I found out my truth. I pledged to live my adopted life with 100% transparency. My adoption experience is something I decided was not to be my shame, but rather my triumph. I have met fellow adoptees as well as our moms and dads who accepted me for who I am. They have become my family over these years. When I found my birth families, my community through adoption welcomed them included as well.

While our lives as LDA’s were shrouded in secrecy and lies, our stories belong to us. We need to reveal ourselves to others in our world. Perhaps one day there will be enough awareness of our pain and our plight that lies within adoption will finally grind to a halt. Until that time comes, we must always support each other and freely share ourselves.

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Continued tales from the LDA.

November 4, 2015

Grief continues to engulf me. I grieve for the woman I never met; the one who gave birth to me. I think about her every day.

Being a late-discovery-adoptee has taken a toll on me over these past 8-years. While I am now reunited with both sides of my birth families, there is a hole in my heart as deep as a well. I miss my mom, even though we never got to meet. I miss a lot of people, yet I cannot grieve for those who betrayed my trust and led me away from the truth of my very existence for most of my lifetime.

I have managed to pull together a basic medical history. However, I fear it is too late to be of much help to me. Had I known in my youth that diabetes runs in my family, I could have been more careful. I was in my 40’s when I was tested and discovered I have a problem. Now I have macular degeneration of the retinas because treatments for my elevated blood sugar were too little too late. My retina specialist described my condition as being like an old house with rusty pipes that leak. My blood vessels are the leaky pipes. My eyeballs are the playing ground for a disease that will eventually blind me. Lack of medical history sucks if you are adopted. I’ve realized that the blow back from being lied to for so long effects more than just my psyche; it has taken over my entire body.

I’ve gone into therapy for PTSD. I never was in a real life shooting, fighting, guts-n-grit combat situation. My trauma centers around my loss of identity, disappointments, joblessness, and various forms of abuse. I have learned that dealing with PTSD is like herding cats. It’s tougher than you’d guess. My therapist told me I need to look for at least one positive memory or experience for each bad thing, each trauma, I have encountered during my lifetime. There are good memories: I have two half-sisters, nephews, nieces, a birth dad, grandparents, and a shitload of cousins all of whom have warmly welcomed me.I have amassed some amazing friends through the adoption community. I’ve traveled to speak at adoption conferences, I’ve met state legislators, lobbied at conventions, and been in newspapers and on television all in support of adoptee rights. I’ve found my tribe.

At the same time, I don’t fit in like I thought I would. It’s my fault. I can’t figure out my role. Maybe enough time has not yet come to pass? I’m still learning my family dynamics. This might take a while to sort out.

 

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The Hook-Up.

July 7, 2014

October 12, 2012 I met my family in person. It began with my aunt and uncle. I then met my sister. Later that day I met half of Olean, NY and got to share it all with my longtime friend Lori (also an adoptee).

My sister has 7-kids. The day after we met I brought my wife and youngest son to meet everyone. That is when Sherry asked me to become the godfather to her two youngest children. I immediately agreed. For the first time in my life I had a sibling who wanted to be related to me. It felt great.

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Fears laid to rest.

July 7, 2014

I spoke to only one of two living people who ever knew about my existence. She embraced me immediately. I addressed her as Ms. Foster, she told me to call her “Aunt Shirley.” We chatted a long time. My new aunt put all of my anxieties to an immediate rest. She would handle announcing my return to the family so that everyone would know I was Kaye’s son. She would give the news to my sister the next morning.

One Ambien later I was asleep for the night. I spent Monday morning waiting for the phone call. I was not disappointed. First my aunt called me to tell me that my sister Sherry would be calling me a little later on that day. Once we got off the phone together an hour or so later I spoke to my sister for the very first time. We instantly fit in together.

Over the next several days one-by-one various Foster relatives messaged me, and sent me friend requests through Facebook. I scrutinized each one of their faces to look for similarities. I looked most like my cousin Carmel. When I actually was first stalking my family I had thought Carmel was my sister, as we do look a lot alike.

Within minutes of our introductions Sherry and I were instant friends. She added me on Facebook. We messaged each other for hours that day. By evening she had found a photo of our mom to share with me. I saw my moms face for the very first time. I could not stop looking at her.

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Reunion – October 2012

July 7, 2014

I was so distraught after realizing my mom was dead that I could not think of anything else that night. I sedated myself quite heavily, and slept for more than half-a-day. When I finally did crawl out-of-bed it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, someone among the Fosters might want to know about me? Did anyone know about me? Had anyone missed me? Did they know who my dad was? Did I have siblings? Cousins? Aunts? Uncles? That Saturday evening I once again hit the internet. What I discovered that night led to my reunion.

I didn’t know who was who, but I had a long list of “Fosters” who were connected with each other not only on one ancestral online database, but they also were connected with each other on Facebook. I was on the right trail. I wrote private messages to all of them. I had actually prepared for this moment. In my note I stated simply:

“Please forgive me for reaching out to contact you directly. We have never met, but I believe that I have some common people connections with you. I apologize in advance, but I need to ask you a few personal questions.

Have you ever met, or do you know of “Kathleen Marie Foster” who lived in Allegheny/Olean area? She was born in 1943, and passed away in 1995. Her parents were Eugene and Irene Foster. Kathleen had 13 siblings. She is someone I have a great need to learn more about. If you do not know her, is there a possibility you may know of someone who does?

Again, I am sorry to bother you, but this is extremely important information for me. Please let me know either way if these names are in anyway familiar to you or someone in your family?

Thank you, Jeff Hancock Adoptee, born April, 1965″

From that Saturday evening until late afternoon the next day I was sweating Crisco. Waiting for a response was the worse stress I’d ever felt. I was a nervous wreck to say the least. Late Sunday afternoon I got my first reply. It was from my cousin. We are actually related twice. She is a member of my adoptive fathers family as well as married to one of my first cousins in the Fosters. She had me call my Aunt and Uncle who then got me in touch with my mom’s sister; my Aunt Shirley.

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My Non-ID; October 2012.

July 7, 2014

As I dashed through the contents of my package I discovered that DSS had a new director, and that she played for keeps! This time we were on the same side! I had page after page of medical reports, foster care observation notes, details on my mom and dad, and even stuff on my aunts and uncles. I finally had an understanding of my origins. Due to my work schedule, I was unable to hit the internet for searching until Friday evening. It was on Wednesday that the package had arrived.

Complete euphoria is how I describe my feelings over that Wednesday. By Friday I was once again focused and determined to find my family. My greatest fears were realized. My mom, Kathleen Marie Foster, had died of cancer on October 23, 1995. She died 12-years before my adoption discovery. 17 1/2-years before I found her.

I somehow always knew she was dead. I have strong feelings that way sometimes. Also, I know I have an angel who watches me. Now I realize it is my mom. She visited me during my twilight sleep at Strong Hospital a few days after my surgery. She told me that my work was with adoptee rights. She also said that in time I would know everything. I couldn’t see her face, only her outline with a bright white aura completely surrounding her. Actually, I had attributed it to the morphine, but now I understand it was my mom’s spirit.

The feeling of loss overwhelmed me. It was 2:00 AM and I sat here staring at this computer monitor in shock, but not disbelief. Then it hit me. It hit harder than all the grief of my lifetime rolled together at once. The hurt. The sorrow, The sadness. I was exhausted. My mind and my body were numb. All of my hopes for reunion were gone just as fast as they appeared only 2-days before. As much as I was prepared for her death, finally realizing it sucked. I sat at my desk and cried the hardest I had ever cried before in my life. That night I took enough Ambien to tranquilize a draft horse. I needed sleep and rest. I needed something else, but I didn’t know what that “something” was. Whatever word is out there that is stronger than “devastated” that was me that early morning. I cried so hard that my entire body shook. I had never lost control over myself like that before. I hope never to again.

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October 3rd, 2012

July 7, 2014

This was the day that changed my life forever. It was like scoring the overtime goal that results in winning the Stanley Cup. It was the day that after 5 1/2 years of agony that I received my non-id information. It did not come without the toughest fight of my life. I was entitled to, but never received my non-id under the reign of DSS director Ms. Hill. For nearly 6-years I called, wrote, faxed… did all I could to enable their office to send me whatever scraps of information their files might have on me. Assuring me that I would receive it “soon” it was not until late September 2012 that I discovered the retirement of the DSS chief. I got angry. Using my rage positively I got busy. In a few days this resulted in my non-id.

When it arrived it did not seem real, but weird like a dream with no purpose. I couldn’t make myself open it at first. All I could do was stare at the package. It had been withheld from me for so long that I actually was unable to recognize that it was finally mine. In an instant I ripped it completely open. The contents were more than I had hoped for in my wildest dreams.