English Subtitles for The Secret Identity Of An Adopted Child: Catharine Robertson at TEDxBaltimore 2014

Subtitles / Closed Captions - English


since the Stone Age humans have always known their identity kinship groups ancestry names for thousands of years except for one brief period of time in a handful of countries for a select class of people people who were adopted and in 43 states in the United States adoptees even adult adoptees are prevented from knowing their original identity not allowed to have original birth certificates so my idea worth spreading is my original identity should not be a

state secret i'm going to give you seven reasons reason number one international adoption these are some adoptive parents you probably recognize they have adopted kids from countries all over the world whose skin color and ethnicity is visibly not the same as theirs it's not possible to whitewash these kids as being biologically their own and

in fact the country's they were adopted from those countries have laws protect protecting those kids original identities I found all of their birth names in five minutes of googling and i found their birth parents names on google as well so if international adoptees have their identity protected us adoptees should also be able to find out their original identity

reason number two most countries have laws in place protecting children's identity the United States helped draft an international treaty called the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and among other things it offers the following protections no child labor no capital punishment for children

no lifetime imprisonment for children and people countries who sign this treaty agree not to make a state secret out of a child's original identity there are three countries in the world who have not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child want to guess who they are somalia south sudan and the United States Somalia and South Sudan actually say they're going to sign the treaty as soon as they can get their governments

organized the United States won't sign the treaty because we still engage in lifetime imprisonment for children and we still have 43 states that make a state secret out of some children's identities reason number three you've probably heard this myth that birth parents who gave up children to adoption were promised some form of anonymity or privacy and i'm not saying

that never happened but in general that is not what birth parents were looking for young women and girls in the secrecy era of adoption in the US which was from about the nineteen forties to the nineteen nineties in fact they had to sign contract saying i will not show up on your doorstep they weren't the ones being protected it was the new adoptive family

and in 1998 there is a case in Oregon Oregon retro actively opened its adoption records and here's what happened in adopting named Helen Hill used her inheritance to fund new legislation and support in the oregon legislature for retroactive opening of adoption records the biggest opponents were coalition's of adoption agencies with a lot of money and interest in keeping adoption records close

the bill passed but a judge said let's give birth parents a way to object to see how many of them are going to object to their privacy being eroded six birth parents came for all jane doe's to this day still not identified so it was not an issue of their privacy being eroded by being involved in the case and three dropped out so out of all of Oregon three birth parents said I object to my identity

being given away and the appellate judge in this case actually found they were not privus promised privacy privacy is not an element of giving birth and that a birth is a public event reason number four is a social justice reason there's a philosopher named John Rawls who happens to be from right here in Baltimore and what he studied was the philosophy of justice and it went something like this if a policy or

practice is justly applied to one person then it is also just when applied to anyone else at random so my adoption records are closed I do not have access to my birth certificate so that means this is fair if your birth certificate is sealed away for all time and you're not allowed to have it no matter how old you are or your birth certificate is sealed away or

you are never going to have the opportunity to meet the person who gave birth to you that doesn't seem so fair now does it reason number five most countries already retro actively opened their adoption records including all of Western Europe and Australia England most of Africa and Asia actually never close their adoption records because

they recognize the value of kinship and ancestry it doesn't mean adoption doesn't take place they just don't make a state secret out of a child's identity they recognize it was a failed social experiment reason number six I already found my birth family on my own

it took me 25 years and I did not participate in the state of Virginia's petition process for getting my records I'm going to tell you how that process works and this is a similar process too many other states so I was born and adopted in Virginia the chart is a little bit different than it should be

so let me just tell you how the process works I file a petition with the circuit court judge the judge says to the adoption agency you will perform a search and the agency says to me you will pay us hundreds of dollars the adoption agency if they are still in business they open the file they have had for 44 years and they get the names of the

people in it and the google them and they call them up on the phone and say do you consent to have your identifying information given to Catherine Robertson but here's the trick that looks a little different too if if both birth parents are dead it's an automatic denial of my petition because they don't the rationale says

they don't have a chance they're not alive they don't have a chance to say no if one is dead and both are alive if one is dead and one of the live and says yes it's still an automatic denial because the one who's not living doesn't have a chance to say no to me if they're both alive one says yes but one says no it's a denial of all

information even for the one who said yes and then here's the thing about the law in Virginia and about adoption law in so many states it's written so subjectively that a judge has a right to say no to me even if both birth parents said yes because the judge has a subjective right to say was my given reason on the petition compelling enough as if my asking for my identity isn't a compelling reason I'm missing some photos so i found my birth parents last

summer one was alive Susan my birth mother who is sitting in the audience I'm very sad to tell you that my birth father doty died in nineteen seventy nine but his sister's my own answer here so my petition would have been denied

however I chose not to participate in such a crazy ponzi scheme and I did my search on my own it took me 25 years of searching but when i contacted Susan on facebook last June she responded within 90 minutes and did something awful happened because i had this information and I contacted her know that is me with Susan on my birthday last year

the first birthday I spent with my birth mother the first one I remember we began to love each other in August Susan and I went to visit Jodie's mother my grandmother and my aunt Nina and no d Nonie and we began to love each other Susan and I went to visit my dad my adoptive father my dad who is also here today

yeah we began to love each other and in october i played music for dhotis family Cody was a musician which I learned 34 years after his death so my idea worth spreading is information it's not dangerous we can handle the truth and I deserve my original identity thank you

Video Description

Catharine Robertson is a web strategist, performer, teacher, and storyteller. She was adopted shortly after birth. In 2013, after 25 years of searching, and despite laws designed to prevent adoptees from knowing their original identity, Catharine found her birth family. 

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