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Rich Uhrlaub on Ending Shame & Secrecy in Adoption Policy

Much of what people “know” about adoption — especially the parts that come from decades past — is bunk. Many adoption policies and practices formed in shame and secrecy during the 20th century have proven to be less-than-optimal for people living in adoption.

In this new episode of my podcast, Adoption: The Long View, I get to speak with adoptee and activist Rich Uhrlaub. Addressing antiquated notions of bygone eras, Rich has a lot to say about adoptees who grew up as a dirty little secret, several reasons why genetic information is important to adoptees, and what the alternative to shame and secrecy needs to be in our current practices.

Rich has been involved in adoption issues for a long time, perhaps most impactfully by being instrumental in changing the laws in my home state of Colorado. Thanks in no small part to Rich’s efforts, as of 2016, Tessa and Reed and tens of thousands or other adoptees born here now have the same ability as other adults to access their original birth certificates.

And they sky hasn’t fallen.

Episode 104: Rich Uhrlaub

In this episode, Rich and I cover these and other topics:

  • Why is it wrong to seal records from adopted people?
  • What is the opposite of shame and secrecy? And what does the answer mean for adoption policy?
  • Why is genealogy an acceptable hobby for everyone except adopted people?
  • What it’s like when your family ≠ your ancestors.
  • When an adoptee becomes a parent, they understand with new clarity just how important the gene pool is.
  • The trope of the noble sacrificing birth mother, and how that impacts adoptees.
  • Modern adoption was constructed without knowing about attachment theory, about trauma and loss, about brain science. We know better now and need to continue to improve our constructs.
  • The perils of unchecked Gotta Getta Baby Syndrome.
  • Caution about “Gotcha Day” and the commodification of adoptees.

Prefer to read? Here’s a transcript.

Show Notes from the Rich Uhrlaub Episode

Facebook: Adoption Search Research Connection

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A new episode comes out the first Friday of the month. Thank you for sharing, subscribing, and rating this episode!

You’re going to love hearing from Rich and the other fascinating guests I have lined up. I can’t wait to hear what you think!

Lori Holden, mom of a young adult daughter and a young adult son, writes from Denver. She was honored as an Angel in Adoption® by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

Find Lori’s books on her Amazon Author page, and catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.

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3 Responses

  1. I did not hear any discussion about ending the practice of amending the birth certificate moving forward. Surely that is the most efficient logical respectful way to handle the situation. Never put adoptive parents names on the birth certificate and always allow the adopted person to use that original certificate for identification purposes. End the revision of identity with adoption its out of date and unfair.

    1. When my children were young I would have felt best served by a birth certificate that showed both their biological and their legal status. There are situations, such as border crossings, that require adoptive parents to be able to demonstration their connection to their children. I was asked more than once to provide a BC at the border because my children don’t look like me. An unamended original certificate wouldn’t do that. But I see no reason for one certificate to replace the other.

  2. “When an adoptee becomes a parent, they understand with new clarity just how important the gene pool is.” I haven’t listened to this episode (yet!), but this reminds me of a woman I worked with, years ago. She was about the same age as you & me, Lori (born early/mid-1960s), and was adopted, and she had her first baby while she worked for us. Her son was the absolute spitting image of her, and she remarked, when she brought him in for a visit while on mat leave, that it was so cool to finally have another person in the world who looked like her. As an adoptee, she’d never known who SHE looked like — something that so many of us take for granted. I’ve never forgotten that!

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