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Our members in New York State are working for equal rights in adoption law and awareness of adoption issues. We are a writing, lobbying and media effort. Contact us at:

Joyce Bahr and her son, Ed
This photo is of me and my son Ed at our reunification in Chicago during the spring of 1986. I was forced to surrender him for adoption one week after he was born. My mother was present when I signed because I was not yet 18 years old. And as I was only 17, in Illinois I had no time to revoke the consent, meaning I could not change my mind. I was manipulated by the social worker and told: If I loved him, I would give him up. I was also told to go home and forget about it and never think of him as mine again, as many unwed mothers were also told to do.

All his adoptive parents told him about me was that I was unable to keep him.

Immediately after meeting Ed face-to-face, I explained to him what happened to me. His reply was that even nowadays, sex before marriage was considered to be a sin by some. He needed to be told the truth.

Yes, it was common practice for social workers to lie about the profession of the adoptive parents. I was told my son's mother was a schoolteacher, but she was not. I was shocked to learn I was lied to by a worker at a Lutheran agency, even though I knew other unwed mothers were also lied to.

Like others, I had to inform my son what I knew about the secrets and lies of adoption and let him know I understood he would be angry.

His adoptive parents were surprised but not shocked when the social worker called, saying I wanted a reunification.

Sadly, Ed died in 2016 from an overdose of alcohol + prescription drugs. He was 50 years old.

Margaret Walczer and Joyce Bahr

Joyce Bahr with Dirck Brown (social worker and American Adoption Congress member) at the Williamsburgh Regional Conference (1998). Everyone loved Dirck, our favorite advocate!

The National Council for Adoption, a well-funded, anti-open records organization, maintained that only a few adoptees searched — and those who did were misfits and degenerates — making it difficult for adoptee voices to be heard. Joyce was an AAC Regional Director in the mid-1990s, when thousands were searching and phone numbers of Regional Directors were on the internet. She received 10–20 calls almost daily from those seeking for information and support.

Ellen Durant (left), a natural mother who got NY politician Scott Stringer to sponsor our bill in the Assembly in 1993; with Joyce Bahr (third from left).


The Adopted Break Silence by Jean Paton [Out of Print, Limited Availability from Amazon]

Fisher Book The Search for Anna Fisher by Florence Fisher, advocate for adoptees' right to know and the need for open records; buy from Amazon here. Florence Fisher, an adoptee, founded the Adoptees' Liberty Movement Association (ALMA) in 1971 after locating her birth parents. Her organization held monthly meetings and set up a reunion registry. She focused in Italian searches and was on television in Rome, Italy. In the evening, she attended the Italian opera, her favorite thing to do. She had some Italian search stories to tell at ALMA meetings. She wrote a book called "The Search for Anna Fisher", published in 1973. In 1976 she went with a group to attend a hearing in Albany for open birth records. They were told that all they would ever get would be a new law for those born after the law would be enacted, and upon their 18th birthday; there would be no retroactive law, ever.

Hole In My Heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption by Lorraine Dusky buy from Amazon here

I Would Have Searched Forever by Sandy Musser buy from Amazon here

American Baby: A Mother, a Child, and the Shadow History of Adoption by Gabrielle Glaser buy from Amazon here Read the Sunday NY Times Book Review: Adoption Used to Be Hush-Hush. This Book Amplifies the Human Toll., and listen to an interview with the author here.

You Don't Know How Lucky You Are by Rudy Owens Author's website:

Somebody's Daughter by Zara Phillips buy from Amazon here

Melinda Warshaw's book A Legitimate Life has recently been published. To purchase, visit
Facebook Link:

Building Bridges and Fighting Battles to End Sealed Records in New York - Melinda Warshaw and Joyce Bahr

Janine Baer, feminist and adoption reform activist, writes on the history of sealed records and the detrimental consequences of years of secrecy to everyone touched by adoption. Her book, "Growing in The Dark: Adoption Secrecy and Its Consequences", documents adoption law from the 19th Century to the 21st.
To order her new book, email: or visit this website:

Adoption: Uncharted Waters, author & psychologist
David Kirschner

Becoming Patrick, author adoptee Patrick McMahon
author Barbara Bizantz Raymond
Authors: Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein

The Adoption Mystique, author, social worker
adoptee Joanne Wolf Small
Highly Recommended

The Girls Who Went Away, Author Anne Fessler
l.5 million mothers never wanted to give up their babies - Author Sara Saffian discusses her memoirs of being found.

Review of Adam Pertman's book Adoption Nation - Mr. Pertman, former Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, has recently started a new organization: The National Center on Adoption and Permanency (NCAP), a unique "one-stop" organization that provides a broad range of information, resources and multidisciplinary services relating to adoption, foster care and child welfare. Contact: or 617-903-0554.

Wendy Barkett's new book Shadows of a Dark-Alley Adoptee: An Adoptee's Search for Self


Video: CeCe Moore Explains How Genetic Genealogy Works

Video: Local woman discovers biological father through 23andMe. WSYR-TV, June 20, 2021

Breaking News for Women's Rights:
March 2012, The Australia National Post: Australia urged to compensate, apologize to unwed mothers forced to give up children for adoption.

Video and article: some women want apologies but some are demanding reparations! Report on Australian Senate Inquiry into forced adoptions expected this week 2/25/2012.

Video: Adoptees Access to Records

Adoptee Larry Dell, PR Director for Unsealed Initiative offers $1000 for help in finding his birth family!

video: Adoptee Thomas Brooks,
author of A Wealth of Family

video: Adoptee, Singer, Songwriter Mary Gauthier performs her song "Blood is Blood." After many years and many recordings she expresses her feelings about her adoption and acknowledges the movement for open records.

video: Darryl McDaniels, Zara Phillips,
I'm Legit

video: Promo by filmmaker Jason Darnieder
All My Life

Recent video: Mothers who deal with depression for many years after giving up children for adoption speak out
I Want My Baby Back - HuffPost Live

Video: The Woman in Black 2 - woman is also haunted by child she gave up for adoption.

Adoptee Tales from the Sealed Record Era


Michael Potter's blog, Navigating the Present and the Future Without A Past: A collection of 12 essays published in The Kindle Edition. "The Last Invisible Continent: Essays on Adoption."

Queens Catholic Priest Father Tom Brosnan, a reunited adoptee, blogs on Adoption and Faith.

Adoptionfind blog: Rhode Island adoptees age 25 will get a new law and the right to know!

Family Ties Blog: Are Adult Adoptees Worthy of Respect

Lost Daughters adoption's a sisterhood

Native New Yorker, Adopted Person and Experienced Searcher,
Shelly Lester
offers her "Words of Wisdom" for doing your own search.
For further search help email her at

1. Make it easy to find yourself - list your phone number under your maiden name and/or birth name if you are an adoptee; list your phone as your name when you relinquished. My Mom was in the phone book!

2. Register with the International Soundex Reunion Registry (702) 882-7755, and the state registry in the state where you were adopted or relinquished. Write for Non Identifying information from the agency used and the state. Visit the agency!

3. In NYC there are birth indexes for both the NYCity and NYState births. NYS indexes are in the National Archives on Houston and Varick Streets. Although NYC indexes were recently removed from the New York Public Library on 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue, they can be found elsewhere. Please follow this link for further information.

4. Keep a log of everything you do for your search - jot down every insignificant detail - it may be a key that will open a door later on.

5. Be kind to yourself and others - a smile gets more out of someone you want information from than a fist slammed on a desk - tried both :>)

6. Take a rest but do not give up - you will find if your information is correct - took me four and a half years - I had my birth name (Female Hopkins), that my mother was 40 and Lutheran and a housewife - which the latter was not correct.

7. Check the old phone books for your birth name in the year you were born and the year you were adopted - my birth mother was in the book. Do an address search (reverse phone book) to find out if she lived with someone.

8. If you are an older adoptee, the census is wonderful.

9. If you are a younger adoptee the census is good, but you are looking for grandparents.

10. You need at least two pieces of information to confirm a find. I had a couple of false hits because I wanted to find so badly. Some people may fit the mold but in the end you need proof.

Adoptee Rights Coalition's booth at The National Conference of State Legislatures Annual Conference. The booth brings awareness and the opportunity to meet with legislators from all states. Aside from the booth, there is a march and demonstration. Last year's conference and demonstration was held in Chicago, and activists invite you to attend Atlanta in August of 2013. Stand up for adoption reform and adoptee rights! Recently Jeff Hancock, UI Regional Coordinator from Western New York, became President of the Adoptee Rights Coalition.

by Sandy Cox
Wilmington, Delaware

Once hurt, you're likely to be hesitant about taking another chance for reunion... that's understandable. Here are some tips on coping.

Allow yourself to be disappointed.

Don't punish yourself with expectations of what you think you should be feeling.

Remember that everyone gets rejected sometime in life.

Realize that the rejection usually has little to to do with you. It has more to do with the person who rejected you.

Don't be superstitious. Rationalizing that "this was meant to be" is not a positive approach.

Time does make all wounds easier to bear, and the person who rejected you could change their mind after a while.

You never completely recover from accommodate. You become a different person by living through experience.

Also, it really helps to talk to others who have experienced the same rejection and work through your anger and grief, which are natural reactions.

In Memoriam



She was ahead of her time in 1954. Challenging the shroud of secrecy surrounding adoption with her book THE ADOPTED BREAK SILENCE, Jean Paton founded Orphan Voyage and the first reunion registry in the USA. She helped thousands search and never stopped speaking out about adoption rights.

The below Adoption Quilt section (part of a larger quilt) was started by adoptees and mothers of adoption loss in 1989, and added to over the next 10 years:

Remembering marchers from New York to Washington DC, birth mothers Marilyn Burson and Sharon Bell. Marching to protest laws that present birth parents with a life long sentence of separation from children surrendered to adoption. Nancy Horgan and Judy Taylor also marched.

This will soon be changed to include New Hampshire

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