August 17, 2014

The PA Senate Hearing on HB 162: Open Records for Adult Adoptees







Carolyn’s Online Magazine (COMe) in January 2015.

I invite you to visit the new site and encourage you to Follow it.

New and updated articles on adoption will be posted on COMe



Through the years I’ve seen how adoption has affected all members of the adoption triad—the adoptee, the birth mother, and the adoptive parent.

Adoptees struggle with belonging issues, with identification issues. They lack a biological tie to their cultural and medical histories. They struggle involves, for some, feeling worthless because “someone didn’t want them, someone threw them away.”

The birth mother struggles with her inability to raise her birth child, for whatever reason. I’ve seen birth mothers sob soul deep at releasing their newborns. Statistics are overwhelmingly high for these women, who wonder what happened to their child, if they made the right decision, and hold a desire to find them.

The adoptive parents struggle with helping their child understand, with not knowing their child’s cultural and medical histories, with others who consider the adoptive child as a second choice.

I was fortunate when my husband Monte and I adopted our daughter. I landed a job doing adoption home studies in a neighboring county. I didn’t know anyone else going through the adoption process, but I could make appointments and interview prospective adoptive parents.

The job ended after nine months, when Catholic Charities placed our daughter with us.

In later years my husband and I became foster parents for women planning on releasing their infants for adoption. We also provided support for adoptees, adoptive parents, and birth parents.


During our adoption process the Catholic Charities caseworker assured us of confidentiality—that is, we would not know the birth mother, nor would she know us. That’s the way it was done in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s—it was something one didn’t question.

While doing home studies, I too assured the potential adoptive parents of confidentiality, as well as the occasional birth mother I had contact with. Again, that’s the way it was done at the time.


Neither agency informed me that, at that time, and what would become a period of 60 years, Pennsylvania born adult adoptees could access their original birth certificate (OBC). It wasn’t until 1984 that adult adoptees were blocked from accessing their OBCs.  Thus, confidentiality promises made to the members of the adoption triad during this time were…seemingly…a (more…)

May 11, 2014

The Worth of a Mother



Carolyn’s Online Magazine


Drawing by my daughter Sandy when she was 4 1/2

Drawing by my daughter Sandy when she was 4 1/2

I wrote the above article on Friday, February 7, 1986, in response to a 20/20 show aired out of Youngstown, Ohio, on the previous day. At the time I was leading a parenting group and had spent eight years as a family day care home proprietor, which allowed me to be at home with my children and enjoy their growing up years. We (who are not employed out of the home and having children in child day care) are intelligent adults who made a decision to invest in our nation’s most valuable resource.

Trilium growing in our woods

Trilium growing in our woods

Something troubled me about a show, Working Mothers, aired on 20/20. I finally got it—there was a contradiction expressed in statements by two separate persons:

  • The psychological need to be a breadwinner
  • Children are our most important resource

It implies that a person not receiving a paycheck is not contributing his/her share. It is too bad that a mother’s worth is defined only in terms of the paycheck they bring home and not in their overall contribution to the good of society.

Another contradiction:

  • Parents not earning a paycheck are not pulling their weight
  • Parents (or others) caring for non-custodial children have more worth because they earn a paycheck


May 6, 2014

Going Obsolete: Part 2–Appliances and Wallpaper




 Obsolescence isn’t limited to technology.

The green philosophy constantly informs us It is our responsibility to save our earth and it is in our hands to save the earth.

We are constantly bombarded with messages that to fulfill this responsibility we must reduce our carbon footprint.  We must “green up” our lives.

Thus, I find myself obsessive-compulsively placing every scrap of plastic, paper, metal, and glass into the proper bag for recycling, directing every plant-based food scrap to the compost bin. Clutter accumulates in my home in order not to fill landfills with useful stuff.


This winter our 35-year-old stove ailed, with no possibility of resuscitation. It required immediate replacement to keep our lives safe, so off my husband Monte and I went to purchase a new appliance. As we looked at the shiny white and metal stoves a clerk asked “Do you have any questions?”

“I do,” I said, concerned that when we’d purchased a washer and dryer a couple of years ago the store had delivered used appliances.

“If we purchase a stove will you deliver a used stove?”

“It will come right out of a box,” he said.

“I have another question. What is the obsolescence life of this stove?”

Shiny new stove with a life expectancy of 6 years

Shiny new stove with a life expectancy of 6 years

He hesitated. My first question clued him in that I had an attitude problem. The look on his face told me he was considering how to answer my second question.

When he finally answered I was totally surprised. (more…)

January 26, 2014

Open Birth Record Legislation Now (1/25/2014) in PA Senate





HB 162 Passed PA House, 1/25/2014

Now in PA Senate

UPDATE: HB 162 Senate Hearing

held by the 

Senate Committee on Aging & Youth

on March 18 at 10:00 a.m. 

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Continue to support HB162 by contacting

  • Bob Mernsch, chair of the PA Senate, Aging and Youth , 717-787-3110 or 215-541-2388
  • LeeAnna Washington, minority chair: , 717-787-1427 or 215-242-0472
  • Kim Ward, Westmoreland County, vice chair
  • Your PA state Senator


Adult adoptees are everywhere.

They stand in line behind you in the grocery store, sit beside you at conferences, celebrate with you at concerts. It’s likely they are in your family. Perhaps you know this, and wonder about these hidden persons. Perhaps they are a family secret.

Adoptees are in my family—I have an adopted daughter and nephew. Two sisters my mother released for adoption discovered me in 2010 and 2011. They were able to make connection with me because New Hampshire and Massachusetts have open birth record laws for adult adoptees.

They lacked medical/genetic and social/cultural history for more than 60 years. The first thing I said to each of them on our first phone contact was If we never speak again, I want to provide you with your medical history.

On October 23, 2013, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed HB 162 (Benninghoff), which allows Pennsylvania-born adopted adults to obtain their original, factual, birth certificate. There were no “no” votes. It is currently currently in the PA Senate, Aging and Youth Committee.

I encourage you to support HB 162 by contacting your state senator.

If the Senate passes HB 162 it will allow Pennsylvania adult adoptees the same access to their original birth certificates as non adoptees have, and as my sisters had in New England.


Adoptees are the only people in the U.S. that are, as a class, denied the right to view their own birth certificate. This denial of “adult adopted persons access to information related to their births and adoptions has potentially serious, negative consequences with regard to their physical and mental health, according to a 2007 study written by Madelyn Freundlich, the former general counsel for the Child Welfare League of America,

Prior to 1984 things were different. Adult adoptees born in Pennsylvania could access their original birth certificates just as all non-adopted adults who were born in Pennsylvania. In 1984 this equality under law changed upon the enactment of the Adoption Act 195, which took away the right for adult adoptees to obtain their original birth certificates.

As a result Pennsylvania adoptees hold false birth certificates that state they were born to their adoptive parents. Their biological parents’ names are a state secret.


Sealed adoption records are a relic of outmoded depression-era laws created

  • to protect the adoptee, for which there was an underlying fear and stigma that the illegitimate child would be ostracized because of the mother’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy.
  • to   maintain the prerogative of adoptive parents who didn’t tell the child about the adoption and to protect the adoptive family from exposure to embarrassment due to the illegitimacy.
  • to prevent pregnant women from choosing abortion over adoption for fear their relinquished children would be able to discover their birth mothers’ names in eighteen years’ time.
  • to create an adoptive family that are indistinguishable from those formed by birth

Overriding these factors is the need for many adoptees to discover their heritage—medically and socially, and the need of many birthmothers to confirm their child’s status.


I maintain that adult adoptees have a right

  • to information needed to understand of their identities – including the identities of their birthparents and information about their births and adoption. There’s a great solace in even knowing a [birthparent’s] name.
  • to information that can provide them with family, genealogical, and medical (more…)

December 19, 2013

Selfies: A Not-So-New Concept


Movicons2-hugsandkisses(3) Hug for Ben


I once daringly drove alone all the way from southeast of Pittsburgh to the distant New England town of Presque Isle, Maine. Being 1996 it was before cell phones took pictures which could instantaneously placed on the Internet.

Someone came along to snap this photo at Wallis Sands Beach in Rye, New Hampshire

Someone came along to snap this photo at Wallis Sands Beach in Rye, New Hampshire

Fast forward to Munich, Germany, in November, 2000. My husband Monte and I were visiting my son Nolan, who was in Germany doing post-doctorate work at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. While there Monte and Nolan traveled to Prague. I opted to remain in Munich so I could investigate the city deeper than I could while railing through Europe.

Palace view near Munich, Germany

Palace view near Munich, Germany

In both cases, I was by myself. Being a paraprofessional photographer I always carried my camera with me and I always exercised my trigger finger, documenting sites and experiences wherever I was.


Because I wanted to document that I was present in the New England and Munich sites and experiences I became creative. I not only watched for persons (having a camera equal to or better than mine) to shoot photographs in which I was a subject, I discovered how to take pictures of myself by me.

Mirror reflection at a German castle

Mirror reflection at a German castle

The pictures I took of myself would, today, be referred to as selfies.


On December 12, 2013, I read an opinion piece on selfies by Nafari Vanaski: Obama not alone in our love of selfies — even at funerals:

  • U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron pose for a picture with Denmark’s Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt next to U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama during the memorial service of South African former president Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium (Soccer City) in Johannesburg on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013.

Leaving the issue of taking selfies at funerals to another post I want to address the opinions of both Bowling Green State University pop culture lecturer Matthew Donahue’s and the author, as expressed in the op-ed, on selfies.

  • Donohue: It (selfies) speaks to the 21st-century, technological-dominated society we live in…It’s another way for people to document their lives.
  • Vanaski: Photographs have been used to record historic events for a long time…Why do we have to insert ourselves into every event?…how is it not self-absorbed to (more…)

November 20, 2013

Date Rape Prevention Strips & Coasters

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONSMovicons2-hugsandkisses(3)Hug for Jordan, my 16-year-old granddaughter


I wrote this piece in 2003, but believe it is still relevant today. The drink being consumed by a woman does not have to be alcoholic. Women of any age in any setting should heed the advice in the following writing.

How can a girl protect  herself when a quick, underhanded move from a devious male slips a drug into her drink—even while she’s holding it?

  • Odorless, almost colorless, roofies or date rape drugs can be mixed in a drink without your knowledge. Perpetrators target unsuspecting victims, who become helpless once they consume the drugged drink. The amnestic effect allows the perpetrators to rob, rape, or otherwise harm the victim without the victim being able to remember exactly what happened, but the reminders can last for years.

She can do what is the difficult and impractical, because even a momentary distraction provides a perpetrator the instant he needs to sabotage her drink with physically and mentally disabling drugs such as gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB) and ketamine. She can—and must—monitor her beverage constantly.

These tasteless, colorless, odorless drugs render a woman severely impaired, even unconscious. Victims become vulnerable to sexual assaults they cannot remember, although they know something happened.

Other defenses include refusing drinks from strangers, drinking only beverages you open yourself, and using the buddy system.

Is that all a woman can do to protect herself?

Recently a business magazine article describing effective practices of new businesses informed me of another defense. The company produces a Date-Rape Drug Personal Test Kit. It includes a business-card sized test strip designed to (more…)

October 17, 2013

W-P Daily Prompt for 10/16/2013: Caregivers Deserve Commemoration



Hug for Jim



October 16 is officially declared Person X Day. The WordPress October 16, 2013, prompt asks participants to pick Person X to honor, and write about that person.

I watched as my 74-year-old mother carried a wheelchair from her house, opened the trunk to her car, and struggled to pack the good-sized wheelchair into the small space.

At 53 years old I would be considered younger and stronger, more able to do the task. Furthermore, it would be a good gesture to help.

But all I did was watch.

I had sufficient reason for just watching. My Mother knew what she was doing and how to manipulate the wheelchair into the trunk.

Furthermore, I was an 18 hour drive from home. I needed to be in good shape to continue on, and heavy lifting would jeopardize that fitness.

I think about my Mother often, about her situation. Her husband Hugh, victim of a disabling disease, was over 6 foot tall. She was just 5 foot tall, and was his caretaker.

They had moved to Presque Isle, Maine, from Buffalo, New York, over a decade earlier. A daughter lived in Maine about an hour distant, as did a granddaughter. Basically, my Mother was alone in her community. Old-fashioned pride prevented her from (more…)

August 8, 2013

The Eye of Big Brother Watches You

Filed under: COMMENTARY,OP-ED,PHOTOGRAPHY — carolyncholland @ 3:00 am



Hug for Diane C.


The Eyes Have It…

The eye of the camera is watching you, recording your actions (or inactions). You cannot escape it.


When you hear the phrase “cameras everywhere” your first thought may be of ubiquitous surveillance cameras, watching your every move on behalf of the state, private businesses and corporations.

On second thought it may conjure up the hundreds of millions of cameras, mobile and Internet connections in the hands of ordinary citizens who are filming, sharing and remixing footage — …*


That eye can come from anywhere, from places you wouldn’t suspect. It can come at any time, or all the time. It can come from the air, from (more…)

June 27, 2013

Breaking a Confidence to Protect a Friend



When is it OK to break a confidence? My teenage daughter Sandy was confronted with this dilemma when her friend was at risk in an abusive relationship.


One day, my teenage daughter Sandy sadly confessed that she had to break a friend’s confidence. Her friend, Tracy, trapped in an abusive relationship that she didn’t know how to free herself from. While sharing her difficulties with Sandy over the months Tracy always instructed Sandy not to say anything to anybody.

But the burden became too heavy for Sandy, who believed that her friend was in real danger. She reluctantly shared pertinent details of Tracy’s story with me, all the while feeling like a traitor.

As we helped Tracy out of her situation I told Tracy that Sandy felt she had betrayed her. Tracy’s response surprised us: “I told Sandy because I knew she would tell you.”

Sometimes, what someone says is the opposite of what he or she means. Abuse victims often send hidden cries for help. Identifying the real message (more…)

June 16, 2013

Father’s Day…I Have No Dad





Father’s Day.

A regular day, a day without significance for my older sister and me.

The ads for gifts were ignored, the search for the perfect tie unimportant, the drawing of cards meaningless.

What was there to celebrate? We had no father living in our home, nor did we even know who our father was.

Granted, we lived with our grandfather for my first 8 years, and when I was 11 my mother remarried, providing us with a stepfather. Neither man brought the significance of Father’s Day into our lives—I don’t recall my grandparents celebrating holidays except for Christmas, and my mother didn’t encourage our celebrating Father’s Day with our stepfather—with whom we didn’t have a positive relationship anyway.

I don’t recall feeling left out or feeling pangs of pain over the situation. It was what it was.

Father’s Day didn’t hold any significance for me until my husband and I had our first child, a daughter named Sandy. Then less than two years later we had our son, Nolan. Now Father’s Day became a day to celebrate.



There are many children like us, children who have no (more…)

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