Finding Closure

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I am really struggling with my birthday this year. Quite honestly, I am feeling such emptiness over the fact that, as a child, nobody really wanted me. I recently found out I have no legitimate birth certificate—no way to legally prove who I am. This brings up many issues, such as obtaining a passport, qualifying for social security, but even more so, it makes me feel invisible and insignificant. I find myself questioning my self-worth.

June 4th is my 55th birthday.  I thought I would ask the magic number of 55 people if they would email a letter to Oprah on the day of my birthday and describe, from their perspective, how much it would mean to finally have a voice in what last name I would like to go on my birth certificate. Julianne, my friend on Twitter, said, “I know your Twitter followers will help you in any way we can, all you have to do is ask.” At the time, I hadn’t even thought of this idea. I know from the many views I am receiving on my blog that those of you who read my blog, know my heart as well… and I thank you. My stay-strong-for-me husband even offered to write a letter.

If you decide after reading my story, one that has been personally heart-breaking to me, to send an e-mail to Oprah, you are more than welcome to copy and paste my letter below and add your thoughts.  I sincerely thank you for taking the time to show you care and to help celebrate this special birthday with me in such a meaningful way.

Dear Oprah,

I have asked my family, close friends, as well as my Twitter followers, and those who read my blog to e-mail you on my behalf on the day of my birthday. This is not about wanting to sensationalize my personal journey, but I truly need your help Oprah in finally putting an end to way too many lies, secrets, and deception that started back when I was a newborn and has continued to perpetuate itself as part of my life story.

For me, it would be the most wonderful birthday blessing if I could find resolution to a painful dilemma regarding complicated issues with my birth certificate. One lawyer offered to take my case for a retainer fee of $3,000 plus $300 an hour to try to fix the problem. I don’t have that kind of money.  It would mean the world to me if someone with legal expertise can offer their services pro bono. I’ve already had to pay dearly for others’ mistakes.  Please help me turn this around and make it about what the child in me always wanted to know—that my life mattered.

Thanks for making a positive difference in the world.

Sincerely,

JoAnne Bennett
Stories By JB

Below explains the disheartening events of my past and my recent discovery relating to my birth certificate. The truth has hurt me deeply and caused me a lot of pain, but I don’t want to allow this sadness to define who I am anymore.

My hope was that my estranged adoptive mother would tell someone the truth before she passed away this last November, but disappointedly that was not the case.

I am trying to resolve various complicated issues with my birth certificate. I was born in Reno, Nevada, on June 4, 1954. I was placed up for adoption immediately after my birth. My birth mother’s married name was Frank and my original birth certificate listed her husband, at the time of my conception, as my father.  I was listed as Baby Girl Frank.

Neither of my biological parents has ever been a part of my life. I’ve learned that my birth mother passed away when I was 8 years old, and that my birth father is an unknown; I was born out of their affair.

The couple that supposedly adopted me at birth, divorced when I was a young girl. During their marriage, his drinking escalated into domestic violence. The same judge’s signature on my birth adoption records is the one who handled their 42-page divorce decree, complete with restraining orders, only six years later. I never saw that father again.

Shortly after their divorce, my adoptive mother remarried. My new stepfather was a medical doctor and I took his last name for the remainder of my childhood. I was led to believe he had legally adopted me. When I was married and in my 30s, shockingly, he asked to adopt me. His only explanation was that he wanted to keep one of my other non-biological siblings (who also thought this dad had adopted him) from his inheritance.

After years of searching on my own for my birth certificate that my adoptive mother would only say was “missing,” I was finally able to find one on record in the State of Nevada. As it turns out, my original birth certificate had never been amended and replaced with a new one to reflect my adoptive mother and her first husband’s name, Starr, as my new parents. Petitioning a judge to unseal my birth adoption records, I was left with many more questions with respect to my so-called adoption, which was far from being aboveboard.

My adoption paperwork had been conveniently sealed with one of my non-biological sibling’s adoption documents. It appears that my incomplete adoption was deliberately hidden all those years in the courts. How could the Child’s Services Department of Nevada be protecting my welfare when my file is empty?  Astonishingly enough, I had been placed with an adoptive father who had serious alcohol problems and an abusive adoptive mother who admitted, as if it was an afterthought years later, “I couldn’t love a child that was not my own.”

Over 17 years ago, I pleaded with my medical-doctor father, for answers as to the many dishonest inconsistencies involving my past, and he said, “I thought my inheritance would be more important than the truth.”

I replied, “You must not know me very well,” and walked away. Needless to say, I lost out on much more than his inheritance, with his lack of respect and all those years of deception.

What has been so difficult is the fact that there have been court records about me in three different states that I’ve lived in. I cannot find a name change for my medical-doctor father’s last name, or any amended child-custody records for me from my adoptive mother’s first marriage to Starr.

I have been able to locate my sealed adult adoption papers in the courts, relating to my adoptive mother’s remarriage and her medical-doctor husband. These sealed adult adoption documents contain two conflicting copies. Obviously, the original petition had been amended by someone who corrected a false statement that I had always been my adoptive mother and medical-doctor father’s child since my adoption at birth. But still, the changes were inaccurate; there is no mention of my first adoptive father (Starr), and it just noted that my adoptive mother went by a different last name of Starr at the time I was adopted.

When I was18 years old, my adoptive mother mentioned that my first adoptive-father had passed away and that I would be receiving his Social Security benefits while I was still attending college or until I turned a certain age, but I never received any government checks.  When I spoke with Social Security for some clarification about this issue, they said the checks had been going to an unknown address, which is highly unusual.  They also confirmed to me years after the fact that the checks were made out only to the first initial of my name, “J.” with the medical doctor’s last name.  Coincidently, my first initial “J” is the same first initial of my first adoptive-father Starr’s only biological child. His son was too old to receive his dad’s benefits. What was my adoptive mother telling the many schools I attended, DMV, Social Security, or other government agencies what my “real” last name was?  Were there also child support checks arriving from my first adoptive-father Starr to that same unknown address?  I can only assume my adoptive mother was determined to soak every penny from my first adoptive-father Starr’s measly salary as a painter, while she lived a pampered, rich life married to a medical doctor. Sometimes I wonder who really lost out in the end, if she did indeed make a flawed human being suffering from alcoholism pay for his mistakes.

Recently, I contacted the courts in Oregon once more to see if they knew why my adult adoption had no reference to any birth certificate being amended to reflect my adoptive mother and her medical-doctor husband’s last name. It was suggested that I petition the judge again to open up my adult adoption documents and explain that I needed the paperwork for my amended birth certificate.

Sensing how emotionally fragile I was feeling over this issue, the judge’s secretary called me to say, “I don’t want there to be any more pain in your heart, but your adult adoption documents make no mention of any birth certificate.” She made a personal phone call to me because she didn’t want me to waste a trip back to the courthouse for nothing. At that moment, I felt defeated and alone. Reality had sunk in; I would have to fix this tough predicament at my own expense.

The sealed documents for my adult adoption are also incomplete; there is no reference to a new birth certificate being ordered for me that would supersede my supposedly “lost” original birth certificate from Nevada. In other words, my birth certificate on record still lists me as only my birth mother’s child—the anonymous: Baby Girl Frank.

All the parties that may have had any knowledge of the facts are deceased and unfortunately, while living, many of the individuals were not willing to share the truth with me. I did have a brief phone conversation with the man who was my pediatrician from birth through age six. He is also the pediatrician listed on my birth mother’s hospital records. Over 30 years later, this man still knew who I was—and even knew me by my married name. He spoke to me reluctantly and defensively, saying only, “I knew your adoptive dad was an alcoholic; I had nothing to do with your adoption, give your adoptive mother my love.”

My hospital records at birth show that I was discharged to the doctor who delivered me, which suggests that he knew both my birth mother and adoptive mother. It stands to reason that this man had knowledge of the circumstances of my birth and could fill in the missing facts about my birth certificate and adoption. However, when I contacted him, although he appeared cordial to me, he was guarded and less than straightforward in answering any of my questions.

To add to my frustration, my adoptive mother had inadvertently implied that this doctor knew the circumstances behind my “lost” birth certificate back when I first needed one to get a driver’s license in high school. She had nonchalantly said, “I tried to contact the doctor who delivered you to get a copy of your birth certificate, but he’s deceased. I will go in and talk to DMV.” As I recall, my adoptive mother came back with some kind of official-looking affidavit stating I went by her second husband, my medical-doctor father’s last name. She even offered to handle it herself when Social Security sent me a letter after my marriage, basically stating, “Who are you? We don’t have you listed under the names you provided.” As a teenager, I didn’t question what an obstetrician would have to do with my birth certificate, and at the time, I didn’t even know it was lost. Can you imagine how baffled I was, years later, to learn that this doctor was still very much alive?

All I want to do is amend my original birth certificate from Baby Girl Frank to JoAnne Frank, and leave the name of my biological father blank. I have a blood test to prove the man listed on my original birth certificate is not my biological father. My heartfelt desire is to also have the adult adoption records voided.

I am very concerned about the new laws in Oregon relating to the DMV. They require a valid birth certificate to renew your driver’s license. I foresee having problems in the future proving legally who I am. As it stands now, obtaining a passport or qualifying for future Social Security is certain to be difficult without a legitimate birth certificate.

As I am sure you can understand, I need to find closure to these difficult chapters of my life. I am still at a loss as to why my adoptive mother and my medical-doctor father did not take the time to straighten out the issues with my “lost” birth certificate, especially when they had the financial means to easily do this.

Author: JoAnne

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18 Comments

  1. I would be honored to pop a note off to Oprah, and anyone else I can think of. This is just gobbling you up like pac-man.
    Even tho you have had an interesting journey, your life is not yet comlete.
    I am very proud of you for doing this. You are a survivor just like me :~)

  2. Hey Bestest,
    It is my pleasure to have sent an email on your behalf. You are a terrific and incredibly sweet person with a beautiful heart. You deserve the best life can offer. Our friendship, and you my friend, are priceless. Remember that the true definition of who we are rests not in our relationship with our parents…but inour relationship with God.
    Love,
    Val

  3. JoAnne,

    I’ll do this today. It takes courage to put your story out here, and I think this is an excellent idea. Your story tugged at my heartstrings when you first shared it with me, and now that you’ve written this public post, I’m praying that you’ll receive support and encouragement in a new direction. I’m very interested in hearing how Oprah responds.

    My best to you, friend. Hang in there.

  4. JoAnne, You know I will certainly do this for you. Count me in for “Finding JoAnne”! All that has made up your life is who God has shaped you to be. You are unique and precious to the Lord and all of us who know you. We know and love you just as you are! May you have a very blessed birthday!

  5. I’m writing a letter to Oprah today fo SHO!!!!! I am so helping you with this!! 😉

  6. I’m sending a letter to Oprah also, JoAnne. Remember that you are God’s child and dearly loved, no matter what the circumstances are in your own birth and family situation. I’m praying for the Lord to help you to find the closure you need.

  7. JoAnn – post this to the storyofmylife.com site too – tons of readers there that will see and help you too 🙂

  8. Please add me to the list of 55 who will e-mail Oprah on June 4, 2009 and accept my best wishes in your quest.

  9. JoAnne,
    Very well stated, all of this that you continue to toil with. But I am so proud of your determination. I will email Oprah also! What a great idea. I really hope someone comes forward to help you out. Your friend,
    Roz

  10. JoAnne,
    I will send an email today. God Bless you and remember how many people you mean the world to and love you dearly.

    xoxo

  11. JoAnne, I had no idea of your story. Blessings on you in correcting all these issues. I can’t begin to imagine the emotional toil on you. May your birth certificate problems be fixed for all the legal reasons you’ve mentioned. As for your heart–regardless of what your birth certificate says, your worth before God stands. He knows who you are and loves you.

  12. I’m sorry for your pain and your emptiness for the mistakes that have gone so long in shame and possible remorse that they seem impossible to fix. For all that you’ve endured, you are who you are because of it. Wishing you were you, without all the pain but God makes no mistakes. Along your path, you have certainly touched, healed or helped someone through your openness, your forgiving heart or your faith. Your Father is heaven is loving you, holding you and guiding you through this life. That you hold steadfast to him is the greatest victory you will ever have! Your life is important , your life matters and your life should be celebrated this coming week, for the unique, strong and beautiful person that you are! A piece of paper validates the dates and times but it could never possibly create the person that God would have you to be! You are a testament to strength , unrelenting love and endurance. Don’t let the past keep you there, see it, feel it, and leave it where it belongs. Happy Birthday precious one!

  13. I’m just guessing but it sounds like the obstetrician may be your biological father. Do you have a way to match your DNA to his? There must be medical records that can be accessed. Have you thought of contacting a psychic to ask your deceased parents in the afterlife?

  14. JoAnne-

    You know you have all of our love and support in your quest. I know you know you are a child of God, no matter what, but I hope you uncover the secrets and discover peace with what you find.

    Liberty

  15. Hey friend,
    I would be glad to do so. you have touched my heart as always. You writing always gives me a chance to look at my life and be thankful for the many things God gave me and I dont usually appreciate and take for granted. I will pray to God that your prayers will be answered and you can finally achieve closure.
    Love,
    Helen

  16. Dear Oprah,
    A couple of months ago, I started my own blog http://www.hushpen.com where I wrote my sorrows and pains. Through this blog, I got the chance to know a great person who has touched my heart and was able to show me how appreciative I should be. This person has suffered a lot in this life and endured all by her strength of faith and I am glad to have become her friend. Every time I read some of her own posts on her blog, tears come down and I feel so lucky to have her in my life to show me all the love I have. Today I have come across one of her posts and found something that is addressed to you. This person really deserves to have a closure in her life and a special gift for her birthday. Hereunder is her post:
    Dear Oprah,

    I have asked my family, close friends, as well as my Twitter followers, and those who read my blog to e-mail you on my behalf on the day of my birthday. This is not about wanting to sensationalize my personal journey, but I truly need your help Oprah in finally putting an end to way too many lies, secrets, and deception that started back when I was a newborn and has continued to perpetuate itself as part of my life story.

    For me, it would be the most wonderful birthday blessing if I could find resolution to a painful dilemma regarding complicated issues with my birth certificate. One lawyer offered to take my case for a retainer fee of $3,000 plus $300 an hour to try to fix the problem. I don’t have that kind of money. It would mean the world to me if someone with legal expertise can offer their services pro bono. I’ve already had to pay dearly for others’ mistakes. Please help me turn this around and make it about what the child in me always wanted to know—that my life mattered.

    Thanks for making a positive difference in the world.

    Sincerely,

    JoAnne Bennett
    Stories By JB

    You can take a look on how sweet and great this person is through her blog http://storiesbyjb.com/ and I would be so happy if you were able to help her.
    sincerely,
    Helen Haddad

  17. JoAnne,

    Just wanted to let you know that I am preparing my Oprah letter to send off tomorrow on your special day. Know that we all love you soooooo much. Thanks for letting me be a part in your quest.

    Tracy

  18. Hope you had a wonderful birthday, JoAnne, and that all our letters to Oprah will bring about some help for you! Sending you much love always!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Will you write a letter to Oprah for my friend JoAnne? Read about her story here: http://storiesbyjb.com/?p=308 Oprha’s email also in post! | Celebrity News Feed - [...] under Twitter Will you write a letter to Oprah for my friend JoAnne? Read about her story here: http://storiesbyjb.com/?p=308…
  2. @tenderheartjb Just read your latest post! I am so writing a letter to Oprah!!! http://storiesbyjb.com/?p=308 | Celebrity News Feed - [...] 2009, under Twitter @tenderheartjb Just read your latest post! I am so writing a letter to Oprah!!! http://storiesbyjb.com/?p=308 Go…
  3. @Oprah Love your show. Here’s a suggestion for an upcoming show :-) http://storiesbyjb.com/?p=308 Have a wonderful weekend. | Celebrity News Feed - [...] May.29, 2009, under Twitter @Oprah Love your show. Here’s a suggestion for an upcoming show http://storiesbyjb.com/?p=308 Have a…

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