excerpted below were just a few of the numerous adoptee affidavits
filed in the case of ALMA et al v. Lefkowitz et al, a 1977
class action suit that challenged the constitutionality of the New
York adoption records law. ALMA, the Adoptees’ Liberty Movement
Association, was a reform organization founded by Florence Fisher
in 1971. Although ALMA pursued a bold legal strategy that emphasized
the rights of adoptees to equal protection before the law, most
of the adoption narratives
emphasized themes of long-term emotional damage rooted in the trauma
of telling, the stigma of illegitimacy,
traceable to the fact that sealed records denied adoptees fundamental
knowledge about their backgrounds and identities. The lawsuit did
Now comes ROBERTA BLACKER VAN LAVEN, nee GLORIA JOYCE GALLUB. . . .
1. According to my altered certificate of birth, I was born on
May 9, 1934, on Staten Island, at the Staten Island Hospital (which
has since been closed). On November 13, 1940, the Honorable Leone
D. Howell, Surrogate's Court, Nassau County, at Mineola, New York,
signed an order of adoption whereby I was adopted by George Blacker
and Helen (Sherman) Blacker. The order of adoption shows that my
name at birth was Gloria Joyce Gallub. My adoption was handled by
the Louise Wise Agency (formerly the Free Synagogue Adoption Service).
I entered my adoptive home at the age of five, after a period in
two foster homes. I recollect appearing in court at the hearing
of my adoption proceeding.
2. Although I cannot remember being specifically told never to
mention my adoptive status, I quickly became aware that this was
a forbidden subject, never to be mentioned. I believe that my personality
was damaged by the trauma of adoption at the age of five, for I
was made to deny my prior existence by secrecy and evasion. In addition,
I believe it had a profound effect on my ability to mother and nurture
my own daughter, now nineteen. I have lived most of my life with
a feeling of being an outsider. I am detached, cold, unemotional.
I believe my intellectual and professional attainments have been
limited by a persistently faulty memory, since I learned at the
age of five that to be loved and accepted I must learn to forget
3. My actual search for the past did not finally begin until I
was nearly thirty. . . .
5. Having finally unburdened this heinous secret to a psychiatrist,
I was then able to reveal it at last to my husband of ten years.
He was shocked beyond belief—not at the fact of adoption,
but at the fact of my secrecy. Surely, our marriage suffered damage
at this time. But later, with his encouragement, we set about to
find my past. . . .
6. We went to Louise Wise in 1966, and spoke to Barbara Miller.
There we were met with hardened attitudes and evasions from social
workers with pretentions to wisdom and omnipotence; they in their
professionalism denied us information which they had. . . .
* * *
Now comes JOYCE AARON, a/k/a JOYCE ANN FUNK. . . .
1. According to information given to me by a clerk
at the Louise Wise Agency, I was born on December 14, 1935, in the
Bronx. About six months after my birth, I was adopted by Aaron Joel
Funk and Bobbie (Greenwald) Funk, who were living at the time in
the Bronx. My adoptive father died in 1966; my adoptive mother is
still living. My father was a lawyer and he had my adoption papers.
Since his death I have thus far not been able to locate them.
2. I was first informed that I was adopted at the
age of four. At that and later times, when I asked what happened
to my actual parents, I was given conflicting stories, which led
me to suppose that my adoptive parents were attempting to conceal
from me that I was illegitimate. I was very much affected by this
information, and by my adoptive parents' obvious anxiety about my
inquiries, and I began to fantasize about my natural mother, to
the extent that when I would observe a woman on the street with
similar facial features, I would surmise that she must be my mother.
3. I became severely emotionally disturbed as a result
of lack of knowledge of my origins and true identity, compounded
by the attitude of my adoptive parents, and, at the age of fifteen,
I began psychiatric treatment. I am now forty-one, and of the twenty-six
years since I started psychoanalysis, I have spent about fifteen
in analysis. My weekly schedule of hourly appointments with the
analyst has varied between two and five times per week. During the
periods I have been in analysis, I have spent many thousands of
dollars on this treatment. It has helped me to some extent, but,
in the end, my analysts have told me that it cannot fill the void,
the emptiness, created by my lack of knowledge of my origins and
personal identity. . . .
8. What I have suffered from all my life is the lack
of knowledge of my origins and identity. I believe that the record
should be unsealed and opened to me. I am not afraid of what I may
find in investigating my origins. Nothing that I might find could
be worse than the unknown. . . .
* * *
Now comes ELEANOR B. BARRON. . . .
1. According to my original birth certificate, I was
born on January 29, 1923, at the Lying-In Hospital in Manhattan.
My natural parents were Stanley Weiser and Evelyn Simon. I obtained
my original birth certificate in May 1971 as a result of my search.
According to information I obtained from the Louise Wise Agency,
I was adopted within a year of my birth by Andrew V. Bekay and Blanche
(Offer) Bekay, who were living at that time in Brooklyn.
2. My adoptive parents never told me that I had been
adopted. At about the age of seven, I found in a drawer an envelope
with the words written on it: “Eleanor's Adoption Papers.”
Inside I found papers, one of which indicated that my original name
had been Geraldine Simon. . . . When I made this
discovery, I was alone in the house. When my adoptive mother returned,
I asked her what these papers meant. She became hysterical and said,
“Never tell your father! If you do, I will commit suicide
and you will have that on your conscience!” I was never able
to discuss my adoption with my adoptive mother. Each time I tried,
she would threaten me again. I did not discuss my adoptive status
with my adoptive father until my mother was dying, about ten years
ago. When I mentioned this to him, he told me, “That must
be why I could never find your adoption papers. Your mother must
have thrown them out. I always thought you knew.” Nevertheless,
he proceeded to tell me that all their relatives and friends had
been sworn to secrecy (i.e., not to tell me). It was then that I
began to understand why all these relatives and friends had always
seemed uncomfortable with me: evidently, they were afraid they might
slip up and tell me.
3. From the time I discovered those papers onward,
life was never the same. The relationship between my adoptive parents
and myself was always very strained. . . .
5. Since my mother had impressed me that the consequences
of my revealing my adoptive status to family or friends would be
so terrible, I concluded that adoption must be a terrible disgrace,
and this has colored my thinking about myself ever since. . . .