DMV Responds Quickly to Adoptive Families

Yesterday, I wrote about an unfortunate situation at the Department of Motor Vehicles. To recap, the Oregon driver application form required me to identify myself via checkbox as my daughter’s “adoptive parent” which then caused confusion for the DMV employee about whether we would be required to provide proof of adoption before Abby would be allowed to receive her driver’s permit.

The situation was frustrating and disheartening. As I said yesterday, “on a day we should be only celebrating a right of passage, high-fiving and waving that permit in the air, whooping and hollering for her success, I had to defend my right to act as my daughter’s mother. And Abby had to watch.” You can read the original post here.

I realized – reluctantly, I admit – that I needed to do something to work toward changing the form. Reluctantly because OH MY WORD, the BUREAUCRACY, right? And THE GOVERNMENT. And NO ONE WILL CARE. And THE RED TAPE. And IT WILL TAKE FOREVER.

But I knew this was my battle. Something I needed to fix. Because it may seem like a tiny thing, an insensitive checkbox on a form, but I couldn’t stomach the idea that adoptees would show up for a day that’s supposed to feel fantastic and leave with a lump in their gut, instead. At an age when we all question who we are and how we fit in and where we belong in this crazy, mixed-up, awesome world, I needed to do my small part to make getting a driver’s permit just… happy.

This morning, I sighed a giant self-pitying sigh and picked up the phone to call the DMV administrator’s office. (Thanks for finding me that number, Denise!) Of course, I knew I’d have to wait on hold for 47 years before being shuffled from person to person and then accidentally disconnected at which point I’d have to start over, so I was prepared. The kids were all in front of screens with mountains of snacks and strict instructions to let me finish talking on the phone, “Even if I’m on the phone for a long time, OK?” So I braced myself and dialed… and got right through to Kristin, the DMV administrator’s assistant, who was – get this – professional, personable, and eager to help.

Huh. Alright.

Her boss wasn’t in the office, Kristin explained, but I would be more quickly served by talking to the policy analysts and form writers, anyway. Could she get ahold of them for me and have them call me right back?

Um, yes, please.

And then, guess what? Kristin got ahold of them and they called me right back.

I KNOW. It was a total bummer, you guys, because then I had to confront my own prejudice about how I thought this was going to go down and about how I think government agencies work and about how I depersonalize the people who work there.

Becky called me from the DMV this afternoon. She coordinates the provisional licensing program in Oregon, and she got right to the point. There’s no reason to differentiate adoptive and biological parents on the driver’s application, she said. We should never have been questioned about my status as Abby’s mom. Upon the next printing, they will change the form to eliminate separate boxes for legal parents. She will update me when that happens. And she’s sending a memo to all Oregon DMV’s to ensure this doesn’t happen to other adoptive families while we’re waiting for the current forms to run out.


Becky, you’re RAD.

And Oregon DMV? You folks earned this title: DMV Responds Quickly to Adoptive Families. Thank you.

Here, to recap what just happened – you know, in a more figurative sense – is my son Cael at age 3.

It’th pee and poop.
It’th pee and poop.
It’th pee AND poop.
It’th pee and pooooop.
Now dis is de HAND washing.
And now dis is de SOAP.
QUAHhhhhK. Psssshhhhhh.
Now we’re all cwean! 

OK, obviously I’m kidding when I compare a potty video with this situation. Except, of course, I’m kind of not. ‘Cause although everyone’s intentions were good, it was just a great big mess, right? Pee AND poop. But life is like that. Full of messes caused by people with good hearts who mean well. It’s OK, though. It stinks, yes, but it’s OK. We looked at it. We identified it. We called it what it was — a pile of crap. And then we flushed it away. Purged it. Cleaned it. And we did it together. Abby, me, you, the woman across the counter at the DMV, Kristin, and Becky. Together. Because that’s what community is. That’s what community does.

So, in the words of my wise, wise son,

Now let’s DRIVE AGAIN!

photo (74)


Please join me in thanking the DMV for their swift, honest, compassionate response.




I just received a response from Becky in writing. I thought you all might like to see it, too. Here it is!


I have contacted our field services section and informed them of your situation. It will be discussed at a meeting next week at a higher level (Customer Service Coordinators) and the reminder to NOT request documentation for adoptive parents will then be dispersed to the offices. The individual offices typically get their information through a standing weekly meeting. This would just be a reminder as our current policy already states to NOT ask for proof. As we discussed on the phone, I somehow think the new checkbox threw the employee off and made her question whether she had maybe missed a new requirement. Not an excuse, but I am thankful she was polite about it.

As for the Driver License Application form: it looks like that will be up for revisions in about a month, at which time I will combine the two parent boxes to one box “BIOLOGICAL or ADOPTIVE PARENT” and LEGAL GUARDIAN will be the second box. It will go through a review process that takes a little while, but the timing is perfect to get this done sooner rather than later. As we talked about on the phone, checking the LEGAL GUARDIAN box is the indicator for an employee to ask for proof and the boxes help eliminate unneeded questioning if used properly.

I apologize for any discomfort the situation may have caused you or your daughter.  Thank you for the opportunity to discuss this and make a positive change. I appreciated that you thought to propose a reasonable solution-certainly made my job easy!

I will do my best to let you know  when the application is revised. I’m guessing a couple months. You can always check online for the most current version of the form at:

I took a look at your blog and noticed what looks like a tasty scone recipe. I might need to try that!

Feel free to contact me if you need further information.

Thanks again,
Becky Renninger
Oregon DMV, Driver Programs
Operations and Policy Analyst
Provisional Licensing Program

ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
  1. One other small sticking point for me is this – “I will combine the two parent boxes to one box “BIOLOGICAL or ADOPTIVE PARENT”

    Why not just “parent”?? A small thing in the grand scheme of things but why not get it right if they are re-doing the forms anyway?

    Well done on your win.

    1. I’m thinking that might just be a legal thing. You could have kidnapped a baby and acted as that child’s parent without being either the biological or adoptive parent, in which case you would have to lie in order to check that box, which would be on you and the DMV would be off the hook, having asked. That would be my guess.

  2. Yay! And I even forgive DMV for cutting our lunch short…ha! THANK YOU! On behalf of Jasmine, that is one thing we won’t be questioned for in just 12 short years. You are my hero! Can I be like you when I grow up!

  3. I’ve worked for the state for a few years in a couple of different agencies, and honestly, I think Oregon state employees do a pretty good job of helping people when we can. Most of us took these jobs to help people, after all. 🙂 I’m so glad you took the initiative to call. Sometimes it can be hard to get things changed, but when members of the public ask for things, it really gives us ammunition and makes it easier to push things through.

  4. I am shocked! And pleased. And shocked! I can’t believe you got this handled so fast and efficiently. What the heck? It’s wonderful and funny and oh-so vindicating. Love it!

  5. Fantastic! Hooray! Beth, you’re RAD! And Becky is RAD!


  6. What I most love is that you were proactive, and you were honest. Becky is my sister, and she is an amazing sister, mom, wife, aunt, gramma, friend, co-worker and yes, DMV worker! She gets to fix problems of angry people. And even though she does that, she is still warm, compassionate and loving. I don’t like waiting in line, getting put on hold or hearing stupid answers any more than any one of you. But I also know that service workers are moms and wives and children and aunts and friends and…sisters. It’s nice to have a reminder that the people we talk to on the phone go home after work and fix dinner and take care of sick kids….just like all of us. I agree…Becky Rocks! 😉

    1. Thanks for taking the time to write this, Jerilyne. It’s oh-so-important to remember that the people we talk to every day are PEOPLE. Your response was just lovely. Thank you. (Except for making me CRY! **shakes fist** ;))

      1. Other “funny” note: My husband is Chinese, so my kids are a mix of Asian/Caucasian. I got the opposite of your adoptive stories!! People always thought I adopted, asked me where my kids came from, even got stopped at a border and questioned in spite of having valid passports. We make so many assumptions about life situations, but at heart, we moms just want to hug our babies, keep them tight under our wings and SOCK anyone who dares question our position and devotion!

        1. I’m am SO with you on this, Beth. We have five bio kids and three adopted. Makes me infuriated if I’m questioned! “Parent” or Guardian”-the only adult choices that need to be distinguished.

          You go, Girl! OORAH!

  7. I’m so glad to hear how helpful the DMV was with the situation.

    (I’m curious, in the revised form, why even put biological or adoptive parent? Why not just parent?)

    Congratulations on the new permit in the house!

  8. As a Oregon Mom to 5 adopted kids, THANK YOU! I saw this when I went in with my bio son who just took the test on July 30. I questioned the Gresham DMV gal and she was downright rude. But I didnt do anything about it, besides be upset. You did something. I cant say thank you enough. And next time I will act instead of be upset.

  9. Oh, and you should have been with me as a new parent, 13 month old son to the Social Security Office to get his SS card after his adoption was final. I showed up with my identification and his birth certificate listing us as his parents. (The second copy of his birth certificate since we had had to RETURN because they had information wrong on it!) They treated me like a criminal. Like I had STOLEN my son! I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised if they had called the cops and tried to have me arrested. After enduring over a year of one of those “Lifetime Movie” adoptions from hell, this was supposed to be a wonderful, happy day! If I had known then what I know now, I would have raised hell and been on the phone to the SS Administration higher ups, but back then, so traumatized from our adoption from hell, I was too afraid to make waves.

  10. I think you ALL rock, but I would like to suggest that it needs to be changed to be:
    Legal Parent
    Legal Guardian

    Why are we still adding an adoptive qualifier? Even if we aren’t giving the information as to whether our children were adopted, we are still differentiating between adoptive parents and parents. All parents, bio or adopted, are legal parents, so lets just lump them all together in the Legal Parent category.

  11. Might I suggest one step further and change “BIOLOGICAL or ADOPTIVE PARENT” to just plain old “PARENT.”

  12. It should simply say “parent.” There’s no point in differentiating between biological and adoptive parents. Thanks for helping to correct a stupidity.

  13. Well Done Beth!

    Add another star to your I’m-Super-woman-so-don’t-freakin-mess-with-me-or-my-kids cape! Oh and add another for keeping the kids quiet for the whole conversation!


  14. I’m stunned. Speechless. This is awesome.

  15. Wonderful news! Thank you for dealing with this situation head-on and then for telling us how responsive the DMV was. As Meghan said, it will definitely help someday when I am dealing with some other frustration there or at some other governmental agency. As for now, I’m sitting here smiling in an empty living room, just because it feels good to know that the right thing happened!

  16. Incredible job Oregon DMV! Nice to hear such a fast and positive response in the midst of so many govt agencies that don’t seem to care about hurting people.

  17. So great that they were so responsive! I’m sorry you had that experience, but happy you did so no one else has to!

  18. Way to go Kristen, Becky and YOU!!!!

  19. You did well. Well done for going the extra mile and sorting this out, and for encouraging me by being brave enough to just clean up the pee and poop.

  20. As my Nanny would always say, “Hot damn and hallelujah!”

    1. Oh, I love Hot Damn and Halelujah! My Grandpa always used to say, “Oh, shit. Oh, dear.” I like your Nanny’s quote better. Also, it will look better on a tombstone. We had to opt out of Grandpa’s saying on his lest we offend folks visiting the cemetery. No worries, though; we still make sure we say it as often as possible to commemorate him. 😉

  21. The Oregon DMV ROCKS!

  22. But I’m not done being rageful! I hate when that happens. At whom will my eyes roll if people are going to be all HELPFUL and such? Bad news for whiners is good news for everybody else (and I am only pretending to be a whiner). Think of how many ants you have removed from the picnic day of getting your permit? All of them! For future kids who don’t even know, like most kids don’t, that good mammas everywhere are watching out for them always. It is a new superpower! You have stopped tears and gut lumps that haven’t even happened yet.

    1. Um, clarifying… what I meant by whiner is someone who would want to continue being angry even after the problem has been swiftly, kindly and intelligently resolved. It isn’t speaking of the original justifiable complaint. That wasn’t whining. That was righting a wrong.

  23. Holy crap! Seriously? That’s amazing, and I’ll definitely keep thinking about it the next time I have to wait at the DMV 🙂 THANK YOU DMV and THANK YOU Beth for calling. You saved my family from a potentially difficult situation in the future!

  24. DMV rocks! Becky at the DMV rules!

    That’s all I got today . . .

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