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. I am an adopted child. The only people I know that are blood related to me are my own two children.
    I’m THRILLED with the prospect that this wont be an issue for so many adopted kids I know. I asked my mom if she had to answer that question, and how it could be relevant because HER NAME IS ON MY BIRTH CERTIFICATE. Really DMV?
    My mom couldn’t remember. Its been so long ago and she’s senile (so joking here) But she didn’t remember. Its been over 20 years.

    YAY FOR THE OREGON DMV!!!! =) (yes, I’m an Oregonian)

    and YAY for ADOPTION!!!!

  2. Wow Beth! Great work. Thank you for taking the time to help all adoptive families. And thank you DMV for the quick response. 🙂

  3. Becky,

    You stood up for all adoptive kids and adoptive parents out there that this is one area that DMV does not need to know how our families were created.

    My mom before me, did not give birth to a child, but rather adopted one, she is no way as well as me to my children any more different then a biological parent. In the eyes of the law we are the same. My children no me as mom, nothing different. The term well they are my adoptive parent does not exist in our family.

    We don’t walk around saying oh she is my adoptive child, or she is my adoptive parent. It is just she is my daughter, and she is my mom. Nothing different.

    I am so proud that you took action to change something that means so much to all of us!

    From an adoptee and an adoptive parent I can say thank you!

  4. Wow, nice work! Thanks for making this process easier for Michael in 12 years. 🙂

  5. Wow! I’m impressed and happy for you!

  6. Great Job! and congratulations! I was on the phone with my DHR today fighting over something that a first grader could understand, but the person who writes the checks in our state capital could not. Hope I get answers soon too!

  7. YES!!! Thank you for standing your ground and standing up for your daughter. There really shouldn’t be “biological or adoptive parent” on a DMV form anywhere. What is the point? Is my daughter going to do any better on her test if I am her biological mom instead? Simply ludicrous!!! Had to chuckle on that one.

  8. I saw RED when I read your story. I couldn’t believe it. I am so glad you followed through – and HURRAY to Oregon DMV for getting that changed – and fairly quickly, considering the usual governmental malarkey.

    I don’t see why they still need bio/adoptive on the form. “Parent” would have sufficed. Ah well, at least they’ve changed the major bit, although doubt they really ‘get it’.

    Happy driving and I thought the video of pee and poo adorable.

  9. Agree with others: No reason to distinguish between biological vs. adoptive, just go with “parent”. Other than that, super story!

    Way to go!!

  10. AWESOME! What great news. I am so glad bringing this to light made a huge change. Thank you for sharing!

  11. You rock and Becky at the DMV rocks!!!!!

  12. As an adopted person, the original post really hit me. It still hurts to see that adoption is treated like legal guardianship (I was incredibly happy to see the DMV making changes, but the fact that it existed in the first place royally stinks). I struggled a lot as a kid and was ostracized from a lot of groups (at school, my mom’s family) because I was adopted and “not real.” I went to a private Catholic elementary school and there were parents who told their kids not to play with me because I was adopted. Because I was born out of wedlock, I was told I was never going to heaven and that I didn’t belong here. My parents never really knew this was happening, but it had a severe effect on me that still exists now, even though I am an adult with my own kids. I love this blog because it helped me see that there are parents who embrace the fact that they have adopted kids and just call them kids. My grandparents always referred to me as their “adopted grandchild” so I never felt like I fit in, I was just the kid that they paid for.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story, Sarah. For anyone wondering why a checkbox at the DMV is a big deal, your experience highlights how essential it is to change these things. I’m so sorry for the ways you were isolated and made to feel different and apart. That breaks my heart. Every child deserves to know they are truly, deeply loved, wanted and accepted. xo

  13. Why does it have to say biological/adoptive parent? Why doesn’t it just say Parent or Legal Guardian? Still seems like the differentiation is there, Just moved…

  14. What a great story and Kudos to DMV for responding in such a fair and compassionate way!

    As a single adoptive mom I do know sometimes they have to differentiate with adoptive because otherwise the other parent must sign off. I had to show my adoptive paperwork for both my daughter’s drivers permit and her passport but that is only because I was a single mom when I adopted her from foster care and I had to provide evidence that I did not need some other parent’s authorization. I remember that being a sticky situation to prove and not fun for either of us.

  15. Good for you for standing up for something that may seem small, but is certainly a big deal! And kudos to the Oregon DMV for stepping up to the plate and responding swiftly. Applause all around!

  16. As an Oregon adoptive parent who experienced this with my son nearly 7 years ago, THANK YOU! I attempted that call with DMV and was given the runaround. I’m glad you have made a difference!

  17. HIP HIP HOORAY!!!!!!!!!! And I love the way you went about handling this Beth. Nice work all the way around. Celebrating with you.

  18. I am glad you got such a positive and quick response from the DMV. Not everyone is inclined toward activism but for those who are, I say “hooray!” I hope maybe I can entice you to get involved in adoption activism that surrounds other aspects of adoptee equality 🙂 Maybe you already are (this is my first time to your blog, a friend/reader referred me) and if so, that’s awesome!

    Adoptees in the U.S. have been trying to fix the laws in most states that treat adoptees differently when they attempt to access the birth record that they were born with. Most states make us petition a judge, ask our original parents for permission, go through counseling, or make us sign “contact vetoes” (these are essentially restraining orders which can carry criminal and civil penalties) just to see the birth record we were born with…something no other person is barred from seeing regardless of their family type.

    Many adoptees need their original birth record to fulfill passport, driver’s licenses, and job security requirements, to access tribal membership and benefits, among other things. Yes–you heard that right–there are adoptees in the U.S. who are not allowed to have passports, driver’s licenses, or certain types of jobs…..for the sole reason that they were adopted as children.

    In early 2000, Oregon responded to activism from the adoption community and restored the right of adoptees to access the birth record they were born with the same as all others do. I would have hoped that this meant no DMV problems for adoptees but clearly there is more work to be done. I am glad you confronted the DMV and I hope they follow through with the awareness you’ve raised!

    Another issue close to my heart is that some adoptees do not have an opportunity for equal citizenship in the U.S. due to loopholes in the Child Citizenship Act of 2000. Because they did not receive citizenship as children, some adult adoptees have been deported or are pending deportation. There is an amendment now to halt the deportation of these adult adoptees and to give them citizenship but it is going so slowly and needs exposure.

    There are so many instances, both socially and legally, where youth and adult adoptees are delineated from other people as though there is something wrong with them (or I should say “us,” I am an adopted person too!). I am always delighted to see adoptive families working to end these injustices.

    Congrats to Abby on this milestone! I still remember my driver’s license/permit tests.

    1. Thanks for writing this important message, Amanda. I want to be sure our community knows they can go to your website — — for more information. xo

  19. I’ve found this thread through a facebook post and just have to give it one more fist pump!!! We struggle with government agancies through other circumstances and it is so hard NOT to lump them into the “hideous” category. Thanks for honestly reporting the situation from BOTH sides and reminding us that their is much to appreciate in our government system.

  20. I work in a Government agency, and I’m often the guy who makes or changes the forms. Most of those forms just carry on from year to year, and no one really pays attention to whether a piece of info is still relevant or not. There’s a whole lot to to keep track of, and it saves a lot of time and trouble to just grab last year’s form, change the date, and get to the next project.

    When they are filled out, we only look at the stuff that’s relevant to US and ignore the rest. And if nobody complains, we won’t notice it’s even there.

    We’re usually glad to change things that need to be changed, because most of this job is tedious and lousy, and actually helping people occasionally is the only pleasant thing we do and the only thing that makes us feel good about what we do.

    That question was on that form because some jerk – who no longer even works there – thought it was important 30 years ago. That’s all.

    I’m glad it was a reasonably pleasant resolution.

  21. Wow. We have 3 bio and 2 adopted daughters. All the way on the east coast but this blew my mind. Thanks for the education and for advocating. Great resolution for all future adoptive parents. And btw, a precedent has been set if we get any flack in our state! My next stop is our state DMV website. Well done! And thank you God!

  22. Wow! BRAVO to YOU and the DMV! Now that’s how it should be done! 🙂

  23. Our “friendly” neighborhood DMV has never been that stellar in the customer service department, however, I’m pleasantly surprised to see such a warm and compassionate response from the DMV leadership…AND that they are open to making changes! Kudos to you for going with your gut and saying something.

  24. The terms “biological or adoptive parent” could be merely a point of clarification. Before reading this post, I would have thought “legal guardian” meant adoptive parents. I’m happy to be corrected, so adoptive parents aren’t sent home to go find documentation when it wasn’t necessary at all.

  25. I agree a PARENT is a PARENT no matter BIOLOGICAL or ADOPTIVE your the legal PARENT that is all that counts.

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