Adoptee Dirck Brown founded PACER in 1979, the same year that the American Adoption Congress was formed.
He earned his doctorate in education from Columbia University Teachers College, and went on to become Dean of Men at the University of Iowa and Dean of Students at the University of Denver. Here are some of his works:
- Issues in Medicine Adoption: Pediatric, Legislative, and Social Issues/(1981) J. Davis & D. Brown
- Clinical Practice in Adoption (Psychology practitioner guidebooks)/(1988) Robin C. Winkler, Dirk W. Brown, Margaret van Keppel, Amy Blanchard, Pergamon.
- Commentary: Artificial Insemination by Donor (AID) and the Use of Surrogate Mothers: Social and Psychological Impact/(1984) J. Davis & D. Brown
A Tribute to Joe Davis: friend, mentor, colleague, and fierce advocate of the right to know
by Dirck Brown, 2003
Dr. Joe Davis’ special gift to the entire adoption community was his unshakable belief in the adoptee’s and birthparents’ right to have complete information about their biological heritage. That was not a popular notion in the 1970s. As a lifelong practicing pediatrician, he understood children and families. He became aware of how teens in turmoil over identity issues needed to talk about being adopted in an atmosphere of acceptance. He also understood the needs of young birthmothers and how adoptive parents and families struggle with issues unique to the adoption experience.
Dr. Joe’s remarkable gift to PACER was his willingness to stand up and speak out publicly for all of us in the adoption triad. He believed deeply in our cause of open records and access to identifying information by everyone in the triad. He was unwavering in advocating to the public, policy makers, and all manner of professionals the need for openness in adoption.
Early in the development of PACER he arranged for the two of us to speak to a group of 200-plus physicians at the Stanford University Hospital. Here we were in an amphitheater lecturing on the virtues of openness and adoption. The meeting was a bust. No questions, no interest.
It was out this experience that we came up with the idea of inviting triad members of our Palo Alto PACER support group to form panels of four or five representing all sides of the triad who would tell their adoption story from a very personal perspective. We would invite members of the support group whom we felt were ready to “go public.” The reactions were very positive. “I never knew the pain and the suffering birthmothers go through.” “I understand why adoptees simply want to feel connected to the human race.” Adoptive parents came to better understand some of the life long issues implicit in the adoption experience. More and more panels were organized to respond to all the invitations.
It wasn’t long before Dr. Joe arranged for PACER to have a free suite of offices in the Palo Alto Medical Research Foundation in the center of Palo Alto.
In an early PACER publication, Dialogue for Understanding, Joe commented: “My medical training was at Stanford University. We had no training and no lectures about adoption, and I am sure this was true with most other institutions as well. We learned by day-to-day experience after we were already in practice. It was not until 1973, when I read Florence Fisher’s book, The Search for Anna Fisher, that I developed a feeling for adoptees and become a champion of their cause. Now it seems only proper that as a pediatrician my primary concern should be that of the child—the child’s advocate, if you will. My ‘conversion’ caused me to espouse this cause to the National Committee on Adoption of the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP), of which I was already a member. This resulted in our Academy’s statement on the adoptee’s right to know.”
Joe concluded: “What has PACER been doing in the adoption field? Through conferences and lectures, through articles in scientific journals and lay publications, PACER is educating the doctor, the social worker, and allied health and welfare professionals in the broader aspects of adoption. PACER is promoting community awareness, again through the medium of lecture courses and media publicity. Finally, PACER hopes to carry out meaningful research to answer some of the many questions to which we have no good answers. It is because of all these activities that I became interested in PACER and have tried in my small way to offer my help and participation in its activities.”
In the middle of his busy pediatric practice at the Palo Alto Clinic, Joe took the time to collaborate with me and other professionals in writing about PACER and critical adoption related issues in various professional and lay publications. We wrote about legislative, social, and practice issues such as the secrecy associated with AID (Artificial Insemination by Donor) and total lack of concern for the fact that the child so produced may never know his or her real heritage. We urged Stanford coeds not to donate their eggs for the benefit of infertile couples. In addition, Joe became active in the work of the International Soundex Reunion Registry (Soundex) by serving on the board as our genetic screening expert.
Joe died this spring at age 88. He wrote me not long before he died of how much he was looking forward to being a part of another PACER presentation. PACER owes a debt of gratitude to this wonderful man.
Dirck W. Brown, Ed.D., MFCC, founded PACER in 1978 and served as our first Executive Director. He is the co-author of Clinical Practice in Adoption.