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

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68 responses to “DMV Responds Quickly to Adoptive Families”

  1. Hi, Pulled up your blog searching this topic. Last month I was asked at the DMV if my child is my bio child. She has tan skin and mine is white. So is the DMV still using old forms or did the change not happen. It seems too New World Orderish. Did they ever give a good reason for asking?

  2. Well that’s a great story, what a relief for you all, and thank you for this post. It’s good to know that there are still many people with good hearts.


  3. Form should read legal parent, but it is a step in the right direction. Thanks for taking the time to correct them.

  4. Well done! Thank you for taking the time to pursue this on behalf of adoptive parents everywhere, especially since some of my daughter’s biological siblings live in Oregon!

  5. When I took my adopted son to the California DMV, we were turned away. They didn’t like his birth certificate because the doctor’s name wasn’t signed, it was typed in. I nicely explained that this was the way the state had done it because my son was adopted. Her reply? It can’t be accepted. After a very loud discussion with her supervisor (I’d like to say I’m naturally loud, but I might have been a tad pissed), my son said to me, “I don’t care, let’s go.” So we went. I didn’t know what else to do, so we went back the next day, handed his same stuff to a different woman, she stamped everything, he passed his test and whammo. A new driver was legalized here.


  6. Still … great service but why do they need to state “biological or adoptive?” Why not just “Parent” or “Legal Guardian?”

  7. I think it is fantastic that you stood up and said something. I am finding more and more in my adult life that people are generally out to do good. And that often if you notice some error, or mistreatment and mention it politely, people (in general) want to correct the problem. I used to be more jaded with a “me against the horrible world” attitude. But by slowing down and listening and talking to people that I encounter I am really changing my attitude to a “me with the world”. I’m glad that you brought the error to the attention of the right people, it is likely that the person who proposed the box to begin with never had any idea of how it might be perceived from an adopted family’s perspective. And there really was never any need for the box anyways. Glad that Becky could also recognize the error so quickly and act on it.

    Yay, for positive change in the world.

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