Why Should We Care About the Fight to Open Adoption Records?
Adoptee Rights & Access to their Original Birth Certificates
In the US, 48 states continue the practice of sealing adopted children’s original birth certificates (the OBC) upon finalization of the adoption. In all but 4 of those 42 states, adult adoptees do not have unrestricted access to their OBC like other people do.
Right now unless the adoptee’s OBC is in Alaska, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon, Tennessee, Alabama and Delaware or, unless the adoptee’s birthparents had the knowledge that they could apply for the OBC before the adoption records were sealed, then that adoptee might never see the record of their birth.
This is one of the many areas of adoption legislation where the states have power over making the laws. Alaska and Kansas never sealed theirs at all, but the other 48 did, some as early as the 1930′s and some not until the 70′s. Some sealed records laws, such as NY, can trace their roots back to the corrupt practices of Georgia Tann and other unscrupulous lobby groups who must have been hiding something.
Now, we all know that a birth certificate is a very important legal form of identity needed at various times throughout one’s life for many reasons such as getting a driver’s license or a passport or getting married and the states, in their supreme wisdom, do issue adopted children another birth certificate for them to use. This is called the amended birth certificate of the ABC. On it, depending on what your states artistic license, the adoptive parents are frequently listed as giving birth to the child in the city of which they live, but which the child was not born in. It works for getting into school and getting married. It might or might not work if the government ever goes for that whole ID law since they frequently look different than the standard OBC, but as a parent it will serve you well.
Adoptees are often denied:
- Health Insurance approval for genetic testing
- The Civil Rights to access their OBC
Adoptees are the only group of US citizens denied access to their OBC( besides those in the witness protection program). It truly is a form of discrimination as the adoptee has no way of choosing the circumstances of their birth, relinquishment and adoption, but the circumstances of their birth is held against them long into adulthood.
Why Should Adult Adoptees Get Their OBCs?
- It’s their right along with every other American.
- It allows them their identity; which is a right of all children according to the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child ( see articles 7 to 10)
- It gives them access to their medical history; which is recommended by the US Surgeon General’s Family History Initiative
- The government has no business legislating to whom adults can have or not have a relationship with.
All these facts are true.
Why OBC Access for Adoptees is Scary to Some:
- Birthmothers were promised confidentiality and they can’t break those promises even if they are only implied
- If adoption was not confidential, then the abortion rates would rise
- If adoptions were not confidential then adoption rates would fall.
- Mothers who relinquish their children to adoption do not want to know their grown children.
- If we open records then adoptees might force themselves on their poor unsuspecting mothers and ruined their lives.
All these points, despite being promoted by the National Council for Adoption, many agencies, many churches and religious organizations and right to life groups, are false.
Mothers who relinquished could not have been promised anything of the sort by the state governments because there was no confidentiality to give. Let us remember that the OBC is a matter of public records until the adoption is finalized. That can take months and until that time, the birth certificate clearing stating who gave birth to whom is sitting at a country clerk’s office. Look who can get access for instance just in Georgia. What do you think would happen if the child never was adopted? The record would continue to be open forever. Now mind you the birthparents have no rights after signing the relinquishment papers, so they can’t force the child to be adopted nor seal the record. No confidentiality. Period.
Plus if there ever was one shred of paper claiming a birthmother anomininity, then the NCFA would have it plated in gold like the Holy Grail. They have not because it does not exist. Many mothers have gotten their records from agencies to check and no written promise has ever been found.
In Kansas and Alaska where the OBC was never sealed, abortion rates were lower than neighboring states. In states that opened up the OBC’s, the abortion rates sub-sequentially dropped.
On the same note, the same states have higher adoption rates when there is open records and no secrecy. In fact, the some of the openness in adoption can be traced back to a study done by the NCFA and the Family Research Council called The Missing Piece where they studied the feelings of mothers who relinquished (while blindfolded) and learned that women would be more open to adoption as a choice for an unplanned pregnancy if they could know where their child is and how they are fairing. The findings of that study were turned into the federally funded Infant Adoption Awareness Training Program. Kind of odd that the same information they use to create more adoptions is also use to keep records sealed.
In other countries and in the US where we can see historically the rates of the contact vetoes issued by birthparents, across the board less than 1 to 4 % of relinquishing mothers employ the contact veto. The simple fact is that it is less than 2% of all relinquishing mothers desire to never set eyes on their children again. The contact veto allows a birthmother to say that she refuses contact. In fact, in New Zealand, after 20 years of open records, they decided to forgo the veto clause since the numbers were so low. The great majority of mothers desire to know what happened to their babies and, in fact, had never forgotten them at all.
Adoptees don’t always want full on relationships with their birthparents, but even if they do and even if their birthparents don’t, we have other laws in this country that are set to keep unwanted people in our lives. Stalking, harassment and privacy laws come to mind.
The discussion can go on and on, but this is the ONE area where universally adoptees, adoptive parents and birthparents, all agree:
Adult Adoptees over the age of 18 should have the unilateral right to access their original Birth Certificates because it is their truth, their history and their lives.
What they do with that information, as adults, is their business as adults to make adult decisions based on what they personally need.
Bastard Nation, CARE, The Evan B Donaldson Adoption Institute, the American Adoption Congress, Concerned United Birthparents and Adoptee Rights, plus many more groups, support adoptee access to the OBC as well. .
To support adoptees access to the document of their legal birth you can:
- Write letters to your legislators and if you are an adoptive parent, then your voice actual will carry the most weight.
- Sign up for the ARC Mailing List
- Send in Donations.
- Talk to people because most regular folks have no idea this issue is happening and are also horrified when they are told the facts. Educate the masses.
- If you are a birthparent, please sign the PETITION saying that you support open records access for your adopted child.
It is the government sentencing of legal discrimination against adopted people.
And every one of us who have a smallest role in this adoption picture should be screaming for justice.
I, as a parent of an adopted person, can and I do. This is why my vacation time at work gets used every year when I go to the Adoptee Rights Protest.
Please read more in the posts below about what you can do to help support Adoptee Rights!
Sandy has returned to the Good Fight and is taking her place calling for action! Please join her on the Facebook on the ALARM Network group page challenging the sealed records controversy in the United States. Under her guidance the Alarm network is proposing a Federal Mandate based upon the 14th Amendment and here’s what YOU can do to help! read more…
I was alerted the other day that Missouri has new adoption legislation in the House of Representatives. While we like to see adoption laws updated, there are a few issues with HB 252. While the contact preferences for OBC access are often included in any Adoptee Rights legislation in order to make the legislators feel warm and cozy, allowing one party to deny another their legal documentation is not treating ALL adoptees equally.There is also a portion of the bill having to do with Open Adoption Agreements. In essence, the issue is not that they are saying that there can be enforceable open adoption agreements, it is in the enforcement aspect that the language gets a bit too vague. read more…
This is one of those times when I am asking for your help on a project. It was barely two weeks ago when Facebook started exploding with the Adoptee Searching Picture memes. Though I know we all tried to keep up and share like crazy cakes, it’s proving to be a difficult task! I was trying to share all the images of Adoptees begging for help finding their families, but I quickly had the longest blog post on the east coast. And then, I remembered Listly! read more…
Follow your state group on Facebook and Twitter or sign up for their mailing lists and when they ask you to do something, just do it! Send your letter, make a comment saying you did, and share the post to your own networks, The only way we will ever restore the civil rights of our friends and children is if we work on their doggedly and with purpose together. read more…
Imagine a world where we let adult make decisions that affect their lives. We let them fill out their medical forms with more than an unknown. We let them know the branches of their family tree. We let them know whose nose it is perched upon their face. read more…
I was thrilled to hear that Mr. Carucci has left his post as the Director of NYS Vital Records and we have a new Director, Mr. Guy Warner in his place. I’m not sure if he gets any of the credit, but today the news was released that New York State has expanded their Registry to include those Born in New York and adopted in other states and those Born in other states and adopted in New York! read more…
Voter IDs laws have been talked about in the news for some time now. Supporters say the laws are needed to combat voter fraud, while others see Voter ID laws as a move used to disenfranchise voters. Can adopted adults be included in that? read more…
Now, I don’t subscribe to any version of “it’s meant to be” in adoptionland. I was not destined to be a birthmother and lose my child unnecessary just to make someone else’s dreams come true, but there are silver linings to this life I have now. If I have to be a birthmother, I am a pretty damn happy one. Since I cannot change my past, all the hurt and sadness an anger have a healthy direction to go in. read more…
Now all in one place; a simple chart and map to see where each US state stands in regard to restoring the civil rights of adopted adults. read more…
Once again, the feelings of community, accomplishment and even the snail’s pace of progress in Adoptee Rights filled my heart and soul with renewed vigor and purpose. Plus, again, one of the only good aspect of this adoption journey has been the wonderful people I have been blessed to know, work with, and call my friends. read more…
We knew there were bad storms about as Cassi reported driving through them in Iowa. I have seen some huge thunderstorms in my life, but nothing like this. This was the same storm cell that made them evacuate Lalapalooza in Chicago yesterday. I knew it was bad. I knew we were in tornado country. I watch storm chasers. I know what hail and cloud hooks and circular wind patterns mean. read more…
As one week from today is the Adoptee Rights Demonstration in Chicago, Illinois I would like to propose a celebratory meme. Even if you can’t physically be there, you can help pepper the internet air waves with news and the reasons why you support Adoptee Rights! read more…
The adoptee bill of rights would grant people who are adopted the right, upon their 18th birthday, to obtain an original or certified copy of their birth certificate and learn who their biological parents are. The legislation would also ensure adoptees have access to their family’s medical history, if such records exists, as well as any other information birth relatives might choose to provide. read more…
Though now the trend of many adoptions are “open”, sharing various information regarding identity, medical history, with shared pictures and letter, visits, and lifelong contact, there is still little hope for those who were born or gave birth during the times of the past. The face of adoption has changed with new advances in the nature of human responses, but the laws still remain the same, ignorant to new information and ways of thinking. read more…
The history of sealed adoption records in the US and the current battle in New York’s legislation to free them open.
Since, my little blog here is now featured in the local Kingston paper online, I thought it would be most fitting to re-publish this piece I wrote specifically about New York and the adoption laws here. Since it is rather long, I broke it up for ease of reading. Please return for part 2 and part 3!
Sitting in the computer cache deep in the NY legislator’s recess, is a little bill numbered A909 Number A909, or its companion bill in the Senate S2490A, bears the name “The Adoptee Rights Bill”. For thousands of adult adoptees and their families in our state much rests on the passing of A909 if they are ever to be allowed to have the knowledge of their medical history, know their original names, or seek out their heritage. For thousands of families separated by adoption, this is their only hope.
Many people might not care about number A909 because it does not affect them. In fact, many people, including the legislators that need to vote on the bill, do not even understand the facts and principles behind the bill. It is actually quite interesting to see how little people really understand about adoption and it lifelong implications. It is one of those subjects that has many details and subtle nuances, plus as many different personal interpretations as there are people willing to listen and talk about it. Most of general society has only enough information about adoptees and adoption to fill in the basic plot of a bad made for TV movie or make some great tabloid’s headline. In other words, little in the way of hands on truth.
Even without having firsthand knowledge of the intrinsic ins and outs of adoption, in essence, number A909 is very simple. The bill will allow an adult adoptee over the age of 18 to have access to their original birth certificate, called in the adoption circles, the much coveted OBC. Often, people don’t even know that adoptees do not have access to their OBC or know that they are sealed. Many an adoptee has been quite perplexed and then often enraged that the state can withhold this basic piece of information from them. After all, they declare, it is within their civil rights. It is their records, with their names on it, but in this state, only adoptees and those in the witness protection program are denied access. Even New York, considered a liberal “blue” progressive area, the status quo for adoption is based on antiquated laws.
The Sealing of NY’s Adoption Records
In 1935, the then acting NY Governor Lehman, an adoptive father, signed a bill making NY a sealed record state. His children were adopted from the most infamous baby thief of them all, Georgia Tann and it is not a farfetched read more…