Adoptees rights to birth certificates

I have been supporting the Minnesota Coalition for Adoption Reform since 2004, the group in our state that has been trying to get an Adoptee Access Bill passed that would allow adult adoptees to receive their original birth certificates. The bill passed the house and senate this last session but the governor vetoed it.

One of the reasons he gave was based on the long-held myth that "birth mothers were promised privacy" and that adoptees would go searching for their birth mothers and disrupt their lives. However, the research strongly shows that the majority of birth/first mothers are open to contact with their children.

At one of the get-togethers for MCAR, I had the chance to see relinquishment papers from birth/first moms who are now in their 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s. None of their papers included privacy statements. These women were not guaranteed that their children would never find them; it is impossible for anyone to guarantee that. Adoptees search and find birth/first parents all the time, and birth/first parents search and find their children all the time.

I am part of a group of adoptee researchers and we meet on a monthly basis to discuss research on adoption issues. One of the things brought up as we discussed this latest veto by our governor is that despite the long-held "best interest of the child" belief, everything is about the rights and privileges of other parties involved in adoption – the birth/first parents and the adoptive parents. The adopted individual has no rights. We don’t have the right to the most basic of information.

From The Past, Unsealed by Linda Baker in Adoptive Families magazine:

Concerns about privacy and breach of confidence have always been
foremost in the argument against open records. But according to
Elizabeth J. Samuels, an adoption expert and associate professor of law
at the University of Baltimore School of Law, this stance is at odds
with U.S. adoption history. One of the biggest misconceptions about
sealed records, she says, is that they’re meant to protect the
birthmother’s identity. On the contrary, she notes, “historical
research has shown that the concern was to protect adoptive families
from possible interference or harassment by the birthparent.” The law
has never guaranteed lifelong anonymity for birthparents.

Consistent with this history, adds Samuels, are findings that an
overwhelming majority of birthparents do not object to, or actively
support, adult adoptee access to records—regardless of how they felt
when they first placed the child for adoption.

Here is a link to one adoptive parent’s support of the Adoptee Access bill. My only hope is that we’ll have a new governor next time around; one that will consider the importance of adoptees to have their family and medical history as everyone else has the right to have.

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

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