Is anyone else as disgusted as I am at the slow pace of the adoption reform movement -- specifically the state-by-state efforts to allow adult citizens who happen to be adopted access to their own birth certificates?
The New Jersey Coalition for Adoption Reform and Education (NJCARE) tries valiantly year after year to get an adult adoptee access bill passed, and year after year it is thwarted by last-minute back room deals driven by the opposition -- Catholic Bishops, NJ Right to Life, the National Council for Adoption (NCFA) and the NJ Bar Association.
These groups continue to oppose adult adoptee access even though we now have years of experience from the open-access states and from other countries that shows their fears are completely unfounded. Meanwhile, everyday people who have an ounce of common sense just shake their heads in disbelief when I explain to them that most fully-grown adoptees have no access to the document that records their true and actual birth.
Apparently, by law, adoptees in this country are still expected for life to be somebody other than who they really are. When a child's adoption in the US is finalized, an amended birth certificate is issued that lists the adoptive parents as the child's mother and father. The original birth certificate is "sealed" by the state, and adoptees must petition the court and show "good cause," a condition that has never been legally defined, should they desire to know the truth about their own genetic roots.
Of course legions of adoptees search for their origins in spite of the legal obstacles. Search angels and some private investigators specialize in the field. But isn't it ridiculous and unjust that an entire class of people must jump through all kinds of hoops in order to find out the most basic information about themselves?
The adoption industry has been quite successful in convincing people that the practice of adoption is just fine exactly like it is. Their propaganda, aimed at selling the concept that adoption is a win-win situation for all the parties involved, has been effective. Most people seem to assume that adoption is always a wonderful and positive option that leads to happily-ever-after endings for all.
The lifelong loss that so many original mothers feel? We don't hear so much about that. The identity struggles that many adoptees face as they come to terms with their relinquishment? A secondary concern. How much easier it is to just assume, as I did as a child, that love will conquer all.
My guess is that most people aren't even aware that the original birth certificates of adoptees are sealed for life in most states. And if they are aware, they probably assume, incorrectly, that adoption has always been conducted this way, and that the secrecy is necessary for the "protection" of birth parents. Those who oppose adult adoptee access talk a great deal about the need for birth parent protection, although hordes of original mothers have come forward to tell us that they were not promised, nor did they ask for "confidentiality."
As I have written in other posts, allowing adopted adults access to their original birth certificates is not a novel and untested concept. In England and Australia, adult adoptees have had access to their own birth documents for over 30 years! Here, a few states have opened up access, but progress across the country remains slow, and the quest for adoptee rights is always a frustrating, uphill battle.
What is really galling is that the press for the most part does not challenge the propaganda of the power brokers in adoption. These groups insist that original mothers were promised anonymity, when an examination of the history and of the surrender documents themselves shows clearly that records were sealed to hide the identity of the adoptee, not the identity of the original family.
And why are birth records sealed for one of the most common types of adoption, that initiated by step-parents? In these cases, and in adoptions out of foster care, the children for the most part already have their original information, and yet still, their original birth certificates are sealed. Domestic infant adoptions actually comprise just a tiny portion of all adoptions finalized each year, yet the power brokers in adoption ask us to accept that original birth certificates are sealed across the board to preserve the "anonymity" or privacy of original parents.
The most telling statistic, of course, is that fewer than 1 percent of original parents have a preference for anonymity, according to combined statistics from those open-access states that maintain records (American Adoption Congress, Statistics for States Implementing Access to Original Birth Certificates). Just who is it that adoption facilitators are so intent on protecting, even as they continue to violate the rights of the person that adoption is supposed to serve -- the adoptee?
It is apparent to me that they are either trying to protect themselves by keeping their files under lock and key, or they are responding to the desire of some adoptive parents to begin with a clean slate, adoptive parents who want nothing whatsoever to do with the original families. Whatever the motivation, it is clear that it does not center around the best interest of the child.
Sometimes, I wonder whether I am wasting my time writing these posts, when we see so little progress in the legislative arena. I am a rational, logical person, and it drives me crazy that the opposition to Adoptee Rights Bills is not based on any established fact. As far as I can see, the opposition is based on a misguided ideology, power and money.
Will adult adoptees ever be treated like grown-ups by law? Sadly, I am beginning to doubt it.
You might also like:
Sealed Records -- A Secret the Industry Would Like to Keep
Money and Power Stymie Adoptee Rights Bills
Why do State Bar Associations Oppose Adoptee Rights?
Pro-life Ideology and Adoptee Rights