Monday, August 6, 2012

Adoptee Rights Demonstration

Adoptee Rights Coalition

The Adoptee Rights Demonstration was in Chicago today. I wish I could have been there in person to protest, but writing here on my blog today is going to have to do.

So what is the big deal?  Why are people fighting for adoptee rights?  What rights don't adoptees have in the first place?

Original Birth Certificates
When a baby is born, a birth certificate is issued to legally record the birth details.  The mother and father, time and place of birth, weight, height, name, etc.

Amended Birth Certificates
When an infant (or older child) is adopted, a new birth certificate is issued which replaces the mother and father's names and information with the adoptive parents names and information.  Sometimes other information is changed or deleted altogether.

So Adoptees Have Two Birth Certificates?  What's the big deal about that?
When the amended birth certificate is filed, the original is sealed, usually never to be seen again. Only in Alaska and Kansas have the OBCs never been sealed. Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Alabama have restored equal OBC access to adult adoptees. Other States, such as Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Illinois, allow access with some restrictions. In all other states, the OBC is sealed forever from the public, including both the adoptee and the natural parents. 
Why is the OBC sealed?
Follow the links at the bottom to Amanda's Adoptee Rights Guide or to the list of other bloggers who have written on the subject to get more info.  I will give you one reason that is often touted, but is false.  It is often said that it is because the mothers were promised confidentiality.  The ones fighting against equal rights argue that there are natural mothers out there cowering in corners who don't want to be found by their children given up for adoption.  All of this couldn't be further from the truth in my opinion.  For one, I was never promised anonymity, nor did I ever want it.  I have gotten to know many, many moms over the last three years who also were never promised nor wanted it.  As a matter of fact, the majority of natural moms would love to know their children, would welcome any contact from them.   
Even if that weren't the case, why would the rights of the mother be given more importance than the rights of the adult who was given up for adoption by no choice of their own? 

Why do adoptees need/want to have access to their original birth certificates? 
Since I can't speak for an adoptee, here is an answer to that from an adoptee herself, Karen Pickell.  The rest of this post is from her blog "Between".

Why are original birth certificates so important to adoptees?
This issue is important to me because knowing my true family identity is important to me. As a child, I was acutely aware of the differences between me and my adoptive parents. We looked different. We were interested in different activities. We reacted differently to situations. We processed information differently.

In doctor’s offices, I had to write “N/A” on the lines for family medical history, then explain that I was adopted. The first picture of me is as a three-month-old; what happened in my life before that time is a black hole. I felt no connection to my adoptive parents’ family trees; I could not join the conversation of who looked like which cousin or who acted like grandma.

I saw the first person who looked like me when I had my first child at the age of thirty-three. And I realized that he would have the same black hole of missing information about his ancestry and family medical history that I had.

I was lucky to be able to locate my birth mother without having my original birth certificate, because I had some pretty detailed non-identifying information from the agency that handled my adoption (every adoptee is legally entitled to this) and a key piece of identifying information my adoptive parents were accidentally given when they adopted me. Many adoptees are not as lucky as I was and are not able to figure out who their biological families are without their original birth certificates.

Even after I reunited with my birth mother, I still wanted a copy of my original birth certificate. I wanted that written proof. I wanted to feel like a whole person, like I was really born from another human being just like everyone else rather than picked from a lineup of cribs, which is how I had always pictured my adoption. And my birth mother wanted it too, to prove she wasn’t crazy, that she really did have a baby, that it all wasn’t just some nightmare she had imagined. Together we petitioned the Ohio probate court, and I now have my original birth certificate. But I couldn’t have gotten it without her consent. And she hadn’t even known she could file her consent until I made her aware of that fact.

So, if you have yours, what’s the big deal now?Before I went through my own birth family reunion, I didn’t understand how big this issue was. I had no idea how many other people like me are out there struggling to come to terms with their own identities, held back by these antiquated laws that serve no one’s best interest. I didn’t know that even though we hear the term “open adoption” a lot today, altered birth certificates are still being issued, and open adoptions often don’t remain open very long after the adoption transaction is finalized. I stand behind the effort to unseal all adoptee original birth certificates because every person deserves to know where they come from. It is not the business of any state to keep family members from knowing each other or to protect those who never asked to be protected.

Most of all, I support the Adoptee Rights Coalition because adoption should be, first and foremost, about the children being adopted and what is in their best interest. It is not acceptable to violate the rights of adopted people in order to protect the rights of either birth or adoptive parents. We adoptees have the right to know where we come from and to deal with our own family business.

If you would like to read another adult adoptee viewpoint on Adoptee Rights, Amanda has a great guide.  This guide answers many questions:  who opposes equal rights and why?  who supports it and why?  Amanda also answers the three main myths about adoptee access to their OBC in this guide. 

Several other bloggers have written about the Adoptee Rights Demonstration and Adoptee Rights.  If you’d like to read some other adoptee and natural mom views on adoptee rights, they are all linked on this list of blog posts.

If you would like to learn more, here is a link to a summary of the laws in each state.

One last note ~ I can walk into the courthouse and get a copy of all three of my raised children's birth certificates, even though they are now adults.  I cannot get a copy of Christopher's ~ since it is sealed.  What could I possibly do with that obc?  All it has on it is my own information, which I obviously already know.  It would have Christopher's birth information, which I also know.  So WHY can I not get a copy?  It simply makes no sense.  Why would I want to have a copy of it?  I want to see if my suspicions are correct.  I only remember a few things from my days at the hospital.  One of the clearest memories I have is filling out the form for his birth certificate.  I had spent a couple of days thinking about the perfect name to give him, as I thought that it was the only thing I was EVER going to be able to give him.  I remember filling out the required information on the father.  However...  all the paper work I received regarding his adoption came with his name being Baby Boy.  I want so badly to know if they took his name away from him.  I would bet that they left the information on his father off the obc also.  In effect his obc could be full of lies...  I'm so thankful that our search angel brought us together.  If Christopher had somehow gotten a copy of his obc first, he could very well be thinking that I didn't give him a name and that I didn't know who fathered him.  Neither of which are true.


  1. Replies
    1. I was thinking of all of you guys all day! I so badly wanted to go ~ not only to demonstrate, but to meet you and more of my on-line friends in person!

  2. Hi Susie,

    I'm glad you found my blog and that my comments were meaningful to you. Thought you might like to know that my OBC does show the name my birth mother gave me. It does not have my birth father's name, but in my case there was some question about who my father was. I hope you and your son are able to get his OBC soon!


    1. I really hope to see it one day, and I really hope I don't see the words "Baby Boy" on it! I'm glad I found your blog too :)

  3. After searching for 5 years, we found the bio-Mom of an adopted cousin.
    She never had anymore children after surrendering her son.
    We asked her why?
    Her reply was this "I was told to forget my child, marry and have a family. The more I thought about the entire situation, I decided I was a victim of FRAUD, by a very sophisticated social system that does not support women nor family's; an unregulated system supports it's pocket books". She went on to say that " If I would have had more children, I would have continued to "prostitute" myself to the ideals of the adoption industry." She did marry, but with the understanding she would not have children...she was divorced when she passed away several years ago.
    Another thing that she said that reflects lies by the adoption industry; (can anyone confirm this? ) When applying for a Security Job, she had to go through a security check by the company...THE SECURITY Check found that she gave birth out of wed-lock, date, place, etc. SHE DID NOT GET THE JOB...year 1978. How many other women unknowingly experienced job discrimination? How many still do?
    She thought all this information was confidential to everyone. She also learned that when applying for a Life Insurance Policy, the insurance company learned of the out-of-wedlock birth.
    CAN ANYONE Substantiate these last pieces of information?

    1. So sad about your cousin's mom... her entire motherhood taken from her. I am so very glad that I was able to go on to have more children, although they in no way replaced my firstborn son nor took away the pain of losing him.

      I don't know how anyone would have found out about her giving birth, but I don't know how all that works. Maybe there was a trail left through health insurance payments? Maybe someone else will know...

  4. Anymous, I know that one of the women featured in "The Girls Who Went Away" talked about being fired from her job because the employer found out she had previously given birth to a child "out of wedlock".

    Susie, thank you so much for writing about this issue. : ) I'm sorry you couldn't be there. Maybe another year. : )

  5. Very nice share Susie, thanks

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