Last week I was talking with an mom who had recently adopted her child. Somehow it came up in the conversation that most adult adoptees in the US don’t have access to their original birth certificates or names of their birth parents. She was floored.
For just a second I want you to try to imagine what it would be like for something you really need or want to be sitting in a file somewhere, but you aren’t allowed to see it. It exists; others can see it, just not you. Let’s further imagine that you are an adult (or as my 20 something daughter likes to say – you’re a grown _ss woman). Maybe this information is important for your health; maybe it’s important to your child’s health; or maybe it holds a piece to your past that you need to know in order to move forward with your future. This information exists, it’s just sitting there, but you, the person who needs/wants it the most, are forbidden.
How would you feel? Frustrated? Angry? Scared? That you are being treated like a child?
Those of us who are adopting now in this age of open adoption often have a hard time imagining that this is the reality for thousands upon thousands of adopted adults.
Adult Adoptees Don`t Have Access to Birth Certificates
Only 12 states give adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates.
Take the case of Maureen Sheridan. Several years ago, she had a medical scare and her doctor suggested she get more family medical history to aid in treatment and future care. The problem was that Sheridan was adopted in a closed adoption. In order to get her biological family history, she needed to know her biological mother’s name – and this name is locked away in a file in NYC and the laws of New York, and most other states in the US, prohibit her access.
Sheridan is now 38 with two sons, both of which have medical issues. She wonders and worries that her biological family medical history might be helpful for their health and treatment.
Two Sides to Opening Adoption Records
Opponents of opening adoption records argue that doing so would violate a promise made to pregnant women years ago when they relinquished their child for adoption. They further argue that many of these women have not told their family and opening adoption records would be the equivalent of “outing” them without their consent.
They argue that in many states, adoptees are protected when information on birth parents is truly necessary by allowing them to petition the court to unseal original birth certificates and adoption records for “good cause”, with a judge making the final decision.
Further, many states and adoption agencies have some version of a mutual consent registry, where identifying information is shared if both the adoptee and the biological parents register giving permission.
Has Medical Science Shifted the Balance
We are living in the era of genomic medicine where medical diagnosis, treatment, and risk assessment will increasingly be based on genetics and family history. Knowing your genetic history will not be necessary for many, maybe even most, people, but it will be absolutely crucial to some. And this “some” will include many adopted people. Should these medical advances change old laws?
Wouldn’t it be possible to create a law that would allow adoptees access to their original birth certificates while allowing biological parents to state whether they wish to be contacted directly, through an intermediary or not at all, and to file updated medical information in case their children ever seek it?
Why yes, actually it would be possible. In fact several states, including New Jersey, Illinois, and Connecticut, have recently passed such legislation. Under this legislation, some adopted people would still not have access to identifying information since it would allow birth parents to block their names if they want to. Of 10,421 original birth certificates issued in Illinois since they passed this law, however, only 53 birth parents have asked for their names to be removed.
It’s hard to balance the rights of all parties, but when in doubt, aren’t all decisions in adoption supposed to be made in the best interest of the child? As Ms. Sheridan said.
“I didn’t have a choice 38 years ago. Why is the choice all on one side and not the other?”
What do you think? Should the sealed adoption records be changed to allow adult adoptees access to birth parent names?
Image credit: Nicholas Horne
Add Your Comment
The very first comment on here by Kasey and of course it is a lie. Adopters have no conscience at all and are compulsive liars..
Have fun in hell sweetie!
I am not sure how you can know this birth mother’s story is a lie. Kasey’s comment is her lived experience of surrendering a child she chose not to parent. And I’m not sure how you conflate that to “adopters” lying.
I would be devastated if my biological daughter was ever able to find me. I was 15, she was a product of rape, and she was very much unwanted by me. I am now 24, and can honestly say no part of me wanted to be a parent. I wasn’t sexually active, nor am I now, as I’ve never been married.
I am so happy she has parents to love her and give her a good life, I never met them. We have a closed adoption done through an agency where I was never forced to choose or meet with her adoptive parents. Only my parents and grandmother are aware of her existence in my social sphere. That was my choice. I never want to meet this child. I did not want his child, and a closed adoption with sealed records allowed me to avoid termination which was also something I did not want to go through. A private and confidential adoption was my choice. She may have the right to my medical records, but I do not feel I owe her (or her parents) any sort of relationship in the future. I don’t even know her new name, and I’m happy about that.
Oh Kasey, I’m so sorry for what happened to you. I would suggest that you contact the adoption agency and let them know that you do not want to be contacted by the adoptive parents or this child when she is older. It is not a guarantee that you won’t be contacted, but this is information that they can give her when she is older if she wants to search. I would also promise to update the agency with any relevant health information on you or your family, so that she will have less reason to want to contact you. I hope your daughter will be content to not search, but keep in mind that as she ages she may feel the need for information. Perhaps it would be possible to provide her this information if she requests it without a meeting.
If it was rape, you need to report it to the police, so there is written proof for your daughter to be made aware of the full story. Otherwise she may wish to meet her father who could pose a threat to her safety. I hope you’ve done this already, not just telling stories.
You are indeed correct, Robyn. The sealing of adoption records was in fact about protecting the “sanctity of the adoptive family”. After all, the sealing of the records happens when an adoption is finalised. If a woman had relinquished a child and that child was never adopted, then that child would be able to get their birth certificate as an adult just like any other non-adopted person. Women desired confidentiality to prevent their families and communities from knowing about them, not necessarily confidentiality from their child. That’s not to say that they weren’t “promised” confidentiality by particular social workers but that confidentiality was never legally binding.
A couple of papers by Elizabeth Samuels:
Here is a testimony Elizabeth Samuels gave to:
Including article from Washington Post:
The Washington Post, October 21, 2001, Sunday
How Adoption in America Grew Secret; Birth Records Weren’t Closed for the Reasons You Might Think
Elizabeth J. Samuels
They’ve become a standard of news features, magazine articles and movie plots: the stories of men and women, adopted at birth, who decide to seek out their biological parents. The urge for reunion seems so elemental that a plethora of organizations has sprung up to assist adoptees in their search. Today, the Internet is replete with Web sites offering registries to help adoptees and their birth families find each other by matching up information such as dates and places of birth.
But many adoptees “in search” are not able to find information through these organizations or official state registry systems. Their only hope is access to original records, such as their unamended birth certificates. And this, unfortunately, is a source of information that remains largely closed to them, even though, as studies now show, most birth parents are open to being found.
In fact, most birth parents may never have objected. The general public assumption seems to be that, from the beginning, adoption records were closed in large part to protect the birth mother’s identity. But that isn’t the case at all — as I discovered when I undertook to research a question arising from my own family’s experience. The child my sister had surrendered for adoption was able to locate us in the late 1980s because my sister had given birth in England, where records have been open to adult adoptees since 1975.
As I saw what profound satisfaction mother and daughter experienced getting to know each other, I began to wonder why almost every U.S. state had decided to close records to the adult children of adoption in the first place. What I found surprised me.
Legal adoption in America only came into being starting in the second half of the 19th century, and at first all adoption records were open to the public. When they began to be closed, it was only to the general public, and the intent was to protect adoptees from public scrutiny of the circumstances of their birth. Later, as states began to close records to the parties themselves, they did so not to provide lifelong anonymity for birth mothers, but the other way around — to protect adoptive families from possible interference or harassment by birth parents.
One of the most prominent actors in the development of adoption law in the mid-20th century was the Children’s Bureau, an arm first of the U.S. Department of Labor and later of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. In the 1940s and ’50s, the bureau advised that birth and adoptive parents who did not know one another should not have access to information about each other. But it also said that original birth certificates should be available to adult adoptees. As one of the bureau’s consultants put it in 1946, “every person has a right to know who he is and who his people were.”
In the ’40s and ’50s, most state laws did permit adult adoptees to view their birth records. But by 1960, 26 states were making both original birth records and adoption court records available only by court order. Twenty other states still made the birth records available on demand, but over the following 30 years, all those states but three — Alaska, Kansas and South Dakota — closed records to adult adoptees.
Why were states closing their records even before 1960, when the reasons being advanced were all about protecting adoptive families, and not birth parents? The historical record suggests that birth mothers were in fact seeking a measure of confidentiality. What the mothers wanted, however, was notto prevent the adoptive parents and the children they had surrendered from discovering their identities, but to prevent their families and communities from learning of their situations. A powerful reason for the earliest closings of birth records to adult adoptees may simply have been that it was consistent with an emerging social idea about adoption: that it was a perfect and complete substitute for creating a family by childbirth, so the adopted child had no other family and would never be interested in learning about any other family.
Once most states sealed records for everyone except adult adoptees — and many states foreclosed access even to them — the record-sealing laws themselves may have helped foster the notion that lifelong secrecy is an essential feature of adoption. Adult adoptees increasingly felt discouraged from seeking information about their birth families, and those who did were viewed as maladjusted. By the 1970s, legal comments and court opinions started to talk about the reason for permanently sealed records in terms of birth parents’ rights to lifelong anonymity. And states continued to pass laws foreclosing adult adoptees’ access to birth records.
Since the adoptees’ rights movements began in the 1970s, it has encountered stiff opposition to its efforts to win legal access to birth records. Only in the past six years have adoptees won an unqualified right to view records in three states — Tennessee, Oregon and Alabama [and since the article was published New Hampshire, Maine, and Illinois have provided access either to all or almost all adoptees]. Also, Delaware [has made] records available if birth parents have not filed an objection. Around the country, legislatures are considering similar laws, but these are exceedingly limited gains for a movement nearly 30 years old.
Recently, celebrating Family History Month, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch encouraged Americans to “find out more about where they came from” because “researching ancestry is a very important component of identity.” As more state legislatures contemplate giving adult adoptees the right to research their ancestry, they should understand that once it was considered entirely natural and desirable to let adoptees learn who their people were.
Java Monkey is smart. Of course their analogy would be just as sad if it were the adoption decree that were amended and sealed.
If we just don’t amend birth records to begin with there would not be any legal inequities to go along with the already sad and terribly unfair situation they got put in when they got separated from their families for a hopefully valid reason that is for their benefit rather than the benefit of someone who wants or does not want to raise a kid.
“it may be really simple but itâ€™s not equal.”
It only appears unequal because the situations are different. Non adoptees typically have one set of parents rather than two sets. Just as a child of a divorced who is forced to live with one parent while they can only visit the other parent is a different situation not because their rights are different.
Everyone’s identity is different. There are different factors that make up our identities. That needs to be recognized that again our situations are different not our equality.
“Thatâ€™s totally unfair, both to the child who spent ten years calling you dad, and to you- having been legally erased from existence in this family.”
See I disagree about that being unfair to me. I’m dead and can’t be legally responsible for the child anymore. If something in that case happened to my wife then it would create a mess of a situation that would negatively impact the child. It wouldn’t bother me one bit from the grave as long as the child was ok.
Again the issue is that the adoption decree isn’t universally accepted as proof of parentage. However, a birth certificate is. Nothing is erased if it isn’t sealed and if it is known. If kinship is of importance to the bio family, having a will can easily fix that. There are no biological parent decrees. If you want to truly make things equal you’d support that change.
I hope for a system that doesn’t alter birth records at all. The birth certificate records the birth of the child. The adoption decree records the adoption.
Case in point… imagine that you and your wife adopt. Tragically, you get sick and pass away ten years later (not that I wish this to happen, Greg- this is just for illustration) She remarries, and her new husband adopts your adopted child. The birth certificate would be ammended, erasing your name and replacing it with your wife’s new husband’s name. Your wife’s and child’s names would be ammended with the new husband’s last name, making it look like you had never been a part of this family at all. That’s totally unfair, both to the child who spent ten years calling you dad, and to you- having been legally erased from existence in this family.
This sort of thing happens all the time with step parent adoption. It is extremely common, and unjust to everyone involved.
Greg – it may be really simple but it’s not equal. Nobody else gets two identities, one current and one outdated. Giving them a paper record of what their identity used to be is not equal to never revising it in the first place.
“Then I hope for a world where the adoption decree would allow you to undertake fulfilling the needs of an adopted child as Iâ€™m sure you and your wife have much to offer for the long haul.”
No, Marilynn what you need to hope for is unsealing the OBC for all adoptees. It gives everyone what they need and allows parents to provide their children with the life that every kid has access too. It’s really simple.
I’d like to circle back to the topic of the post which was should we keep a promise of anonymity made to bio parents. I’m assuming that Dawn means should we as a society change the laws that conceal bio parent identity from adopted people and the laws that conceal the identity of the adopted person from the bio parents. People commenting above already covered the fact that there is no law promising bio parents, adoptive parents or adopted people anonymity – it’s just what happens when people’s identities are altered and records of their true identity are sealed by the court. Maybe the goal of all that is to allow the bio parent and the adoptive parents the ability to move on and pretend the adoption never happened because their lives would be less complicated by covering up that uncomfortable truth – but who else gets the government’s assistance in covering up uncomfortable truths to make their lives less complicated? Nobody else gets the governments assistance to hide their past by altering identifying records unless your a witness in a federal case likely to be murdered before the case goes to trial. So really if the reason for sealing original birth records is for really fluffy inane reasons – the truth may be uncomfortable but it’s not worthy of a government cover up, they are not on a mob hit list because they adopted or gave a child up for adoption. Altering identities and sealing records creates an imbalance of legal power that is the basis for the anti-adoption movement, it’s not really the APs. They don’t make the laws but they really should sit down and get a better understanding of how bad the laws treat the people they adopted. Changing the laws would not undermine the adoptive parent’s authority at all it would just equalize the right of the people they raise with the rest of the population and when viewed that way most adoptive parents would probably prefer to have that weight off their relationship and their family.
Imagine if anyone who wanted to disown one of their relatives could simply get a court order to have their own birth records and the birth records of other people altered in order to sever their legal kinship. The normal way people disown a relative is to announce it dramatically and then get angry anytime someone refers to the disowned relative as their father or their brother or mother or what have you. But what if we could go to court and actually have our parents names removed from out siblings birth records so that we would no longer be their legal sibling while ourselves getting to remain the legal child of our parents? Or what if we could remove one of our parents names from our birth records there by severing their legal relationship to us and severing the legal relationship of all their relatives to us as well, grandma no longer a grandma, uncle no longer and uncle cousins no longer cousins. It’s insane. It would be patently false and would give the petitioning member of the family exclusive rights to alter the identifying records of other people altering their legal rights as kin. We don’t live in a vacuum, each member of a family is no more important than the next and the existence of each person in part defines the identity of all the others – as a sister or as an aunt or grandmother, etc.
Not raising your bio kid does not change the fact that you have a bio kid and are a mother or father in the technical sense. It’s possible to not raise your bio kid without falsifying other people’s records and severing legal kinship for everyone else in the family. Courts terminate parental rights all the time without terminating parenthood with the issuance of an amended birth record. Lots of parents loose the right to see their children without the child’s birth record being altered and the child’s identity is not altered and the kinship rights of them and their families are untouched.
Maybe AP’s take too much of a hit in these on line discussions for anger that largely stems from social injustice related to unfair laws. The imbalance in the conversation does have a lot to do with the imbalance in power created not by AP’s but by the laws about parentage and adoption and assisted reproduction. If the law were corrected to be really fair and equitable so that an adopted person’s rights with regard to their identity and birth record were identical to a person whose not adopted then there would be a whole lot less to be mad about and the need for help reuniting and searching would all but go away.
So it would help if AP’s got familiar with the laws that treat their adopted kids unfairly, they may not ever have given it much thought before and they might realize that changing the law would equalize their adopted kids treatment without undermining their parental authority at all. We should never try to cure something unfair by being unfair to someone else. Adoption is a solution to childlessness that is great so long as it’s structured to treat the adopted person fairly. That has to start with not allowing their bio parents identity to be concealed from them, not altering their birth records. Then they’ll be treated equal to the rest of us. No promise of anonymity to anyone who has offspring ever, period. If they feel harassed by their child they can file a restraining order.
Anonymous 108 & 9 are me marilynn
Greg thanks for taking the time to give my question some thought. Then I hope for a world where the adoption decree would allow you to undertake fulfilling the needs of an adopted child as I’m sure you and your wife have much to offer for the long haul.
Justin no problem it’s nice to get along. I lost a response to you here but you are right most do live with one bio parent it’s just when that bio parent happens to be married to someone when they are born that they wind up with a parent who is not biologically related and skipped the adoption process – that bio parent’s spouse would otherwise be a step parent who could go through a step parent adoption, but most people who have children with donors do so in part to short cut that formal adoption process by never disclosing the identity of the absent bio parent. It’s an appealing shortcut but obviously what they are shortcutting is something that is supposed to be for the protection of all parties involved.
See Justin now you are being sweet. I’ll agree that society thinks of donor offspring as typically being raised by one of their two bio parents. It’s becoming more and more common though for donor offspring to not be raised by either of their bio parents – both bio parents were contracted to reproduce for a company that puts their profiles in a book and customers will choose two bio parents with qualities they would like to raise in a child. Also embryo donation is getting more prevalent and that’s just the same thing as putting two contract employee donors together.
But back to your point yes many/most donor offspring find themselves in a situation where they have a legal parent who is not a bio parent and that person did not go through formal adoption procedures. The situation places a person who would otherwise be a legal step parent on an original birth record essentially skipping the legal procedure of the bio parent relinquishing and the step parent adopting in order to become a legal parent as opposed to a legal step parent. Where the parental obligation could outlast the marriage.
Also lots of donor offspring are not necessarily in that kind of underground adoption realm at all because their bio parent raising them does not name a partner as their other parent at birth. They’ve got the absent bio parent but nobody else has achieved legal parental control through a short cut.
I want to be respectful to you Justin. How am I doing? There are a wide variety of constructs that a donor’s offspring might find themselves in, I know. Being purely analytical, not emotional because everyone’s feelings are different – a donor’s offspring is a person who is not legally recognized as the child of at least one bio parent and is not legal kin to that bio parent’s family. Some people who have parental authority over donor offspring are not bio parents of that person and did not adopt that person and so they obtained their parental authority over another person’s offspring through a legal short cut, generally by being married to a bio parent or sometimes to a non-bio parent who gave birth to a donor’s offspring.
If you look at it clean like all people have bio parents and if they are not going to be raised by them we need to follow legal processes that protect minors equally then I think it may make sense what I’m saying is missing for donor offspring.
marylynn (96) – Thank you for your explanation.
In your answer, you described the situation of donor-conceived children as “people who find themselves with legal parents who are not their bio parents”. However, in almost all donor conceptions, the child lives with a biological parent.
“Adoptive parents can take their adopted kids to the doctor and enroll them in school prior to the arrival of the amended birth certificate â€“ I swear. I donâ€™t know where you are getting your information but itâ€™s just not true.”
This isn’t always the case. There are situations where only the birth certificate is recognized. Since 9/11 documentation has become more strict. What may have been accepted in the past is no longer accepted universally.
The most important thing is the child and their ability to have access to be able to live like other kids. Denying them the ability to enroll in school, other activities or get a passport because their legal parents are not recognized as being responsible for them just because the objective is to minimize the role of the parents who adopted them is wrong.
So for me I would not adopt if just an adoption decree was the only proof that we had for parental legalization. The reason would be that we would not be able to provide the things to our child that not adopted parents are able to provide. I just couldn’t bare to tell our child that they couldn’t make a trip out of the country because we weren’t able to obtain a passport for them because we aren’t recognized as their legal parents (I know situations where this has happened). It’s about the child not the biological family.
“I have used the term â€œinfertilesâ€ in my post (#86), and I apologize if it had hurt anyone. I myself do not consider it offensive, or limiting people including myself only to their fertility-related condition, but I understand some do, and I will try my best to remember to use â€œinfertility-sufferersâ€ or â€œpeople who are suffering from infertilityâ€ from now on.”
I’m with Justin. It doesn’t bother me but I apologize to those that it does offend.
On the topic of infertiles its just not really a word is it? It’s kind of like parenting, you don’t become a parent by acting like one, it’s a noun it’s something you have to be before you have the associated responsibilities, like raising or rearing. Adoptive parents have to adopt first, not raise kids first for instance. Infertiles seems like its a made up word just like parenting really just should be raising or rearing infertiles should be infertile people or people who have fertility problems, etc. JMO
OH, and thank you for listening and considering my comment, Dawn, I appreciate it.
And vice versa to you Anon AP.
Dawn, there is a boundary between a factual description of condition and using it as a label or epithet. The latter really chaps my hide, and context does matter. The former not so much, though I always notice it. It was its use in this comment thread, solely in a nastily- or sarcastically-meant way, that made me respond the way I did. I see that it can be used neutrally, even if it’s not my preferred term.
I’m willing to go with the majority view without a fuss beyond my original post because I recognize I might just be extra sensitive about it. Not like it’s going to stop me coming to take advantage of your excellent shows and blog (including the comments – I love the discussions here!).
My personal test
Would I say it in conversation with someone who is the descriptor?
I have used the term “infertiles” in my post (#86), and I apologize if it had hurt anyone. I myself do not consider it offensive, or limiting people including myself only to their fertility-related condition, but I understand some do, and I will try my best to remember to use “infertility-sufferers” or “people who are suffering from infertility” from now on.
“The problem is an adoption decree is not universally accepted by entities such as schools, sports or other activities and for passports. You would make it impossible for a parent to be able to provide the same things for their child that non adopted children have no issue with. That is not fair to the child.”
Greg their birth certificate would work just fine to identify the child for school enrollment purposes – or any purpose the same as it works for every other child. Proof of legal guardianship or adoption is accepted by all entities in the government, in schools, at doctors offices – that’s why you’ll never see a form that just says “parent” it will say “parent or legal guardian” and an adoptive parent is a parent for all intents and purposes and can sign the form.
Adoptive parents can take their adopted kids to the doctor and enroll them in school prior to the arrival of the amended birth certificate – I swear. I don’t know where you are getting your information but it’s just not true.
So let me ask you this Greg – pretend I am right for just a second, I’ll go along with you and say I’m wrong for the sake of hypothesis, but if it were true that the birth certificate could stay untouched and you could waltz into a school and enroll a kid with their birth certificate and a copy of the adoption decree (you can get the kid a pass port this way as well) then would it be OK with you that it not be amended? Especially since it would equalize the rights of the adopted person and all their relatives? Would it be a deal breaker for you?
Black and grey market exchanges are ones that occur off the government record. Private agreements with biological parents not to assume responsibility for their own offspring so that others who wish to raise their children may do so without having to go through the time and expense and formality of adoption proceedings are black market (off record) adoptions that occur without court approval.
The fact that the government has actually sanctioned some of these private off record agreements for custody and control of people’s offspring without the checks and balances of a court approved adoption, excusing some bio parents from their parental obligations, is an enormous problem as it denies minors the same due process protections that other minors have when not being raised by their bio parents. It absolutely is black market adoption. The fact that it’s legal is precisely the problem because donor offspring don’t have equal rights.
You are misunderstanding my intent. I don’t call it black market adoption to be a bully. I call it that because it is off record adoption and people who find themselves with legal parents who are not their bio parents yet have not been formally adopted have suffered a grave injustice of denial of due process. I’m not trying to be a bully I’m trying to shed light on the unfair conditions that people are subjected to when their parents are exempted from responsibility because they signed private donor agreement contracts. The intent is not to shame or hurt anyone at all but to equalize the treatment of everyone at birth by obligating everyone with offspring equally. Such a change would harm nobody because everyone would be treated fairly.
I’m sorry if you thought my intent was anything other than that.
I could be sensitive from reading too much stuff like this:
“Top Ten Levels of Adoptorapor Infertile, desperate adopters who are willing to pay huge amounts of money to purchase a baby to adopt against her familyâ€™s wishes, and who will stop at nothing to bully and vilify longing, heartbroken family.” july 1, 2014 from Claudia D’Arcy’s blog
Like anonymous, I don’t think I should be reading things that attribute desperate and evil characteristics to people who are battling infertility. Can mess with you mentally. It’s hard enough. Don’t need to make the experience harder.
Shouldn’t read people who assume the condition of infertility is a risk factor for evil behaviour.
“Iâ€™m not trying to be argumentative, and Iâ€™ll try to do what the majority wants b/c why intentionally offend someone.”
I can only say my gut reaction. I see your point, but I don’t think I’m the only person to have this reaction.
Perhaps the problem stems from the long-standing stigma, whereas people suffering from diabetes don’t have that history.
Anna, gut reactions matter. I think I’ll do a blog post on the term “infertile” being used to describe a group. I need to think on it some. That way we’ll broaden it to a larger audience.
I’d like to get other’s thoughts on using infertile as a noun to describe a group. Some here have found it offensive, while I would assume others do not. If possible please distinguish the use from the intent. By that I mean, don’t automatically assume that the only way someone would use it is do put down the group. The person who is putting down the group (e.g. all infertiles want to steal babies) could do the same by using it as an adjective (e.g. all infertile people want to steal babies). I’m really wanting to focus on the use of the word to describe the group. For example, would you find it offensive if someone said, “The pain of infertiles is often overlooked and misunderstood leaving them to fight an invisible prejudice.”
Again, I’m not trying to offend at all; I’m trying to understand and perhaps change people’s use of a word if it is offensive.
“â€œOne group of people is expected to respectfully listen and learn. The other group is positioned as â€œteachersâ€ who have nothing to learn from their â€œaudience.â€ Itâ€™s unequal dialogue. Many people wonâ€™t engage in conversation under those terms.â€. â€
One group is given â€œfreedom to vent feelings.â€ The other group is not given thatâ€
Anna-This. So this. Thank you for putting this inequality into words. And it is an unfair equality, no matter what others say. I have learned a great deal from the blog posts themselves, but when I get to the comment sections, I find that those who consider themselves â€œteachersâ€ come across more as the schoolyard bullies who seek to prey on the weaknesses of their fellow students once class has been dismissed. As was suggested, I will be going elsewhere for my alternate family building information, if I can in fact find such a place where so called adults in the BP and adoptee community can share their information with those of us who are IF and seeking information while still respecting the humanity and the individual nature of our circumstances as well. Not because Iâ€™m insecure and frustrated, but because I recognize that I am a human being as well, and have not done anything to earn the blame and contempt that I see coming from others on here and in other popular â€œventingâ€ venues. And for those of you who donâ€™t understand where I am coming from on this, well, what else is new?”
I comment on other popular mixed forums and I’ve found everyone respectful and I try to treat everyone with respect. There are times that people disagree and things get heated but that is to be expected on a mixed forum.
As for this:
“One group is given â€œfreedom to vent feelings.â€ The other group is not given thatâ€”
Is that really fair to Dawn? Dawn tries very hard to be as fair as possible.
In fact, she quite rightfully told me off for bringing a disagreement I had with Greg onto her blog. I took note of what she said and even though Greg and I might not agree with each other all the time, I think we do at least try to listen to each other and try to see each others point of view.
Anyway, good luck Anonymous finding another forum. I have a feeling that you might not feel comfortable on many of the mixed forums out there.
“â€œMy disagreeing with you is not me discriminating against you (twice Iâ€™ve been accused of that).â€
You didnâ€™t just speak in terms of â€œIâ€™d worry that a kid would feelâ€¦â€. You spoke in terms of morally judging people.
My body is not your issue. What you wrote gave me the impression you thought you had the right to control my body.
You can judge me for what I do with my reproductive system. But Iâ€™ll come back at you fighting. Itâ€™s my vagina and my uterus. Not yours.
Donâ€™t be surprised if people get insulted. Youâ€™re morally judging what people do with their private parts.”
Umm,where and when? If you are talking about recent conversations about anonymity in DC, then I do have a right to have an opinion on whether anonymity in DC should be allowed. That has nothing to do with your private parts. I don’t think I’ve ever told you what to do with your private parts.
“Anon P, I periodically also use â€œinfertileâ€ when referring to the group, but mainly itâ€™s because it is a shorter way to say â€œthose suffering from infertilityâ€ or â€œpeople diagnosed with the disease of infertilityâ€. I donâ€™t mean to define you by your disease. Thanks for letting me know it rubs you the wrong way. Iâ€™ll try to avoid it, but darn that is hard since there just arenâ€™t that many ways to talk about those who have infertility”
Dawn, I don’t think AnonAP has a problem with the word infertile as an adjective, I think AnonAP is addressing her comments to some of her fellow IF sufferers on here who are using the word “infertiles” as a noun as an apparent stand against the supposedly vast numbers of posters on here who are apparently using it (although I’ve never seen anyone use it that way but them). I actually find it upsetting too, mainly because I think in fact the vast majority of posters to your blog have gone out of their way NOT to use that word and use respectful language such as IF sufferers. I would never ever use that word because I know it is so hurtful.
Maybe people in the blogosphere do use that word for IF sufferers but no-one here on this blog does so. People need to ignore what happens on other blogs and concentrate on what happens here. We can all go to other blogs of all kinds and find nasty stuff, unfortunately that is one of the cons of the internet – the pros being that we can also find lots of awesome stuff.
I don’t like the word “infertiles” either. It collapses a medical condition or a disability into an identity.
We don’t call someone who is paralyzed a “cripple.” It would be horrible to collapse deafness or blindness or any sickness into a one-word identity. Horrible. Leprosy becomes “lepers” and “leper colonies.”
Anna, I always go with whatever the majority of people with a disease prefer to be called, or at least I try to. So I really don’t have a dog in this fight, but aren’t the following considered acceptable:
I would imagine if I were writing about the group of people suffering from diabetes, I would alternate between calling them “diabetics” or “people who suffer from diabetes”. My point is that when we need to talk about a group for some reason we look for a descriptive word. It is not with the intent of reducing someone to their disease but as a way to speak of the group.
I’m not trying to be argumentative, and I’ll try to do what the majority wants b/c why intentionally offend someone.
re: “infertiles”. I want to let this pass, but I just can’t. I am not “an infertile”. I am a person who suffers from infertility, a chronic, emotionally painful condition that prevents me from being able to reproduce. I’m sure not feeling empowered by the use of other infertile people using that term. Just like when people knocking or demeaning infertile people use it, I feel kicked in the gut when I read it. My medical condition is not the sum total of my identity, but that term implies that everything I do and say is defined by that lens rather than just informed by it. I haven’t seen it on this blog or in the comments section here in the few years I’ve been following as often as I’ve seen it in this thread. I get that y’all are using it to make a point, but really, and please, can we just not use that term?
Anon P, I periodically also use “infertile” when referring to the group, but mainly it’s because it is a shorter way to say “those suffering from infertility” or “people diagnosed with the disease of infertility”. I don’t mean to define you by your disease. Thanks for letting me know it rubs you the wrong way. I’ll try to avoid it, but darn that is hard since there just aren’t that many ways to talk about those who have infertility.
marylynn (in 72) – “Legal adoption is better than the various forms of black market adoption that are around such as donor conception and embryo donation”
Are you serious? Black market adoption is a criminal offence. Donor conception or embryo adoption are perfectly legal means of constructing a family. Please refrain from bullying, moralizing, and criminalizing other people’s choices.
“They adopted and their names would appear on the adoption decree â€“ itâ€™s fair and would eliminate all the legal inequities that adopted people and their relatives face related to freedom of information.”
The problem is an adoption decree is not universally accepted by entities such as schools, sports or other activities and for passports. You would make it impossible for a parent to be able to provide the same things for their child that non adopted children have no issue with. That is not fair to the child.
There is a simple solution that gives everyone what they need and that is to never seal an adoptees original birth certificate. I don’t understand why it needs to be made more complicated than that.
Anonymous 76 + 78. Thank you for your words. You are entirely right. Members of the fertile public, including some people who write in these forums, frequently judge and denigrate us infertiles for our choices. Reading blogs and comments sections frequently feels like encountering moralizing schoolyard bullies. I would wish for you to continue participating in the comments sections, since your point of view is important and valid (at least for some of us, like me), but if you do not feel like you can do it, I understand and respect that as well.
cb why should anyone have a special right to no contact? The rest of the population does not have such an option or luxury. If I never wanted to talk to my mother again where would I go to sign a no contact log? If my brother never wanted to talk to me again where would he sign up and what duty would it be of the state to underwrite that effort? I’m not sure why you think that it would be fair of someone to ask for no contact or rather to expect no contact. If they are harassed they can file a restraining order.
“My disagreeing with you is not me discriminating against you (twice Iâ€™ve been accused of that).”
You didn’t just speak in terms of “I’d worry that a kid would feel…”. You spoke in terms of morally judging people.
My body is not your issue. What you wrote gave me the impression you thought you had the right to control my body.
You can judge me for what I do with my reproductive system. But I’ll come back at you fighting. It’s my vagina and my uterus. Not yours.
Don’t be surprised if people get insulted. You’re morally judging what people do with their private parts.
You might be misunderstanding something. Anonymous said she was alienated from the political goals. Not because of this thread or this blog. But there’s way too much internet rudeness in this area. It’s a cumulative impression and I share it.
People don’t read just one blog on the internet. They read a couple at a time – most like. I was not talking about 1 blog or one thread, but a group of blogs and people.
I’m not invested politically. Not invested in the NY vote because of it. Sure there are others like us. Get disconnected, alienated, polarized. Politics is mostly emotional. People don’t vote for “sides” that give off disrespect. Most people won’t listen to people who disrespect them as a group.
I’m not the first person to note there’s a issue on the internet on this issue.
“Have you considered that the dialogue is unequal because the practice is unequal?”
No. Adults should act like adults. No excuse for internet bullying tactics or rudeness.
Would understand bad behavior from a teenager. won’t accept it in an adult.
What I wrote above about not amending birth certificates of adopted people works legally because there is no law that promises to conceal the identity of biological parents from their adopted children. They are not changing history, just transferring parental authority to the adoptive parent(s).
Got cut off before I could finish my last comment-a word of warning to BP’s and adoptees who seek to comment on here in the name of “education”. Shaming IF couples and PAP’s and people seeking to become parenthood through 3rd party reproduction is not educational. It is not helpful or healthy and will not lead to better families for the future children of adoptive families or families created through 3rd party reproduction. In fact it will only make things worse, because it makes us resistant to learning anything from you and what you have to share with us. If you cannot share your wisdom with us without seeking to shame us at the same time, your “wisdom” is something we can do without. This site is called “Creating a Family” not “Denigrating and Shaming those who seek to create a family through any but biological means in an effort to make our self-righteousness seem like something noble or life-giving” That’s not what I came to this site for, and if it is going to be upheld and justified by those who claim to be adults without feeling like they have to act like ones when engaging in dialogue with others who have a different point of view in the comment sections of these balanced and informative articles, then I guess I will have to go elsewhere to find the information that I need in order to be a good parent to my unorthodox family of the future. Dawn, I will continue to read your blog posts-I find them helpful, but I will be avoiding the comments from now on. That’s probably best for everyone. Thanks.
I would like to ask Dawn and any other adoptive or prospective adoptive parents the following question:
Would you still adopt if the child’s birth certificate was not amended?
Not like their birth certificate would contain a mark or anything to make them stand out or be different in anyway.
The birth certificate would prove who the child is and the adoption decree would prove who you are. Adoption decree also proves any name changes that occurred at the time of adoption.
We don’t alter women’s birth certificates when they change their names after getting married and we don’t alter birth certificates after other legal name changes – you just present the proof of legal name change together with your original birth certificate.
This would solve the problem of adopted people having two birth certificates one original one amended, two identities. The adopted person would have one identity, one birth certificate just like the rest of the population.
Would it be a deal breaker? I think people would still adopt even if they were not issued a birth certificate with their name on it. I think their desire to become adoptive parents would not go away just because of that. I think this simple change would provide adopted people with equal rights moving forward.
People currently fighting for their original birth certificates could then request that their current birth certificates be corrected to match the content of the original because they are medically inaccurate.
I just think that adoptive parents and potential adoptive parents would not give up the opportunity to adopt if their names were not going to appear on the birth certificate. They adopted and their names would appear on the adoption decree – it’s fair and would eliminate all the legal inequities that adopted people and their relatives face related to freedom of information.
“One group of people is expected to respectfully listen and learn. The other group is positioned as â€œteachersâ€ who have nothing to learn from their â€œaudience.â€ Itâ€™s unequal dialogue. Many people wonâ€™t engage in conversation under those terms.â€. ”
One group is given â€œfreedom to vent feelings.â€ The other group is not given that”
Anna-This. So this. Thank you for putting this inequality into words. And it is an unfair equality, no matter what others say. I have learned a great deal from the blog posts themselves, but when I get to the comment sections, I find that those who consider themselves “teachers” come across more as the schoolyard bullies who seek to prey on the weaknesses of their fellow students once class has been dismissed. As was suggested, I will be going elsewhere for my alternate family building information, if I can in fact find such a place where so called adults in the BP and adoptee community can share their information with those of us who are IF and seeking information while still respecting the humanity and the individual nature of our circumstances as well. Not because I’m insecure and frustrated, but because I recognize that I am a human being as well, and have not done anything to earn the blame and contempt that I see coming from others on here and in other popular “venting” venues. And for those of you who don’t understand where I am coming from on this, well, what else is new?
“Have you considered that the dialogue is unequal because the practice is unequal? ”
And this is why a lot of these discussions go no where. Because they are taken to an extreme. The best approach is the one taken by CB. It’s open minded, empathetic to the other side, focuses on the issue and doesn’t demonize the other side. Sure those who are closed minded are not going to listen no matter what but those who are open minded are far more likely to listen and engage with an approach like CB’s than one that is an extreme and uses extreme measures to get their point across.
“Thatâ€™s where you have to treat the adopted person like other humans and realise that they will act like other humans and respect the wishes of those bparents. Adoptees are not masochists, they are not going to hassle people who donâ€™t want to be hassled.”
For me this shouldn’t even factor into the equation. It’s a document that is yours. No other person or entity especially after you turn 18 should have control over it.
I think we have really gone off track in this thread so I want to point out that in every single state and country that has unsealed records, there are options for bparents in regards to contact ranging from no contact preferences to the ones you mentioned in your post. A no-contact preference is fairest because it allows the adopted person to get their OBC but allows the bparent to state their preference re contact.
In some ways, the bparents are more protected in unsealed records states. Each time I read a story by a bparent in a closed state who didn’t want contact, I think “What a shame that you weren’t in an open records state, you could have prevented that contact by filling out a non-contact preference form”.
Now I know that there are people who say “But if you give a person their OBC, they will just ignore than no-contact preference and hassle the bparent anyway”. That’s where you have to treat the adopted person like other humans and realise that they will act like other humans and respect the wishes of those bparents. Adoptees are not masochists, they are not going to hassle people who don’t want to be hassled.
Anna you said
“One group of people is expected to respectfully listen and learn. The other group is positioned as â€œteachersâ€ who have nothing to learn from their â€œaudience.â€ Itâ€™s unequal dialogue. Many people wonâ€™t engage in conversation under those terms.”
Have you considered that the dialogue is unequal because the practice is unequal? Legal adoption is better than the various forms of black market adoption that are around such as donor conception and embryo donation, but both types of adoption place the adopted person and their relatives in a compromised position legally that they will never age out of. That legal disadvantage that adopted people and their relatives have been made to endure is not an edict handed down from nature, it’s not a permanent physical disability, its a function of laws that can and should be corrected. So while not all adoptive parents are the same their level of legal authority and power is the same because of the law. The imbalance in the conversation reflects the imbalance in the laws they are subjected to.
“I do think some big leaps are being made in that when people are trying to talk about issues in adoption, it is being seen by some as an attack on those suffering from IF.”
Sometimes it’s hard for those going through infertility to see passed their hurt to recognize that not everything is meant to be an attack on them. I’ve been guilty of it at times. It’s easy to forget that you are coming from a place of hurt as well that is equally worthy of respect. I am so sorry that you have to deal with that and apologize for all of the times that you felt under attack.
“I also have said that I feel that those suffering from IF can often have an understanding of how their child might feel because of their own complex feelings.”
I don’t think anyone who wasn’t adopted could ever understand the feeling that an adoptee may have. However, to your point I think that those suffering from infertility can empathize with adoptees and have compassion. And vice versa.
“I do also try to use respectful language, eg I do always say â€œsuffering from IFâ€ â€“ I would never just refer to anyone as â€œan infertileâ€.”
CB, I’m so sorry you have been made to feel like you have to defend yourself. I know I have and apologize for that. You shouldn’t have to.
“Anon AP-yes, I am angry, and until some of these non-IF/non-APâ€™s are called to task for their rude comments towards APâ€™s and those of us who are IF, I will remain angry.”
I’m not seeing any rude comments on here towards AP and those with IF? Please point them out.
“Iâ€™m sorry if you or anyone else were offended by my use of the terms â€œunwantedâ€, and I agree that I could have used another term, but plenty of people on here and elsewhere feel that itâ€™s okay to use derogatory terms for IF couples and PAPâ€™s and APâ€™s and to express negative attitudes towards them and no one ever tells them that they are wrong or that they should apologize.”
I’ve not seen anyone on here use derogatory terms for IF couples/PAPs/APs. In fact, I think most of us on here are very careful to use respectful language for those suffering from IF, PAPs/APs. I always use the phrase “suffering from IF” which I believe is being respectful – if not, please let me know. I am assuming you consider the word “infertiles” to be offensive yet the only people I’ve seen use that phrase on here are you and a couple of other IF posters.
As for the “unwanted” thing, I’m just surprised to hear that sort of thing coming from someone planning on adopting a child.
“Because they are hurting people with their comments, too. I am one of them, and I am tired of being hurt just for trying to learn about the realities of the alternate ways in which I might one day become a parent.”
I asked you about the offensive comments and you misinterpreted them – I’ve explained them elsewhere. I didn’t even bother defending the comment â€œThe sealing of adoption records was in fact about protecting the â€œsanctity of the adoptive familyâ€ – that is the opinion of many adoption researchers, not just me.
“As Anna so eloquently said in her comments, people become alienated and turn away. Especially if there is a double standard over who is expected to be respectful and who is allowed to vent their hurtful views that paint one group of people as always wrong, always bad, always with wrong motives, always as the enemy.”
Dawn would never allow that to happen. She lets people know when they are misbehaving. I’m not going out of the way to disagree with you, we just have differing views.
“Adoption is complex, and it requires respect that should be a 2 way street. So far I have not seen that truth being displayed when it comes to respecting the point of view of IF people who are seeking to become parents.”
I have often respected the point of view of IF people who are seeking to become parents.
“CB-Iâ€™m more like you than you think, except it is through being online and hearing some BPâ€™s and adoptees in action on blogs and in forums that has made me more cynical. Cynical and angry at those who believe they are entitled to bully IF couples and PAPs in the way that they do.”
I don’t like those who bully IF couples and PAPs either, however, I haven’t seen that on here – I certainly haven’t seen it on this thread. Where I differ with my cynicism is that I learnt to be less cynical and actually at least try to see the other person’s point of view. You seem determined not to do so.
“In any other forum or with any other group this would be called out for what it is-bullying-and would be condemned, but on the internet itâ€™s called â€œeducationâ€ I was actually encouraged to see the title of this article because I felt that it reflected the sense of balance that I know is the truth of adoption, but of course it had to be disputed and quickly too.”
First of all, Dawn’s article was good :). However, the title was talking about something that hadn’t been promised – a better title would have been “should We Keep Promise of confidentiality Made to Birth Parents and what did that confidentiality actually entail”. I hope Dawn doesn’t mind me saying that.
“If the title had instead questioned keeping the promise of anonymity made to ADOPTIVE parents, I have a feeling that the tone of this comment section would be very different. No one would deny that such a promise was made and that such a promise was wrong-because it was made in that case to people who committed the â€œcrimeâ€ of trying to become parents through adoption. That is a double standard, and I donâ€™t believe that it has any place in a civilized learning environment, if that is in fact what this is.”
I don’t even know how to answer the above comment.
Anonymous, I don’t know how many of your comments are directed at myself or how many addressed at other adoptees on this board but we are not out to hurt you, we are just trying to watch out for our “fellow peeps”, i.e. the young adoptees/children either born or not yet born. Thus, my views, for example, on anonymity in DC were from putting myself in the shoes of a DC child – they were not designed to make sure that IF couples had fewer options. My disagreeing with you is not me discriminating against you (twice I’ve been accused of that).
I don’t know what else I can say. All I can do is to reassure you that no-one is out to hurt you or discriminate against you, even if we might disagree with you.
cb, I don’t mind at all the suggested better title. I think you are right that a better word choice would have been “confidentiality” rather than “anonymity”. Where were you a couple of weeks ago when I was coming up with a title?? :-)(I think I chose anonymity b/c of the article talking about the NY law.)
“Start modeling the tone and language use that you want your hoped-for future child to see and read. You will never want anyone to tell your child that he or she was â€œunwantedâ€, for example. Trust me on this. Youâ€™ll get all rage-y if someone does.”
I’m glad you said this, Anon AP. When I read anonymous’s post, I did wonder whether she would ever say that to her future child. No online AP I know would ever want their child to think they were unwanted or unloved by anyone including their bparents. In fact, one of the hardest things for APs is how to tell their child their story. I believe in keeping within the facts and not putting your own spin on things. If one is talking with one’s child, both parties can explore various scenarios together and help place things in context but it is best if one lets the child take the initiative.
“Your comment reads to me as if you view adopted parents, as a group, as people who have difficulty seeing people as â€œcomplex individuals in their own right.â€
This is my original comment:
“Iâ€™ve never blamed APs as a group themselves and Iâ€™ve never considered them to be preying on BPs. At the same time, everyone in adoption does have to have a clear and realistic view of what adoption is about. They do have to move beyond just thinking of adoption as â€œbuilding their familyâ€ because otherwise there can be a tendency to not see the bparent or unborn child as humans in their own right.”
You will note that I am not specifically saying that all APs think that way. At no time did I say “All people who turn to adoption only ever think of adoption as building their families and never think of the other people as human”. I was trying to say “Sometimes people can think of adoption ONLY in the context of building a family and don’t always see the bigger picture”. Also I was connectng one act to another – i.e. if people see things one way THEN they MIGHT be prone to see things a certain way. The truth is that it is often the general public themselves who think of adoption ONLY in the context of building a family. Often when people first turn to considering adoption, they are usually thinking like a member of the general public, i.e. they are often holding views that they held long before even considering adoption. That’s why forums can be good places because they then start to learn and think beyond their pre-adoption views.
In fact, you might note that I talked about being online discussing opening of records and how ignorant the general public could be about adoption and adoptees and that they often themselves felt that APs needed defending, not realising that many APs would be offended by their defence – as I said earlier.
“Many of the APs I know online are far more openminded than the â€œstereotypeâ€ APs referred to by these posters.”
“If all you are hearing is the people being disrespectful, look elsewhere.”
I don’t think anyone is trying to be disrespectful. I do think some big leaps are being made in that when people are trying to talk about issues in adoption, it is being seen by some as an attack on those suffering from IF.
If it helps anonymous feel better, it is my observation that a lot of the controversial adoption cases have involved very fertile adoptive parents, eg rehoming cases, the death of IA adopted children. I also have said that I feel that those suffering from IF can often have an understanding of how their child might feel because of their own complex feelings.
I do also try to use respectful language, eg I do always say “suffering from IF” – I would never just refer to anyone as “an infertile”.
Also, as an adoptee, I do tend to see things from the future child’s point of view. Despite everyone online being anonymous, I realise that there is an actual child out there whose future depends on their parents (whether bparents and/or aparents) doing right by them. And for those who have accused me of coercing people to parent – I’ve never been one to push either option on people – it is not my place to do so. I do advise them to see a counsellor who can look at their situation through unbiased eyes and help them get to the best place possible to make an uncompromised decision.
I’ve said before that the prospective adoptive parents do have to be on alert for their own sake and others. I am not attacking them by saying that. There is many an AP who looks back on their adoption journey and thinks “I wish I knew then what I know now”.
The woman who was raped posted on firstmother forum. June 19th. Kathy A.
I was disturbed by the tone of many comment responses to a woman who had been raped.
“What I meant was (and I think you know quite well what I mean) is that prospective adoptive parents donâ€™t always see the child and/or bmother as being complex individuals in their own right. One just needs to look at Anonymousâ€™s comments about bparents â€“ she talked about them as if they all were exactly the same.”
On the web I’ve found a a tendency generalize and conflate groups and erase individuals.
Your comment reads to me as if you view adopted parents, as a group, as people who have difficulty seeing people as “complex individuals in their own right.”
It’s problematic to conflate millions of people from various nations, socio-ethnic groups, cultures, and languages. To say as a group, they “have a tendency” not to see people as “complex individuals” is not helpful considering the complexity of the population.
My point was simple. I understand the alienation.
There is a problem on the internet in this topic area. Sites have been shut down. Dialogue is shut down.
“Especially if there is a double standard over who is expected to be respectful and who is allowed to vent their hurtful views”
Yep this. One group is given “freedom to vent feelings.” The other group is not given that.
One group of people is expected to respectfully listen and learn. The other group is positioned as “teachers” who have nothing to learn from their “audience.”
It’s unequal dialogue. Many people won’t engage in conversation under those terms.
You said “If we were fertile and could become parents on our own without assistance (medical or legal) our reasons for wanting to do so would not be held to such an elevated standard-just wanting to build a family is enough for them, isnâ€™t it? “” To put such an expectation on someone just because of something that makes them part of a marginalized group-(sexual orientation, fertility, race, etc.) in order to do something that others can do without those expectations (get married, become parents, vote, etc.) is discrimination, and it is wrong, because it blinds people to the humanity of those marginalized people (in this case the PAPâ€™s and IF couples aspiring to be parents-but not saints out to save the world)”
It is rare that the state could be held accountable for injuries sustained by a minor at the hands of their parents because the state has no control over who does and does not have offspring; the state’s job is to obligate people with offspring to the care and support of their dependent children, their job is not to decide who gets to have offspring and the obligations that come with them. If it were the state’s job to decide who got to have offspring there might be no teenage pregnancies right? No births to drug addicted parents or parents who have any felony counts of child abuse right?
Humans have a responsibility to make child placement decisions in a fair, reasonable manner for the child’s safety whereas nature has no such responsibility to the child. If a child dies at the hands of an abusive parent there is nobody to blame but the parent. If the child dies at the hands of an abusive adoptive parent or black market adoptive parent there are other people to blame if they facilitated placement and overlooked warning signs like convictions for sexual assault on a minor for instance.
So of course adoptive parents have to jump through more hoops than biological parents because the safety and welfare of the child is at that point within the control of a human being that has the ability to cause or prevent harm.
cb – You always bring a valuable and generous perspective to these discussions. Thanks for that in general and specifically for your comment above. One of the reasons I appreciate hearing from you, TAO, Jeff, Ron, Von, and others who choose to share your experiences and knowledge online is that it helps me realize where the boundaries of my life experience make it difficult for me to anticipate some of the things our daughter will hear and experience. I can be taken aback by one person calling a group of children “unwanted”, but to hear you say that you are used to it puts another spin on it. It’s a good reminder that because I am not an adoptee, I have the luxury of getting irritated by and reacting to one event as if it were just one individual’s response. You’re reminding me that this is one of a general set of society-level biases/stereotypes/tropes that you hear over and over. Trying to tackle things one at a time would be exhausting, so I imagine you must have developed quite a set of strategies for dealing with this sort of comment, whether it is ignoring it, calling it out, working around it, or some other mechanism.
Anonymous, I get that you’re hurting, but you have to admit that it is never a great strategy to demand respect while being hurtful and disrespectful yourself, nor does it cause people to want to think about the complexity of your circumstances when you boil theirs down to something as simple as a binary wanted/unwanted scenario. There are myriad reasons why people place their children for adoption, and many people do so because of their set of options have become constrained by circumstances beyond their control. Some of those circumstances might be mitigated if our society had stronger, financially-neutral family preservation and support structures in place. When people get angry at APs, sometimes they are pissed at the individual APs and sometimes they are angry at the systems and structures that support adoption in our country and that APs are a part of (including legal structures that effectively deny them access to their records and place their own rights below those of their parents). Sometimes they are frustrated because many people choose to focus on the cute “lucky” baby who has a new home instead of the complex life story that the cute baby already has on his or her shoulders and will carry with them for a lifetime. Sometimes they get angry because when they are sharing their perspectives and frustration, people keep saying “but what about my pain?” The topic is adoption, and adoptees have a huge stake in that discussion. That’s a lot of rambling, I know, but my point is that if you hear anger in a post, then it probably has a root that is worth paying attention to even if the language rubs you the wrong way. Yes, some people judge IF couples considering adoption harshly. Well, OK. That’s their view. It doesn’t actually affect your ability to adopt or to learn about process or about things that are important to your future family or to do what you need to do. Walking away from the conversation or pulling it off track to talk about how IF is complicated does affect your ability to later understand and advocate for your hoped for future child. If you want to be an adoptive parent, don’t you want to hear what your child might feel or hear someday? You think it’s bad to hear people talk smack about IF couples? Just wait until someone talks smack (in general or specific terms) about your kid and/or his or her history and family. Holy bejibblies you never felt such rage, and you will want to turn around to all those who are on the PAP path behind you and say, “Listen! You have to listen. I know it hurts sometimes, but this is important stuff and you Have To Listen.”
So, with that I have two pieces of advice:
– Listen. I know it hurts sometimes, but this is important stuff and you have to listen.
– Start modeling the tone and language use that you want your hoped-for future child to see and read. You will never want anyone to tell your child that he or she was “unwanted”, for example. Trust me on this. You’ll get all rage-y if someone does.
“Thatâ€™s sweet of you, Greg. I think we have both taken to responding to present posts rather than previous ones.”
I think you are in the same position with others that we were when we first connected. I wanted to share my experience with those people so they give you the chance I didn’t for some time.
“What I meant was (and I think you know quite well what I mean) is that prospective adoptive parents donâ€™t always see the child and/or bmother as being complex individuals in their own right. ”
I knew what you meant and wasn’t taken back by it. I think it’s hard sometimes for PAPs and APs to look at it that way because they have been through so much to become parents. They are unable to realize that there is life after the child is a baby when they grow up into an adult. I’m not defending it nor am I saying it’s right but understand where those people are coming from. I think it’s extremely important for any couple who went through infertility to take as much time as they need before making their decision on whether to pursue adopting for the sake of the child they may parent and that child’s biological family.
Even 18 months after my diagnosis, I am still struggling in many aspects of my life. I still have no idea what the future holds and what my wife and I will do. But I do know that if we due pursue adoption and are lucky enough to become parents that we will do everything in our power to support that child as their parents and respect their biological family. Does that mean I believe we’ll be one happy family? No way. Everyday will be a challenge and there will be bumps in the road. There will be things out of our control that we will need to accept. It won’t be easy at all. But then again, what in life is easy?
“Adoption is complex, and it requires respect that should be a 2 way street. So far I have not seen that truth being displayed when it comes to respecting the point of view of IF people who are seeking to become parents.”
While I agree with you that it’s a two way street. Just because there are those that are disrespectful doesn’t mean we should be as well. Just as we are coming from a place of hurt so are they. Sometimes as hard as it is, it’s best to walk away.
Annaâ€Look at the comments to a woman who was raped on one prominent blog because she argued for privacy. â€ As I ponder this more I would pose the question should one bio mother have government protection in hiding from her child while another does not? Is being raped by her child’s father a more valid reason for wishing to hide from her children than if their father was a habitual abuser or how about if her children just could not be trusted and were stealing her money for drugs and whatnot? People decide not to talk to their relatives all the time and there is a threshold for getting the law involved and that’s if you can prove that they physically threatened you. Other than that you’re on your own. Imagine if it were reversed and someone wanted to disown their parents and tried to get their parents names off their birth certificate which would make them no longer the grandchild of their grandparents or sibling of their siblings all because their parents had been crappy parents while they were growing up. Well they would be certainly allowed to pretend that they were not their parent’s child or sibling to their siblings, they would not be allowed to go altering record documents because facts are facts like it or not. You see that is reasonable to say pretend but don’t expect the world to pretend with you. Adopted people and donor offspring and people stepped on (where a step parent is named parent) they are forced to pretend. That’s not right.
There is an old school of thought that society must offer anonymity in exchange for not aborting the child. Which is essentially like saying to a person that we as a society took away half their rights in order to save their life. Like they were stuck on the train tracks and the only way to save them was to cut off a leg. Reality is whatever the parent’s reasons were for not raising their kid are their reasons it should not impact the equal rights of their offspring. What they might have done if they knew their kids would have equal rights is really ridiculous. Everyone needs to always be operating with the understanding that everyone born will have the same rights, no exceptions and everyone with offspring has the same obligations no exceptions and if that reality colors people’s decision making then so be it. Abortions and birth control are legal methods of managing whether and when to reproduce. If a person reproduces their kids need to be treated equal and that should mean that they cannot be hidden from their own family so their mother can forget a rape experience. She can say please leave me alone and has recourse if she’s threatened by the kids she gave up for adoption.
Anna”Look at the comments to a woman who was raped on one prominent blog because she argued for privacy. ”
While I have not read the comments I can only imagine. But I am an advocate for all people with offspring to be equally obligated as parents in order that their children and their other relatives can have access to one another’s vital records like the rest of the population. Just because she does not want a relationship with her children should not mean that her children and other relatives should have information about who they are in terms of kinship hidden from them. No one member of a family should have veto power on the flow of information within that family. Certainly her experience does not change the fact that she is still their mother and her siblings are still aunts and uncles and her parents are still grandparents her nieces and nephews are still cousins and her other children are still siblings. They number 1 have every right to know of the existence of one of their relatives and should have access to that person’s records and identifying information and vice versa. She is certainly free to say please don’t contact me – and file a restraining order if she can prove her child is harassing her and is threatening her safety. That right exists for all of us when we are receiving unwanted contact from threatening individuals. She can suggest or ask that her other children not be contacted by the child she gave up for adoption but she has no real right to expect that her request be respected because she’s asking people to pretend they are not who they are and is asking them to lie in order that she can pretend she is not the mother of her own offspring. That’s fine if she feels that way but she should not put that on her relatives to deal with.
Iâ€™m not an adoptee, Iâ€™m an AP of 2 foreign-born children. In 1 childâ€™s case, BP rights terminated by court of law; in the other, BP relinquishment.
On the issue of OBC â€“ For both children, we have the OBC. (I know this isn’t the case with foundlings). As an AP, I am so very, very thankful we do have the OBC. It is a childâ€™s right to have their birth record! Because my children have the knowledge of their OBC & knowing the importance of it for their â€œgrowing up adoptedâ€ (my children are still young) â€¦ my heart goes out to US adoptees that do not have the ability to obtain their OBC & did not have that knowledge growing up. What a deep hurt! And, I support all efforts for legislative change. ICA maintains closed adoptions, however, I think there is disclosure of birth documents in ICA (at least it was in my 2 adoptions, in 2 different countries). Yes, you get what they have in the childâ€™s file & in some cases it might be vague information. But, if you have the BPâ€™s identifying information, you CAN do BP searches â€¦ Very, Very important for the child. As an AP, I simply cannot imagine parenting my children without the important, accurate historical documents of my childrenâ€™s birth & their individual, accurate birth histories. I have done multiple b.family searches for my children for validity/verification of their birth history. Truth & Transparency is the only way to parent. 🙂
Anna-thank you for your comment and for understanding where I am coming from.
Anon AP-yes, I am angry, and until some of these non-IF/non-AP’s are called to task for their rude comments towards AP’s and those of us who are IF, I will remain angry. I’m sorry if you or anyone else were offended by my use of the terms “unwanted”, and I agree that I could have used another term, but plenty of people on here and elsewhere feel that it’s okay to use derogatory terms for IF couples and PAP’s and AP’s and to express negative attitudes towards them and no one ever tells them that they are wrong or that they should apologize. Because they are hurting people with their comments, too. I am one of them, and I am tired of being hurt just for trying to learn about the realities of the alternate ways in which I might one day become a parent.
As Anna so eloquently said in her comments, people become alienated and turn away. Especially if there is a double standard over who is expected to be respectful and who is allowed to vent their hurtful views that paint one group of people as always wrong, always bad, always with wrong motives, always as the enemy.
Adoption is complex, and it requires respect that should be a 2 way street. So far I have not seen that truth being displayed when it comes to respecting the point of view of IF people who are seeking to become parents.
CB-I’m more like you than you think, except it is through being online and hearing some BP’s and adoptees in action on blogs and in forums that has made me more cynical. Cynical and angry at those who believe they are entitled to bully IF couples and PAPs in the way that they do. In any other forum or with any other group this would be called out for what it is-bullying-and would be condemned, but on the internet it’s called “education”. I was actually encouraged to see the title of this article because I felt that it reflected the sense of balance that I know is the truth of adoption, but of course it had to be disputed and quickly too. If the title had instead questioned keeping the promise of anonymity made to ADOPTIVE parents, I have a feeling that the tone of this comment section would be very different. No one would deny that such a promise was made and that such a promise was wrong-because it was made in that case to people who committed the “crime” of trying to become parents through adoption. That is a double standard, and I don’t believe that it has any place in a civilized learning environment, if that is in fact what this is.
Anonymous, when seeking information (and yes, I would call it “education”) online, you have to realize that everyone is coming from a different place with a different agenda. We adoptive parents (APs) must be open to hearing from adopted people and birth parents. We need to listen to them because much of what they have to say will help us be better parents. We need to listen because of child is an adopted person and will likely someday have questions for and relationships with their birth parents. We need to listen to them because we are all in the same community of adoption. Some people in these groups speak from a place of understanding and respect. Some speak from a place of anger because they feel unheard. If all you are hearing is the people being disrespectful, look elsewhere. But I’d caution you that sometimes your own insecurities and anger and frustration may be coloring your ability to hear and find those who are speaking with respect.
“Was also taken aback by this. Sounds like you think adoptive parents donâ€™t see people as humans. Morally superior tone. Most people wonâ€™t respond, will just avoid. And I wonâ€™t say things in the future.”
What I meant was (and I think you know quite well what I mean) is that prospective adoptive parents don’t always see the child and/or bmother as being complex individuals in their own right. One just needs to look at Anonymous’s comments about bparents – she talked about them as if they all were exactly the same. Sadly, some PAPs do tend to think of the expectant parents as being surrogates carrying their child and sometimes they just need to see the human side to these women. As I pointed out, I probaby was cynical years ago about these PAPs but now I realise that they are just humans themselves caught up in their adoption journey and not necessarily seeing the other side.
“Crazy stuff is written about the â€œentitled infertiles.â€”
One problem with using adjectives in writing is that people can assume that the adjective is being used to describe all people of that group, especially when the adjective is a stereotypical. So one does have be very careful when using them. For example, just say a person talking about a small group of entitled people who happened to be reach and said “the entitled rich” to talk about them, rich people in general might think that they are all being called entitled (because that is a common stereotype for that group as well). It would be much better to say “that small group of rich people who happen to have an entitled attitude”.
In regards to this
“Look at the comments to a woman who was raped on one prominent blog because she argued for privacy.”
I would be interested to a link to that blog. One wonders whether it happens to be a certain NJ “maternal source” (her words – perhaps better than her other choice of “biological c***”)
“â€¦Yes, yes you did say â€œunwantedâ€â€¦and I really hope youâ€™re ashamed of it on some level. You could have ended that sentence with â€œparentsâ€ or left off the â€œunwantedâ€ or ended it in any number of other ways, but instead you chose to use a pointed and painful word to describe some of the very people youâ€™re having a conversation with. You chose to throw that word in adopteesâ€™ faces, which is disrespectful to them and their peers, disrespectful to their birthparents, and totally unnecessary for your point. It was rude.”
Anon AP, I have to say that I’m used to it by now – it seems that people (often the general public) do feel the need to let adoptees know that they weren’t wanted. I’m not always sure what the motivation is – in some cases, one feels that to person is trying to be “cruel to be kind”, i.e. they seem to think that if they inform the adoptee that their bparents “didn’t want them”, the adoptee will then emotionally detach from their bparents and attach with their aparents – I think they often see it as an either/or situation. They don’t always understand that an adoptee can be very attached to their APs yet have compassion for their bparents.
Btw I do try to see my aparents and bparents as individual human beings, not just as aparents and bparents. Reading this site has helped me to understand that my parents may have had feelings about suffering from IF. Getting to know my bfamily, reading up about the history of adoption in my birth country and other countries and just a general interest in women throughout the ages has helped me to understand that the situation for my own bmother was more complex than just plain “wanting or not wanting” her child. I am over 50 so I do understand a little about the situation back then and when I starting thinking about the past in “2014” terms, I do have to remind myself to think back to the 70s. Anonymous may be a younger person and have a naive view of what life could be like for women back then – we are very lucky these days. I used to be naive too but general research about child/women welfare in general has made me understand the complexities of life for women throughout the ages.
One thing that I hadn’t really thought about was childcare, when women have to work, they have to have somewhere for the child to go – in fact, it is when one looks at the whole history of child welfare throughout the last few centuries that one can see the difficulties that women and their families faced (and still face in many countries of the world). My feelings of compassion towards my bmother are because I wouldn’t have wanted to be in her position making the choices with the limited options available.
This fictional NZ film helped give an insight into what a young single mother without any sort of support might have faced in NZ before the DPB came in (in fact, the film stirred up debate about whether there should be a benefit for single mothers).
Btw I spoke to a friend of my bmother (they worked together in the mid 70s) and this friend had a child out of wedlock herself in the mid 70s – she had the support of her family but she spent the end of the pregnancy in a maternity home (so there would be less gossip in her country town) – I actually mentioned to her how sometimes adoptees can feel that they weren’t wanted – and she tore strips off me and told me what it was like for her friends in the home that didn’t have the familial support that she did – I think she knew that she was lucky to have that support. I did point out that it is often the general public that make adoptees feel that way.
That’s sweet of you, Greg. I think we have both taken to responding to present posts rather than previous ones.
“It is being online and hearing and seeing some modern PAPs in action on blogs and in forums that originally made me more cynical â€“ sad but true.”
The internet can make one cynical about human nature.
I understand where anonymous is coming from. Crazy stuff is written about the “entitled infertiles.” Look at the comments to a woman who was raped on one prominent blog because she argued for privacy. I’ve seen swarming/stalking behaviour towards private individuals who are trying to raise money to adopt on the internet.
These inappropriate people are a minority. But people become alienated, turn away. Disturbing behavior.
â€œThey do have to move beyond just thinking of adoption as â€œbuilding their familyâ€ because otherwise there can be a tendency to not see the bparent or unborn child as humans in their own rightâ€.
Was also taken aback by this. Sounds like you think adoptive parents don’t see people as humans. Morally superior tone. Most people won’t respond, will just avoid. And I won’t say things in the future.
Dang, Anonymous, you’ve got some anger there.
I’m going to start with one point that stands out to me:
“it makes no room for the fact that in a number of cases the women and men who put their children into the adoption system (the birth parents)did so under their own power and for their own reasons-reasons which had nothing whatsoever with the APâ€™s or IF couples who would be waiting on the other side to become parents to these unwanted (yes I said unwanted) children”
…Yes, yes you did say “unwanted”…and I really hope you’re ashamed of it on some level. You could have ended that sentence with “parents” or left off the “unwanted” or ended it in any number of other ways, but instead you chose to use a pointed and painful word to describe some of the very people you’re having a conversation with. You chose to throw that word in adoptees’ faces, which is disrespectful to them and their peers, disrespectful to their birthparents, and totally unnecessary for your point. It was rude.
I have to defend CB here. I’ve interacted with get for about one year and I can say that I’ve come to the conclusion that she is a passionate caring person who doesn’t want to see others suffer or get hurt in any way. I know she has compassion towards those who are infertile and has nothing against them. All she is trying to do is educate do no one gets hurt or has to suffer and that includes infertile couples who are looking into and have adopted. Being someone who was/is adopted she has a lot of insight that we can all learn from.
I get exactly where you are coming from. I’ve been there and still at times 18 months after my diagnosis is still there. Just recognize what CB is saying has nothing to do with you or I. There is nothing she is saying that is intended to hurt us. In fact her intentions are the opposite in that I believe she wants us and the people who connect with in our lives to not get hurt or suffer.
Yes, there are some vicious hateful people in these communities who take out their hurt on infertile individuals/couples looking to adopt or utilize third party reproduction to have a child. But CB isn’t one of them. At one time I thought she was but I’ve learned that she isn’t. She’s someone I respect and wish nothing but the best for because people with her heart deserve nothing less.
Anonymous, I’m at work so there is too much to reply to right now but just wanted to respond quickly to this sentence:
“If such expectations are equally applied to fertile couples who seek parenthood, that would make things less discriminatory, but I donâ€™t see that happening any time in the future.”
Fertile couples who seek to become parents via ADOPTION do have to undergo the same checks etc as the infertile. Those checks aren’t put in place because of any hate for the infertile but for the protection of the child.
“â€œThey do have to move beyond just thinking of adoption as â€œbuilding their familyâ€ because otherwise there can be a tendency to not see the bparent or unborn child as humans in their own rightâ€.-Sorry, but Iâ€™m offended by this comment as well, because Iâ€™m certain that it is not as equally applied to fertile couples who desire parenthood”
Actually, it is again equally applied to fertile couples who desire parenthood via adoption. Also, I specifically used the words “CAN” to make it clear that I am not referring to ALL. The reason I said this is because of observations from being on adoption forums where NEWCOMERS can tend to forget that the birthparents aren’t surrogates having their children. Usually gentle reminders (usually by OTHER adoptive parents btw) help those PAPs realise that there is a human side to adoption. That is why forums are worthwhile because for many PAPs, they say it is where they actually learn. There is one forum I belong to where I see the evolvement all the time – they appreciate hearing others points of views.
“Just because I see adoption as a family building option doesnâ€™t mean that I donâ€™t see the children and their birth parents as humans in their own right-I do.”
You may well see the birthparents and children as humans but judging by your own posts, you are not allowing them to have complex human feelings either. I have no problems with PAPs wanting to build their families via adoption (as I’ve said before, I would hope that the motive for most adopting people is that they want to raise a child to adulthood)as long as they also understand that adoption isn’t purely existing for that reason. If I see some PAPs talk as if the unborn baby is already theirs, then I do go “Whoa”, not out of spite but just because the baby is not theirs until the paperwork has been signed.
Btw it might surprise you to know that until I came online, I did have a stereotypical view of APs – it was overwhelming POSITIVE lol – that’s because the APs (including my own) that I know in real life are great :). It is being online and hearing and seeing some modern PAPs in action on blogs and in forums that originally made me more cynical – sad but true. However, I do understand that most PAPs come to adoption without knowing too much about it and many PAPs do change as they mix with other APs and other members of the triads and they move forward and end up becoming better PAPs and then APs 🙂
Just out of interest, anonymous, are you an AP or an aspiring AP?
Anon AP â€œThe sealing of adoption records was in fact about protecting the â€œsanctity of the adoptive familyâ€.
One example (a) and (c) with further explanation of what (a and c) meant at the end of the quote by the Illinois Bar Association who drafted changes to the adoption act of Illinois in 1955… Protect the adoptive family and not have the records open to public inspection at any time because a consensus says adoption should be confidential – not a whisper of protection to the natural parent anywhere.
â€œII. The committee has recommended three amendments to the Adoption Act which obtained the approval of the legislative committee. The three approved amendments provide for ( a ) protecting adoption decrees from collateral attack, in the same manner provided for decrees under the Civil Practice Act; ( b ) specifying the venue of an adoption proceeding so that it must be filed in a county which has some relevance to the parities; i.e., the adopting parents, the natural parents, the place of birth of the child, the location of the licensed welfare agency, instead of merely providing that it may be filed in a county so long as the child is â€œfoundâ€ there; and ( c ) authorizing the judges of any court to enact rules for the general impounding of adoption files, registers, and dockets. The first amendment is intended to protect everyone from the specter of attacks on adoption decrees in later years when someone is tempted by pecuniary advantage to seek a technical flaw in an early proceeding. The second amendment is designed to prevent Illinois from becoming the Nationâ€™s dumping grounds in adoption proceedings. The third amendment is designed to permit the judges to adopt a general impounding rule in adoption cases. In effect, it is an amendment of the present act pertaining to clerks of courts, because that act as it now stands requires that all dockets and registers be open to inspection at all times. It is generally considered that all adoption records out to be confidential.â€
Some of us have studied the actual historical records of why laws were put in place.
“I refuse to believe that any large group of people, birth parents, adoptees, and adoptive parents can be lumped all together and assigned a role to play.”
But we can lump people together as those who have obligations and those who rely upon those obligations to be met. The law obligates people to their offspring as parents and their offspring, and society as a whole relies upon those obligations being met. The problem starts when the law begins exempting people from having to fulfill their obligations, whatever those happen to be. People who should be relying upon those obligations to be met by such an exempted person wind up SOL, unjustly denied equal rights all to serve some greater purpose.
With adopted people remember that nobody else has two identities or amended birth records. Other people might have corrected birth records or even fully false and inaccurate records but nobody else is assigned a second identity unless, like I said, they witness a mob hit or something and they generally are adults making a choice to change their identity. Everyone else just changes their name on a separate court approved document if that is what they want to do either when they get married or just because they feel like it. Everyone else just has one birth record and their parents don’t have the right to pretend they don’t have offspring.
We can and should lump people into groups if we want the law to be fair. Then they can feel however they want to about the laws that are fair and equitable. That’s fine for everyone to feel different but they should be treated fairly whether they care about that or not. Not everyone cares to vote but all should have the right.
cb-Here are the comments that I found offensive, and yes, they WERE on this thread
“Oh, yeah â€” it was when men began punishing women for having sex and turning their offspring into commodities to fuel a multi-billion dollar industry..”
“The sealing of adoption records was in fact about protecting the â€œsanctity of the adoptive familyâ€.
They are promoting for me the stereotype that the “adoption industry” is all a one sided program based on the demand of people who are unable to have children through natural means and who have decided to prey upon poor, innocent women whose only crime is being sexually active. This is something that I find offensive because it makes no room for the fact that in a number of cases the women and men who put their children into the adoption system (the birth parents)did so under their own power and for their own reasons-reasons which had nothing whatsoever with the AP’s or IF couples who would be waiting on the other side to become parents to these unwanted (yes I said unwanted) children. These are the people who now blame the “adoption industry” for preying upon them-which to me is like blaming the fast food industry for making you overweight or unhealthy. I’m just getting tired of AP’s and IF couples being blamed for the choices made by birth parents of the past and present. You who were placed for adoption by your birth parents (not you who were “scooped up” by your adoptive parents-another term I cannot stand) would have been placed for adoption no matter what happened on the other side-because it was your bp’s choice(not their punishment, their CHOICE) to choose adoption from all of the other choices that they had at their disposal at the time of your conception and birth. And some, if not all BP’s from that era chose to remain anonymous because it was the easiest solution for them, not because the evil adoption industry and its even more evil clients (the AP’s and the IF couples with their hands out)were trying to preserve the sanctity of their new families. Some BP’s wanted to hide and deny their parenthood for personal reasons, and these reasons were their sole motivation-not coercion to meet an outside demand. The BP’s were conscious people operating on their own ability to make choices based on their own situation.
“They do have to move beyond just thinking of adoption as â€œbuilding their familyâ€ because otherwise there can be a tendency to not see the bparent or unborn child as humans in their own right”.-Sorry, but I’m offended by this comment as well, because I’m certain that it is not as equally applied to fertile couples who desire parenthood. I agree that those of us who must seek alternate means to parenthood must see everyone in the triad as humans in their own right, but does that not apply to the PAP’s too? If we were fertile and could become parents on our own without assistance (medical or legal) our reasons for wanting to do so would not be held to such an elevated standard-just wanting to build a family is enough for them, isn’t it? To compare it to another civil rights issue, that is like saying that heterosexual couples can marry for whatever reason they want, but if a homosexual couple wants to walk down that aisle, they have to have some lofty and world improving goal that goes beyond just becoming spouses for life-curing cancer, or solving world hunger, for example. To put such an expectation on someone just because of something that makes them part of a marginalized group-(sexual orientation, fertility, race, etc.) in order to do something that others can do without those expectations (get married, become parents, vote, etc.) is discrimination, and it is wrong, because it blinds people to the humanity of those marginalized people (in this case the PAP’s and IF couples aspiring to be parents-but not saints out to save the world) in THEIR own right. If such expectations are equally applied to fertile couples who seek parenthood, that would make things less discriminatory, but I don’t see that happening any time in the future. Just because I see adoption as a family building option doesn’t mean that I don’t see the children and their birth parents as humans in their own right-I do. But I also see AP’s and IF couples who aspire to be parents to be human too, and I have seen far too many efforts to dehumanize us in forums where I have come to learn more about the realities of adoption. It has made me suspicious of learning more-a person can only learn that her disability makes her a bad person, and whose reasons for wanting to become a parent need to be so much more than my fertile neighbours. It has made it hard for me to be sympathetic to those of you who want your birth certificates and the information that it will provide for you as well. I have sympathy for your quest, but it is hard to come by when I know that you blame people like me for what you have been denied, when the truth is much more complex than that.
Btw I note anonymous said this
“Dawn-the â€œblameâ€ language is not from your original article-itâ€™s from the comments. I find I am losing patience with attitudes such as these-that BPâ€™s were innocent victims of the APâ€™s who were preying on them.”
Perhaps anonymous might like to point out these comments? Certainly, there are none on this thread. I know that I have said that adoption is about “supply and demand” and I know that APs often feel that when that is said then that makes them out to be the baddy demanding babies. However, it is more about having to APs having to treat adoption similar to how one might treat other things that are affected by market forces, i.e. having to be watchful and proactive. I’ve never blamed APs as a group themselves and I’ve never considered them to be preying on BPs. At the same time, everyone in adoption does have to have a clear and realistic view of what adoption is about. They do have to move beyond just thinking of adoption as “building their family” because otherwise there can be a tendency to not see the bparent or unborn child as humans in their own right.
Beth said: “So is medical history and excuse for our natural curiosity to know who and where we came from? Knowing your own history is important, and should be part of this discussion. But I hope we can be honest about that being the motivation”
I once was on a general topic forum where on the adoption subforum, there was a discussion of reunion and a couple of posters kept asking for reasons why we wanted contact – the adoptees kept giving reasons like medical etc and the these other posters just kept fobbing them off and then saying “I still see no reason”. In the end, I just said “Because I wanted to, that’s reason enough”.
Talking about honesty about motivation, I was on another part of that general topic forum (in a non-adoption part) where there was a discussion about records opening in a particular state. I went on there very respectfully standing up for adoptee rights and their access to their birth certificates and I found that quite a few of the respondents (some of whom seemed to only have a slight link to adoption) who were avidly for “protection of birth parents rights” actually seemed to actively despise those very same birthparents – it seemed more like they were more about “protection of the stereotypical birthparent image” rather than protection of their rights. I kept trying to explain that it is about the birth certificate not reunion and that most adoptees who do decide to take a step further are very respectful, however, the very same posters then rolled out the stereotype of mentally ill adoptees who despise their APs and who are out to ruin their bparents lives. These posters seemed to believe that adoptees wanting OBCs were betraying their adoptive parents and could “ruin” adoption. It seemed that some of the posters were trying to “help” APs but in a very misguided way. I suspect many APs wouldn’t have wanted their sort of support. Even when I tried to explain that my own APs didn’t feel betrayed, they wouldn’t listen. Sadly, the stereotypes abound for all members of the triad. Many of the APs I know online are far more openminded than the “stereotype” APs referred to by these posters.
cb,[Sadly, the stereotypes abound for all members of the triad.] Boy, you can say that again!!! I find them all offensive. I refuse to believe that any large group of people, birth parents, adoptees, and adoptive parents can be lumped all together and assigned a role to play.
Jeff,I totally agree with you that we should have equal rights. Though my country of birth has a non-disclosure veto, I don’t like it as the access to the birth certificate shouldn’t be reliant on a third party’s wishes. I think Oregon probably has the best laws so far in regards to having a “no contact preference” that doesn’t affect the release of the complete OBC. There need to be time limits as well.
And what you said here keeps needing to be said:
“Ironically, sealing of records has never occurred at the time of relinquishment. Rather, it occurs at the time of legal adoption. Children who remain in the system and do not get adopted never have their records sealed. Clearly the laws were written to protect the adoptive families from intrusion and (to a lesser degree) to shield the adoptees themselves from the shame of illegitimacy. If sealing were done to protect biological parents, it would have happened at relinquishment.”
Jeff, I think you’ve hit on a point that really clarifies some of the confusing conversations I’ve had with people in the past: Equal access to records is not about reunion. I hadn’t realized until you wrote that that conflation of those two things is so common.
You don’t need to explain the reasons to me. I understand them 100%. I agree that there is no reason why adoptees shouldn’t have access to their OBC. I fully support changes to the law that make it illegal for an adoptees OBC to be sealed for any reason.
I apologize if you misunderstood my position and that you felt I opposed adoptees having access.
I have seen plenty of paperwork given to birth parents at the time of their relinquishment and I have never seen, in writing, this vaunted “promise of anonymity”. That’s because such a “promise” would have been vaporous. Adoption records were sealed by statute, and statutes are NOT promises. This has been adjudicated in several states, and the courts have ruled definitively that no promise made by some practitioner is binding on current legislators.
And let’s be clear, when we speak of adult adoptees accessing their records of birth and adoption, we are not talking about their relationship with their adoptive families, nor their relationship with their families of origin, we are talking about their relationship with the states of their birth and adoption. As a matter of equity, adult adoptees should be able to unconditionally access their unaltered records of birth just like every other citizen. A non-adopted citizen doesn’t have to jump through hoops, petition a judge, sign a form, to get their record of birth. They may love their families with all their hearts, or treat them like lepers, it’s not the business of the state to care.
I don’t want to have to prove “need” to access my records of birth, whether it’s medical, psychological or otherwise. What qualifies the state, either through its judiciary or through its bureaucracy, to assess my “need”? The state is a very poor arbiter in the personal business of its citizens, I don’t want the state to pore through what scanty records it may possess of my birth and family history and edit it to create a posthumous health history of my first mother.
And, for the record, contact vetoes are the WORST. A contact veto is a restraining order placed without substantive due process or possibility of appeal. Contact vetoes are one court case away from being declared unconstitutional. CVs allow one person to restrain another without a hearing to show cause or history of harm. I would never sign a contact veto, surrendering my fundamental constitutional rights to access documents that should be mine by right.
Greg, Anon, Beth, and probably some that I’ve missed…
Adopted adults are asking for the same access to their original birth certificates that non-adopted adults have. Nothing less, nothing more. Why should I need to give a reason for wanting the legal record of my birth? Does anyone ask you why YOU want a copy of your birth certificate? Does anyone ask you to stand before a judge and spill your heart out just to get something that should have never been taken from you in the first place? NO.
Equal access to records is not about reunion.
Equal access to records is not about medical information.
Equal access to records is not about our relationships with our adopted families.
Equal access to records is about equal treatment under the law. That’s all. Why is this so hard to understand?
Greg and TAO, I think openness has served to highlight the weakness of these laws and their intent, but I agree it can’t be the way to solve the problem. With regards to medical, of course, having the OBC doesn’t really help with that too much. I wish there were some way of getting more of that information, but sometimes it’s just such a case-by-case thing. Don’t even learn about effect X (like reactions to anesthesia) until it’s an issue.
I remember when I had surgery the same question came up, but I will say that the doc seemed quite content with my “yeah, people in my family get very sick to their stomachs”. He nodded and made a note, and I never had a problem but had an extra prescription for anti-nausea meds. woo! Anyway, I wonder whether the root of that question is actually waking up vs. experiencing side effects from the drugs. For the latter, that’s not going to show up on a standard medical history form, and it’s unlikely to be known unless you have an ongoing, pretty friendly relationship where discussing things like that is actually done. Must get really frustrating sometimes to just not know.
AnonAP, I hadn’t really given it much thought, which is kind of surprising, but when I answer any type of family medical history question, I answer it in relation to my mother’s family, since I know virtually nothing about my father’s family. I would be better off saying “I don’t know” rather than giving misinformation. Humm, something to think about.
“while some adults do not chose to be infertile they do have a choice about trying to become a parent or not.”
This is not entirely true Von. There are some people who are infertile due to some type of medical condition that they have or had (cancer for example) that makes them ineligible to adopt. Also depending upon where the person or couple lives their local laws may not allow to adopt through Foster Care they may only be allowed to Foster which is not being a parent. So for some people their only option to parent is infertility treatments and if those don’t work then there is no decision that they can make.
This is why I don’t think it’s ever fair to compare situations especially those who are infertile vs adoptees/donor conceived because they are so different. They also end up turning into a whose pain is worse contest which ends up dismissing each side. I don’t think that’s fair. The only thing I’ll say is that only people who are infertile or who were adopted will truly understand what it’s like to walk in their shoes.
“The problem with assuming that â€œopen adoptionâ€ by itself will fix the issue (and I note you didnâ€™t actually say all) is problematic.”
Let me go back and explain what I meant. In a true open adoption that isn’t just an open contact that could run into the information issues you outlined, the adoptee will know who their biological parents are. But you’re right there will still be other issues that could occur regardless of whether it’s open or closed. The whole sealed birth certificate laws need to change regardless. You and I are in agreement on that.
“That is what an adoptee faces that you, having grown up in your family, would have known, simply because it would have been something that was important for all to know, if it ran in your family. ”
Not necessarily, I don’t keep in contact with all of my family and have no idea what medical conditions they may have or are facing. That’s not to say that I think it’s ok that adoptees don’t have the same access to their OBC’s that I do, because I don’t think it’s ok. You should have the same access that non adoptees do.
The fight to restore our rights is being primarily done by people from the BSE for both BSE and future adoptees.
The problem with assuming that “open adoption” by itself will fix the issue (and I note you didn’t actually say all) is problematic.
1. Adoptees from open adoptions in closed states still can’t ask for, and receive their original birth certificate.
2. Assuming that all open adoptions include exchange of information is wrong. Quite a few, perhaps many, or most, no one knows so assume it’s either many or most – updates are sent from the AP to BP, some/many/most are sent to the agency to forward so there is no direct link. Agencies close their doors – that avenue is gone. Some adoptions never exchange last names. Some on either side – flake, move on, have misunderstandings, whatever – the door is closed by one side or the other. What you have then, is a closed adoption with little to no difference than what adoption from the BSE looked like.
They have gotten better at collecting information at the time of the adoption on the family health history. The flaw in that though is assuming that an 18 or even 28 year old, knew enough or cared enough before she was in crisis to have paid attention to what people around her suffered from (or died from), and at what age any dx or events happened. The flip side of the equation is that with this strange need by some to omit the father from the equation – 50% of the history is missing. The other factor is that family health history does not stop at the moment the papers are signed – things that really matter (close relatives) won’t show up for a decade or more…
I’m not saying openness is bad, I think it is a step in the right direction – but using “openness” as a reason not to change the laws because it’s not needed anymore is a cop out. The adoptee is still denied the same right you as an non-adoptee have and not related reason re family health history…it’s not going to solve it either.
I’ll leave with just a small example of what living your life with no idea of your family health history is like – and this is a minor example compared to what else I have personally lived through.
I went in for day surgery, fairly simple but it required I be put out. The surgeon came in and explained what he would be doing, then the anaesthesiologist came in to ask me a few questions before putting me out. First question: Have any of your relatives ever had a problem waking up from surgery? Big reaction from me. He tried to explain it was “rare”. But how on earth do you voluntarily allow someone to put you out – when some people, in some families, don’t wake up, and it was an important enough question to be asked? That is what an adoptee faces that you, having grown up in your family, would have known, simply because it would have been something that was important for all to know, if it ran in your family. BTW I was curious to know if he was just being careful – the same happened when I took mom in for a day surgery and he asked her several times in different ways…perhaps we both got very conscientious anaesthesiologists, but I’m guessing most ask because they want to make sure their patients actually wake up…
TAO: I also think it is important that those of us who have adopted more recently understand that things have not changed for those who were adopted years ago. As I said in the post, many current day adopters are surprised that only 12 states have open adoption records.
Ron Morgan you are eloquent and this is the most important statement ever written on the topic of equal rights for anyone estranged from their biological family:
“A contact veto is a restraining order without the benefit of substantive due process or appeal. It allows one person to restrain the future actions of another without having to show cause or harm. I believe they are one court case away from being judged unconstitutional. They appeal to the base prejudice that adoptees are reckless, dangerous, and I would rather records remain sealed than trade my fundemental rights as a citizen for a piece of paper that is mine to begin with.”
I will email this to all the people I know who are searching for their lost family members and those who are lucky enough to have found them. Please say more of this loudly.
So Beth your belief is that most adoptees want their medical records because they’re curious? Many adoptees find at some point in their lives that they have a rare disease, illness or an unusual complaint which is the result of genetics, of stress or other factors while they were in utero. Those disturbing health factors are becoming increasingly known and increasingly common for adoptees. If you were at risk wouldn’t you want to know the predetermining conditions? Wouldn’t you feel you had a right to know? Everyone has a right to know their own history, it is crucial for identity. Adoptees have no choice in being made an adoptee and while some adults do not chose to be infertile they do have a choice about trying to become a parent or not.
As an Australian adoptee who has had my rights for decades I am continually amazed, disgusted and horrified at what my American fellow adoptees go through to get scraps of information and to be treated like other citizens. I am astounded that these things are still even a question and that adoptees are being treated like second-class children who are not responsible.
“Infertility for many isnâ€™t a choice, youâ€™re right. Some will chose to accept thatâ€™s how it played out. Some will choose treatments to try have a biological child first and non-bio baby next, some will eventually turn to adoption. Some will move right on from the dx of infertility to adopting. So out of all of those that are infertile â€“ only a portion of those folks choose to accept the hand dealt them and move on to living child free without fighting.
Sure sounds pretty similar to adopteeâ€™s in my opinion â€“ some are fine with it and never look back. Some search and find what they are looking for. Some pay big $â€™s to someone to solve the problem. Some do all that and never end up with the answer. Some also work to change the laws that took away our right to our original birth certificate.”
I think what you are saying is true for when the adoptees are from the BSE who don’t know who their bio parents are. But with open adoptions today the issues those adoptees may have will be different. So I have to assume you’re referring to adoptees from the BSE.
Also I should correct you that some of those who are infertile choose to live ChildFree thus not incorporating children into their lives. There are some though that are childless not ChildFree who do incorporate children into their lives in non parental ways. For the time being my wife and I are childless but both volunteer for entities that involve children. She volunteers for a school board and I volunteer for my local Big Brother program. No it’s not the same as being a parent nor does it fill the void left by infertility but it still involves children in parts of our lives. It is not ChildFree living. It’s what is working for us for the time being.
Dawn and others, you might find these NZ documents to be interesting reading.
First up is an article (with link to full article) entitled Family Membership in Post-reunion adoptive narratives.
APs reading it can be reassured about their place in their child’s life yet hopefully also understand the complexities of feelings in reunion.
The following are brochures from the government:
The first brochure is just a simple one explaining one’s rights re one’s OBC:
I have included it so you can see the steps involved in applying for one’s OBC in NZ.
The next brochure is one that was sent to me when I got my OBC (you will probably get a green blank page when going in – so you will need to stroll down):
The brochure gives insight into what adoptees might expect when making contact and also the pros and cons of each method of making contact.
The following is the last chapter:
taking the risk
Approaching your birth parent is an important decision that takes a great deal of courage. You have to be prepared to step into the unknown. Although, if you have lived all these years without knowing them or very much about your background, you actually have a great deal of experience in coping with uncertainty.
Whether you go on to develop a close relationship or only ever have one contact, you can feel good knowing that you took the risk â€“ you created an opportunity for contact and gave them a choice. They will know that you are alive, well, and available for contact.
Making an approach shows you are prepared to take responsibility and change your current circumstances. That you are ready to put aside any fantasies or expectations you may have had about your birth parents to discover who they really are and whether they are ready to have some form of contact. It is important to remember that in this relationship, as in all relationships, you have choices, and that you both can continually discuss your wishes, expectations, boundaries, and so on. Most of our adopted clients say that they are glad that they made the approach, regardless of the outcome, and that they prefer knowing to not knowing. Knowing means your feelings can be based on reality. It may not necessarily meet your expectations or answer all of your questions, but it will mean you can stop fearing the unknown.
Preparation helps, but you cannot predict how your birth parent will respond or how you will feel when the first contact is made. Before you make the approach, however, you may want to ask yourself what your expectations and motivations are for contact. This may help to determine
how ready you are for contact and to accept the reality of what you find. If you are interested in adoption literature, handouts and reading lists are available nationwide from Child, Youth and Family.
“How do we be cautious about cancers other than avoiding smoking and excess in all areas, and availing ourselves of some screening!?!?”
Most people should be getting screened more often. Some cancers are more common then others, like breast. A lot of people aren’t screened enough for bowl, breast or prostate cancer. Get spot checks for skin cancers.
And ideally we would all act as if we are at high risk and live a non-sedentary life-style 5 days a week/ eat a healthy diet.
“So I have asked this question to many doctors and nurses. The answer Iâ€™ve gotten the most is: for most people medical history really isnâ€™t that important.”
It is one of things that isn’t important until it is.
Btw I work in radiology and quite a large percentage of patients have tests at least partly because of family history (as noted on their clinical notes).
I also remember watching a “real people” TV program that was a like a medical mystery type of program and in many of the cases, the family history would help provide the final key.
When I “found” my bmother, I discovered that she had died suddenly under the age of 40. Not suprisingly, I wanted to know why (heart). Now, to be honest, I could have waited a few more years (to get a historical death certificate) but in the end, I contacted my relatives because I wanted to find out more. Almost everybody told me how my bmother passed away, however, one of her friends told me how the original MI manifested itself which was of interest (something the DC wouldn’t have told me). Btw her siblings all had themselves checked out afterwards and some of them now have pacemakers.
Back to the OBC. I received it in the mid 80s along with non-ID info. I asked my sister if she wanted me to get hers as well so I sent her info off as well. I did nothing with my OBC for over 15 years, my sister has never done anything with hers (btw even now I have no idea what her bfamilies names are). For a lot of the time, I was just appreciative having the OBC and wasn’t sure if I wanted contact or not – I both sort of looked forward to and dreaded the day contact might be made – I just assumed that no contact meant lack of interest. Now, looking back and knowing what I know about my bmom, I would have wanted contact (if that is what she would have wanted) but when one’s bparents are abstract concepts, it is scary. I did think it amusing that “Anonymous” felt the *need* to help us “understand” how the motives of bparents because I doubt that there are many adoptees who haven’t considered her scenarios a possibility – most adoptees I know consider all scenarios.
All I can do though is speak for myself. Since getting my OBC, I have always been considerate of the feelings of the other parties. I would never think of hassling relatives that didn’t want to be hassled. I did eventually make contact with extended family and if they had said “get lost”, I would have *got lost* (although I would have asked them about my bmom’s death)- as I said before, I’m not a masochist and wouldn’t want contact with people who didn’t want contact. However, as others have pointed out, getting one’s OBC isn’t just about contact, it is about having that piece of paper.
In the end, there are many places that have unsealed their adoption records – the sky hasn’t fallen. I always think it bizarre that every time a state decides to consider opening the records, they act as if it has never happened before. I will also say that I admire those adoptees who put themselves out there fighting for adoptee rights – one really gets to know what the general public thinks about adoptees when one does so.
Our struggle to change the laws sealing records and denying adult adoptees unconditional access to their unaltered records of birth has very little to do with our relationships with our families of origin or our adoptive families, and everything to do with our relationship with the states in which we were born and adopted. As adults, as citizens, we deserve nothing less than any other citizen, who may access their records of birth, whether they love their parents with all their heart or think of them as worse than lepers. Frankly, it should not be the business of the state whether I want to use my OBC to search for my relatives or whether I want to use copies of it wallpaper the downstairs bathroom, as long as I don’t use in the commission of fraud, it’s none of their business. I wandered over here because I responded to one of Dawn’s tweets that mentioned records access and the “promise” of anonymity, and I responded that statutes are not promises. And what sealed records are statutes. They can be changed, and they can be changed to recognize the rights of adult adoptees to access their own birth records. Frankly, I don’t want the state intervening even further into my personal business by trying to ferret or filter medical information that may be pertinent to me, the state is a poor interlocutor for such information. I do not wish for the state to intervene in my personal relationships by acting as an intermediary, states have not demonstrated that they are particularly well-suited to do so. Contact vetoes? A contact veto is a restraining order without the benefit of substantive due process or appeal. It allows one person to restrain the future actions of another without having to show cause or harm. I believe they are one court case away from being judged unconstitutional. They appeal to the base prejudice that adoptees are reckless, dangerous, and I would rather records remain sealed than trade my fundemental rights as a citizen for a piece of paper that is mine to begin with.
As an advocate you should be aware that people’s vital records are not just available to themselves but to every member of their family as well. That is part of what makes things so unjust, not only for an adopted person but for their relatives as well. The government cannot force family members to communicate but it can give family members the right to one another’s vital records because their records in part define the identity of others in the family. My brother’s kid’s birth records prove that I’m an aunt and my children are cousins to them.
Next time someone says to you that nobody has a right to know who their bio parents are say F-u, yes you do everyone has a right to their family member’s vital records unless they are prevented from it by laws about adoption or donor conception or because someone lied about being a parent or lied and hid from being recorded. Skirting the requirements causes whole families to be at a disadvantage. Anyway thought you’d like to know your birth record is not yours alone to see.
“but I know that it gives me assurance to know that the women in my family donâ€™t seem prone to breast cancer.”
Family history is good when patients go in early to get MORE screening and take preventative health measures. It’s bad when it grants assurance.
Most breast cancers aren’t genetic & oncologists have to fight over-confidence. please be cautious.
Anna, good point. I do know that most breast cancers aren’t genetic, at least as far as we know now. I will be cautious, if only I knew what that really meant. How do we be cautious about cancers other than avoiding smoking and excess in all areas, and availing ourselves of some screening!?!? (off topic tangent is now over)
Infertility for many isn’t a choice, you’re right. Some will chose to accept that’s how it played out. Some will choose treatments to try have a biological child first and non-bio baby next, some will eventually turn to adoption. Some will move right on from the dx of infertility to adopting. So out of all of those that are infertile – only a portion of those folks choose to accept the hand dealt them and move on to living child free without fighting.
Sure sounds pretty similar to adoptee’s in my opinion – some are fine with it and never look back. Some search and find what they are looking for. Some pay big $’s to someone to solve the problem. Some do all that and never end up with the answer. Some also work to change the laws that took away our right to our original birth certificate.
I disagree though that there is any type of tit for tat when medical conditions are compared to legislation that is often retroactively enacted for many, and unknown by others (like my family of birth – you have to remember there was no internet or 24 hour news channels back in the 50’s or 60’s). PA is one of the states that didn’t seal original birth certificates from adoptees until 1975 – but they sealed ALL adoptee original birth certificates back as far as they existed, and most of the adoptions happened between 1947 and 1973…
For the record: When I was adopted way back in the dark ages, my original birth certificate and my whole adoption file was open to anyone in the adoptive family upon request. Some legislators thought it would be a swell idea years later to take that right away from me, and my family…doesn’t seem quite right now does it…and no, the original birth certificate is not open to the public after laws are changed back restoring adoptee’s rights – it’s only available to the adoptee and it’s important to note it’s only the OBC, and not the adoption file. It’s about the right that you can go get your birth certificate and adoptees can’t get theirs…
“And for the record (I was unclear in my last comment) I think the compromise laws are the best balance. For a huge majority of people it opens the records but for those 53 their privacy is still protected. If those 53 off spring had an urgent medical reason to unseal the records that could still be accomplished with a judicial order the same as it is done now”
Most countries and states with open records do have some sort of protection for the bparents – these range from non-contact vetoes (which I think means that the OBC is left intact but the adoptee is informed that the bparent doesn’t want contact) to non-disclosure vetoes (name removed). There is usually a time limit (initially perhaps about 5-10 years) and it then needs to be renewed. In NZ, they have a non-dislosure veto which isn’t great but the bparents did also have an option to leave a letter for the adoptee to explain their reasons (for many, they hadn’t told their families). Back in 1985 about 3000 bparents put on vetoes but now there are only 93.
I for one accept that the bparents do have the right to not want contact, however, many adoptees may want their OBCs but don’t want to make contact (eg my sister). Thus,to me, a no contact veto is better than a non-disclosure veto.
Btw even though I was born in a country that now has open records, it still involved me filling out forms and getting things signed by JPs. On the other hand, getting my amended birth certificate was a simple case of calling up and paying with a credit card. So, to answer the question, the OBC is only available to the adoptee.
In the end, unsealing records usually ends up being a storm in a teacup. Bparents are usually protected (perhaps even more so because the adoptee knows that contact is not possible when she gets her OBC).
“I am sick and tired of APâ€™s being blamed for issues such as this. How and why are any of these decisions the fault of your APâ€™s?”
Ummm, I don’t think any of us adoptees on here have ever blamed our APs. In fact, I’ve never done anything but say nice things about them. Also, I count quite a few online APs as friends :). There are at least two APs on this thread alone whose views I respect very much (Dawn of course, and Anon AP).
As for bparents, I understand that there are many different stories and thus I don’t assume that bparents are all one way or all the other way. In fact, anonymous’s views are actually very similar to many other people’s views which has helped me to realise that rather than concentrate on how individual bparents actually feel or don’t feel, it is best to concentrate on what should be the best practices for those with unplanned pregnancies, to help carry us into the future.
Anonymous I do like your frankness even if I’m not thrilled with what you are saying. It’s true though, many parents are jerks and they just don’t ever want to talk to their kids again and I suppose the response would be so freaking what – they should not be abe to prevent their relatives from knowing that they had a child because their child is a person not their property and their relatives turned into aunts and uncles etc and they often won’t agree with their stuffy uptight relative that wants to pretend they don’t have children. There are plenty of reunited families that move on together as a family without the cranky bio parent’s blessing or involvement. The sad part is that their relationships are not ever legally recognized and so there is one way that adopted people and their family is treated unfairly.. Really they don’t like how their actions make them look to their friends and family? Gee that’s too bad. Well, time to face the music because they never stopped being the parent of their children, they just did not do any of the hard work of raising their kids. So anonymous your argument against birth parents being so angelic holds water too even if their offspring and other relatives were to be treated fairly. I don’t think A parents are so bad really I think most of them would still have adopted if the law was not discriminatory towards adopted people or their families. They would get over not having their names on the birth record –
Dawn-the “blame” language is not from your original article-it’s from the comments. I find I am losing patience with attitudes such as these-that BP’s were innocent victims of the AP’s who were preying on them. I see this attitude far too often, even on helpful and unbiased sites such as this (once again in the comments), and I find it hard to learn much from such attitudes of disrespect for adoption and the families that it can help to form.
“Birth parents were a part of that system, as were adoptive parents”. Yes! I agree with this, but I hold the belief that birth parents were making conscious decisions about the future of their children, and some were making the decision to keep their identities secret for reasons that may not have been wholly selfless. I don’t want to see adoptees blaming anyone for anything, but I just can’t shake the feeling that AP’s are being forced to carry an unfair amount of the blame. There are 2 sides to every story, and I see so much judgement from commenters on here who seem willing to deny that BP’s played an active role in making the choices that led to the present state of adoptees. It’s not only AP’s that insist that records remain closed, sometimes it’s the BP’s too. I just want to see that complexity remembered and acknowledged-the article itself does this, and I thank you for this.
Anonymous, adoption is nothing if not complex. 🙂 I’m in the midst of interviewing adult adoptees for a future book. While my #s aren’t huge (yet) I do see that adopted people recognize that their birth parents’ decisions played a role in the adoption. Many of them also see that their birth parents choice were limited due to circumstances, family, temperament, the times they lived, the family they came from, etc. Mature adults often choose to see the totality of the situation and not assign blame. It’s called forgiveness.
I do hear, however, your greater point that it is easy to play victim and slip into the blame game. I don’t know if anyone could say that adult adoptees are more prone to play this game than others. I doubt they are, but sometimes when all you do is read comments to articles on a particularly hot topic, it’s easy to think so. Not sure I’ve been very articulate here.
The argument about adoptees not having a choice about being adopted really bothers me. I certainly didnâ€™t have a choice about being infertile. Granted some AP do have a choice but for many, adoption is their only option for becoming a parent. In a sense they donâ€™t have a choice either. My daughterâ€™s disabled friend didnâ€™t have a choice to be disabled; my brother born with a birth defect didnâ€™t have a choice, the girl down the street with a genetic disorder didnâ€™t have a choice to be born with a disease. Like or not we donâ€™t get to choose what we are born with and for many adoptees, adoption is just what they are born with. And to answer another question has medical science shifted the balance? My children are from open adoptions and we still have almost no known medical history. So I have asked this question to many doctors and nurses. The answer Iâ€™ve gotten the most is: for most people medical history really isnâ€™t that important. So is medical history and excuse for our natural curiosity to know who and where we came from? Knowing your own history is important, and should be part of this discussion. But I hope we can be honest about that being the motivation.
And birth records are a public record, which means legally anyone can find out what is on my birth certificate. Does this apply to unsealed adoption records or is it still sealed except to the adoptee? I donâ€™t think it would be okay for anyone to see an adopteeâ€™s original birth certificate. Iâ€™m specifically thinking about public figures, but the implications are broad. What if someone found Steve Jobs original birth certificate, what kind of attention could be unnecessarily placed on his family (both adoptive and birth).
And for the record (I was unclear in my last comment) I think the compromise laws are the best balance. For a huge majority of people it opens the records but for those 53 their privacy is still protected. If those 53 off spring had an urgent medical reason to unseal the records that could still be accomplished with a judicial order the same as it is done now.
Beth: You raise a point I’ve thought about as well. [So is medical history and excuse for our natural curiosity to know who and where we came from?]. I know very little about my father’s family. They weren’t close and scattered to the wind as adults. I know virtually nothing about their health past the age of 18 and absolutely nothing of their children’s health. I’ve honestly never thought about it one way or the other when asked about family medical history. But maybe that’s because I can look to my father and I do know his medical history. Maybe it’s also because I know that if I really needed the information or really needed to share important information I probably could find them. I’m not sure.
Your point about are we overplaying the importance of family medical history is something I have also wondered. It hasn’t really made a huge difference in my medical care, but I know that it gives me assurance to know that the women in my family don’t seem prone to breast cancer. (I’ve never given much thought to the women in my father’s family since he came from a family of all boys.) I take great heart in the fact that early onset alzheimer isn’t a big problem in my family. When I put myself into the shoes of an adopted person, I wonder if I wouldn’t worry about that–does the BRCA gene run in my family. What other cancers might have a genetic component. Did all my grandparents suffer from dementia? Maybe I’m overstating the heritability of diseases, but I think I’d still wonder.
Dawn you said
You donâ€™t know where the advances in genomic medicine will take us and in the future it may be possible to know everything about our medical risk by sequencing our genes, but as of now that is not possible. We use our family medical history to help us assess our medical risks and you are right about that. Thing is that you might well be able to know that you have a risk of this or that by sequencing your genome but the good old fashioned benefits of having all your kids go to the same doctor and same schools gives parents raising kid’s in sibling groups a leg up over parents raising singletons because there are things about timing of illnesses and/or learning disabilities and successful strategies for coping with various issues that come up that you can’t get any other way than learning from having a kid that went through it already. Also parents can learn about their own health problems from the health of their children as well. For instance someone who was producing more than a couple of profoundly handicapped children might limit the number of offspring to an amount they could reasonably care for themselves within their own family – donors who reproduce blind to the results can have dozens of handicapped children and never know that there is anything wrong with themselves or that their kid’s were born with special needs. So there will never be a genome map that will provide the information we all should be able to get from simply knowing who all our relatives are and having them know us as well. The medical info thing is not a one way street it’s an information superhighway with no one single family member outranking another in terms of importance or need to know.
I see the stereotypes are still alive and well. Adoptees who want their original birth certificate hate their parents and birth parents all wanted to just move on. Got it…they couldn’t wait to be rid of us…
Anonymous – do you know if they have found the genes and gene combinations to be screened for in all the common diseases and all 7,000 rare diseases (1 in 12 Americans have a rare disease btw)? I know the answer and it’s no, not even close…and that old saying that the best predictor of future performance is past performance – that applies to diseases as well, and why your doctor will ask you does this run in your family…
RE: whole genome sequencing to provide clear information regarding likely health outcomes…we are quite far away from having that be comprehensive or practical as a matter of course. We have glimpses of its power, and even that doesn’t account for many, many different medical concerns. Dawn, if you ever want to do a program on where we stand on that technology and its application, let me know and I’ll help you identify some experts in that area.
And, Anonymous, discussing and calling for change does not equal blame. Why is it so heinous to want to know your biological family connections? I’m not an adoptee, but I love going through old family records and pictures and am starting to learn a language lost through generations because it will better connect me to my family heritage and cultural history. My adopted daughter will have that heritage to call her own as well, but of course she also has a heritage passed through her biolgical family. She may have no interest in learning about it or investigating it, but if she does, great. We have her birthfamily’s information, but we don’t have her OBC. That document is meaningful, and when she gets old enough, we’ll petition her state of birth for a copy if she wants. It’s her document as much as her birthparents’ document, and we feel no guilt or blame in her potentially wanting access to it. It’s an AP neutral choice, really.
To your larger point, let’s say the closed adoption was a freely made choice by a birthmother. When you ask people to just sit down and accept the decisions that were made on their behalf regardless of how it affects them, you are asking them to remain in the role of a child whose world is largely dictated for them. That’s simply not appropriate when talking about teens or adults who have strong feelings and well-supported arguments about why they have a different opinion. They have a right to speak about their goal (access to original records), and it’d be nice if they could do that without other people trying to stuff themselves into the conversation. It ain’t about the APs or blaming APs or shaming birthparents or causing discomfort. It’s about claiming a history that is already theirs. To bring it all back, that heritage and history is written in their genes. It’s a part of them, even if it is one kept behind legal walls and personal secrets. It’s time for our society to realize that adoptees are not children or minors forever, and they have a right to petition their government for redress of wrongs just like every other citizen.
AnonAP, I also see wanting access to original birth records as a neutral choice-it’s not about adoptive parents. [It ainâ€™t about the APs or blaming APs or shaming birthparents or causing discomfort. Itâ€™s about claiming a history that is already theirs.]
Also-I find it hard to believe that with all of the advances in medical technology that we have at our disposal today, that one’s genetic make up would have to remain a secret, even to an adoptee from a closed adoption. Would genetic screening with the materials you have within yourself be possible, so that modern medicine could tell you what things if any might become an issue somewhere down the road? Just a question.
Anonymous, I don’t know where the advances in genomic medicine will take us and in the future it may be possible to know everything about our medical risk by sequencing our genes, but as of now that is not possible. We use our family medical history to help us assess our medical risks.
I am sick and tired of AP’s being blamed for issues such as this. What adoptees of closed adoptions (past if not present) need to understand is that the situation they are in is due to the choices that your birth parents had to make once they knew you were coming, and the decisions that arose from those choices. Contrary to popular belief, your parents had a number of choices when it came to your unplanned arrival-marriage and parenthood, single parenthood, abortion, and adoption. These were their choices, and they chose adoption. Whether or not they regret making that choice now is beside the point-it was still the decision they made when faced with their choices. And even though you and they may not want to admit this, they made that choice because they did not want to be parents or have a presence in their future offspring’s life. This is a fact that cannot be explained away or made excuses for.
And some of these birth parents made another choice-a closed adoption that would keep their identities forever secret from their children. And for those who say that was the only choice-not so fast. There were some maternity homes where semi open adoption options were offered to the women who sought refuge in them. Some of these homes even offered to help these women to keep their babies if they so chose. Even with this choice, some of these expectant mothers still chose the closed adoption option-because they were concerned with their reputations, because they had not managed to drum enough support to be a single mother, because their partner in conception would not consent to a quickie marriage-I don’t know the reasons why, I just know that the decision to keep the adoption closed lay solely with the expectant mother. Some maternity homes were even popular because of their promise of anonymity-the women could go there in secret, give birth, recuperate afterwards and then return home, leaving their children behind to be adopted.
Some birth mothers made the conscious decision to remain anonymous, and still wish to have that anonymity respected today-it was and always will be their decision, regardless of the circumstances. I don’t buy for one minute the “little girl lost” story that some Bmom’s try to claim was their story of adoption-at some point you have to accept some responsibility for your actions, no matter what forces may have been at play in the time and place where the decision was made.
So if you adoptees who resent being placed for adoption want to point fingers at someone, please point them in the right direction-at your birth parents. By choosing to remain anonymous, they may have been thinking solely of themselves, and not of you at all. How and why are any of these decisions the fault of your AP’s? We did not force your Bparents to procreate and make a baby they did not want to raise, we did not force them to choose adoption, we did not force them to leave without a trace-these were all THEIR choices!!!
That being said, I agree with Dawn’s idea of Bparents having the option of remaining personally anonymous but somehow leaving access to medical information open to their future offspring. Perhaps that would answer some of the questions that adoptees have about at least some of their history. I hope that would be sufficient.
Wow Anonymous, I’m not sure where you are getting all the “blame” language from. I don’t hear anyone blaming adoptive parents here. I hear adults who want to have access to information that may have significant relevance to them and their children. I don’t think they are blaming anyone, including their birth parents; nor do I think they should!
But, just as a point of refutation: [the decision to keep the adoption closed lay solely with the expectant mother]. Expectant women in the past absolutely were not the sole ones choosing a closed adoption. The entire culture surrounding adoptions from the mid 1900’s was geared towards secrecy. You may be right that it was technically possible in a few places to have share identifying information, but that was the exception, not the rule! Birth parents were a part of that system, as were adoptive parents.
In truth, no legal promise of anonymity was ever made to birth parents. Even under closed records laws (like the ones in NY), it has always been possible for records to be unsealed by the courts – a process that judges, lawyers, agencies, and social workers of the day were certainly aware of. If any guarantees were given, they were given falsely, as a means of encouraging relinquishment.
Ironically, sealing of records has never occurred at the time of relinquishment. Rather, it occurs at the time of legal adoption. Children who remain in the system and do not get adopted never have their records sealed. Clearly the laws were written to protect the adoptive families from intrusion and (to a lesser degree) to shield the adoptees themselves from the shame of illegitimacy. If sealing were done to protect biological parents, it would have happened at relinquishment.
Adoptee rights are not about reunion
This is about equal rights. It’s about treating adopted adults the same as non-adopted adults. If an adoptee gains access to their files, and then uses that information to harass the biological families, they can be charged / prosecuted under existing anti-harassment laws. Nobody has the right to harass anyone else, open records or not.ï»¿
If laws were only created with 100% agreement by everyone that had to live under that law – there would be very few laws. Laws are created to serve the majority’s best interest, not the minorities.
Having the right to redact your name from someone else’s birth certificate means the person whose birth certificate is less than you which means you are not equal.
But getting back to what about those 53 who don’t want contact. Of those 53, how many will actually match up with an adoptee requesting their original birth certificate? Certainly the odds of 53 matching adoptees is impossible because some born will have died. Some will never find out the law changed. Some are plain old uninterested. Some never were told they were adopted. You may even find some who were born in that state but because the state they were adopted in – allowed their place of birth to be changed to that state – will never have the chance to even apply.
Last comment: What about all the families like mine – who believed we would know who are family was at 18, with the choice to make contact or not. Can you imagine how they feel when 10, 20, 30, 40 years go by and they accept that we don’t want to know about them? That they don’t mean anything to us…you know how hard that is to hear as an adoptee? What about them?
Interesting take on should adoptees become equal at age 18 – instead of best interests of the child. Not one I have heard before.
In order for that to be the case, then the adoptee would be able to choose not to be adopted anymore, because they are now over 18 and should be able to make their own decision on whether to even be in the triad in the first place. They can’t. The only way they can not be adopted anymore is to be “adopted” by someone else so they are still stuck with being adopted whether they like it or not. That’s not the same as having a choice whether to adopt, having a choice whether to surrender your parental rights and become a first parent. Adoptees had no choice in becoming adoptees, they have no choice in whether to stay adopted, they just want their Original Birth Certificate like every other NON-adopted person in the US (including convicted felons) has the right to receive.
“but when in doubt, arenâ€™t all decisions in adoption supposed to be made in the best interest of the child?” This is SO true when they are in fact a CHILD. But does that mean this statment remains true for the duration of the adoptees life? Do they at some point stop being the “child of adoption” and become just another adult in the trio of grown _ss women? Should their rites continue be more important than their birth mothers rites? It is hard to balance the rites of all parties, and 53 out of 10,000 is a very very very small minority but shouldn’t we be more concerned about the rites of the minority rather than the desires of the majority? Yes of course MOST birth parents and adoptees runions are welcomed but what about the ones that aren’t? I do think there is a certain promise of anonymity in some circumstances that should be respected. Couldn’t it be possible a reunion might be more damaging than good? 53 isn’t a lot but its still 53 that as adults “just said no”. Do we owe them the chance “to just say no”? I think we do.
Beth, but wouldn’t those 53 birth parents be protected by a law that allows them to remove their names if they so wish? Very few adopted people want to rain havoc upon the lives of their birth parents. If a reunion is not wanted, they don’t want to push themselves on this person. They may, however, need medical information or need to share medical information that might be very welcome. If the records remain sealed this is not an option.
Hmmm… I realize it’s not clear from my comment which question I’m answering. The “Abso-friggin-lutely” is in answer to the question “Should the sealed adoption records be changed to allow adult adoptees access to birth parent names?”
The question you ask in the title presumes that birth parents were ever promised anonymity. Any number of adoptee-rights writers have reported that this is untrue. Birth parents were never promised wholesale anonymity. I admit I haven’t done the research myself, relying mostly on The Declassified Adoptee and Family Ties blogs for information. The latter is a tragic example of what happens when people don’t have access to their information for medical purposes. The blogger recently died of a type of cancer that, had she known was common in her family, she could have been screened for and caught early enough to make a difference.
I don’t believe that any biological parent has a right to anonymity from his or her children. I don’t believe that birth certificates should ever have been sealed, nor should they be sealed going forward. I’m fine with the amended certificates, given the way BCs are used in our country, but the OBCs should remain accessible to their true owners – the people for whom they were created.
What promise? Where is that promise written? And when did adults lose the ability to “just say no” without registries, intermediaries, underground searchers, courts and officialdom making that decision for them? Oh, yeah — it was when men began punishing women for having sex and turning their offspring into commodities to fuel a multi-billion dollar industry..