OPENING ADOPTION RECORDS|
February 11, 1997
Return to the Open Adoption forum's top page.
in this forum:
Would open records mean more custody fights between birth mothers and adoptive parents? How do open records effect rates of adoption and abortion? Should there be a way for adoptees to find out their family health records without making contact with their birth-parents? A woman who was raped askes whether there is a way to find out about her child without actually making contact? This topic inspired many emotional stories and comments. View some of the additional comments.
Online NewsHour Links
January 15, 1997: Lee Hochberg looks at the controversy over opening adoption records.
The NewsHour coverage of Youth issues.
Adoption.com seeks to provide a central location for all adoption information.
The American Adoption Congress is working to reverse laws that seal adoption records .
Anne Harvey of Sacramento, CA, asks:
As an adoptee, I am infuriated that people are working to erase my right to privacy. Not all adoptees want or need to know about their biological mothers. Also, this intrusion causes great pain to my real mother, the woman who has raised me from birth. Who gives the "Adoption Council" the right to open up my life and my mother's life? How am I going to protect myself and her from people from a past I don't want or need?
Mr. Bill Pierce of the National Council for Adoption responds:
Anne, we strongly agree that no one has a right to erase your right to privacy. We know from speaking with many adopted persons over the years since NCFA was founded in 1980 that not all adoptees want or need to know about their biological parents. We are also aware that such intrusions can cause great pain to loving adoptive parents.
I do not know what "Adoption Council" you are referring to in your question, but it is certainly not our organization, the National Council For Adoption. We are for adoption. We are regularly attacked on the Internet -just visit the sites that are open and know people monitor them like "Bastard Nation," for instance, to see what sorts of comments fly back and forth between people who otherwise are taken seriously because of their academic or personal histories with adoption.
It is sad that a country that venerates privacy and that has constitutional protections for people not to be violated in their own homes cannot rest easily, knowing that there are people lurking about, anxious to meet their own needs at the expense of intruding into others' lives. It is sadder still that many of the people who need protection are still minors and, I suspect, younger than you are. I think of the youngster whose biological mother bragged on the Internet about tricking a naive archivist into giving her access to sensitive documents.
In that instance, the biological mother admitted stalking a minor child, even tracking the child to the child's classroom. Fortunately, it was possible to alert agency officials, who were aware of the biological parent's unwillingness to back off when the adoptive parents said no, and the family was told to take steps to protect their child from possible harm. Much of this incredible stalking goes on behind the scenes, where it cannot be monitored or reported to adoptive parents.
As an adult, you have relatively few options. You can contact an attorney and seek an injunction, once someone tries to contact you. But that is hardly preventive. And even then, there are times when biological parents will not back off, even when they are told that a meeting or a relationship of any kind is unwanted. I talked a few weeks ago to a young man who has had several encounters with a demanding, intrusive biological parent - and ten years later, he's still being harassed.
You can always write to the agency or attorney involved with arranging your adoption and say that you desire no contact and that if either the agency or attorney, either directly or indirectly, or by subterfuge, provides information leading to you being identified, you will take appropriate legal action. But even then, it is difficult to prove, as the case of Carol Sandusky, a young woman whose privacy was invaded by a public agency employee, demonstrates. That case is still in litigation, and Ms. Sanduskv's attorney, Samuel Totaro, a Philadelphia lawyer who is also the current head of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, is pressing the issue as a civil rights matter.
It is quite a commentary on U.S. society that ordinary adopted individuals who desire privacy and to be left alone have to resort to the kind of defensive tactics, employing attorneys, that used to be reserved for the rich and famous like Jacqueline Kennedy. Those who want good legal advice on these issues must be careful in picking their attorneys, however - even some who are adoptive parents sometimes find themselves, for reasons I cannot imagine, siding with the anti-adoption snoopers and stalkers.
Dr. Anne Babb of the American Adoption Congress responds:
There is no state in the country that condones the unwelcome contact of adoptees by their birth parents or the unwanted contact of their birth parents by adoptees. Some states, like Tennessee, open adoption records and provide for a "contact veto," allowing adoptees to allow or disallow actual contact from their birth families or relatives. All states protect their citizens from harassment and other unwanted interference with a person's privacy through provisions such as victim's protective orders or other legal means.
The American Adoption Congress supports the right of adult adoptees to obtain their original birth certificate and the right of adoptive parents, birth parents, and adoptees to decide what kind of contact, if any, they want to have with one another. Although the majority of adoptees do want their birth information and many seek contact with their birth families, some, like Ms. Harvey, do not. We certainly respect the right of all adoptees to decide for themselves whether or not they want to have their original birth records or to pursue contact with their birth parents or families. Our objection is to the action of states that would seek to hinder the self-determination of adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents in deciding the type and extent of contact they want. We also support the equal access of adoptees to their birth records.
With regard to Ms. Harvey's words about her "real" mother, I am reminded of the definitions of my friend, co-author, colleague and fellow adoptive mother Rita Laws, Ph.D., defining words commonly used in adoption:
Natural child: Any child who is not artificial. Real Parent: Any parent who is not imaginary. Your own child: Any child who is yours to love. An adopted child is a natural child with real parents, who is loved.
This definition acknowledges all the parents in an adopted child's life without diminishing the role any parent played in the creation and nurturing of that child.