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? Not all adoptees want to find their birth-parents. What about adoptees and birth-parents who value their privacy? 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 .
Tim Smith, Madison WI:
I am an adoptee and as such understand the interest and emotions to discover and locate your birth parents -- (it is important) to understand your history and certainly to understand your genetic medical history. On the other hand this person, my biological mother, probably went through a very emotional, personal, wrenching period of searching and introspection not to mention the heavy social burden she would of faced. Being a single pregnant women forty-six years ago placed you in very awkward position within the community to say the least.
I believe that my biological mother made a decision under the strongest emotional and social pressures that was directed totally and unconditionally to my well being and without a doubt at her expense. Certainly an act so profound could only be one of love. Though in almost all ways I am only a recipient I cherish that relationship.
It is my option that to compromise that act or relationship for my own self indulgence is nothing short of betrayal. Am I curious, of course. As a rational loving human being do I choose to ignore such a selfless and loving act for my own curiosity, I think not.
That being said I do think there should be a little more openness and acceptance of the situation. I believe there should be a national clearinghouse for those, both biological parents and their children, to place and make inquiries about each other. There should be a buffer mechanism in place to maintain anonymity of both parties unless both parties agree to acknowledging each other.
Nathan Haney, Memphis, TN:
Confidentiality at all Costs!
I was adopted as a week-old baby. I have always been curious about my biological mother, but at the same time, I wonder what would happen if I should ever meet her. Would I be expected to throw my arms around her and say, "Mom!" Doubtful. I believe it would be a meeting that would be awkward, painful, and difficult. The parents who adopted me are the only parents I have ever known and they deserve my full devotion. What kind of message does it send to say, "Thanks, Mom, thanks, Dad, but I need to make a bond with this perfect stranger in order to feel more fulfilled, the sacrifices that the two of you made in raising me notwithstanding."
As for the medical records argument, well, frankly I believe it is a trumped-up excuse people use to satisfy their morbid curiosity. The kinds of medical risks that run in your family are the same kinds that run in every family. Even so, if this is a concern, then why does the identity of the birth parents have to be revealed? I would propose that every adopted child could have a biological and medical profile sent along with it that would state only if there are strong instances of heart disease or cancer or mental insanity running in the family. But even this could have its drawbacks. What would the adoptive parents think about taking on a child whose grandmother was schizophrenic?
The point is, there are no easy answers here. When people have babies they can't support they create hardships on many of the people in their lives. It is very human to wish for some kind of closure in our affairs, but sometimes we have to suck it up and move on. It's not an easy thing to do, but it's something that we as Americans should do more often.
Of course the identity of the birth parents should remain confidential. There is simply no valid argument on the other side. As an adopted child, I would simply say to people wishing to dredge up this information that their lives are the product of sacrifices made by people who do not wish to be reminded that "no good deed goes unpunished." Stop being selfish and be grateful for the life that you were given.
Wendy Nasman, Plain City, OH:
I am an adopted child. Although I am now past the age where it would be possible to try and locate my birth parents, I would hate to subject them to any undo hurt by forcing them to be revealed. My question concerns the idea of more states using the concept of mediation vs. flat out open documentation. The state of Colorado, where I was born, uses mediation to contact the birth mother when the child is searching for the parent. This way, the child does not directly confront the parent(s) which can definitely be traumatic, for both parties.
I know that not every state uses this method, but I wonder if that might be a happy medium for both parties...giving the child the knowledge that if located, the birth parent will be contacted, and for the birth parent the knowledge that if they wish to be left alone, the only information the law requires them to return is their medical history.
Tom Bellows, Northridge, CA:
I represent a second generation adoption family. Both my sister and I were adopted at birth and my oldest son was adopted at birth too. My sister has found her birth parents and had a happy reunion. I have tried and have had no success getting past the Cook County, Ill. records sealing of 1938. My son found his birth mother, only to have her deny that she is his mother. So the three of us have had all different experiences.
I work for a department of children services and have to make the decision to place children for adoption all of the time. It is never an easy decision, but my concern is the best interest of the children. I often ask myself, "Who am I to play God with the relationship between mother and child?"
I make that decision when the mother shows no interest in the child or if she is unable or unwilling to stop using drugs. To pass the drug tradition from mother to child is condemning the child to a life of hurt and misery. I know how difficult it is for a person to deal with the abandonment of adoption but, with love from a good set of parents, it can be dealt with in a healthy manner and the child can live a much happier life than to be left to their own devices when the mother is doing her drugs. The drug addicted mother shows that she loves the drugs more than her child and this is what the child learns.
Rebecca Ricardo, Richmond, VA:
I am an adoptee, birth mother and adoption social worker. I am pro-open records, even though my own search experience was not positive (so far!). I have a right to my medical background in the very least.
The closed system of adoption has put everyone at a disadvantage. Adoptive parents could not answer their children's questions. Birth parents could never heal, having been told by society to never tell. Adoptees move through life with huge gaps in their histories. The secrecy of adoption has benefitted no one! It perpetuates guilt, shame and deception. Are these values families should embrace???
Bill Peirce cannot and should not speak of tens of thousands until he himself has spoken with those numbers. He is way off base. All one has to do is look at the Internet. There you will find thousands searching for each other. Birth parents, adoptees and adoptive parents. Many of the birth parents Mr. Pierce speaks of, were not offered a choice to be confidential or not. There once was only one way for an adoption to occur - closed!! If given the choice, most birth parents choose an open adoption!!! Most adoptive parents, if properly educated about the life long issues of adoption, choose open adoption! Open hearts, open minds, open records!!!
Judy Dehle, Spokane, WA:
What about those people who were born in the early 1900s? My grandmother, who was born in CO in 1919 falls into that category. Much of her immediate family would not be living. What would it hurt to have her records open? A judge in Denver would not allow it. She has heard so many rumors about her adoption. She is only interested in answers and roots
Deitrah S., Spokane, WA:
As a birthmother who is actively searching for her daughter who was lost to adoption at her birth in 1961, I feel compelled to tell you that not all birthmothers had a choice. If you consider the moral atmosphere prior to Roe V. Wade, we would have been expelled from school and shunned by our communities. Our children would have been labeled bastards.
We were thought to be mentally ill if we even hinted at keeping our child. We were told that if we really loved our baby, we would give it to "real parents."
"Painfully emotional circumstances?" There can be nothing more emotionally painful to a mother than not even knowing whether her child is alive or not.
I feel very strongly that all adoptees who wish to search and are of age should be given all the tools that are available to find their heritage.
Thank you for this opportunity to speak.
Gary Chase, Fairfax, VA:
Having adopted a child some 24 years ago I, like a number of others in the same situation have, I believe, an obligation to speak out.
I know that without sealed records my wife and I would never have adopted a child.
No adoptive parent should be faced with the uncertainty of having a stranger knock on the door one day and take a child away. This has happened all to often in recent years.
An individual giving up a child for adoption, having been counseled, and making the choice of her own free will and with the consent of the father should under no circumstances be allowed to change her mind at some later date. Sealed records make this difficult to do.
The question I have is this and I am VERY serious about this. By what right does any third party group or individual have in inflicting their agenda on the adoptive parents or the individual considering giving up a child to adoption?
Open adoption records, in my mind will destroy an institution that has helped more children than any other program ever devised by man.
Think of the consequences of what you do.
Susan K. Hogge, Morrison, CO:
Yes, the records should be opened! I am a proud birth mother.. and the luckiest woman alive! My birth son & I have been recently reunited after a successful search by him through the Colorado Confidential Intermediary Service. He has found a truly delighted additional family! I can never thank him enough!
At the time of my son's adoption, I gave a phony name (believe me when I say, I was not that creative at the time to have done so on my own). Thank goodness I gave my actual birth date. It was only through the excellent & persistent skills of the Intermediary that I was found!
Terri Sanders, Seattle, WA:
Not all infants are given up for adoption due to economic circumstances. Some are the result of brutal rapes and horrifying situations of incest. Few women who have been so victimized wish to revisit this horror in the form of a child they never wanted in the first place.
Women have been victimized enough. To open adoption records and allow them to be victimized once again is unacceptable. Those adoptees who wish to know something about their biological heritage could be provided with all of the genetic information they wanted but NOT the name of the biological parent(s). People have a right to go on with their lives without having to relive earlier mistakes.
Jimmy Young, Oklahoma City, OK:
Adoption Records Were Easily Obtained in the State of Oklahoma
I hear quite often that adoption records are hard to come by, since only two states have an open record policy. I live in a state where the records are sealed, however I received any and all information I needed in one day. What I don't understand is why other people have such a hard time getting their records when all I had was my birthdate and the city where I was born.
I'm curious as to their method of locating their records. There are certain procedures a person must take, but these procedures are easily learned by making a few phone calls and reading a few books. Maybe I am a rare exception, but it was so effortless, it makes me wonder why people have so much difficulty. Is Oklahoma more relaxed about adoption records? Are adoptees misinformed as to the correct way to obtain their records? -- I have a friend who is also an adoptee and I told her how to obtain her birth records. She opted to go with a P.I. since she read that they can be sucessful. After at least several hundred dollars and several weeks, her birth mother was located living four houses down the street from my friend.
Diane Bick, Mountain View, CA:
As an adoptee I have been denied the right to know my own family's health history. Every single time I have gone to a doctor I am confronted with questions that I don't know the answers to. As a result I am considered to be in a high risk category for virtually everything I see a doctor for. This has not only resulted in thousands of of dollars in wasted and unnecessary medical tests, but generally leaves me with the knowledge that I am healthy only for the duration that I am tested. What should be simple health decisions such as how often to test of diabetes, breast cancer, or whether I should take certain medications become complex, costly, time consuming and frustrating.
Joan McCleary, Spanaway, WA:
On Saturday, Feb. 15, 1997, my mother will be meeting the son she gave away on July 18, 1947. The siblings are so glad he found us.
By the way, he was born in Kansas at Florence Crittendon Home. After 50 years he sent off for his birth certificate. When he got it he found my mother in 2 hours! My mother has mixed feelings about meeting him. The siblings are all excited. My brother Michael went to Detroit to meet our found brother Donald at Christmas. We all have made the telephone company very rich in the last 2 months. Donald has found 2 new sisters and 2 new brothers. My mother is the one having a hard time with this and it is hard for all of us to understand.
How could she not want to meet him! We all think after 50 years it is time. I have bad feelings about her hurting him at the initial meetings. We all feel that she must have wanted to meet him otherwise when he contacted her she could have denied it. I feel that I can not have a continued relationship with my mother if she hurts Donald. Donald was born to my mother when she was 17. We have also found out that she also had a daughter when she was 14. We hope to find her. We wrote the State of Kansas but they will not give out info to siblings. So I think we all need to work on our mother some more. I just cannot imagine her not wanting to know about the 2 children she gave up.
Cathy T. Dennis, Hamlet, NC
I am a adoptee. I am 30 years old. I feel like the records need to be opened. I have the right to know who I am. I didn't sign those adoption papers when I was a baby.
I love my adoptive family with all my heart. They are my parents. Nothing will ever change that. I feel that child should be able to get their files when they reach the age of 18 or 21. But as long as the child is under age, they should be closed.
As far as abortion goes, when I was 18 years old I had an abortion. The reason for this: I was not ready to handle a child. I could not go through nine months of carrying a baby then give my baby up for adoption knowing that I would never see that baby again. I was not going to put a child through what I was already going through. The system needs some changing.
I have two wonderful children now. They are the only blood family that I have. The only people that I know that look like me.
My birthmother was only 14 years old when she had me. So, I understand why she gave me up for adoption. She was too young to take care of me. She gave me up for adoption because she did love me enough to want to make sure I had a good home.
Alison, Kirkland, WA
I am a 30 year old who is denied the knowledge of my medical history. I am denied knowledge of my culture and heritage. I am denied all knowledge of anything prior to the age of one month because of a contract that was signed over 30 years ago. This contract was between the adoption agency and my birth-mother. Adoption is the only occurrence in the United States where a person is denied their civil rights by a contract written before they were born or could understand the implications.
I feel the system works well for one group. The Adoption Agency. They made money from my birth mom, my adoptive parents, and me. When I requested my "non-identifying " information, I had to send in $75.00 and wait three months. For my $75.00 I was sent a half-page of typed one word answers to generic questions. My favorite piece of information was where my birth mom was listed as being female (I could have figured that out). As long as the current system stays the way it is the adoption agency makes money.
I believe the adoptee and the birth-parent should have the right to determine if they want a relationship. It shouldn't be up to the court, the adoption agency, or anyone else. It is the right of the people directly involved in the relationship, not the right of the people who stand to profit from it. Keep the agencies out of my life.
Alice Y. Brown, Browns Mills, New Jersey:
Found My Baby Brother!
When I was 14 my mother gave birth to my little brother. Because of circumstances in our family our mother was made to give him up for adoption when he was 5 months old, the last time I saw him. I wondered for many years what happened to him, if things worked out OK for him. Finally as I saw my mother's health deteriorating and myself getting older, I decided to take the risk and try to find my little brother.
It took courage on my part to approach my family for information. Fortunately over the years things had mellowed and my father gave me a paper with the court proceedings for my brother's adoption. I then ran with my information to the state of New Jersey as it handled the adoption. Of course, I hit the wall of secrecy.
No identifying information. I knew very little, but I spent about 6-8 months trying in vain to get some lead, some information. I found out very little. In desperation I finally hired a private detective, and at much expense to myself within three weeks I had my brothers adoptive name, his address, and his phone number. He was living 30 minutes up the road from me, in the same county. I phoned him that evening! It is like finding the missing link in my life, and like having him be resurrected.
This brother, who Mom said looked like me when he was a baby, I had found. And contrary to some people's opinions, he couldn't have been more happy too! We see each other regularly now and have much in common. There are 3 of us siblings. Both my brothers are 6 feet tall and we all tend to be artistic and like music, all three of us play the guitar. This past November our mother passed away, but not before she had happily been reunited with her son.
My brother is 35 years old now, and I'm 49. He never would have thought that he had 2 older siblings. He told me he also had several times started looking for his birth family, but got discouraged because of the secrecy laws.
I wanted to share this story because it is another example of adoption reunion turning out well.
Diana Spitzer, Santa Clara, CA
Why can't the opening of adoption records be like a bank safe deposit box that requires more than one key to open it. You could require the consent of all parties involved to give the "key" of consent to open the records. Without all the required keys the file would not be opened. Then you would have to determine who would hold a key: birth parent or parents, adoptee, adoptive parents. IF someone definately did nor did not want the records opened they could have that fact known and accepted by the court. I have two adopted sons and I can understand a natural curiosity on their part to know about their birth parents, but I hate to think there would be fewer children available for adoption if the records were all suddenly thrown opened.
Paul Fracassa, Detroit, MI
Open State Adoption Records?
More to the point: should states be the arbiters of familial knowledge? Denying access to birth information is as ridiculous as criminalizing genealogical research.
Return to the Open Adoption forum's top page.