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January has brought the opening of many legislative sessions throughout the country.
Little birds are telling Grannie Annie that many states are considering adoptee rights bills this session. Grannie has heard birds chirping from Texas, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Rhode Island, Connecticut, California, Illinois, AZ, and South Dakota. Grannie is sure there are more to come. Some are good bills and some are very bad bills. Many bills start out as good and as they go through the legislative process, they take on restrictions and amendments that turn them into disastrous bills.
Lately, I feel as if I’m only preaching to the choir. However, I can’t help thinking about all the newbies and most especially the silent adoptees. How to reach the silent adoptees? Maybe, I thought, they would speak out and join us if they knew how to better articulate our goals. So I have written this FAQ primer for them as well as for all of us as succinct list of “bullet points.”
Please feel free to forward these FAQ’s anywhere on planet Earth. Print them out (comes to 3 and ½ pages) and use them to spread the word.
Definitions & shortcuts first.
Adoptee Rights Bill: A bill in which adopted adults are issued their original birth certificates, upon request, unconditionally, and without any falsification. The adoptee rights bill puts adopted men and women back on a par with all non-adopted citizens with regards to birth certificates. Adoptee rights bills are also called “open records bills,” “equal access bills,” and “adoptee access bills.” What makes them all similarly unique is they are bills that will restore to all adopted adults their right to access, unconditionally and with no falsifications, their original birth certificates. I am going to use the term “Adoptee Rights Bill” throughout this blog.
Confidential Intermediary - CI
Original Birth Certificate – OBC
Q. Why should adult adoptee’s obc’s be released to them?
1. The state must not withhold identity records from any group of citizens.
2. All adult adoptees should be able to discover the answers to questions regarding medical history, ethnicity, and family heritage. This is a human right that everyone should own.
3. Sealed records perpetuate the culture of shame which stigmatized infertility, out-of-wedlock birth, and adoption.
4. Adopted adults are no longer “children who need homes.” Therefore, when adoptees reach the age of maturity, the state must give up its control of adoptee’s personal affairs.
5. The state must not discriminate against any group of individuals based solely on the circumstances surrounding their birth.
6. We do not want pity, sympathy, or special favors. Our OBC uniquely belongs to us. It was created by the state to record our history, a right that all non-adopted citizens are given under clear statutory procedure.
Q. Who are the opponents of adoptee rights bills?
1. Various state chapters of ACLU and Right to Life.
2. NCFA (National Council for Adoption) and other adoption agency fronts.
3. Large constituency churches (including LDS)
4. Adoptive parents.
5. Some ultra-conservative think tanks
Q. What is a good adoptee rights bill?
A bill that will restore to all (100%) adopted adults their civil and human right to access their original birth certificates, upon request, with no conditions or falsifications.
Anything less than access for 100% of adopted adults in a state is absolutely unacceptable.
The fundamental right of adoptees to have access to their own government-held identity information is a separate issue from whether or not adoptees and birth parents should contact each other.
Q. Will the passage of an adoptee rights bill affect the adoptees’ relationship with the adoptive family?
A. No. The health of a family unit, adoptive or otherwise, and the relationships within it depend on long-standing patterns of parenting and open, honest communication skills, not on whether or not an adoptee, as an adult, is free to access the true facts of his/her birth.
Q. Was the obc sealed to protect the identity of the birth mother?
A. No. The obc is sealed upon decree of adoption, not upon the birth mother’s relinquishment. A child relinquished but never adopted has an unsealed obc. If protection of the birth mother was intended, the obc would be sealed upon the termination of her legal relationship, not at the beginning of the legal relationship of the adoptive family.
Q. Can a birth mother sign a legal contract with the state at any time whereby she may deny her child’s access to his or her obc for life?
A. No. A birth mother signs an irrevocable contract with the state called a Relinquishment of Parental Rights or a Document of Surrender. No contracts have ever been produced that give birth or adoptive parents the right to keep an adoptee’s obc sealed for life.
Q. Can an adoption agency, a social worker, an adoption facilitator or an adoption attorney make a promise to a birth mother that the state will honor and uphold her anonymity for life?
A. No. A promise is just that – only a promise. It is not a legal document and should not be recognized by the state government. States are not in the business of keeping promises made by private parties.
Q. Will the passage of an adoptee rights bill violate the privacy of the birth mother?
A. No. There is no violation of privacy because there is no public disclosure. Only the adult adoptee whose birth occasioned the creation of the obc, and whose true facts are contained within it, will have access.
Q. Would the passage of an adoptee rights bill also involve release of private records, documents, case-work histories or any other paperwork kept by private or state-run adoption agencies?
A. No. Only the obc is affected and it is the only document that will be released.
Q. What states have passed an adoptee rights bill?
A. Kansas and Alaska never sealed adoptee’s obcs. Oregon, New Hampshire, Alabama, and Maine all have adoptee rights laws. (not to be confused with states that have passed laws that put restrictions upon which adoptees can be issued an obc.)
Q. Will abortion rates rise or adoption rates decrease if adoptee rights bills are passed?
A. No & No. There is no evidence that granting adult adoptees access to their own identity information is detrimental to the process of adoption.
Q. Must the state uphold a law no matter how long it has been in existence?
A. No. A wrongful law is a wrongful law, no matter when it was passed.
Q. Will the passage of an adoptee rights bill allow adoptees to “harass” their birth mothers?
A. This statement is discriminatory and needlessly argumentative, yet it is still frequently asked. It is unconstitutional in the extreme to deny a right to a group of citizens based on what they “might” do if they were restored that right. Remember that the right to request and receive a copy of one’s obc is guaranteed all non-adopted citizens in clear statutory procedure.
Q. What is a real Contact Preference Form?
A. The true Oregon “Contact Preference Form” is a way for a birth parent to privately communicate his or her private and personal feelings about having communication with the adoptee. It is not legally binding. It is not a contact veto. The adoptee gets his or her original birth certificate along with the sealed contact preference form.
Q. Are open records the same as open adoption?
A. No. Open records refers to an adult adoptee having equal access to legal documents which pertain to him or her. An adoptee rights bill is an open records bill. An open adoption refers to an arrangement for raising an adopted child in which the birth parents, adoptive parents, and minor adopted child have some form of ongoing relationship. Even in an open adoption the adult adoptee cannot access his birth and adoption records.
[With help from and thanks to Oregon’s Adult Access to Original Birth Certificates and Bastard Nation: The Adoptee Rights Organization’s The Basic Bastard.