Opening Adoption Records Essay, Research Paper
Opening Adoption Records
When a child is adopted, it is standard procedure for a new birth certificate to be issued. On this new certificate the adoptee s new name appears, along with the names of the adoptive parents. All references to the adoptee s birth name, the name of the adoptee s birth parents and the fact of the adoption, are omitted. The original birth certificate is then placed in a confidential court file, is sealed, and becomes unavailable. Although many believe the records should be forever sealed, the practice of allowing records to be opened would prove to help many adoptees discover their biological background and heritage.
Before the active lobbying efforts of adoptive parents organizations in the 1940 s, the majority of states maintained open adoption records policies. It was the belief of those who proposed the sealed records that it served the best interest of all parties involved in the adoption. They felt it would protect the adoptive family and the adoptee from feeling the stigma of bastardy. They failed to account for the fact that the adoptee grows up and that may not be what is best for an adult adoptee.
Some psychologists believe that the adoptees inability to confront his or her biological origins may result in severe and long lasting psychological trauma. The need for some adoptees to learn about their biological heritage or medical background may be too much for some to handle. Additionally, at least one study has shown that only a relatively small portion of adoptees become well adjusted adults. There is always the question in their mind of why. Many adoptees feel a need or even a compulsion to discover the facts of their biological ancestry.
As an adoptee, my desire to open the records is extreme as well. I have always felt a stigma of being different. My adoptive parents had two biological children after my adoption. I am the only adopted child in my family. My desire was so fundamental that I would go around studying strangers for shared physical characteristics, or wonder if someone I knew could be my biological relation. This obsession has diminished over the years, but as a woman of childbearing age there is an entirely new reason to open the records. I was adopted in 1972 and the medical history required to release to an adoptive family was sketchy at best. There were not strict laws or requirements to the type or amount of information a biological parent must release. The information in my records that my adoptive parents received is less than helpful. I have contacted the adoption agency where I was placed, and for a fee, they will open my records and attempt to contact my biological parents. To me this seems to defy the reason behind the sealing of the records. If someone else can open the records and contact my biological parents then I do not see a reason why the adoptee should not be allowed access as well. At least be able to get the information requested without having to pay a fee.
Some adoptees have asserted a right to examine sealed records, based on a First Amendment freedom of information. They claim the sealed record laws interfere with a constitutionally guaranteed right to receive important information. Thus far, however, the courts have been unwilling to extend freedom of information protection to adoptees requesting access to the records.
The desire to know the circumstances surrounding one s adoption, and the desire to discover whom their biological parents are and what they look like is a strange thing. It has nothing to do with being unhappy or lack of love for one s adoptive family, it is just a way of finding out exactly who the adoptee is and where they come from. Every human being has that right and being adopted should not affect that person knowing the same information. Adoptions in the 20th century have changed immensely, but for those of us who still searching there needs to be some drastic change in the laws surrounding adoption records.
Even though many believe adoption records should be sealed forever to protect all parties involved in the adoption process, there should be some type of reform to allow adoptees the right to find their biological information and medical history. This issue will not go away no matter how much time passes. A possible solution would be, to seal the records following adoption but inform all parties that barring intervention by the biological parents or the adoptee, the records would be unsealed when the child reached age twenty-one. That would not cause any intervention when the adoptee was a child and would allow contact if either party felt the desire after the said age. This would be less costly and time consuming that the laws today and allow all parties involved participate in their own case.
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