Adopted Children Should Have Access to Birth Records
Adopted children ought to have the right to know who they are and where they came from. Truly, denying people that knowledge is like denying them a part of themselves. A 2005 study showed that the reason adopted people search for their birth families is not because they are looking for a new family, but rather, “for news about the well-being of birth relatives, information about their background, the circumstances of their adoption and answers to questions such as ‘who am I’, ‘why was I given up for adoption’ and ‘was I wanted before given up’, or seeking information for practical reasons such as health” (Triseliotis 10). Additionally, in a study conducted by the Search Institute, it was discovered that 72% of adopted adolescents wanted to know why they were given up for adoption, 65% wanted to meet their birth parents and 94% simply wanted to know which of their parents they looked like. Seven years after adoptees were granted access to their original birth certificates in Oregon, there were 9,193 adult adoptees who requested their birth records and 8,878 adoptees were given access to their records (American Adoption Congress). Indeed, it is normal for adopted children to have questions about their origins and they ought to have the right to know the truth. America is a nation founded on freedom and equality and strives to ensure that that includes all minority groups, including adoptees. Even so, people need to look out for the emotional welfare of others, particularly children. Therefore, people have the right to know their family history and adopted children should have access to their birth records, but only when they turn of legal age. The tradition of sealing birth records in the United States was not put into place until the mid-20th century. At least twenty different states still enabled adoptees access to birth records in the 1960s, while other states held off until the 1980s and 1990s (Busharis and Hasegawa). One reason behind this was to remove adopted children from public scrutiny. The United States Children’s Bureau was the first who advised keeping the birth parents and children from contacting each other and recommended that the public should not be allowed information about private adoption proceedings. This was to protect both the birth parents and the child from embarrassment, particularly surrounding cases involving illegitimate births. Still, the Bureau also supported that the adopted children should have their birth information when they became of age. Furthermore, the Child Welfare League of America stood for many of the same beliefs that the Bureau had and also advocated for the child to be able to reunite with the birth parents upon becoming an adult. Birth records were desired to be only partially closed, until around 1950, only for the sake of protecting the adoptee, and not to completely deny them access (Butch 258-259). In other words, adoption records were never intended to be kept sealed from adopted children of legal age. That which was designed for privacy and protection has now become a denial of human rights. Today in both Scotland and England, adoption records are opened for adoptees. In the United States, only Alabama, Alaska, Kansas, and Oregon allow unlimited access to birth records (“Open Records: Why It's An Issue”). Most states will allow the adoptee, upon request, to view nonidentifying information about their birth parents and relatives. Approximately twenty- eight states allow birth parents to access nonidentifying information; fifteen states allow access to adult birth siblings. Each state varies on how much and what kind of information is given. Usually nonidentifying information is constrained to descriptive details, such as the date and place where the adopted child was born, some information on the parent such as a basic physical description, their race and ethnicity, medical history, even religion. It can also include...
Cited: American Adoption Congress. "Reform Myths." American Adoption Congress. American Adoption Congress, 2007. Web. 06 Nov. 2012.
Bastard Nation. "Do Birth Parents Have a Right to Privacy?" Bastard Nation. Bastard Nation: The Adoptee Rights Organization, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2012.
--- "Open Records: Why It 's An Issue." Bastard Nation. Bastard Nation: The Adoptee Rights Organization, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2012.
Busharis, Barbara, and Pam Hasegawa. "Adoptees Deserve Access to Their Birth Records." Adoptalk (Fall 2005): n. pag. NACAC | Adoptalk Articles & Publications. North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC). Web. 05 Nov. 2012.
Butch, Jennifer. "Finding Family: Why New Jersey Should Allow Adult Adoptees Access to Their Original Birth Certificates." Seton Hall Legislative Journal 34.2 (2010): 251-73. Academic Search Complete. Web. 5 Nov. 2012.
Child Welfare Information Gateway. "Access to Adoption Records: Summary of State Laws." Access to Adoption Records. Child Welfare Information Gateway, June 2009. Web. 05 Nov. 2012.
Triseliotis, John. "The Current Status of Post-Adoption Contact." Educational & Child Psychology 28.3 (2011): 9-19. Academic Search Complete. Web. 5 Nov. 2012.
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