Tag Archives: state legislatures

Birthmothers, Confidentiality, and Sealed Adoption Records

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Let’s start HERE. (It’s a WikiHow, and it’ll take less than a minute of your time.)

If you’re an adoptee, you might be rolling on the floor either laughing or crying right now. If you’re a birthmother and you’re trying to obtain the birth certificate for the child you gave birth to and surrendered, these instructions are similarly ridiculous. It is not possible to obtain the original birth certificate (unless you live in one of the handful of states that have unsealed adoption records.) Let me reiterate: Even if you are an adult, an American, a law abiding citizen with medical cause, or any other pressing reason for wanting to contact your birth family, you cannot, as an adoptee in most U.S. States, get your hands on your original birth certificate. Period. Original birth certificates are sealed. The only birth certificate available to you is the amended one, containing your new name and the name of the adoptive parents. A fiction.

This issue is debated regularly in state legislatures. Birthmothers are always mentioned in these debates over unsealing birth certificates. We’re held up as the reason it can’t be done. We were promised confidentiality, they say, and they can’t betray us.

I have absolutely nothing–not a contract, nor a certificate, nor a letter– not a piece of paper of any kind promising me confidentiality or even recording the fact that the adoption of my son took place.

At my intake appointment with the agency my mother took me to in June of 1970, it was explained to me that I would be hidden away for the duration of my pregnancy so my secret would be safe. It was also explained to me that my name would have to appear on the baby’s birth certificate, but that I did not have to name the baby’s father ( and I didn’t.) His name did not have to be recorded, but my full name as well as the baby’s, in the rudimentary form of Baby Boy My Last Name, most certainly had to appear in black and white on the birth certificate. Not a promise of confidentiality at all.

I am far from the first birthparent to bring this up, but it bears repeating because the same confidentiality argument is brought up over and over again. In 2006 The DONALDSON ADOPTION INSTITUTE¬†issued a report on the flawed practices in the adoption industry regarding birthparents.¬†The issue of confidentiality was addressed, yet state legislatures continue to cite the distress of of some mythical band of birthmothers over the breaching of their confidentiality. If I were still searching for my son, confidentiality is the last thing I’d want, and dozens of sources, in addition to the Donaldson Report, support this point of view. Yet, the myth persists. So, dear state legislators and your confidentiality cronies, stop telling us birthmothers what we want.