Category Archives: adoption law

Pro-Adoption vs. Anti-Adoption

IMG_4396My boyfriend died of lung cancer in June. We’d only been together for five years, so there was a lot I didn’t know about him. Dan had been at Berkeley during the Free Speech Movement, while I was a boy-crazy 8th grader at a Catholic school in Iowa. Even before that, if I have the timeline correct, he’d joined the Freedom Riders and had gone down to Mississippi. An old friend of his told me that while he was down there he was arrested and taken to jail. “Are you black or white?” Dan was asked over and over again as they were preparing lock him up. Dan, a Korean-American, wouldn’t answer the question, but as the questioning got more aggressive, Dan finally went with white. He was jailed anyway. 

I’m telling this story as an introduction.

I do not imagine aligning myself with the folks who call themselves pro-adoption. But then again, I might if the label were dissected and arranged in such a way that it didn’t mean unethical or illegal adoption. I might if it didn’t mean secrets and shame and sealed records. I might if it didn’t mean child trafficking or endangerment or taking children from poor single mothers and giving them to couples with a bigger bank account.

But I don’t really want to be anti-adoption either. I acknowledge that there are children who need to be removed from their biological families. Still, adoption is no guarantee there will not be abuse. I acknowledge that there are children in orphanages and in foster care that need families. Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy elaborates on the anti-adoption label in her ESSAY  from Portrait of an Adoption and pretty much covers everything. So, yes, if I have to choose, I’ll have what she’s having. But only if it’s served up like that.

Reform of the adoption industry is absolutely necessary. But I don’t like the line in the sand. I’m guessing that a lot of the people who label themselves as pro-adoption don’t really want to associate themselves with the corrupt practices present in adoption today. Or at least I hope not. So I wish they wouldn’t say they were pro-adoption without writing an essay defining it.

Strength is something we seek. Taking a stand is admired. Fervent seems like a nice adjective. But maybe we all have to stand together in the middle of the hurt and confusion explaining every little thing to one another, listening as hard as we can.

An interesting article re adoption in Australia

“Forced adoptions have been a major issue in Australia. In 2013 their Prime Minister Julia Gillard offered a national apology to those affected by forced adoptions. The Australian Senate Enquiry Report found that babies of unmarried mothers were illegally taken by medical staff, social workers and religious persons, sometimes with the assistance of adoption agencies and other authorities, and adopted out to married couples.
Many of these adoptions occurred after the mothers were sent away by their families due to the social stigma associated with being pregnant and unmarried.
It was found that some women were drugged, others restrained, some forced to sign, signatures faked, no informed consent and few (if any) chose to give their children away.
This went on up to the 1970s. It is recognised that this has resulted in major issues for generations of families and for Australian society. Many mothers have died early due to stress related illnesses or committed suicide. Many who have survived do so suffering complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”

Read the rest of the piece here.

I’ve often wondered about general life outcomes for birthmothers from the era of secrecy in the  U.S. I’ve picked up small pieces of information here and there as I researched my memoir, but found nothing extensive. Sometimes it seems that we’re still the girls who are supposed to disappear.

Dear Iowa: You Can’t Have it Both Ways

I’ve been blogging regularly on my Other Blog which is not to say that I do not frequently think of adoption and its myriad issues. I continue to see the world through the eyes of a birthmother, and those eyes popped wide open recently when I read THIS

I have some personal experience with Iowa’s bureaucracy regarding birth certificates. In 1990 when I began to search for the son I had given up for adoption 20 years earlier, I wrote several letters to the Iowa Department of Human services asking them to provide me with the original birth certificate for my son. While I knew the original birth certificate would provide no identifying information that would aid in my search, I viewed it an empowerment exercise. My son had been taken from me, and the evidence of that separation had been erased. Silenced for two decades by shame, I came out of my closet after the birth of my third child brought home to me the fact that my son could not be replaced. At the very least, I wanted the state of Iowa to acknowledge that the birth had taken place. I wanted the piece of paper that held my name and his–although he was listed as merely “baby boy.” It’s probably worth noting here that my son’s biological father’s name did not appear on the original birth certificate since I declined to identify him. Nevertheless, with my own name as the only identifying information, I could not obtain the original birth certificate.

On medication for glaucoma at the time and afflicted with a moderately severe case of scoliosis, I had my doctors intercede with the state of Iowa as we attempted to have my medical history passed on to my son. The only communication that I received stated that there were no records pertaining to my inquiries.

Until the recent Iowa Supreme decision confirming the rights of same sex couples to have both their names appear on their children’s birth certificates, The Iowa Department of Public Health insisted on listing the biological parents. While gay marriage has been legal in Iowa since 2009, Iowa has the dubious distinction of being the only state in the union to allow gay marriage while refusing to list both spouses on the birth certificate. 

The irony of that, Iowa, is thicker than a cloud of mosquitos on a humid summer evening.

As a postscript, I’ll say that I hope the gay and lesbian couples who are now officially recognized as their children’s parents will not relegate their offspring to the blackout of information that many adult adoptees continue to endure in the state of Iowa.

Of course, there is this:
Effective July 1, 1999, Iowa law enables adoptees, their “birth parents,” and their blood-related brothers and sisters to find each other if the birth is registered with the State of Iowa. The “Mutual Consent Voluntary Adoption Registry” was established in order to match those persons requesting that their identity be revealed to registrants “matching” information concerning an adult adoptee. All information provided to the registry is confidential and revealed only in the event that an appropriate match is made and the parties have been notified of the match. A $25 fee in U.S. funds and a certified copy of the applicant?s birth certificate must be submitted with each consent application.

I’m trusting the instructions are a bit oversimplified. Surely, they don’t expect birthparents to supply a birth certificate……

Readers, have any of you out there used the Iowa Registry? Did reunions result? I’d love to hear about it.

photo credit:

Why I’m an Idiot–But There’s Really No Excuse

A few posts ago, I wrote about reunion vis a vis the California Adoption Bill (Assembly Bill 372.) Yay, I thought, more birthparents and adoptees will be reunited. I think I got an email from some nefarious person or organization touting what a good idea this was and that only encouraged my naive stupidity. There was a clause in the bill (now in some lucky legislative limbo) that required birthparent consent, which is a huge impediment to open records. The bill was a trick. A ploy to get in the way of open records.

I’m in the middle of a divorce, writing the thesis for my MFA, trying to rise out of the ashes once again and my brain is somewhat broken.

Adoption Laws in the Desert

Here in Arizona–

access to adoption records

Obtaining Non-Identifying Information:Non-identifying information (Remember non-identifying is the operative word in this sentence) is available to adoptive parents or a child’s guardian, adopted adults age 18 or older, an adopted adult’s spouse, birthparents, birth siblings, and-if an adopted adult is deceased-his or her adult children (age 18 or older).

Note the ad. If you google anything about adoption, there is often  a link you can click on to give a baby away. I find it especially pernicious, that girl or woman googling ‘birthmother’ in an effort to find insight, support, a lifeline will almost always find the first listings on the Google search page to be primers for how to give up her baby.

Obtaining Identifying Information:

An adopted adult age 21 or older or a birth parent can provide a notarized statement granting consent or withholding consent to the release of information. If consent is given, then the information will be given to the requesting party.This is actually pretty straightforward. If both parties–adoptee and birthparent understand the system and provide the notarized statements, they should be able to find one another! Any party may try to obtain identifying information by petitioning the court for compelling need.


Using a Confidential Intermediary:

The following parties may use the services of a confidential intermediary:

  • birth siblings age 21 or older;
  • adoptive parents or legal guardians of adopted adults age 18 or older;
  • adopted adults age 21 or older;
  • the immediate, adult relatives (age 21 or older) of a deceased adopted adult;
  • birth parents; or
  • birth grandparents if birth parents are deceased.
  • Wow–that’s a pretty inclusive list.

A confidential intermediary must obtain written consent from both parties before releasing information. Adoptive parents may file an affidavit that prohibits the confidential intermediary from contacting the adopted adult unless the adoptive parents remove the affidavit or the adopted adult files an affidavit stating that he or she knows he or she is adopted and wishes to make contact with the birth parents. Holy shit–no matter how old the adoptee is? Birth parents can file an affidavit prohibiting contact with birth siblings.



Arizona Confidential Intermediary Program
Arizona Supreme Court
Attn: Torin Scott
1501 W. Washington
Phoenix AZ 85007
(602) 542-9586 or (602) 542-9580


Providing Information:

Supplemental information may be placed in the file by any of the following parties: birth parents, adopted adult, adoptive parents, or family of the adopted adult. This is cool–so for example, let’s say you had some compelling reason against reunion (rare)–you could still add current medical information to the file.


Obtaining an Original Birth Certificate:

An adoptee must petition the court in which the adoption was finalized.



The Arizona Supreme Court

Adoption Laws in the Frozen North

I’m in Minnesota. This may be redundant, but why stop now?

access to adoption records

Obtaining Non-Identifying Information:

Adoptive parents and adopted adults (age 19) may obtain non-identifying information. Nothing new here.

Obtaining Identifying Information:

Identifying information is provided on the original birth certificate, which is released according to the provisions below. 

Obtaining an Original Birth Certificate:

An adopted adult can request a copy of the original birth certificate. At this time the Commissioner of Human Services will attempt to locate the birth parents to obtain consent to release the original birth certificate. If each birth parent is located and consents are given, the original birth certificate will be released.I’m noting the use of the plural here. On my son’s birth certificate, I asked that the father be listed as “unknown” as a means of protecting my boyfriend.  We never told his parents and it was my way of protecting him.If there is no reply or contact with the birth parents, for adopted adults adopted before August 1, 1977,so these people would be 32 years old now the adopted adult must petition the court for release of the original birth certificate. If the adoption was finalized on or after August 1, 1977, then the original birth certificate will be released to the adopted adult if the birth parents have not filed an access veto. Once again, when was the access veto filed and do they know how to rescind it if they want to?

And here’s another aspect of adoption law:
Under Minnesota law, a woman who gives birth to a child has “parental rights” to the child. These include the right to have the child live with you, to raise the child, and to make decisions about the child’s upbringing, including the right to decide to place the child for adoption.

If a birth mother wants to place the child for adoption, she signs a consent to adoption form. Once a birth mother signs a proper consent to an adoption, the law requires that the mother be given ten working days for her to change her mind. After the ten days are up, the consent may not be revoked by the mother unless the court finds that the mother’s consent was obtained through fraud.

Ten days.

Adoption Laws in the Heartland

I travel. A lot.  Right now I’m in Nebraska where I was hoping I’d find snowy walks in the woods under brittle skies, but everything is a shade of brown or gray and while I’m waiting for my grad school seminar to start, I’d rather be inside than outside so I’m googling again.  Here’s what I’ve got on accessing adoption records here in the heartland.  Again, the comments in red are mine.

access to adoption records

Obtaining Non-Identifying Information:

Adoptive parents at the time of placement and adopted adults can receive medical information. This is pretty much the same situation as Hawaii.  The medical information is gathered at the time of the birth/ placement.  Who is updating the medical information that Nebraska authorities deem adult adoptees can receive?  Let’s say you’re an adult adoptee of 25 or so and you want to start your own family and would like a heads up on possible genetic conditions. Twenty-five-year-old information won’t present the entire picture.  It probably won’t even come close.
Obtaining Identifying Information: See below. Birth parents may file a consent or non-consent form with the State social services department regarding their information. And again, do birthparents know how to update that information?  Is there an administrative fee?  The adoption agency I used charged me $25.00 for the non-identifying information they gave me.

Obtaining an Original Birth Certificate:
As a preface, let me say that withholding original birth certificates from birthmothers is unnecessary since there is nothing on the birth certificate that they wouldn’t already know.  Refusal to let a woman have the certificate of birth for her child can be construed only as an act of intimidation.
Adults who were adopted on or after September 1, 1988, (so you have to be older in Nebraska than you do in Hawaii. This is all so random)can receive a copy of the original birth certificate, medical records on file, and information about agency assistance in searching, unless a birth parent has filed a non-consent form. Adults who were adopted before September 1, 1988, upon written request to the court, can receive identifying information and a copy of the original birth certificate if both birth parents have consented. 

The Law

– Nebraska Revised Statute 43-113 et. seq.
An adopted person 25 years of age or older may request access to the names of relatives or the original birth certificate. 

Upon receipt of such a request, the bureau shall look for consent and non-consent (veto) forms. 

If a birth parent consent is on file, and there is no veto filed by the adoptive parents, The adoptive parents have veto power over a 25 yr. old?  A 30 yr old?  A 40 yr old?the bureau shall release identifying information to the adoptee. 

If no birth parent consent is on file, and if no adoptive parent veto filed, the adoptee will be given the name and address of the court which issued the adoption decree, the name of the agency involved if any, and the fact that an agency may assist the adoptee in searching for relatives.

If the birth parent(s) is/are deceased, and there is no adoptive parent or birth parent veto on file, identifying information shall be released. Yup, that’s right.  If they’re dead, the state will help you find your birthparents.  The makings of a tragedy right there in the Nebraska adoption statutes.

If birth parent consent(s) has been filed, and there is no adoptive parent veto, the original birth certificate shall be given to the adoptee. Still…gotta have permission from your adoptive parents.

If there is no birth parent consent on file, and no adoptive parent veto, the adoptee may ask the agency to undertake a search to seek such consent. Costs shall be borne by the adoptee, irrespective of the outcome. How about a little more heartache?

Medical history information contained in agency files shall be provided to an adoptee upon request, with names and place of birth redacted.

I’ve been reunited with my son for 17 years. The sisters he might never have known under the restrictive adoption laws in the state of Iowa have had him in their lives as long as they can remember and we are all better for it.

Adoption Laws in Paradise

I’m in Hawaii right now, sitting in my hotel bed, thinking and googling (which sometimes go very nicely together.)

Here’s how it is if you are an adoptee in the state of Hawaii: The comments in red are mine.

access to adoption records

Obtaining Non-Identifying Information:

Adoptive parents and adopted adults may receive ethnic and medical history.  Keep in mind that the medical history they are most likely referring to is the information they gathered from the birthparents at the time of the birth.  A lot of medical stuff develops later in life.

Obtaining Identifying Information:
For adoptions finalized before January 1, 1991,
so these adoptees would be 18 or older adopted adults or adoptive parents must petition the court for information. The court will send a notice to the last known address of the birth parents. If no response is received, the adopted adult can access his or her information.This is good news for the adoptee, I guess.  But it leaves the birthmother out of the loop unless she hasn’t moved since the adoption. For adoptions finalized after December 31, 1990, the adopted adult or adoptive parents can receive information if there is no affidavit on file requesting confidentiality. A young birthmother who is facing the shame of an unplanned pregnacny or who has kept her pregnancy a secret from key people in her life is likely, I think, to request an affidavit of confidentiality.  My question:  What happens a few years down the road when she’s found she can’t forget her baby, move on, etc. etc.  Does she have information on how to undo the affidavit? 

Using the Adoption Registry:

Adopted adults and birth parents may register. 


Family Court Registry
Court Management Services
777 Punchbowl Street
Honolulu, HI 96811

Obtaining an Original Birth Certificate: 
An adoptee must petition the court in which the adoption was finalized.
There are situations I can imagine where the adoptee might not know this.