Tag Archives: sealed adoption records

Adoptee Birth Certificates

I love you, Iowa. But I’m distressed that you want to have this birth certificate thing both ways.
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Children of same-sex couples

I recently I read this. It has to do with the birth certificates of children of same-sex couples. The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled that both parents in a married same-sex couple must be on a child’s birth certificate. In the past, Iowa’s Department of Public Health has insisted on listing a biological parent on these birth certificates. The court now says that practice is unconstitutional.


I have some personal experience with Iowa’s bureaucracy regarding birth certificates. In 1990 I began to search for the son I had placed 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. I knew this birth certificate would provide no identifying information that would aid in my search for him. However, I viewed it as an empowerment exercise. My son had been taken from me. And they erased the evidence. I wanted someone to acknowledge the wrong. And the erasure of it.

Silenced for two decades by shame, I came out of my closet after the birth of my third child. I wanted the state of Iowa, at the very least, to acknowledge that the birth of my son had taken place. I had my daughters’ birth certificates. And now I wanted my son’s. My name was on it. A legal document. Wasn’t I entitled to it?

The interesting thing here–the thing that relates to the court decision above is that my son’s biological father’s name did not appear on the birth certificate. The social worker advised me not to name the father of my baby—to protect his reputation. My name, however, would most definitely be on the birth certificate. And so, there you have it. A birth certificate without the names of both parents.

Birth certificate identity crisis

What is a birth certificate exactly? Is it a certificate of ownership? Is it a legal record of birth? A documentation of parentage? What kind of parentage? How many birth certificates can a person have? Can the people whose names are on it have a copy of it?

I did not succeed in obtaining a copy of my son’s original birth certificate even though it has my name on it. Even with the intercession of my doctor and a verifiable need to pass on medical information to my son, the only response from the Iowa Department of Human Services was that “there were no records pertaining to my inquiries.”

And what about these children of same-sex couples? What are their rights regarding knowledge of their biological parentage?

Adoption registry

And….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.
Because surely they don’t expect birthparents to supply a birth certificate. We know that’s impossible.

Rhode Island Adoptees


Rhode Island Adoptees Win!

Rhode Island Adoptees have won the right to access their original birth certificates! And isn’t it cool that the Rhode Island flag says, “Hope?”

It’s enough to make me want to move to New England. Along with Maine and New Hampshire, Rhode Island has restored the rights of adoptees. Rights advocates battled for twenty years in Rhode Island, and it could be that Connecticut will be the next state to win its battle for adoptee rights.

So now there are seven states where adoptees have access to their original birth certificates. Maybe soon there will be eight. So…while we’re all excited about that, let’s pause for a moment. Really, what that means is eight out of 50. Eight out of 50 states allow adoptees unrestricted access to their original birth certificates. That is dismal.

Just in case you have questions regarding the importance of this legislation, I will refer you to another post here. And also to the adoptee rights group Bastard Nation.

Iowa Adoptees lose!

My son’s original birth certificate resides in the state of Iowa.
Dear Iowa, please look east and pay attention. Your mutual consent registry excludes some people and it’s kind of a money-grubbing operation. $25 bucks for each application?

Unseal Records

Well, not that kind of record. An ADOPTION record. Sign the list to unseal adoption records.
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Sign to unseal records!

Birthparents can now sign a petition to unseal adoption records. I joined American Adoption Congress recently and saw their call to action asking for birthparents to sign their list in support of open records for adoptees.

No gatekeeper!

I’m not much of a joiner. I don’t especially like meetings. I don’t have the business skill-set to be a good organization volunteer. But I liked the idea of this list. Birthparents willing to write their names on a list to say, yes, I believe adoptees have the same rights as other adults. And no, I’m not hung up on confidentiality. Studies and surveys have shown that many birthparents do not feel the need for a gatekeeper.

And here are some further thoughts on open records.

I was pleasantly surprised when their newsletter,”Decree” appeared in my mailbox. Essays and poetry with multitude of perspectives. I recommend it.

Finding Kevin Parker’s Birthmother

She gave birth at Parkview Hospital

Kevin Parker’s birthmother gave birth to him in 1977 in Riverside, CA.

I recently met Kevin Parker’s adopted mom. She and her son are searching for his birthmother. She’s asked me to re-post what she has posted on Facebook:

I believe my son has a right to know who his birth mother is. He was born in 1977 at Parkview Hospital in Riverside. His birth mother named him Kevin, and she used Parker as a last name on the birth certificate. She would be in her early 50’s now. She once lived in Southern California, and we were told she joined the army not long after his birth. If you know anyone who fits this profile, please contact me.

I hope Kevin Parker’s birthmother will be found!



Open Records. Do Your Part.


Why open records?

Open records are a crucial part of adoptee rights.

As as 17-year-old about to place a child for adoption, I wondered exactly what was meant by sealed records. Just a humble envelope? Closed with sealing wax, maybe? An envelope with the state seal? A locked file cabinet? A vault? I still don’t know exactly how they seal those records.


But I do know this, birthparents can help the adoptee access movement in their struggle to obtain original birth certificates for adult adoptees. You can sign this form: Birthparents for Access .

Because “birthmother confidentiality” is often trotted out as an argument opposing open records, it really can help the cause if birthparents sign. Only a handful of U.S. states grant adoptees access to their own original birth certificate. Even worse, some state claim that adoptees have access to their original birth certificates, but they don’t really. They’re only conditionally open. As an adoptee in a state like this, you have the right to request your original birth certificate, but it might come back redacted. What good is that? I think more birthparents would be in favor of unsealing those records if they really considered what’s at stake for adoptees..

Never Let Me Go


The movie

On Saturday night I saw the movie, Never Let Me Go. Adapted from the Kazuo Ishiguro novel of the same name, the film opens in an alternative version of the 1970s and then jumps ahead to the 1990s as the main characters grow into adulthood. The initial setting is an idyllic, but mysterious, boarding school in the English countryside. In this revised version of our recent past, medical science has made great advances. People now live to be well over one hundred.

During a shocking and moving scene, some of the children find out that they exist simply to be living donors of  vital organs and other body parts. Consequently, they learn they will begin their mission when they are young adults, donating three times or more. If, that is, they survive the surgeries before they succumb to premature death. In other words, these children are clones, or “modeled” as the movie calls it. They have no parents and will never know life outside of the institution that houses them.

A birthmother’s perspective

My head exploded.

Children exploited for the purposes of adults who need something they don’t have, I thought. Children who don’t have a say in their own fate. Children wondering about the person they were “modeled on.” What does that sound like to you?

Later, in one particularly moving scene, the 20-something protagonist pages through  a stack of magazines, looking for the woman who is her model. The protagonist has accompanied a friend on a mission into town to view a woman who might be her friend’s model. Don’t you know they don’t model us on people like that? the friend cries when she see’s the photo in the magazine. If we want to find the person we are modeled on, we have to look in the gutter. Winos, prostitutes, addicts–the dregs of society. Those are the people they use for models.

Holy moly.

An adoptee’s worst fears, I thought. A birthmother from the dregs of society.

The movie does not disclose what happens to the modelers. Whether they are destroyed in the cloning process or not. They are societies’ throwaways.

In the movie, there’s a serpentine cloning bureaucracy, threaded with myths and lies. No one can find the information they’re looking for. Because there is no viable information. In other words, searching leads nowhere.

Searching leads nowhere. Like adoption and closed records.

The movie was excellent and thought-provoking in many ways.

However, I brought my own experience to it and saw it from a point of view that the author and the filmmaker most likely did not intend.  Whether or not you share the perspective of someone involved in adoption, I highly recommend Never Let Me Go.

Sealed Records

Sealed records for adoptees is one of our most poignant examples of the lack of political progress in our current times. I’ve been thinking a lot about social progress vs. political progress.

I saw the movie Milk the other night. A lot has changed for gays since the 70s. Nowadays, many gays & lesbians carry on with their lives without keeping secrets about their sexual orientation. There’s a fair amount of social acceptance for them. But legislated equal rights is another story.  

There are no overt social prejudices against adoptees. Though, I don’t think there’s a high level of discussion about adoption or what the practice of adoption means to adoptees or birth parents. People are not against adoptees, per se. However, most states have yet to pass legislation that will grant adoptees access to their birth records. The fact that those sealed records remain sealed and off limits to adult adoptees is a political wrong.