When it comes to the legalities of adoption and the altering of an adoptee’s birth certificate, it seems that everyone involved is expected to make compromises. Natural parents compromise as they are erased from their own child’s legal birth certificate. Adoptive parents compromise by legally pretending that they gave birth to a person they did not. Adoptees compromise by being expected to simply accept that their original identity was legally erased and a new one was created for them. This is a lot of compromising that must be done as a result of amending birth certificates in adoption. And I wonder if these compromises are absolutely necessary so that a child can be cared for, and raised by, people other than those who created and gave birth to him or her.
Of course, the answer is no. It is not necessary to alter an adoptee’s birth certificate in order for an adoption to occur. Adoptive parents become the legal guardians of the adoptee through the Adoption Decree issued upon finalization. As such, there is simply no legal reason to also change an adoptee’s birth certificate so that it contains false information. One could argue that empowering everyone involved in adoption with the truth would require no compromises involving the adoptee’s official birth record.
I’m sure that most of those involved in adoptee rights advocacy would agree with me there. But even within our own ranks, there are differences of opinion concerning access legislation and compromise. Some are willing to accept certain compromises in order to advance beyond where we are now. Others are not willing to accept any compromises at all. Both sides inherently desire the same outcome, restored original birth certificate access for all adult adoptees. This common goal should be recognized even as we consider how to best make it happen, compromises or not.
There are currently three key compromises when it comes to access legislation:
Disclosure veto. A natural parent desiring anonymity can take measures to ensure that the adoptee does not obtain his or her original birth certificate. This form of compromise places the personal preferences of some (natural parents who do not desire contact with their children) over the legal rights of all adult adoptees.
Confidential intermediaries. While the state does not grant access to the original birth certificate, an adoptee can pay the state or adoption agency a fee and a person holding the position of confidential intermediary will contact the natural parents. If the natural parents tell the confidential intermediary that they do not desire contact with their sons or daughters, the transaction ends there. Using my own state of residence as an example, Pennsylvania charges adoptees $500 per parent to use the confidential intermediary. As such, adoptees born in my state have spent $1,000 only to receive absolutely nothing in return.
Black-out years. A state will sometimes allow some adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates based on the year they were born or adopted. Using my state of birth/adoption as an example, Connecticut Department of Children and Families Commissioner Joette Katz recently recommended that the current proposed bill, SB 59, should allow adoptees born after June 1, 2014 to obtain their original birth certificates upon reaching adulthood. The rest of us will continue to compromise by not having access at all.
It is my feeling that none of these compromise measures truly represent a compromise. These measures all result in adult adoptees continuing to be treated differently under law to non-adopted adults. For instance, the parents of non-adopted adults do not have the power to deny their son or daughter access to his or her own birth certificate. Similarly, non-adopted adults do not have to pay large fees to the state in order to use confidential intermediaries in lieu of accessing their own birth certificates. And I do not know of any state that allows some non-adopted adults access to their own birth certificates while denying others the same access due to the year they were born.
Discussions surrounding fear are going to be a common theme around here. It seems to me that there are individuals and entities that truly fear what might happen if adult adoptees were treated equally under law to non-adopted adults. Some natural parents perhaps fear facing a painful past and for this, my heart reaches out. However, I do not feel that the personal issues of some should supercede the legal rights of an entire class of others. And perhaps states like Pennsylvania fear a rather significant source of revenue drying up should the confidential intermediary process no longer be needed. For this, my heart does not reach out. State governments should not be allowed to generate revenue by denying an entire class of adults born within its borders a right that all others have. Additionally, I really do not have any sympathy for a state that allows some adult adoptees access and others no access. This only takes the discrimination already inflicted upon adult adoptees down another notch.
While I am more than willing to consider the view of others and welcome compromise when doing so might offer peaceful results, I am not a compromise person when it comes to the rights of adult adoptees to access their own, unaltered birth certificates. Equal rights are about equality. The measures outlined above do not represent any sort of mutually respectful compromise and result in persistent, continual inequity and differential treatment for adult adoptees. At the same time, however, I can understand why some of my adoptee rights colleagues might be willing to accept these measures over no option for access at all.
What we all need to ask ourselves is why does there seem to be a desperate need to compromise the truth when it comes to adoption? Aren’t adult adoptees at least worth their own truth?Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.