The Civil Rights of Adoptees

The Civil Rights of Adoptees

The civil rights of adoptees have long been trampled in the United States, and it’s no wonder that adults adopted as children are getting really angry about this injustice.

After all: adoptees typically have no say in the life-altering choices made on their behalf when an adoption plan is made by their parents. (That, in itself, would feel pretty disempowering.)

It’s been 101 years since the first law was enacted to hide adoptees’ original birth certificates in America. That happened in 1917 in Minnesota, and the original intent of that legislation was to shield adoptees from the social stigma of being born out of wedlock and/or adopted, since American society back then was cruelly judgemental towards those who were considered “illegitimate.”

Why can’t all adult adoptees access their OBCs?

Somehow, though, over the years, closed adoption records laws themselves became bastardized. The intent of protecting the adoptee’s privacy became twisted to shield adoptive parents from the “inconvenience” of having to be truthful with their adopted children. Adoptees were told that they were not entitled to ever know the identity of the blood relatives who made their lives possible in the first place, and that it was ungrateful of them to even ask.

But why? Why is it wrong for adopted adults to want to verify their own biological origins? Why do we (as parents or adoption professionals or lawmakers) continue to treat adult adoptees like children who cannot make their own best decisions regarding the search for their own answers in life?

Adoptees have compelling reasons to need to know, of course. They need to be able to verify their own ethnicity and their family medical history and their genetic risk factors. They want to know that they were not stolen, kidnapped or trafficked (a very real concern in closed adoptions, even today.) They want to know that they are not dating or marrying blood relatives (also a real concern, considering how many adoptees and birthfamilies are found to be living in close proximity at time of reunions.) They struggle with identity issues that may only be resolved by accessing the truth of their origins.

And yet, all across America, lawmakers and special interest groups still conspire to deny adult adoptees access to their own birth records. (Even amidst what is commonly and ironically known as “The Information Age.” Go figure.)

Where Adult Adoptees in American Can & Can’t Get their Records

Don’t believe us? Take a look at this map which documents state laws governing adult adoptee access to their OBCS (original birth certificates):


This is all kinds of outrageous, people. Every citizen, whether birthparents or adoptees or adoptive parents or adoption professionals or otherwise, should be marching in the streets against this injustice. And yet, we’re not. (No wonder America’s adoptees are frustrated, amirite?)

Who Keeps Secrets and Why?

Lawmakers like Texas Senator Donna Campbell (herself a physician and a mother-by-adoption) cling to antiquated arguments that open access to birth records by adoptees would somehow increase abortion numbers (hint: that’s false!) or that birthparents were promised anonymity in the course of their adoptive placements (hint: that’s untrue, also) or that adoptive parents’ relationships with the children will be somehow compromised by the truth coming out (again: a misconception, except perhaps for those with something to hide?)

As the San Antonio Express-News reported in December 2016: “(Campbell) was working in the emergency room in the hospital in Columbus (Texas) one day in 2006 after another doctor was unable to make it. (She) went to the hospital nursery to give a message to another doctor, and she heard people discussing a baby. “There was conversation about, ‘This baby is so cute’ — everybody wanted to take the baby home,” Campbell recalled. “They said, ‘Do you want to take the baby home?’… It happened just like that.”

Most hospitals have strict ethical standards that prevent these kinds of “in-house adoption arrangements” that favor hospital personnel (with or without a homestudy,) and Texas state laws prohibit the third party facilitation of adoptions without an agency license. Nonetheless, Campbell was reportedly happy to scoop up this woman’s baby, apparently with no intention of permitting any ongoing contact between her adopted daughter Anna Beth and the biological family. In fact, Campbell is apparently so threatened by the idea that she has spearheaded efforts to keep all Texas adoptees from accessing their original birth certificates, claiming that her motivation is somehow about “protecting birthmothers” although it clearly seems to have far more to do with eliminating adoption transparency.

We don’t know why, of course? We’ve offered (unsuccessfully) to talk with Senator Campbell in person, to no avail– for reasons unknown. Yet we know this kind of shame-mongering and secret keeping where adoptees are concerned is neither healthy nor wise, and we’d love to help her see this, if only she’d let us help.

In Conclusion…

Nobody is suggesting that minor adoptees must be given access to their original birth certificates (although these documents truly are theirs in the first place, correct?) Abrazo’s adoptive parents are required to raise their children to know the truth of their origins from Day One, so for Abrazo’s adoptees to be unaware of their birthparents’ names would be highly unusual, anyway.

Our agency’s more progressive families have questioned why it is even necessary for the birth certificate to be falsified or altered by the State in the process of the adoption, yet the Texas Legislature has not provided any legal alternative by which adoptees can be provided birth certificates that list both the identities of their biological and adoptive parents, although we hope this may change someday soon?

It’s not enough just to say “we’re for adoptee rights” and then do little or nothing to actually help bring about needed changes in the society around us. To witness a civil rights violation and then let it go unchecked is to endorse it, and that makes you part of the problem. To be part of the solution means to elect lawmakers who are committed to adoptee rights, to support causes and organizations that are invested in this cause, and to take a public stand– as this truly is a “best interest of the adoptee” issue.

It doesn’t matter whether you are adopted or have adopted or have placed a child for adoption; this is not an “adoption issue” but rather, a “civil rights issue” which should make the civil rights of adoptees a cause worth fighting for, for all conscientious Americans.

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