For most of my adult life I had no idea that most states provided non-id information on request to adult adoptees. That sometimes in addition to this non-identifying information there might contain correspondence held for the adoptee. The concept never even entered my mind that the state would have any documentation other than court files, even after the judge approved my mom’s petition to unseal my adoption file. No clue.
After I found out my mother had already passed away and made contact with extended family, I learned about the non-id information most states offer to adult adoptees. After thinking about it, and hearing that some mothers had left letters in the file and that sometimes an adoptee received bits and pieces of information and each request provided additional details, I decided to request mine from the state, worded in a way that would ensure I received everything they had.
I would like to request copies of any and all information and correspondence available to me as non-identifying information that is contained within my adoption file.
In addition if there is any additional correspondence or letters to me from my mother or any other relative I would like to receive that as well.
My surrender and adoption both took place in ______ County in the city of ______, _______.My Date of Birth: My Adoptive Name: My Adoptive Father: My Adoptive Mother: I now reside in _____ and this information can be mailed to: ___________
You may also contact me during the day if you require additional information which I have as part of a court ordered opening of my adoption records ______ Decree #_______ at _________ or via e-mail at __________
I received a form letter back advising me that there was no information and that I must have been adopted through an agency, and that I needed to find out what agency and contact them for the non-id information. They also included an Adoption Search brochure telling me how to find my agency.
It was obvious the person in charge didn’t actually bother to read my letter, if they did they would have realized I had my court documents (compliments of a court order) which stated I was not adopted through an agency, but surrendered directly to the state which was a common process for mothers from my era. They may have actually checked the files, but whoever trained them forgot to educate them on when the adoption law actually mandated that the individual counties forward the adoption files to the adoption unit at the state capital – that mandate didn’t happen until a decade after I was born and up until then it was hit or miss what was sent.
I was upset when I received the form letter that told me the employee didn’t bother to read my short, but detailed letter. I felt angry reading the form letter from the head of the adoption unit. Angry that neither the employee or the director had taken the time to read the letter or access the court database and pull up the adoption file after I provided all the details needed to open the file without even performing a search of the system. I wasn’t worth a few keystrokes on a keyboard. I wasn’t worthy of any extra effort. I was simply an adoptee who should be grateful that I received the form letter.
From what I have read my case isn’t atypical, rather it’s fairly common. Some have to request information multiple times – some are treated with dignity – some like me have no files – not even worthy of receiving snippets of information about a mother they may never get to meet.
My wish – that every single closed adoption state changes their laws and stops this discrimination against adult adoptees and reduces the adult adoptee to begging for vague limited non-identifying information about who they were born to be - if that information still exists. We should be equal to non-adopted citizens of the state and have the same rights to access our full original birth record at age of majority.
From what I have read the argument against adult adoptees having equal rights is based on the premise that mothers were promised privacy but they cannot provide proof of that promise. National studies mentioned in this report I stumbled upon yesterday from the CT Law Commission Review way back in 1999 when searching was still pretty controversial, identify that somewhere in the range of 95% of mothers are open to contact. This report also discusses how the expectation of privacy is illusory and is not a vested right in this respect (last page).
DCF has about 360 requests per year for information identifying birth parents. Of these 360 requests for information, the department conducts 250 to 300 actual searches for birth parents per year. Contrary to the assumption underlying sealed records laws that birth parents do not wish to be found, staff at the Office of Foster and Adoptive Services at DCF report that approximately 95% of the birth parents contacted by DCF consent to release of the information and to contact. A significant portion, but not a majority, of the searches are conducted on behalf of adults who had been placed as infants voluntarily by their birth parents.
Numerous private adoption agencies in Connecticut also are required to conduct searches and contact birth parents on request of adult adoptees who they placed as children. Combined information is not available for all of these private agencies, but their experience with consents to release identifying information is similar to that of DCF. And the overwhelming percentage of birth parents contacted want to have their identities released to their birth children, regardless of whether the termination of parental rights was voluntary or whether the child was placed as an infant or as an older child.
For example, Catholic Family Services in Hartford receives about 250 requests per year for both identifying and nonidentifying information. The agency conducts about 100 searches per year. Nearly all of the searches are on behalf of adults who were placed for adoption as infants by birth parents consenting to termination of their parental rights. The agency reports that 90% of the birth parents contacted agree to release of identifying information. Because of the demand for search, the agency has a nine-month waiting list before search can be undertaken.
The Village for Families and Children in Hartford and Waterbury Catholic Family Services also report that 90% of birth parents those agencies contacted consent to release of identifying information. Each of the agencies conduct about thirty searches a year. The searches conducted by the Village are predominately for adult adoptees who were placed as infants by birth parents who consented to termination of their parental rights. The searches by Waterbury Catholic Family Services are almost exclusively for adults who were voluntarily placed as infants.
This DCF and private agency experience is consistent with national studies finding that a high percentage of birth parents do not object to being found.
That adoptee rights bills fail because of this plus/minus 5% is unbelievable when it comes down to denying an entire group of people equal rights, when only a few mothers may not wish to be known, and who knows if those few would even be searched for – not all adoptees want contact. Instead of legislators assuming that the adult adoptee of one of those mothers would even want to search and make contact and then stalk or harass – why not assume they would respect that choice if they chose to search in the first place? Why deny equal rights to all adult adoptees in any closed state, on a slim hypothetical chance one of them might not respect their mothers choice when there are laws already in place if the worst case happened? Is it right to deny equal rights to all adoptees based on that? I don’t think so.
I hope the entire adoption community stands behind those fighting to changing these discriminatory laws. Please support Adoptee Rights…what you can do today – write a letter to your representative and mail it snail mail. Get a conversation going in your group and write letters. Everything you need to know can be found at the Adoptee Rights Coalition in this post It’s time for The Adoptee Rights Coalition Letter Writing Campaign!