Why is adoption still mired in secrecy?

28 Dec


Bird in SnowIf you are on Facebook, then I’m sure you have seen pictures of adoptees holding up signs detailing their search to know who they were born to be, or posts seeking information.  Adoptees reduced to putting their personal information, and private story out there for any, and all, to see – only because they were adopted, and being adopted took away the most basic human right of all – to know who you were born to be.

It is absolutely shameful that the adoption industry has stood in the way of doing what is right for adoptees, rather than working to correct the wrong.  Absolutely shameful...

How can they sit in their fancy boardrooms, put on, or present at conferences, create pithy advertising slogans to entice a vulnerable expectant mother to choose adoption, tweet how wonderful adoption is, and talk, talk, talk, about how much good adoption does – and not give a damn about the rights of adoptees to know where they came from?

You have to ask yourself just how much they really care…because if they cared, they would stand up and be counted…

If there is nothing shameful in being adopted, then there is no reason to keep our original birth certificate sealed under lock and key, a lock and key that for many adoptees – was applied retroactively.

If some adoption practitioners have misled their clients that they can remain anonymous forever, and ever – then have the guts to stand up and say you were wrong.  That the adoptees are what matters most in adoption, and right now they are being treated as second-class citizens in many states – whether in open or closed adoptions.

If the adoption industry is afraid of the scandal of how mothers were treated  – stand up, come clean and apologize, it’s good for the soul.

If the adoption industry is really about what is best the child – then for Pete’s sake – act like it, children grow up to be adults and being denied the right to their original birth certificate doesn’t meet the standard – it makes them less-than the non-adopted.

If the adoption industry wanted to correct the wrongs of the past that are still in effect today – they would ask the Adoptee Rights Groups in each state how they can help, no conditions, just support for full equality, whatever it takes to make it right.   They would stand behind the adoptees as they lead the way to restoring the right taken away – simply because they were adopted.

If the adoption industry wanted to ensure the mistakes of the past stop being repeated and never happen again – they would require every adoption practitioner to educate their clients that the adoptee is the most important member in adoption, and how their rights should never be compromised to make others feel comfortable.  Your job is to do right by the adoptee first and foremost, whatever it takes.

Adoptive parents – you should care about the rights of every single adoptee, because your child is an adoptee too.  You want your adoptee to grow up to be equal in the eyes of the law to non-adopted adults – don’t you? Stand behind the adoptees in fixing the laws that were changed over the years by the efforts of lobbying voices in adoption…

If you don’t care who will?  Adoptee Rights Coalition: FAQs


Posted by on December 28, 2013 in Adoption, adoptive parents, biological child, Ethics


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

21 responses to “Why is adoption still mired in secrecy?

  1. Brent Snavely

    December 28, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    I believe your use of the word “shameful” is apt. Shot throughout, “the A word” stems from shame — the shame of society/ies that do not provide for the health, safety and welfare of all of its members.

    From my perspective, it seems a significant factor involved in the shameful secrets (you and I, and all the others subjected to the “A word”) is the protection of males since, after all, it is the males who are most protected from assuring that their biological offspring are provided for during their lifetimes. That women, our actual mothers, are shamed into making the untenable choice of “giving” their child up for adoption is part and parcel of the entire mess because, you see, male-dominated societies tend to blame the women for the (shameful and lurid) sex acts that they (the males) were seduced into…

    Just a twist on a matters — because I think “the A word”, just like “education”, is not at all about “the children”…


    • JavaMonkey

      December 28, 2013 at 5:46 pm


      I disagree. The myth of the deadbeat dad as the reason for adoption is popular, but often inaccurate. If you really read up on the BSE, you will learn that many fathers were duped and/or pressured out of their parental rights. Many young men proposed marriage and were refused.

      Most often, adoptions were arranged to protect the reputations of upper middle class birth families. It had nothing to do with protecting the father’s pocketbook, since he was usually just as young and dependent upon his parents as the mother was. Nor was it about helping the mothers. The kids “got into trouble” and the parents “fixed it” by arranging the adoption.

      There have been entire books written on the topic. The Girls Who Went Away and Wake Up Little Susie are good starting points.


      • Brent Snavely

        December 28, 2013 at 8:45 pm

        I have no problem with reading anecdotal stories. I think, however, you missed the larger issue of cultural structuralism and the trans-generational transmission of deep-seated beliefs.

        One underlying issue may be that of “property” (I’m an attorney, so this is one theory I am interested in), particularly since the roots of the legal system in the US of A stems from laws that regarded both women and children as “chattels”. We, in this century, are not so distant from women and children having virtually no rights aside from those ascribed them by males or from slavery as an institution. Both of these matters may seem “old”, but by way of the generations separating today from a partial ascendancy of females as having “equal rights”, of children receiving significant legal protections, and of slavery, Jim Crow, and anti-miscegenation laws US society is still deeply enmeshed in the past. Underlying the issue of women, children and “Blacks” as property qua Property is the legal theory that a “property” is a re one can use and enjoy, and exercise dominion and control over.

        Critical theory suggests that the entire system, the whole structure, should be evaluated in order to determine if the foundational elements are faulty. In other words, are we so enmeshed in nonsense that we are unable to see that a given system or culture is, itself, corrupt.


  2. maybe

    December 28, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    I’ve come to believe that adoption can only be changed radical acts by adoptees. Things like changing your names back to the original family name, suing agencies and social workers, being loudly critical of the system, etc. This will be hard due to loyalty and enforced gratitude but it will be more effective than begging for understanding.

    The shame factor mentioned above is at the heart of the dysfunction in adoption…radical acts can slay the shame monster.


    • Brent Snavely

      December 28, 2013 at 9:09 pm

      Hi maybe, Some authors at the “Transracial eyes” blog are of a similar mind ( ), and David Ibn Zyad is quite vocal about matters ( ).


      • TAO

        December 28, 2013 at 10:57 pm

        Sorry for the delay Brent – any comment with two or more links goes to moderation…and I forget that all the time…


  3. Paige Adams Strickland

    December 28, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    Brent, I know it’s true re education! I hated living with the shame of being adopted. My A-family was fine, but I still felt shame anyway for being different, for having a questionable start in life and because I knew, even as a small child that something wasn’t right. I hope it’s better now with more diversity in families and public awareness.


    • Brent Snavely

      December 28, 2013 at 9:07 pm

      Paige, My situation was one where I would never be identified as the child of those-who-raised-me. The “brother” with whom I was raised (different birth parents but subjected to “the A word”) could “pass” whereas I looked a good deal more like the family dog. My biological half-brother was also subjected to “the A word” with different parental figures. One thing that the three of us have in common is the unpleasant experience living as children-of (but-not-really-of) those who raised us.

      As far as “education” goes — Wow. I’m pretty certain that the “education system” is a vehicle to assure things stay much the same as they have for centuries. BS, MA, JD here, just so you know I’ve an inkling…


  4. eagoodlife

    December 28, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    Reblogged this on The Life Of Von and commented:
    Why? Why not?


  5. Mirah Riben

    December 28, 2013 at 11:50 pm

    I started to reply but it was so lengthy it turned into a blogpost of its own:

    Not why not, Von…because they CAN!


    • cb

      December 29, 2013 at 2:08 am

      Mirah, I think TAO was asking a rhetorical question.


  6. Deb

    December 29, 2013 at 4:09 am

    Because where money and secrecy lives, corruption lives there also. Did you know that the state agencies that remove children from their parents use private court proceedings to accomplish this? Did you also know that state agencies get a good sum of money for each child they remove and adopt out? Why the secrecy? They claim that it is to protect the child, think again $$. By the way, I like Brent’s postings.


  7. Snarkurchin

    December 29, 2013 at 10:15 am

    “You want your adoptee to grow up to be equal in the eyes of the law to non-adopted adults – don’t you?” What an excellent question. Adoption is still mired in secrecy because that’s how the people who benefit from adoption want things. Insecure APs get to pretend they were always the only parents, and agencies get to cover their tracks.

    Adoptees’ opinions mean nothing because we’re the product.


    • cb

      December 29, 2013 at 11:32 am


      This article is worth reading if people haven’t already read it:

      In the late 1940s and early 1950s, contemporary accounts reported that most states had sealed adoption court records completely but, typically, had sealed original birth certificates from all persons except adult adoptees. Through the 1950s influential experts recommended that original birth certificates remain available to adult adoptees, while birth and court records otherwise be closed to all persons except upon court order. In 1960 the laws in some 40 percent of the states still permitted adult adoptees to inspect them, but between 1960 and 1990 all but a handful of the rest of the states closed the birth records to adult adoptees. Since then a number of states have passed laws providing adult adoptees access to formerly sealed birth certificates. This article summarizes the authors research on and analysis of the complex history of the states sealing these records and now beginning to reopen them to the adult adoptees whose births they record.”

      Personally, I find it rather bizarre that every time a state decides to consider opening its records, it acts as if no other state or country has ever done it before.


  8. Lorraine Dusky

    December 30, 2013 at 1:47 am

    Quote: If there is nothing shameful in being adopted, then there is no reason to keep our original birth certificate sealed under lock and key, a lock and key that for many adoptees – was applied retroactively.

    You could not be more right. Change is so slow in coming I feel we need blood on the steps, a revolution, a break in to the records to make our voices heard. Great post!


  9. Mirah Riben

    December 30, 2013 at 5:00 pm


    I was quite surprised to read Robin’s comment to my blog post (link above) that was inspired by this post of yours.

    Robin felt that was “too harsh” on “you.” i was very surprised (shocked, actually) because I meant nothing of the sort!

    All of my anger, snarkiness and SARCASM was aimed at the DAMN INDUSTRY, not you at all!! I made a modification, hopefully to clarify that fact and i hope that you did not take offense. I am clearly on your side.

    Why indeed are laws so antiquated. if adoptions were sealed to protect adoptees from the “stigma” of illegitimacy – it surely no longer exists. but the truth is they were sealed to protect ADOPTERS – the paying customers – from the ‘intrusion, or even possible blackmail, of birth mothers! It all just makes my blood boil with anger — but not at you.

    Peace and Happy New Year.


    • TAO

      December 30, 2013 at 7:34 pm

      No worries Mirah – the written word often is heard differently, than what the writer intended. All is good.


  10. Lynne Miller

    December 30, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    TAO, I agree. It pains me to see people on Facebook looking for their biological families. It shouldn’t be necessary for adoptees to take such desperate measures to find their birth families.

    I think closed adoptions are no longer the norm. It seems like open adoptions are much more common these days. I have friends who have adopted children in recent years and they have been straightforward with their kids about their adoptions. I think that’s how it should be. Our society says adoption is acceptable so why should adoptive parents or adoption agencies cover up the fact? Secret adoptions leave people to wonder if things were done in an underhanded way. I was adopted in the 1960s and didn’t find out about my adoption until 11 years ago. It’s very strange and unsettling to learn as an adult that you were adopted. I’ve uncovered many things about my birth mother but still have lots of unanswered questions.


    • Mirah Riben

      December 30, 2013 at 7:03 pm


      Open adoption is more common than in the paste, yes. BUT… as a result more and adopters are choosing international adoption to avoid the “intrusion” of birth mothers into their lives. Secondly, a good percentage of domestic adoptions are step-parent adoptions.

      Thus, open adoption, applies only domestic infant adoption. However, we have be cognizant of the mis-use of that term. In many if not most cases it means IDENTIFIED adoption! Yes, just about all infant domestic adoption involve some name exchange between original and adoptive families…often phone calls, emails etc PRIOR to the birth. Financial support is common. Visits MAY occur.

      But the question is does any of this openness continue AFTER the adoption is finalized? AND…does any of it involve the CHILD or is all contact – such as monthly or yearly letters and photos, just between the two sets of parents?

      Sadly, we hear all too often form birth moms who were DUPED, lied to, deceived into open adoptions with promises that were not upheld, or quickly stopped. When that happens the mothers have no recourse. No court can FORCE the legal parents to allow a legal stranger to have contact with a minor child.

      We also hear of some birth moms stopping visitation because it is too painful for them to observe their child calling another Mommy…

      The bottom line is that while these arrangements could be in a child;’s best interest when done right, too few are and even those that are still LEGALLY are closed/sealed adoptions in the majority of states that still seal records.


  11. Beth

    January 9, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    Exactly, OPEN to who? Open adoption, in my mind, should mean open to the adoptee. Yet so many adoptees, even if they know their original parents identity, or know them directly, even if it was from day one, still cannot obtain their original record of birth like the non-adopted can in most states.

    Unless the adoption (the birth and adoption records) is open to the adoptee – it’s not really open. OPEN is often used as a smoke screen to hide behind while planning the escape.


    • TAO

      January 9, 2014 at 5:36 pm

      Happy New Year Beth – why can’t others see the smoke screen? The “professionals” don’t want them too and use smoke and mirrors to deflect…



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