Open Adoption does not mean adoption records are not sealed…
A comment by Robyn on the last post about adoptee rights made me dig into my draft posts to find this one to revise and post. Part of Robyn’s comment said this: “We recently had a conversation on an open adoption group about how open adoption does not have anything to do with open records. Someone thought it did – that in an open adoption, the records weren’t sealed.”
So, I’m saying this again because this myth is still an active part of the adoption world. The only way an adoption record can be accessed is through a court order for ‘good cause’. A copy of the original birth certificate may be included in the sealed adoption file, but the original birth certificate remains in Vital Records under the same seal, at least until the child is an adult then it varies by state law as access, and most don’t allow access. The sealed file should also contain the the surrender (or termination) of rights by the first parents, the adoption petition, homestudy information, adoption granted order, and I would assume expenses paid to the expectant mother and approved by the state.
As to access by the adult adoptee to their original birth certificate. Two states never barred the adult adoptee from requesting and receiving their original birth certificate, those states are Alaska and Kansas. A handful of states have reinstated the right for the adoptee when they reach a pre-determined age (not always the age of majority in that state, but close), so as an adult, they can file for a copy of their original unaltered birth certificate. Some states have tiered access depending on when the adoption was granted. There are also some states that reinstated a limited right to the adult adoptee to get their original birth certificate, but included a ‘mommy may I’ clause that allows a first mother (or father) to file a veto. How a first mother (or father) who surrendered all parental rights to the child decades before, suddenly can be given back parental rights is unknown. I know that wouldn’t be tolerated by AP’s while the adoptee is a child, so why it is allowed to happen after the child becomes an adult? It doesn’t make sense, and instead proves the point that adoptees are seen, and treated, as perpetual children. Who could be okay with that being done to them? So, the only way you will actually know if your child as an adult has the same rights you do is by going to the laws in the state of birth.
So, if you have an open adoption, semi-open, met the mother and/or father before birth, have an active relationship with the first parents, and think, adoption is so different today and there are no secrets or sealed files – you are wrong. The adoption records/files are still sealed. The original unaltered birth certificate may, or may not be available to your child when they reach adulthood, but open adoption plays no role in it whatsoever. All the states who have returned that right to adult adoptees, have done so not because of open adoption, but through the hard work, decades worth of work, by adult adoptees and allies.
For what it’s worth, I think it behooves adoptive parents to understand this most basic premise about adoption. Open adoption does not change the reality that the adoption file is still sealed. Nor does open adoption mean that your child as an adult can waltz down to the Vital Records office in their state of birth, and order up a copy of their Original Birth Certificate unless the rights to it were reinstated through hard work by other adult adoptees and allies.
Okay, pretty sure I have run out of ways to say this over and over…
“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough”
― Walt Whitman
Oct 2014: You may speak freely, but please try to use words that everyone can hear about your individual story or view. If you don't, those who can actually benefit won't hear it, I want to see change in my lifetime. I may refuse to approve certain comments.
Elvis Presley ( 1960 ) Elvis Presley completes his two-year stint is discharged from the US Army. Bank Holiday to Save Banks 5th March ( 1933 ) : To help stop the run on US banks U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced a four-day "bank holiday" . All U.S. banks would close effective March 6 to help stop Americans from withdrawing their money […]