Difference between open adoption and open records

27 Dec

I read a question to an adoptee who was just venturing outside of her own adoption about her view on open records, as if, every adoptee comes complete with unlimited knowledge about all things adoption. The adoptee responded by talking about their feelings and concerns on open adoption. I’m not sure why some adoptive parents still need to ask every adoptee they meet about how they feel about ‘open records’, and of course, they didn’t clear up the confusion the adoptee had between the subject asked and the subject of her answer given, hence this post.

Open Records:

I think the term ‘open records’ in itself is something of a misnomer, why I try to stick to Adoptee Rights. But those who use ‘open records’ don’t mean open records to the public, nor open records to the minor adoptee, they mean the adult adoptee has the legal right to request and receive their original birth certificate and any other adoption records noted in the legislation.

Open records is state specific legislation that details the right the adoptee has as an adult (age as defined by that legislation) to request and receive their original birth certificate and/or adoption records. Some states open records legislation is simply the right to petition the court for good cause to unseal their records, pretty much only a severe medical emergency, and even then, like NY if memory serves, is a maze that is unhelpful to put it politely. Whereas Kansas and Alaska are the only two states that never restricted the adult adoptee from their original birth certificate upon request. Other states have laws that change based on arbitrary adoption dates as to whether you have rights, and other inane requirements, it’s all a mess, why adoptees speak of clean or dirty adoptee rights bills or laws.

Open Adoption:

Generally, open adoption is an agreement made prior to the adoption between the parents by birth and parents by adoption about what happens after the adoption. And because nothing is simple in adoption; openness seems to mean whatever suits the adoptive parents on any given day, and every adoption agency, facilitator, lawyer, consultant, seems to have their own definition.

It seems open adoption can be anything from only first name/state of residence of the adopting parents given to the parents by birth and any contact is facilitated by the adoption agency, to scheduled updates sent one-way for a period of time, all the way to wide-open openness between the parents and the child. Then you need to add in the laws of the state the adoption took place in as to whether the agreement is enforceable, under what conditions, what can be required.

In other words, there is no consistent definition of openness, there are no consistent requirements, there is still a power imbalance and the adopting parents hold all the power. What open adoption isn’t is open records of the adoption or access by the adoptee to the adoptees original birth certificate.

What open and closed adoption have in common:

All adoption records and the original birth certificate (OBC) are sealed by the court at the time of the adoption, and are then subject to that states laws on: whether, when, how and what the adoptee can get access to when they reach whatever magical age that state had decided they must be to request whatever that state allows them.

At this point, the only thing ALL states allow the adult adoptee is the state or adoption agency to offer non-identifying general information to the adoptee about their adoption and their parents by birth, and even then, some states make just getting non-identifying info a feat in itself, i.e. Minnesota. Why adoptees have been working to change the laws since 1971 (Florence Fisher), state by state, decade after decade, to give adoptees the right to their original birth certificate. And there have been wins, clean wins, compromised (dirty) wins that need to be cleaned up when possible, best source to understand is Adoptee Rights Law website to get detailed information on each state, current legislation and how you can help.

I want to note that many adopting parents have been focused on obtaining their child’s original birth certificate prior to the adoption. This is a good thing, it also seems to make some uninterested in supporting current Adoptee Rights legislation because their child has their original birth certificate; but they don’t understand their child still does not have their right to their original birth certificate, and it’s the right that matters.

As always, if I have anything incorrect – let me know and I’ll happily correct – stay safe.




Posted by on December 27, 2018 in Adoption, adoptive parents


Tags: , , , , , ,

15 responses to “Difference between open adoption and open records

  1. Dannie

    December 27, 2018 at 5:08 pm

    This is going to sound dumb but aside name stuff is there a difference between an original bc and an amended bc? Again I know I didn’t give birth to my daughter so that whole line on the document is silly, but the piece of paper that is my son’s bc looks exactly the same as my daughters. Sometimes it seems like an obc is supposed to be detailed with more info but that isn’t what I’ve seen between my two kids and their bc’s


    • TAO

      December 27, 2018 at 5:32 pm

      On mine there are distinct differences in number of boxes with info. Below are not listed or shown on my ABC, understand the format has changed since I was born and you now have short and long forms.

      21a – length of pregnancy,
      21b – weight at birth,
      22 – previous deliveries – a#, b) alive now dead, c) fetal deaths
      23 – legitimate yes/no
      24 – prenatal serological test for syphilis – a before 5th month, b- after 5th month
      25 – congenital malformation – yes/no, if yes, describe
      27 – date rec’d for filing

      All that aside, and I know you get it – it’s that we don’t have the legal right to the factual document that details the day we came into this world. I grew up knowing the doctor who delivered me and I know he didn’t deliver me from mom who is on my birth certificate that he signed…except he didn’t sign the amended by the state per the adoption order…

      Liked by 1 person

    • TAO

      December 27, 2018 at 5:39 pm

      And yes, they are supposed to look identical so no one knows because it’s a shameful thing you know… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dannie

        December 27, 2018 at 5:50 pm

        So then is this something where a parent asks for a long version? I gudon’t ss I read so much about the different info on each that it confuses me looking at both of the bc’s since one doesn’t have ‘extra’ info……..but yes I get what you are saying too. I was just wondering if I missed something or was just clueless about what I can get etc.


        • TAO

          December 27, 2018 at 6:15 pm

          The long form is considered confidential as it contains more info – most folks today don’t realize there are two forms, the short form is all you need for most things that require id – for a first time passport you need the long form.

          Liked by 1 person

        • TAO

          December 27, 2018 at 6:16 pm

          I was really disappointed my OBC didn’t list my time of birth, but it at least included how much I weighed.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Lara/Trace

    December 27, 2018 at 10:09 pm

    Exasperated that people don’t know this basic stuff an adoptee suffers with their entire life? You did good explaining this but I have to ask why don’t people already KNOW! I know – the billion dollar adoption industry – they are very good at leaving out the important stuff.


    • beth62

      December 28, 2018 at 4:34 pm

      Exasperated is the perfect word, thank you.
      Has anyone ever seen an explanation like this in the news? Or inside any network tv show? Any of the tv doctor shows? A documentary maybe? I’ve seen so many have the perfect opportunity to mention it, point it out, bring it up…. I wait for it, sometimes they get close, but never have I seen it explained, or called out. even on the reunion shows. It’s almost like they have been warned not to go there. I think the public sticks with ungrateful if they do come close to it. It’s hard for an adoptee to call it out too.

      I’ve always believed “the man”, or the business that has it’s fingers in everything, simply doesn’t allow all that.

      The only way I’ve ever made much of an impact is to show people both of my birth certificates. First they freak out at the different names in the parent fields – on my record of birth. Then they can’t believe I am not legally permitted to have the original, that I had to cheat and bribe to get this copy that is barely readable. Then they typically want to argue it, say no way, that couldn’t be right, and have a real hard time believing me.

      Depending on the crowd I’ve heard things like: that’s the price you pay for being lucky and not growing up in an orphanage.(of course, expect it) Most don’t know what to say, but are obviously disturbed. Some of my co-workers refer to my amended bc as “my papers”. As in, don’t go out without your papers, they may take you again and sell you to someone worse.

      IMO It would be better for Adopted people if the general public were more educated on the access to any record of birth for any and everyone. By each state and by each nation.
      I think people in the media are afraid. You know, because Adoption is all good, and they don’t want to be the bad guy and have to take the heat, like an ungrateful Adoptee.I

      Yeah, exasperated.


  3. maryleesdream

    December 29, 2018 at 3:54 am

    The general public has no idea what happens to our birth certificates when we are adopted. I can see where the information was erased on mine, and the new info entered. There is different typeface for different fields. It’s very disturbing.

    I wonder if my birth certificate could be used as an alibi, if my adoptive mother committed a crime, on the day I was born. Clearly, according to the document, she was in the hospital giving birth. She could not have been out robbing that bank!

    My adoptive parents had no idea where I was born, and at the time I was born, they were unaware of the fact. Seeing their names on my “birth” certificate is an insult to me, and my parents.

    I went to Worth St, in Manhattan, and got my long form after I found my family. I put my natural parents names on the application, where it asked for mother and father. The clerk entered the information, then paused. She asked, is this an adoption? I said yes. She made me cross out my natural parents names, on the form, and insert my adoptive parents names.

    I wanted to cry. I asked her why, if they were not even there when I was born.

    My natural mother was mailed my birth certificate, after I was born. I was with her in the hospital for 5 days. Mom and Dad brought me to the adoption agency, Spence Chapin in Manhattan themselves. I was born in an outer borough, and apparently the agency decided it was not worth the trip to go collect me.

    Mom mailed my birth certificate back to the city. She thought she was not supposed to have it. So, I never got to see it either.


    • Heather

      December 29, 2018 at 10:57 am

      Heartbreaking. I totally agree with you, it’s so odd to put the names of people who didn’t even know you were being born on your BIRTH certificate. Thank you for sharing.

      Liked by 2 people

    • TAO

      December 29, 2018 at 3:17 pm

      You make good points. Heartbreaking. Did you get your OBC?

      I need to remember to do a post on what critical fields are missing in some of the ABC’s from different states from our era and how the real id act may affect them. I foresee problems.

      Liked by 1 person

      • maryleesdream

        December 29, 2018 at 7:42 pm

        I did not get my OBC. I got an amended long form. I live in NY, and I’m 56. I hope I live long enough to see my own birth original birth certificate, but I’m not sure I ever will be allowed to.


        • TAO

          December 29, 2018 at 7:58 pm

          I didn’t think you’d have been able to get it seeing as you were born in NY. Hope the law changes this session.

          Liked by 1 person

        • TAO

          December 29, 2018 at 8:09 pm

          Hey Maryleesdream – I just realized we are in the same FB group…

          Liked by 1 person

    • beth62

      December 30, 2018 at 3:21 pm

      “I wonder if my birth certificate could be used as an alibi, if my adoptive mother committed a crime, on the day I was born. Clearly, according to the document, she was in the hospital giving birth. She could not have been out robbing that bank! ”

      Haha that is too funny. Perfect material to torment my mom and dad with. I don’t think I’ve ever considered where they were, or what they were doing, when I was born.
      I’ll just have to find out 😏

      Liked by 1 person


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