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.
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.
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.