Q: What's wrong with most current state statutes regarding adult adoptee original birth certificates (OBC)?
A: They are unjust, outdated and rooted in shame and secrecy, rather than truth and transparency. Consumer DNA testing has made sealed records all but moot as a means of preventing adult adoptees from locating blood kin. Instead, records access now offers a more private, tactful option.
Q: Have adult adoptees ever had direct access to OBCs and related records in the past?
A: Yes. Legislative history reveals that adult adoptees could (or by statute, should have been able to) obtain a copy of their OBC from statehood until the mid-20th century.
Q: How are other states addressing this issue? Is there model legislation available?
A: Kansas and Alaska never sealed OBCs from adult adoptees. Since 1995, eight more states (AL, CO, HI, ME, NH, NY, OR, RI) have retroactively provided unfettered access to adult adoptees in model legislation, balancing interests of birth parents via an optional Contact Preference Form. A total 27 states* have enacted a variety of new laws to increase access to an estimated 2.5 to 3 million files. It's a growing national trend.
*AL, AR, CO, CT, DE, HI, IL, IN, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, NE, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, SD, TN, WA, WI
Q: What national organizations endorse access to OBCs and certain adoption records for adult adoptees?
A: The list includes:
American Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys
Child Welfare League of America
Concerned United Birthparents
National Association of Social Workers
National Foster Parent Association;
North American Council on Adoptable Children
Click here to view their policy statements.
Q: What about confidentiality?
A: Confidentiality and privacy from the general public is vital in adoption proceedings, and should be preserved. However, higher courts in Oregon and Tennessee have ruled that because a birth parent does not have a fundamental right to have their child adopted, they cannot have a correlative fundamental right to have the child adopted under circumstances that guarantee anonymity from their own offspring. Adoptions disrupt, and some children are never adopted, leaving the OBC as the only identity document.
Q: Does this issue have bipartisan support?
A: Yes, because truth and transparency in adoption is a human issue. Bills have been sponsored and cosponsored by members of both parties in a variety of states. Truth and transparency in adoption is simply good policy that balances the interests of the parties and helps to protect against child trafficking.
ARC stands ready to assist legislators, staff and bill drafters to recommend model legislation or help craft an adoptee - friendly measure tailored to your state. You may want to start with a simple original birth certificate (OBC) access bill. If you believe your state is ready to address a more comprehensive records access bill, we encourage you to explore possibilities with us. We can also connect you with local contacts, suggest proven talking points, and offer policy research and outcomes.