Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Adoption Records of Adult Adoptees

Since writing my post the other day, in which I mentioned my adoptive mother's knowledge of my original mother's name, I have heard from several other adoptees whose adoptive parents had access to identifying information about the biological family. Adoptees of my generation have either discovered paperwork in their adoptive home or managed to get a hold of records that were previously sealed and found evidence of adoptive parent knowledge of birth parent identity. One adoptee who shares my birth state, and was born just a few years later, was able to obtain her adoption agreement, which had her original mother's name and hometown on it and was signed by her adoptive parents. I now suspect that my adoptive mother obtained her information in a similar fashion.

All of this begs an obvious question: if birth parent anonymity was never truly protected in many cases, why are adult adoptees still denied access to this information? Why is it OK for adopters to see such information but not adoptees?

I am lucky because my adoptive mother considered the information to be mine. She viewed herself as the holder of it during my minority years, but believed that it was her responsibility to share it with me if I asked for it as an adult. But not all adoptive parents handle things this way. Why should adult adoptees -- who are, let me state the obvious, no longer children -- be subject to the whims of their parents rather than being able to decide for themselves whether or not such basic, self-identifying information is relevant to them?

Adoptees are in a unique position because decisions are made for us when we are infants that affect us our entire lives. We are not party to these decisions: we do not sign a paper agreeing to any of these terms. And yet, even when we become legal adults, we are still held to those decisions that were made for us before we had  a voice.

Amanda of The Declassified Adoptee wrote an important post yesterday, which included the following words:
As a client of adoption, I did not get to see my adoption record until I was almost 25 years old.  I asked my agency if I could see it several times years prior and was told "no."  These were my files, describing my pre-adoption life and experience, with my name on them.  They are mine.  When I finally obtained my files, it was after a long and expensive legal process through my birth state's confidential intermediary.  I had to have special permission for my own file to not be heavily censored.  I do not know very many adoptees who can go back to their agencies or other adoption facilitators and get their records.
I don't know many adoptees who can do that either. But why is this not our basic right once we are of legal age?

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5 comments:

  1. Barbara Jean WalshOctober 7, 2012 at 11:23 AM

    So! Now I wonder if there's a copy of those papers that should be MINE? I remember the signing quite clearly. Since I was a minor, maybe the papers went to my parents? Can you imagine any other kind of legal document where the people who sign it are not given a copy? The thing I really remember, which I have told you before, is that I had to swear that I was not coerced. What would the judge have done if I had said I was? Also, I remember meeting with him (and I know my mother was there) in his courthouse office in Alfred, Maine, and seem to recall that we were meeting privately out of courtesy to my grandfather, a former judge. Was that a typical experience? Where would I have gone to sign the papers otherwise? Many new questions this morning. I won't say we are the lucky ones, because if we had been lucky, we would never have been separated in the first place.

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  2. Barbara Jean WalshOctober 7, 2012 at 11:25 AM

    Or, is the paper that I signed part of the sealed record? Not part of "the agreement."

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  3. Probably. But it still seems that you should have been given a copy of what you signed. So many unanswered questions!

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  4. No, just "comparatively lucky," in relation to those who never find each other again. So many adoptees still denied basic information. :-(

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  5. I was yrs old when i weent into the judge's chamber/office and siigned the documents that ultimately sealed my lifelong abuse by my adoptive mother abuser. I think for the protection of children in the USA potenial parents should be able to have a child in their home and at the age of twelve the child can sign the consent to be adopted with adoption procedure continuing to completion.

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