Monday, February 18, 2013

Adoptive Parents and Adoptee Rights

I registered my daughter for a new soccer league the other day, one that requires that we show her birth certificate as proof of age.

"Oh, can I see it?" she asked, with excitement in her voice, when she saw me with the copy in my hands.

I hesitated. This was it: the moment when I had to tell my daughter that the primary legal document of her life, the one she will be required to produce for identification purposes countless times throughout her life, is a big fat lie.

Ashley, who joined our family by way of foster care and is now our legally adopted daughter, knows and has regular contact with her biological mother. She has also seen the hospital records of her birth. She has read the minute by minute description of her first moments on the planet. Among other things, the record indicates that she was placed on her mother's stomach and that "bonding was noted."

The family later came into crisis and Ashley and her sister ended up in the foster system, but that was years down the road. All indications are that my daughter's first moments of life were touchingly sweet and all about the bonding of a mother and child. But I only have the hospital records and the stories her original mother has told me to go on. Because, here's the thing: I wasn't there. It would be another 8 years before I would even meet this amazing child whom I would come to love.

But there I was the other day, standing in front her, holding a document that lists me as her mother and my husband as her father as though we had been her parents all along. History rewritten.

I took a deep breath and explained to her about amended birth certificates. I talked about the current laws and how I disagreed with them. I told her about the adoptee rights movement and the demonstration I was hoping to attend in Atlanta this summer.

"Can I come, too?" she asked.

We continued our conversation as we drove to the soccer registration.

"I'm not too upset about the birth certificate," she said, "but the thing is, I'm kind of a fan of the truth, and this just isn't it."

Well said, my dear!

When I posted on facebook that my daughter and I were both hoping the attend the Atlanta demonstration, one of my adoptee friends noted that very few adoptive parents have shown up regularly to support the cause of adoptee rights.

Really? That's disappointing news.

I'll be demonstrating in Atlanta as both an adoptee and an adoptive parent, and I'd love to see more adopted parents get involved in the adoptee rights movement. When we take on the role of adoptive parent, we take on many unique responsibilities in addition to the usual parental jobs. We take on, for example, the job of guiding and supporting the adoptee as they make sense of what it means to be a member of more than one family, of finding and forging personal identity within a complex and atypical family structure. We also take on the job of parenting someone who belongs to a class of people whose rights are legally compromised. In most U.S. states, adoptees do not have the right of access to the same personal legal documents as other citizens. This is discrimination.

I am currently working on the logistics. If I can work it out, both my daughter and I will be in Atlanta on August 12 because we are fans of the truth. I hope to see you there!

Click here to learn more about the demonstration. 


  1. I don't even know you...but I just love you!:-)

  2. I have a long post written on birth certificates that I can't seem to post. My son is lucky in that he has his original birth certificate with both his original name (which he partially retains - obviously his last name had to be changed) and his birthmother and father listed and when he is old enough to understand (ie: over 3), he'll be able to start processing it all.

    But like you said, we also have this official "birth certificate" that lists my husband and I as his parents. I've gone back and forth and up and down around it. I get why he has a new birth certificate ... it helps him (and us) not be discriminated as adopted (like if he had an adoption certificate and a birth certificate)... then I start scratching my head and realize that adoption is still heavily mired in shame and secrecy EVEN in open adoption.

    Above and beyond that, all adoptive parents whose children do not have that original information for their children should be up in arms (records were opened in BC in 1996). I'm still not clear why they don't have it. I guess in a birth-parent requested closed adoption, it might be tricky but maybe it's time to acknowledge that withholding that information is not in the best interests of children.

  3. I've encountered the idea that adoptees should get 2 birth certificates upon adoption: a short form and a long form. The long form would list both bio and adoptive parents; the short form only the adoptive parents. The short form would be used for identification purposes and would not distinguish the adoptee as "adopted," but the long form would exist as a record of the adoptee's complete history.

    1. We have a long and a short form in the UK but the short form ONLY lists his birth date, so it's ok for ID but not much use in proving we're his parents. The long form shows we're his parents and is an adoption certificate, not a birth certificate.
      Because he was born in the US, he DOES have a state issued birth certificate that just says birth certificate, and he can get his OBC in his state at 18.
      But I'd really prefer if UK adoptees didn't have to show they are adopted, no choice, every time they show who their parents are.

  4. That makes some sense where information is available. In guess my son has that except that oddly, his original birth certificate is called a "certificate of live birth" (bit creepy ...). I feel for the kids that have limited possibility for that or where there is no biological father listed.

  5. I'm from atlanta! I wish I didn't already have a vacation planned somewhere else at that time, or I would try to visit my parents and make it to this! Will keep it in mind for the future! So cool that you and your daughter are going to try to go!

  6. Like you, I wear the adoptee and adoptive mom hat and my daughter and I are also big fans of the truthiness :-) I'll have to check our schedules and see if we can join you. She's only 6 but she is a force to be reckoned with. Great post!

  7. Like you, I wear the adoptee and adoptive mom hat and my daughter and I are also big fans of the truthiness :-) I'll have to check our schedules and see if we can join you. She's only 6 but she is a force to be reckoned with. Great post!

  8. I am an adoptee and an adoptive first dad lives in Atlanta, and we are very close. I really want to be there. Trying to decide if my daughter is mature enough to handle it....she might be!

    I always hated my birth certificate and saw it as a lie...I am with Ashley!

  9. I agree that the amended birth certificate is ridiculous. Thanks for bringing the demonstration to my attention!

  10. Amended birth certificates are wrong. Closed adoption is wrong and so is trying to brainwash a child that they are "born to" total strangers. But the adoptee rights protest is a failure. It is has done no good whatsoever and is basically nothing but an over priced pizza party. Adoptees and first mothers are not militant enough and are going up against groups that are, including the gays who oh so love adoption. I think you people need to start serious chaos in vital statistics offices or just kiss your cause goodbye.

  11. I've always thought this was a bizarre practice... I'm glad to have a copy of both my children's original birth certificates to share with them and think everyone should have them!


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