Adoptee Rights by State

So how have different states supported or not supported adoptee rights? Is there a pattern?

Stephan Petryczka April 19, 2018


Take a look at this color-coded political map of how different states have supported or not supported adoptees’ rights to access their original birth certificates. The source of the information comes from Adoptee Rights Law, an organization committed to furthering the rights of American adoptees. When I first took a gander at the different laws across state lines, I assumed there would be some north-south, Democrat-Republican, Christian-agnostic, or wealth-working correlation between states to help explain how state lawmakers have made their decisions.  

To my surprise, the pattern is not so clear. While there is an evident preference in southern and southwestern states to completely restrict an adoptee’s access to their original birth certificate, this clump of states includes California, which almost never agrees with Texas politics. Another even stranger member of this completely-restricted party is Vermont, home of Bernie Sanders and generally a Republican naysayer. One in three states restrict adopted adults from accessing their birth information.

On the flipside, there are even stranger pairings of states. Mississippi and Montana, two Republican stronghold states, are grouped with Washington and Massachusetts, two democratic stronghold states, because they grant conditional access to original birth certificates. About one in three states also fall into the category of granting some access, sometimes.

And what about the states that allow unrestricted access to original birth certificates, you ask? Perhaps I’m missing something, but the states that have made life easiest for adopted adults to trace their biological origins are Oregon, Colorado, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Alabama, Hawaii, and Alaska. Well, go figure. I can’t think of one political or ethical tie that should connect these nine states. But, I commend them for their bravery.

So why is it so important to access original birth certificates? Well, as an adult adoptee myself, I think it’s unbelievable that the government tries to coerce adopted people from exploring their curiosities about their biological families. I believe the gesture of restricting access to original birth certificates is an attempt to keep adoptive families intact. However, the result seems more like a big brother secret cover-up. The truth is that adopted people know they’re adopted and often want answers. This doesn’t mean that you’re rejecting your adoptive family. It’s simply human nature to wonder where your nose or your eyes came from.

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Stephan Petryczka

Stephan was born in Ukraine, adopted by an American family, and raised outside of New York City. After meeting with his biological family last summer, he has taken steps toward becoming involved in the greater adoptee and orphan service communities. Stephan recently began coordinating programs for the FRUA young adult group. He is currently studying for his Master's of Urban Planning at New York University.

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