Why I’ll Never Stop Fighting For Adoptee Rights

Original birth certificates are sealed away after a child is adopted. Let's give them the right to access these documents.

Ashley Foster May 16, 2017
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As an adoptee, my birth certificate lists my adoptive mom and dad as the parents I was born to. The document does not say anywhere on it that it was amended. It looks the same as an original birth certificate (OBC). I have always known my adoptive parents were on it, and I thought it seemed necessary for it to be that way. It made sense that it was needed to enroll me into school and to seek medical treatment. I wrongly assumed that it was the only birth certificate I had ever had.

Just last year I learned that when a child is born, the birth certificate always lists the biological mother and, if known, the biological father. That OBC is filed with the clerk of court where the document remains public record until the child is adopted. When the adoption is finalized, the OBC is sealed and replaced with an amended birth certificate. The newly created record is given to the adoptive family.

The intention of the law supporting amended birth certificates originated to protect adoptees from the stigma of illegitimacy and to protect adoptive parents from disruptions by birth families. We don’t live in the same society anymore. It should be illegal for the government to take a document that legally belongs to me and make it unattainable. This disgraceful practice is wrong. Having your birth parents’ names is the key to your identity. You can use that information for many things, including finding out if you are related to the person you are going to marry.

Some biological families are using confidentiality as a platform to keep us from passing laws to correct this. The truth of the matter is that they may have hoped to keep the adoption of their child a secret, but such legal guarantee of privacy was never given. In some instances the birth families want to be located. In others, the adoptees are not interested in a reunion at all. The government has no place refereeing relationships between consenting adults.

Alaska and Kansas have never sealed original birth certificates. A few states have unsealed theirs in recent years. Other states have agreed to opening OBCs after allotting time for birth parents to have their names redacted. Every citizen in this country deserves to have his or her own original birth record. Whether to provide identity or track down medical records, those documents should belong to that person. We have the right to know our heritage and what illnesses to watch out for. The current action is not enough. It’s time to end the discrimination against adoptees. We are entitled to unfettered access to our legal documents. Let’s be honest. Very few people need a name on an OBC to find birth family anymore. With the advancements in DNA research and technology, most of the population is connecting this way.

Even in the cases of older foster children, these laws are a problem. Their OBC is a matter of public record for years until they are adopted into a forever home. Then a new birth certificate is fabricated and put in its place. It is no longer 1930. We don’t have to hide our birth status. So why is the government still handing out fraudulent birth records? Many fear a rise in abortion if we start disclosing birth parent information, but the statistics taken from the states that do not seal records show this is not the case.

I will never stop fighting for adoptee rights. We must raise awareness. If I turned in forged documents to the state, I would be put in jail. Why is okay for them to give forged documents to me? Let’s not continue to rob adoptees of their identity, heritage, and medical history based on choices they were never given.

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Ashley Foster

Ashley Foster is a freelance writer. She is a wife and mother of two currently residing in Florida. She loves taking trips to the beach with her husband and sons. As an infant, she was placed with a couple in a closed adoption. Ashley was raised with two sisters who were also adopted. In 2016, she was reunited with her biological family. She advocates for adoptees' rights and DNA testing for those who are searching for family. Above all, she is thankful that she was given life. You can read her blog at http://ashleysfoster.blogspot.com/.

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