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What You Didn’t Know About Opening Closed Records

What You Didn't Know About Opening Closed Records

The statutes of many states on maintaining seals on birth records and adoption records are reflective of the movement that first brought them to prominence around the country. The sealing of adoptions came following concerns by the Child Welfare League of America and other organizations in the 1930s and 1940s about the safety of interaction between birth parents and adoptive parents, as well as alleviation from feelings of guilt for parents and child alike concerning his or her separation from one or more birth parents.          
Momentum to unseal adoption records, or at least advocacy for the sake of adoptees, really began to pick up in the 1970s. The Adoptees’ Liberty Movement Association, or ALMA, was a grass-roots organization founded by Florence Fisher in 1971 that had multiple focuses, of which opening adoption records was a fundamental purpose. Aside from this cause, ALMA also sought to promote a general sense of openness in contact between birth parents and adoptive families after the fact (i.e. supporting open adoptions).
Since then, other organizations have been founded to address the rights of adoptees (or lack thereof) across the United States, and often, in a more expansive and demanding way. The Bastard Nation Adoptee Rights Organization, founded in 1996, has made opening adoption records its main thrust, considering it a civil liberty that should be an inalienable right. In naming its group so, Bastard Nation seeks to reclaim the use of the word “bastard” in terms of its meaning as a child born out of wedlock, and in doing so, reflects its in-your-face mentality.
Aside from official organizations, other informal blocs, perhaps unexpectedly, have moved for states to unseal adoption records. Many birth parents who may have been presumed to want nothing to do with the lives of their children may either come to regret their decision or feel pressured to give up their children for adoption, and as a result, favor opening adoption records for all birth mothers. This may be an especially touchy subject in the case of women who gave up babies for adoption following pregnancy from rape. While some mothers of this kind might want to disassociate from the situation as much as possible, others may still wish to know about the welfare of their biological offspring.  

Knowing The Purpose of Adoption Records

Knowing The Purpose of Adoption Records

When people talk of birth certificates, usually they
speak in the singular when referring to one’s form of identification. In the
case of adoption
, it is a whole different matter.          

 

The genesis of sealed adoption records hearkens back to
reform efforts of the 1940s and was perpetuated by perceived benefits to all
parties. For birth parents, at least, a closed adoption record was seen as a
form of protection from the stigma of giving birth to a child out of wedlock.
By a “guilt by association” extension, a sealed adoption record has
since been construed as a method of shielding children from the same societal
condescension toward illegitimacy.

 

Closed adoption records, especially at the
time of their inception, were also seen as a means of protection for adoptive
parents. For one, the creation of new birth records helped those adopters in
their desire to convince children adopted young that they were in fact the
birth parents. Beyond this, the push for confidentiality of adoption record
information was seen as a way for adoptive parents to safeguard against birth parents
.         

 

Depending on the State, adoptees may not always have the right to view
their birth records. The intent of some policymakers on adoption records,
though, is not to prevent adoptees from seeing their identifying information.
Even so, a number of states require a court order for adoptees to access a
sealed adoption record.

Where to Acquire and General Process

Where to Acquire and General Process

As part of any adoption records search, it is useful to
first consider who might have access to these records to know where to begin.
Exact policies on the organizations and types of people authorized to collect
data on a child’s birth parents differ from
State to State, but
most of the time, this information is compiled by a coordinating adoption agency
.         

 

When seeking specific identifying information about birth
parents or adoptive parents, the adoption records search may also involve a
formal request made to the court that presided over finalization of the
adoption to release them. Once again, standards vary depending on the
State in which the adoption process was completed. While a
few states allow adoptees in particular to access this information freely upon
reaching a certain age, finding adoption records in a majority of states will
necessitate the individual providing a “good cause” (i.e. some
health-related emergency) to view original medical histories and birth
certificates. 

 

Of course, an adoption records search may be hampered if
not brought to a halt completely by birth parents’ decisions to sign a
disclosure veto preventing future access of their profiles. Conversely, though,
finding adoption records may be expedited by the willful agreement of birth and
adoptive parents to leave their records open for review.

 

In states where mutual consent registries are allowed,
coordinating agencies may be facilitators for gaining approval of both parties
to encourage an unrestricted flow of information. Applicants are still
encouraged to review
State statutes on what types of things may or
may not be freely accessible beforehand, though, as all of the above is subject
to their (the laws’) discretion. 

Your Guide to Closed Adoption Records

Your Guide to Closed Adoption Records

With so much access to information in the modern age through computers and mobile phone technology, it is often quite surprising to see instances where the flow of information is more guarded. Of course, in some scenarios, such as matters of national security, secrecy of details is of paramount importance. In other cases, however, though the details are of a decidedly less sensitive nature, confidentiality is still the norm, thus fueling much debate between more opinionated Americans.
In particular, the level of transparency in adoption records is something that has been contested for several decades now. Currently, the majority of legislatures favor closed adoption records.
In terms of what types of information are sealed within closed adoption records, details about an adoptee and his or her birth parents are typically included. Depending on these distinctions of the nature of the information, as well as who is asking for disclosure, closed adoption records may potentially remain unarguably closed.
For nonidentifying information, adoptive parents in all states may apply to review such data. As for adoptees, they generally can request the same, though usually they must be of a certain minimum age and may have to make their appeal in writing. Identifying information in adoption records, on the other hand, tends to be kept under tighter wraps. A large percentage of states require a court order for both adoptees and adopters to gain access, and this may not be possible without an urgent need for more specific details.
It should be noted birth parents might have a say on the release of identifying information in adoption records. As a matter of fact, some states may have conditions of opening closed adoption records based on the assent/dissent of biological parents prior to adoption. States like Kentucky, Nebraska, and Wisconsin require requesting adult adoptees to have explicit consent from their birth parents for the unsealing of records to proceed. Conversely, states like Delaware, Minnesota and Vermont will allow for the opening of adoption records but will also allow for them to remain closed if their biological parents filed a disclosure veto.
While closed adoption records may be protected by law, with court permission, independent intermediaries may help interested parties in negotiating easier access. Even with verbal consent from birth parents, though, authorities will likely still want to see a written affidavit confirming their willingness to reunite. 

What Are The Difficulties With Finding Adoption Records

What Are The Difficulties With Finding Adoption Records

Discovering how to find adoption records is often a challenge in itself, as birth parents and adoptive parents may not simply hand out their personal information and multiple adoption agencies may have been used in placing the child. As is well documented, there are numerous inconsistencies among the states regarding even how to find adoption records.
In accessing adoption birth records, there is no national standard, and despite the fact each State has its own central public adoption agency and restrictions on adoption, some are calling for a Federal mandate that would make understanding of American adoption law that much easier. Inequalities regarding adoption are most glaring when different bracket dates are assigned to an adoptee’s ability to see his or her profile. For instance, in Colorado only children who were placed with a family after 1999 may be permitted to view their original birth certificates without a court order, which is unfair to those adopted before this date.
Another concern which complicates the desire to know how to find adoption records is the worry of State officials that open adoption records with full disclosure of identifying information will lead to invasive searches of birth parents and adoptive parents. However, some parties may only be looking for edification that an adoption did not occur. To be fair if not technical, access to adoption birth records does not necessarily mean a parent will try to contact an adoptive parent or vice-versa. 
Presumptions of intent made by State authorities can also make knowledge of how to find adoption records hard to come by. Without a non-disclosure clause in a birth parents’ decisions to surrender their rights to a child, agencies’ hands are tied when an adoptee seeks this information. Some states have actually begun to allow for review of birth records by adult adoptees in the absence of a veto. In Delaware, for example, access can only be denied for adoptees who reach the age of 21 if a birth parent specifically addresses this issue prior to placement.