Adoptee Access to Original Birth Certificates

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Adoptee rights advocates are seeking one thing: universal access to one’s own, original, unaltered birth certificate. Don’t people have a right to know where they come from? Should there be any reason why a person wouldn’t be allowed to see their original, unaltered birth certificate? Doesn’t everyone deserve to know the identity of their immediate ancestors, their family medical history, and their ethnicity? Most people do not think about these things because we take them for granted. But countless adult adoptees around the United States are being denied this basic right to know one’s original identity.

As of March 2012, all but eight states (Alabama, Alaska, Oklahoma, Oregon, Kansas, New Hampshire, Maine, and Rhode Island) either restrict or forbid outright access to adult adoptees’ own birth certificates. Some require that the adoptee show a “good cause” for wanting to know this information, as if establishing one’s very identity is not a good enough cause. Many only go so far as to offer to facilitate contact via an adoption registry where both the adoptee and birth parent voluntarily consented to be contacted. Only Minnesota and Missouri solicit consent from birth parents when an adoptee requests access.

There are currently two bills under consideration (as of January 2013) that would give adoptees in Maryland and Pennsylvania access to their original birth certificates. HB22 is under consideration in the Maryland General Assembly, and HB 162 is being considered by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

Many of the restrictions placed on adoptee access to their original birth certificates are based on a desire to maintain birth parent confidentiality. However, there is neither now nor ever was a law that guaranteed anonymity to parents relinquishing parental rights to their children. Furthermore, in the states that do seal original birth certificates, this is not done until an adoption is finalized by the court; birth parents relinquish their parental rights long before the adoptive parents finalize the adoption. Therefore, preventing adoptees from gaining access to their birth certificates has nothing to do with the birth parents, since their relinquishment did not result in the sealing of the birth certificate.

Furthermore, relinquishment of parental rights means a severing of all legal rights and responsibilities as parent to the child in question. Therefore, these birth parents no longer have any legal parental rights to the child, including making the decision of whether or not to let the child have access to information about their heritage. Yet most of the states with sealed records allow birth parents to deny their birth children access to their original, unaltered birth certificates. Many only issue the document once identifying information is deleted. Thus, in spite of having relinquished their parental rights, the courts allow birth parents to continue to make this one essential decision on behalf of children to whom they no longer have any legal ties.

Adoptees are the only group of Americans that does not have full access to their original birth certificates. When something doesn’t apply to only one group of people based on an arbitrary characteristic, this is discrimination. Adoptees are being treated as perpetual children. West Virginia, for instance, only allows contact between birth parent and adoptee – even when both have consented via the state’s adoption registry– if both have undergone professional counseling.

The norms surrounding secrecy in adoption originate from a culture that shamed anyone born outside of wedlock, as well as those who adopted due to infertility. Laws preventing access to original birth certificates does not prevent adoptees and birth parents from finding each other in other ways. Having had years of adoptee and birth parents searching for each other and reuniting, it makes no sense to continue to pretend that access to one’s own original identifying information is a basic human right and need.

Credits: Karolina Maria

Visitor Comments (15)
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vanessa - 2 years ago
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hello im looking for my daughter she got adopted before she got adopted her name was Stephanie Alexandra carrillo and her birthdate is 07/28/1990 I don't know her new name so can someone help me how to go about on finding her its hard because I don't know her new name I tried many other things like facebook and other sites but no luck wish I can I miss her dearly #1
Deborah - 10 months ago
My brothers's daughter he never knew located him about three weeks ago. She registered her DNA with She matched to a 2nd cousin and they corresponded but didn't know what side of the cousins family they were related to. My brother was registered with 23 and Me. His daughter was given her birth certificate by her adoptive Mother so she located her birth mother and she contacted my brother. If his daughter would have registered with 23 and Me they would have found each other faster and easier. If you are searching you should register your DNA with several registries. I think our cousin could have figured it out in time because of her birt state. It is awesome these DNA companies exist!!! #2
Kristina - 1 year ago
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I was able to find my real family online by signing up for a 3 day trial on a background checker, with just my parents names, I was able to get information on addresses, phone numbers and social media activity. I was also able to get names of other people that are related to my parents, like my aunts, uncles and grandparents, to aid me in my search. I spent 1.99 for 3 day, unlimited access. A lot of these sites wont give you the trial option up front. You go through the process of ordering and just before you finalize the order, you cancel at the last second or try to leave the page. It should pop up with the trial offer. I wish you good luck! #3
Dawn - 5 months ago
Hi I'm looking for my birth grandparents and I know my birth parents but unknown mothers parents or my father's siblings I'm hoping to know info cuz I have medical issues that I'm being ask at the Dr and I can't give that info if I don't know the answer so plz I need help thanks #4
jimmy - 4 weeks ago
hi there. I am trying to get a copy of my mothers birth original birth certificate. I know who she is bur she was also adopted Andi would like to find out who her biological parents are/were. she has passed away so I can't ask her now #5
Vincent - 7 months ago
Hi, I'm looking for my birth mother. I was born in 1966 in Independence, Louisiana. I was adopted at three days old. My birth name was Ronald Laird Valenti. My adoptive parents named me Vincent Patrick Pardo. The only thing I know about my birth mother is her name, Lena Valenti. And she was unmarried at the time. Oh and I did my DNA on Ancestry. #6
Peggy Ann Ruttman - 2 months ago
I was adopted in 1959 age 10 I sent and paid 23.00 for my birth certificate but got back nothing but a 3 x5 paper of the name of my adopted parents I want to know where I was born size so forth #7
Kathy Kaufman - 3 months ago
I loved u more than life itself. I was raised so hard Catholic which is y u have Godparents u don't know. God as my heart I did the best for u at that time but. I live u. #8
ANGEL - 2 years ago
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My name is Angel J. I was born in Lubbock Texas july 8, 1977 to a winnie Colton Brasselle and a Norman Eugene Brasselle out of hanibal/Quincy, MO. I would like a copy of my orginal BC. My name at birth was Kari Sharron Brasselle. Please if any family memebers know any information please contact me on FB. I know that my father passed away in 2000 and my mother is still alive either in California or Oklahoma. Please help me find my mother. #9
John - 1 year ago
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Birth date 04-28-1955. Booth Memorial, St. Louis, MO. Birth name Robert Clark Gibson. Mother's name was Della Isabelle Gibson. Don't know where to go from there. Need help! #10
Guest - 2 years ago
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Deanna-I'm 72 years old and still can't get my original certificate. Mother, Leta Mae Taylor from Mangum, OK. Looking for info on Lawrence Nunn--Mangum then NM #11
terrysteen - 3 years ago
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dustylenchsteen #12
Arlene - 2 years ago
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I believe adoptees should have the right to search there history. There are so many questions alot regarding health history. I am adopted but luckily I know some of my families history, so happy I can research my genealogy! #13
Carol B - 3 years ago
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I am an adoptee born 9/4/1947 Detroit,MI My biological father was also adopted. He was born in Corry Erie County PA and adopted in Erie County OH I discovered this two weeks before my 40th birthday on my own. Both my adoptive parents are deceased as of 1968 #14
lisa - 3 years ago
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Can I obtain it if my birth mother is still alive? I was adopted by her husband and didn't know till I was 18.Still searching for my birth father. #15

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