Friday, September 18, 2009
The original birth certificate is issued within a short time of the birth. It can include names of both parents. But often when it is known that a child will be placed for adoption, only the name of the mother is included. The line for the father might state, "legally omitted". Often the child will have the same surname as the mother but there are cases where the surname of the father is used. This will usually be when the father's name is included but that is not always the case. Ages for named parents are included and their place of birth.
An amended birth certificate is issued at the time the adoption is finalized. But the date of issuance is often falsified. In fact on mine, the date used was before my parents even knew that I had been born. But this goes along with all the altering that happens. The child's name becomes the one the adoptive parents choose. Sometimes when a child is named at birth, their given name will be kept or used for the middle name. But the surname will become the same as the adoptive parents'. The certificate will show that the adoptive mother gave birth to the child. The address of the adoptive parents will be used and often their occupations are stated. If one did not know better, it would be thought that the child was born to the couple.
It seems to be rather common among those not personally touched by adoption to not know that the adoptee does indeed have an original birth certificate that Illinois adoption laws prohibit them from accessing. Public awareness in this matter is vital so when we speak out for our original birth certificate (OBC) it is understood what we want. Adults not adopted can request and receive their OBC. It is something taken for granted just like we all take different things for granted when there is no problem in obtaining it. Please do not hesitate to explain the difference to those who are not aware that adoptees do have two different birth certificates
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
“Tony” passed away at the age of 78 on June 14, 2009. ISRR has reunited many although I was not one of them. Perhaps if my birth mother had lived longer, she would have registered with ISRR just as I did. After my search was completed I did notify "Tony" and he wrote me a very nice note to include along with returning my registration form. He definitely did not have to go this extra mile. I had notified him because of all the registrations that they receive and thought of it as less paperwork for them to keep on file.
My feeling is that both Emma and "Tony" had a habit of going the extra mile. I have always been quick to refer those searching to ISRR and stress how trustworthy I feel they must be. I have never known them to prey upon the vulnerable as some other registry owners have done.
Thank you Emma & "Tony"! We hope that your dedication will be carried on so the registry continues to reunite people.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
In this blog, I want to talk about the only way Illinois adoptees are allowed by law to get their records unsealed. I must preface my blog with this important fact: I am not an attorney, a legal aide, nor have I have had anything to do with the legal profession. I'm a retired Chicago public school teacher and have been in the adoption reform movement for many years. I'm Grannie Annie and I have been through the Confidential Intermediary System, the Adoption Registry, several private investigators, and finally, in 1997, as a last resort, I went to the Circuit Court of Cook County, pro se, and successfully petitioned for all of my adoption records and my original birth certificate.
I do know of other Illinois adoptees who have been successful in getting their birth records from judges in this state. But not many. I don't want this blog to give you any false hope, because there isn't much to hope for in the Land of Lincoln. Illinois is one tough state for getting records unsealed. Illinois is a "closed state" as far as adoption records are concerned. But since it's still the only way, it deserves as much thought as possible.
I thought it was at least time to talk about our sealed records and bring together some of the stories I've heard with my own experiences.
I plan to throw in as many general and specific tips and opinions and experiences as I can. You might consider this blog like a menu in a Chinese Restaurant. You could choose 3 ideas from Column A, one hint from Column B, and perhaps nothing from Column C. My goal is to present you with as full a menu as I can of things to chose from and ideas to work with. Hopefully, my ideas here can be jumping off points for your own thoughts on "how to."
The issues I want to talk about are not search and/or reunion issues. I am going to try to keep my comments focused on how an adoptee might be able to try and get his or her adoption file and original birth certificate from the court.
Here is the law that all of us Illinois adoptees live under:
"...All adoption records maintained by each circuit court clerk shall be impounded in accordance with the procedures provided by the Illinois Supreme Court's General Administrative Order on Recordkeeping and shall be opened for examination only upon specific order of the court, which order shall name the person or persons who are to be permitted to examine the file. Certified copies of all papers and documents contained in any file so impounded shall be made only on like order..." 750 ILCS 50/18 (from Ch. 40, per 1522) Records, Confidential.
This means that an adoptee has a STATUTORY RIGHT to ask the judge to release his or her original birth records. You do NOT have to go through the Confidential Intermediary System. You may, however, get hit up for $40 for the Adoption Registry. ( Pay to play. After all, we are in Illinois.) If your first petition is turned down, don't think it's all over. You are allowed to AMEND ( not appeal) your petition with new evidence and resubmit it to the court. And believe it or not, you don't have to pay a new filing fee, either.
HOW TO GET STARTED
1. You must write to the county court in the county in which your adoption was finalized. It's wise to call and find out the name of the judge who handles adoption issues so you can address him/her by name in your letter. If you're good at chatting, then the judge's clerk is the person you want to befriend. Chat up the clerk and you never know what help or good advice you may get.
2. Your first contact should probably be a personal letter to the judge asking the court to release to you certified copies of your original birth certificate and/or your adoption file. In this letter, summarize why you need the records; ie: your good cause. In this letter, you might want to request an appointment with the judge to discuss it further. (not all judges will do this.) Or perhaps you could ask the judge how he/she prefers to proceed with your petition.
3. If you don't live in the area now, then you should think of your first letter as your actual petition. Therefore, it should be complete. Lay out your case in a very specific manner, together with all of your supporting evidence ( doctor's letters, etc.)
4. Personally, I believe it would be better to try and make some face to face contact with the judge, if possible. In my humble opinion, it's too easy to turn down a letter.
WHAT SHOULD YOU ASK FOR
Your original birth certificate is held in Springfield by the IL Dept. of Public Health. The adoption file is under the auspices of the county clerk in the county where your adoption was finalized.
You have a choice. You can ask for your original birth certificate, your adoption file, or both. I asked for everything because I figured I'd never get another shot at going to court. You might want to take a safe route and just ask for your "original birth documents" and see what happens. But if the judge should ask you exactly what you are petitioning for, be prepared to be specific in what you want and why. In my case, the judge seemed surprised that I wanted anything more than my original birth certificate. I got the sense that asking for it alone would have been easier.
You should always request your original birth certificate with no deletions, white-outs, or other falsifications. When requesting your adoption file, you might say: "I am requesting my entire adoption file, including but not limited to the adoption decree, petition to adopt, consent to adopt, medical histories, photos, personal letters, and relinquishment documents."
The court is not legally mandated to release any files belonging to any private adoption agency, adoption attorney, or hospital.
Always have your signature notarized and always send your letters by certified mail, return receipt requested.
Remember! Be sure to state, up front in your first letter, that you DO NOT want to avail yourself of the Confidential Intermediary service. If someone asks you why, tell them you are not interested in search and reunion; rather, you need to have your own birth records - now. Otherwise you will most likely get the "bait and switch."
BAIT AND SWITCH
Needless to say, be precise with your request. Do not let them appease you with non-identifying information.
What usually happens in Illinois (at least in Cook County) is that the judge's office will almost always refer all adoptees' requests to the Illinois Adoption Registry Medical Information Exchange (IAMIE) and/or to the Illinois Confidential Intermediary program. Both of these programs are geared for search and reunion only. Original records are NOT routinely issued through either of these systems. There is however one exception. If a "match" is made through the Mutual Consent Registry or the CI program, an original birth certificate will be issued to the adoptee, provided the birth mother cooperates.
How many matches has the Adoption Registry made? Well, from its inception in 1985 through January, 2009, 11,034 people have registered. A grand total of 731 matches were made. You can do the math.
Don't forget! There is no where in the law that says an adoptee must first go through the Confidential Intermediary system before asking the judge to open the records. The CI system and the Adoption Registry are only concerned with locating people; the court is concerned with maintaining the records.
If your goal is to gain possession of your own original records, then it's the judge you want, not confidential intermediaries and not registries.
ILLINOIS IS A "GOOD CAUSE" STATE
Illinois is a "good cause" state which means that the state requires you to provide good cause for your request. Ironically, nowhere does the state tell you what actually constitutes good cause. Therefore, courts look at previous case law to determine what is NOT GOOD CAUSE. I know this sounds crazy, but then, you are in Illinois.
There is one big case in Illinois, in re Roger B., brought by Yesterday's Children in 1979-80. The precedents established in Roger B. are still the barometer used by our courts. Judges look to this case as a precedent for what is NOT GOOD CAUSE.
Therefore, when I was preparing my petition, I tried to find some type of good cause that applied to me but that was not mentioned in Roger B. You want to show that your circumstances are significantly different from those presented in Roger B. [ I have attached a summary of the decisions in re Roger B. at the end of this blog. ]
RELEASE OF RECORDS BASED UPON A SHOWING OF MEDICAL EMERGENCY IS NOT MENTIONED IN ROGER B. RELEASE OF RECORDS BASED UPON A SHOWING OF PSYCHOLOGICAL NECESSITY IS NOT MENTIONED EITHER.
Any reason/s you use for your good cause should be backed up by supporting evidence, the more the better. For example if your request is medical or psychological necessity, then try to have as many letters from doctors, counselors, psychologists, social workers or other professionals as you can get. For both medical and psychological necessity, stress that your problem is a CONTINUING one and that is the reason why you need your records now. Your problem will continue to go on, possibly unanswered or untreated or not properly diagnosed, unless you get your records.
You should also ask the judge to please consider your case within the framework of Doe v. Sundquist (1997 Fed app. 0051P 6 Cir.) This important federal case does not tell a judge to open birth records, but it allows a judge to consider your case in the light of this new case law. That is, Doe v. Sundquist makes it difficult to argue that giving adult adoptees access to their birth records violates any provisions of the federal constitution.
You could remind the judge that you've read or heard that case law is not a static, limited concept, but a broad one that must be determined on a case by case basis, depending in large measure upon the unique facts presented to the court. This is very important.
Another very important issue is maintaining the integrity of the state's adoption policies. The state is concerned with its adoption process and its confidentiality and what might happen to it if judges started releasing too many adoption records. Therefore, you would want to make your case as narrow and as unique as you can, so the judge will feel confident that if he/she releases records to you, he won't be setting any wide range precedents. Judges do not want to set any precedents. And they don't want any of their cases appealed.
I am a life long member of Bastard Nation. When I decided to petition the court for my records, I informed my friends and colleagues ahead of time. I told them that I would be petitioning for my records only. I was not going to be trying to establish any new case law. I was not on a crusade to get all records opened in Illinois. I know this sounds selfish but that's just the way it is. You can help with these larger issues by joining an adoptee rights organization such as Bastard Nation. My friends were totally supportive of my efforts and were thrilled for me when I won.
One last thing to keep in mind. If you are turned down, that does not mean it's all over. No way! You are permitted to amend your petition by presenting new or additional evidence to bolster your case. I did. Just remember that you are not APPEALING the decision. You are AMENDING YOUR PETITION and would like another hearing.
IN RE ROGER B.
SUMMARY OF NOTES
This is my summary of the decisions outlined in the in re RogerB. Case. [in re Roger B.., 1981, 49 Ill. Dec. 731, 84 Ill, 2nd, 323, 418 N.E. 2d, 751, appeal dismissed 102 S.Ct. 80, 454, US 806, 70 L.Ed 2nd 76,]
My source is West Law Annotated Illinois Revised Statutes, 1993, p. 575.
Once again – a caveat. I am not an attorney, I give no legal advice, and I have absolutely no legal experience, other than going to court myself and petitioning for my own records.
The Records, Confidential Section of in Roger B…
1. Does not violate equal protection clause.
2. Does not create a suspect classification, in that status of adoptee does not result at birth, but is derived from legal proceeding, the purpose of which is to protect the best interests of the child, and status of adoptee, conferred by the Adoption Act, actually improves the position of the child by providing a home, support, family unit, and loving care that might otherwise not be present.
3. Does not violate adoptee’s constitutional right to receive information. (U.S.C.A. Const. Amend. 1) in that information sought is product of the judicial process.
4. Does not unconstitutionally infringe upon an adoptee’s right to discover his own identity.
5. Does not violate due process.
6. Is not unreasonable and did not unconstitutionally abridge adoptee’s right to receive information.
7. - Adoptee’s interest in possible inheritance from her natural parents did not constitute good cause.
8. Does not deprive adoptee of property without due process of law since constitutional prohibition against deprivation of property could only attach when right is vested and expectation of inheritance did not constitute vested right.
9. Does not give an adoptee a fundamental right to examine his adoption records.
10. Does not violate adoptees’ rights to equal protection of the laws.
11. Does not violate adoptee’s constitutional right to privacy.
12. Does not allow for a constitutionally protected right to know one’s ancestors.
13. Does not consider adulthood of adoptee by itself “good cause.”
14. Discretion conferred by this paragraph was intended to be exercised upon a showing of good cause.
15. Mandamus was not appropriate remedy by which adoptee could compel circuit court clerk to allow her to examine sealed adoption records.
Excellent overview of Constitutional issues relating to adoptee sealed records, including Doe v Sundquist and the case law from Oregon, after Measure 58 passed.
University of Baltimore, School of Law
Elizabeth Samuels, Professor of Law
Many articles about adoption, including Law Review.
“Severed Roots: The Sealed Adoption Records Controversy”
Northern Illinois University Law Review
Saturday, April 18, 2009
I just discovered your website and was reading a blog about successfully gaining access to sealed adoption files in the state of Ill. I am 47 years old and a very happy adoptee with a wonderful and supportive family. I never had an interest in searching but some years ago, at my doctor’s encouragement I began the process.
I was adopted through Catholic Charities in Chicago and started with them. Beyond the non-identifying info. they were no help and I found my interactions with them some what debasing. To have to pay and deal with a gum chomping hair-twirling college student who clearly had not the slightest interest in my plight was beyond the pale. Sadly, she did have power as she had access to the most basic of information that I was denied.
I was fortunate to hire someone privately who was able to locate my siblings within four days. Unfortunately, my birth mother had passed away many years ago at the age of 38 leaving four children behind. At this time, three of my sisters are also deceased.
What I find incredible is some one identified as my birth mother's sister sent a letter to Catholic Charities informing them of her death and the circumstances of which have a potential genetic component. They put into my file and there it sat until I finally contacted them.
I cannot tell you how angry I am at the total lack of regard for human life. Having lost my best friend to the same sudden death I was all too familiar with how serious this was. After paying them to find my birth father...they were unable...and they don't refund your $500.....They have the name for heaven's sake --are they idiots? Maybe they should stop recruiting college students to this work
I would like to find out about my bio. Father, but unfortunately only have non-identifying info. My doctor is happy to write what ever is necessary to obtain medical information. Is there away to petition the court for this info? based on medical reasons? I haven't lived in Illinois for many years and am out of touch with what has been going on .If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them.
If anyone has any suggestions for IL Adoptee, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will pass them along to her.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Both my adoptive father and step-father were deceased by the time my M.D. and I discussed that knowing my origins would be beneficial to my health. When I approached my adoptive mother about the sensitive subject of searching for my birth family, she was very supportive. She offered to help me in any way that she could. My mother told me that she would like to meet my birth mother to thank her for parting with me.
It was not meant for my mother to meet my birth mother. I had a very common name to work with that resulted in my search taking over 20 years. Three years before it was completed my mother passed away. I learned that while I was searching my birth parents passed away. But I have been reunited with siblings and other birth relatives. While it has been a continuing awesome experience getting to know them have I tossed my adoptive family members aside? Definitely not and I never will! I now just have LOTS of family and some of my adoptive have met some of my birth.
There is no reason why birth and adoptive family members can't be on friendly terms. I have no way of being certain if all my parents would have been but I can't help but think positively about it.
I urge all adoptive parents to stand back and not fight adopted adults from having access to their OBC. If having it in their hand does ultimately lead them to searching and finding birth family, be supportive. I realize that I have been blessed that my reunion has gone so well. Not all of them do but often even with reunions gone sour the adoptee will still gain because they learn their identity and sometimes biological family medical history.
Saturday, February 28, 2009
IllinoisOpen Organization Says:
There’s no such thing as lifelong birthmother privacy.
Illinois adoption records were sealed to protect children of adoption and their adoptive families. they were not sealed to maintain a life-time birth mother privacy plan.
Illinois adoption laws were formulated in order to find homes for children who need them. Every time a child is placed into a loving adoptive home, we know that our adoption policies are working. The judge creates a new identity for the child which is based on the child’s legal standing rather than on his or her birth. That is the Illinois law.
The Illinois sealed records law, passed in 1946 and tightened in 1981, was enacted to protect adopted children and their newly created adoptive family. The legislators of yore wrote the law because they believed that no interruptions or obstructions should interfere with the new adoptive families. The birth records were sealed so that birth mothers could not come back at any time and try to find out the new identity of their biological offspring.
Birth mothers signed irrevocable relinquishment documents after their children were born, severing all legal ties to their biological offspring.
At the time of the actual adoption, when the judge signs the Adoption Decree, he/she issues an order to impound all of the adoption documents. The judge further orders that the original birth certificate be sealed and orders an amended birth certificate is made to reflect the child’s legal ties to his or her newly created adoptive family.
Interestingly, children who were irrevocably surrendered by their birth parents but for any reason were never adopted do not have sealed birth records. All surrendered but not adopted children keep their original birth certificates. Foster children keep their original birth certificates. Only adoptees loose theirs.
If it were the State’s intent to give birth mothers' promises of life time confidentiality, the time to have done it would have been at the time of the relinquishment. But that doesn’t happen. The records are not sealed at the time of the child’s birth or at the time the birth mother signs the relinquishment papers.
Adoption records and the original birth certificate are only sealed when the child begins a new life with the adoptive family. It could be two weeks, 3 months, even a year later. Then and only then are the child’s records impounded and sealed permanently.
Adoption records were sealed to protect adoptive families. They were not sealed in an effort to maintain a life-time birth mother privacy plan. To this day, no contract or promise or agreement made between the state and any birth mother has ever surfaced. Not even one piece of paper!
But every time an unconditional access bill is filed, the lawmakers haul out the same old excuses as reasons to add restrictive disclosure or contact vetoes to their bills. This is what we always get from Springfield. “We can’t unseal the adoptee’s records because we promised birth mothers privacy from their own children. We promised them anonymity. We owe it to them.”
No, honorable legislators, you don’t owe them anything. Birth mothers were NOT offered a lifetime right to stop their adopted “child” from receiving his or her original birth certificate. Never!
Forget lifelong birthmother privacy. It doesn’t exist in Illinois law.
Illinois is ready for change.
The best way to start changing the old paradigm is to look at the other states which have unsealed original birth records to adopted adults. Kansas and Alaska never sealed their records. The Oregon electorate voted to unseal adoptee’s original birth certificates. Alabama, New Hampshire, and Maine all have new laws that unconditionally release original birth certificates to adopted adults upon request. And you know what? The adoption process in all these states hasn’t changed a bit. It’s “ho-hum” business as usual.
Using these states as models, our legislators should pass a similar bill. Delete the old fashioned sealed records law and replace it with an equal access law for adopted adults. This law should allow adopted men and women to be able to request and receive their original birth certificates unconditionally and without any falsifications.
Now how hard is that?
"Even when laws have been written down, they ought not always to remain unaltered." – Aristotle