Saturday, February 28, 2009

NO BIRTH MOTHER PRIVACY



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


3 comments:

Joan M Wheeler, born as, Doris M Sippel said...

Not hard at all!

Another point to raise to legislators is that full and half orphans are also adopted, meaning that these adoptees have no "birth mother" to protect if she's dead! And don't get me started on the "your parents died in a car crash" routine! That excuse to not tell adotpees the truth is so very cruel; especially if it isn't true.

It's time for legislators to acknowledge the full spectrum of "sources" for adoptees. We don't just come from not-married mothers and unknown fathers. We are adopted by step-parents, usually after divorce and re-marriage of parents. No need to claim "birthparent" privacy there.

Older children who are adopted know their natural parents so there's no need to claim "birthparent" privacy in this case, either.

Marley Greiner said...

Thanks, Anita! One thing I'm seeing more and more (as we get stronger and stronger) is that the word "anonymity" is being used in place of "privacy" or "confidentiality." And anonymity seems to be the word of choice now,.

When did those concepts become interchangeable? If you tried to tell a lawyer that, he or she would laugh at you. It seems only in adoption can this claptrap be pulled off. The only way a child "surrender" and adoption ever be anonymous is in a genuine illegal child abandonment where paents are never identified or a genuine anon. SH drop. Even in safe haven cases it appears that lot of parents and babies are ID'd.

All adoptions, even open adoptions are "confidential" in that the records are not available to the public. They are not anonymous. If adoption were meant to be anonymous, all old records would be destroyed at the time of adoption.

It seems ridiculous that lawmakers need to be "educated" in the differences. I suspect, they know, though, but chose to play dumb to hold on to their mythologies and pursue their personal agendas.

Sandy Young said...

I agree with Marley, in that mothers are guaranteed privacy, just as any other person in the United States, by the Constitution. We do not, however, desire anonymity or to remain confidential from our children. I do not want strangers having access to my files, and that includes the adopters of my now adult child, and an anonymous clerk in a government office in Springfield.

If the records are designed to protect my confidentiality, why then am I not able to access them? Why are they locked away from me? Am I to remain confidential from myself? Further, my raised son was adopted by my ex husband. None of us are able to access those records either.

I signed nothing. I didn't sign a surrender, I didn't allow my son to go to foster care, I didn't allow him to be transported across state lines, however, he is just as gone. It is to cover criminal practices like these that they maintain the seal.