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