Two days after confirming my adoption with my (adoptive) dad, I mailed in the paperwork to receive a copy of my original birth certificate from the State of New Jersey. This is something that is very important to many adoptees, because our “actual” birth certificates are not truthful accounts of our arrival on Earth. They are simply legal documents changed by a court order to reflect the new identity we were assigned. And here begins the web of lies that many adoptees are all too familiar with.
In most states, adoptees are not allowed to access their original birth record due to outdated laws, intended to “protect” the adopted child. The problem is adopted children grow up and will inevitably learn about their past, and desire truthful information about their origins. Despite becoming adults, adoption laws see adoptees as perpetual babies, incapable of handling the truth about our own origins. The system is designed only to protect itself, not the “children”. Just Google Georgia Tann, one of the most prolific child traffickers of the 20th century, who used her government connections to influence the creation of these laws to help protect herself, and to hide what she was doing. (many of these laws are still in place, BTW!)
Some people argue that these laws also protect the identity of biological parents, who may now want to be found (for whatever reasons). Thirty years ago, this made sense. The problem is today we have the internet and consumer DNA testing. ANYONE can do a DNA test (hello, me?) and find out who they are genetically connected to. Is is better to simply have knowledge of the two names (or maybe just one name) of the people who are your biological parents–OR–would people rather adoptees contact their genetic cousins on Ancestry, and start asking lots of questions? In lieu of the most basic information about ourselves, that is precisely what is happening. People go to sites like Ancestry to find people they are genetically related to, so they can communicate with people they hope will have knowledge of their origins.
“Hi, We are a match on Ancestry. It looks like we are 2nd cousins. I grew up in Boston, but I was adopted in New York in 1963. All I know is my mom’s name was Nadine, and she was 19 at the time. Do you know anything about this?”
Obviously, providing adoptees with their original birth certificate (and bio parents’ names) would eliminate most of this–whether the biological parents wish to communicate or not. Many adoptees have no desire to reach out to their bio families. Some only want health information. What we ALL want, is TRUTH.
I am very fortunate to have been born in NJ which, as of 2017, allows adoptees access to their records. I’ve read lots of frustration from people who try to obtain their own OBCs, sometimes waiting months or years without any word or update (though their payment has been processed, of course). I guess I am one of those people who will just remain in waiting now. Of course I already know my biological parents’ names, but it’s the point of having it that matters to me. So much about myself and my identity was taken from me, so this piece of paper would mean the world to me. I don’t know what I would do with it–stare at it for hours and cry, frame it, put it in a safe deposit box, file it–I have no idea. Anyway, I hope I get to see it someday…
Thanks for listening to my rant.
(seriously, Google Georgia Tann)