“Kippa Herring” has posted several comments regarding the research of Professor Elizabeth Samuels, who published her overview of the legal history of adoption in the U.S. in the Rutgers Law Review ( Winter 2001), entitled “The Idea of Adoption.” Rather than print selected quotes from Samuel’s work, I’ve decided to refer you to the article so you can read it in its entirety.
Although Professor Samuels (like Kippa) is in favor of mandated open records (as opposed to the “mutual consent” approach advocated by the National Council for Adoption and myself), Samuels’ paper is helpful in providing a historical context for understanding the complexities of the issue, and how balancing the respective (often conflicting) needs and responsibilities of all three sides of the adoption triad have challenged state legislatures and social agencies alike for more than sixty years.
For those of you who are new to this, mandated open records “unseal” original birth certificates of adult adopted children (and other persons of interest), regardless of whether the biological parents agree to having identifying information released to the (adult) child.
At this time, only a handful of states allow adult adoptees unrestricted access to their original records, although this is something that a variety of nationally organized advocacy groups (such as “Bastard Nation” and “Unsealed Initiative” are fighting to change).
Nevertheless, adoptive parents will want to educate themselves about the issue so you can be prepared when your child broaches the subject of his birth parents. Not all adopted children decide to look for their birth parents, but most have feelings about their birth families that we — their parents — need to help them work through, even if search and reunion is not a possibility.
Information is power, the saying goes. By educating ourselves about the issues surrounding adoption, we empower ourselves to give our children the support they need to reconcile and integrate the two sides of their heritage.
No two families will approach this the same way. It may be that your child has no interest in finding his birth family. If he does, try to relax and not take it as a sign that he is rejecting you. From what I’ve read, there seems to be little connection between an adopted child’s desire to know his birth family and the strength of the bond he has with his adoptive parents. Just this afternoon I spoke with a radio producer whose older sister found her birth family, and yet he had no desire to do so.
In any event, this article is well worth reading, no matter where in the adoptive triad you stand.