Adoption Beat

January 18, 2011

Some facts about adoption that reporters should know

Filed under: Uncategorized — adoptionbeat @ 7:08 pm

Some folks, once they have made up their minds would prefer not to be confused with the facts.  When that is the case, even fair and balanced reporting cannot clarify all the misconceptions that surround the institution of adoption. But we rely on reporters to ferret out the facts because consumers of news cannot generalize with any degree of accuracy about a social contract of which they have limited or no experience. When they fail to do so, or misinterpret the facts about adoption, they do a disservice to their readers and to those who are affected by this institution. In a representative government, everyone has a voice. It is unfortunate that the voice of those whose live are forever altered by adoption are almost always drowned out by those who profit from it or who base their opinion on serious misconceptions.

So, in a departure from my usual commentary on adoption coverage in the news, I am laying out a few facts that, if comprehended, might help reporters to do a better job of presenting factual interpretations to their readers on the subject of adoption.

Fact: Birth records and adoption records are not synonymous. One records a birth and issued by Vital Records based on the hospital’s report. The other is a legal contract finalized by the court. The latter does not change the former. But in some states, it causes the true affidavit of an individual’s birth to be “sealed.”

Fact: Women who surrendered children to adoption had no legally binding agreement regarding anonymity. Prior to the 1940s birth records were not sealed except in one state that sealed birth records in 1935. Birth records were never sealed in two states. Sealing birth records did not confer any special right of anonymity retroactively or prospectively since other repositories of information about the parties to the adoption existed. In many instances, that same information was disclosed routimely to adult adoptees by the agency involved. Sealing or closing adoption records had the effect of closing court records to those whose existence was permanently changed by an act of the court, something that strikes most Americans as a serious violation of human rights.

Fact: Court records of adoption were not kept under lock and key in many jurisdictions until the 1980s.

Fact: Even in states with sealed records, original birth records are not sealed when a child is surrendered to adoption. They are sealed when an adoption is finalized and a new birth certificate is issued. Birth certificates belong to the persons named in them and cannot be access by anyone else once they become adults. Those original birth certificates are often passed to foster or adoptive parents by agency officials or attorneys.

Fact: State-sponsored secrecy allows adoption fraud and dishonesty. It shields the perpetrators from prosecution because those harmed by their fraud cannot challenge the results of their actions.

Fact: Who we become is a combination of nature and nurture. I inherited many characteristics from my genetic ancestors and those were nurtured by my adoptive parents who were also supportive of my wish to know my origins.

Fact: Adoptees find their families of origin every day. If you don’t have that piece of paper, search is your only option. Search is far more intrusive than just being allowed to know the truth.

Fact: Adoption and abortion are not the only choices for dealing with an impending birth that was unplanned or is unwelcome. Open access does not encourage abortion. States that allow adult adoptees to access their records have lower abortion rates than surrounding states.

Fact: Women who do not wish to meet their offspring they can make their wishes known through this provision without abrogating the rights of other persons. Many reunions do not last but the often provide closure and healing for mothers as well as offspring. Some adoptees want to meet their family of origin but many fear rejection and are satisfied just to know but few want to subject themselves to an unwelcome encounter.

Fact: Many adoptees are not looking for reunion, just the facts. It causes no permanent harm to anyone for the adoptee to know the truth, particularly if they handle that news with discretion and respect for the privacy of others. Adoptee privacy is also an issue that opponents of open records traditionally overlook.

I hope this food for thought will be useful to reporters and triad members who seek to change the status quo.



  1. Excellent.

    Can I add that one petpeeve of mine with reporters is language they choose to use? Like referring to adoptees as “children” when discussing an issue that deals with minor and adult adoptees or flat out referring to adult adoptees as “children” or “adult children.”

    Comment by Amanda — January 19, 2011 @ 11:12 am | Reply

    • Amen! And it isn’t just reporters!

      You may recall that the first draft of Sara Feighenholz’s latest monstrosity referred to adult adoptees as adult children. I think many who are not part of the triad have great difficulty reconciling the image of an adopted child with the adult he becomes. Somewhere I have an “adoption vocabulary list” that I need to haul out and share. There’s also the ongoing controversy of what to call mothers who, for one reason or another, did not parent their offspring. It’s a very tangled linguistic web.

      Comment by adoptionbeat — January 19, 2011 @ 3:30 pm | Reply

  2. Well said. I’m an adult adoptee who was reunited at 41.

    Comment by Gloria Oren — January 18, 2012 @ 3:44 pm | Reply

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