May 10, 2007

Got the Fake Birth Certificate

Puppy's amended birth certificate arrived a couple of weeks ago (323 days after the adoption was finalized--good work, State of California!).

It is creepy as hell to hold a legal document stating I gave birth at Pretty Nice Hospital, attended by Dr. Quick-with-the-Episiotomy. I was there, and can unequivocally tell you that I did not drop a shorty that night.* In a particularly pleasant touch, my name is typed into the signature box declaring, "I certify that I have reviewed the stated information and that it is true and correct to the best of my knowledge." R's signature used to be there.

We have a certified copy of Puppy's original birth certificate for him. A social worker handed it to us with a copy of his adoption file. "Don't lose this," she told us, "because you'll never see it again."

Says who? Open records legislation isn't exactly sweeping the nation, but change is underway. I couldn't find an active effort in California to support, so instead I wrote a general issue letter to the state legislators in my former districts and the districts in which Puppy was born. (I borrowed shamelessly from this sample letter. Here is another example.) It won't change anything on its own, but just maybe it will grease the wheels a bit for the future.

* If you get this reference, you're totally my BFF for the week.


Dear _____:

I am writing as the adoptive parent of a young child in support of giving adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates in California. My son was born in the xx district and we resided in the xx district at the time of his adoption.

When my son’s adoption was finalized, his original birth record was permanently sealed by the court in accordance with antiquated state laws. My son’s birth mother was also adopted as an infant in California and her original record sealed, preventing both her and our son from having complete information about their genetic background. Simply put, closed records (1) prevent adoptees and their offspring from having valuable information about their medical history and biological family, and (2) violate adoptees’ basic civil right to information about their origins. Only adult adopted persons are precluded from accessing their own personal history in this way.

Opponents to open records argue that the "promise of privacy" given to birth parents will be violated if adult adoptees receive accurate records of their birth. The truth is that birth parents have generally not wanted secrecy and have no constitutional right to keep their identities private from their children--findings upheld in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Doe vs. Sundquist, a court case revolving around this very issue.

In actual practice, the identities of birth parents are routinely available to adoptees and adoptive parents. In our case, we filed state form Adopt-310 (Contact After Adoption Agreement) along with our petition for adoption. Signed by both us and his birth parents, it indicated that the names of both birth and adoptive parents were fully known to all parties in the adoption. In light of such an agreement, it becomes ludicrous for my son’s original birth record to be sealed. Yet California law denies him--and any of his descendants--access to his orginial birth certificate.

I hope California will join Alaska, Oregon, Kansas, Alabama, Delaware and New Hampshire in opening its records. Alternatively, the current practice of replacing the names of the natural parent(s) with those of the adoptive parent(s) on birth certificates could be ended in favor of adding the adoptive parent name(s) and date of the adoption order to the birth certificate. This would create a truly amended birth certificate and preserve accurate genealogical information for subsequent generations.

I believe that such changes would ultimately support adoptive families by giving adoptees rights that the non-adopted have always had, removing a stigmatizing barrier that has historically only been applied to adoptees. In this country, we claim to support the best interests of the child in all adoption proceedings. We owe adoptees no less consideration to their interests when they become adults. I hope you will consider sponsoring legislation providing adoptees access to their own birth records.



Anonymous said...

OMG, "dropped a shorty?" **spits out her orange juice** How funny is that. Was that on How I Met Your Mother this week? I LOVE THAT SHOW!!

So, either I'm your BFF this week, or I am totally off the mark!

Heather said...

Ding, ding, ding! You should come over on Monday. We can watch the HIMYM finale and eat popcorn.

Mama Bear said...

When I got my baby bears birth certificate, it felt really funny to me to see my name on there -- it just did not settle with me-- don't get me wrong, I very much feel like her mother, it just seemed fake or something -- we are in a very open adoption and it just did not fit "us".

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