November 12, 2007

Just clearing something up...

Open records are not the same as reunion. And open records are not the same as open adoption.

Open records are about information. Open adoption and reunion are about ongoing contact. Having information doesn't automatically equal having contact.

Open records don't force anyone--first parents or adopted adults-- into unwanted relationships. And they certainly don't force potential adoptive parents into open adoptions. They just let adoptees know the identities of their birth parents. Knowing someone's name is not the same as having a relationship with that person. Just ask any adoptee or first parent who has searched only to have the door slammed in their face.

Conflating these issues whenever the subject of open records comes up is a favorite tactic of some major players in the adoption world:

Nationwide, one of the major foes of open records is the National Council for Adoption, which represents many religiously affiliated adoption agencies. Its president, Thomas Atwood, says any reconnection between an adopted adult and a birthparent should be by mutual consent — which is the policy in most states.

“I empathize with anybody who feels the need to know their biological parents’ identity,” Atwood said. “But I don’t think the law should enable them to force themselves on someone who has personal reasons for wanting confidentiality.” (source, emphasis added)

I actually agree with Mr. Atwood on one point: any relationships between adults should be by mutual consent. But open records don't preclude that. Trying to force someone into a relationship is called harassment, and there are already laws against that. Giving adopted adults access to information about their origins makes contact possible, but it doesn't make it mandatory. Mr. Atwood makes it sound like open record laws give adoptees a free pass to stalk their biological parents.

If you are a supporter of open records, check to see if your local paper ran the AP story today about the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute report on open records. Leave a comment on the newspaper's website or write a letter to the editor. This is a chance for us to affect public opinion and encourage follow-up stories in the media.


Anonymous said...

Yay you. I am so tired of that inaccurate argument. And I can't believe that certain opponents don't know the difference.

Scribbit said...

That's good that you've highlighted the distinction--I'm no expert by any means, my only connection is watching my husband help with many adoptions in his time as an attorney, and my own opinion is that open adoptions aren't a good thing. Severing that parent-child bond in something as strong as an adoption should be a complete thing and not a half-done affair. He's had to watch too many couples who've adopted children have to jump through hoops that the biological mother or father have placed on them because of open adoptions. You can't have it both ways: the benefits of having children but have someone else raising them. You're either a parent or you're not, you can't be the biological "mother" that visits occasionally.

Just an opinion, as I said. And maybe it's wrong, I don't have enough experience to know if it is but nice post to raise the subject.

Heather said...

Michelle, welcome! Thanks for your comment. Since our family is in one open adoption and pursuing a second, I obviously disagree with you on the wisdom of openness. :)

That said, your comment illustrates one reason I think it is so important to note the distinction between open records and open adoption. Because someone can still choose to support open records even if they are philosophically opposed to open adoption.

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