- My Articles
- Most Recent
- 2007 – 1976: The Buffalo News
- 2004: President’s Council on Bioethics
- 2001 & 2004: 9/11, Son, Navy
- 1992: Australia Law Reform Commission
- 1990 & 1991: The Secret is Out: England & Holland
- 1985: US Congressional Record
- 1984 Newspaper Interviews: Buffalo News
- 1975: Erie Daily Times: Interview & Articles
- Adoptees’ Birth Certificates
- Family Preservation – Adoption Prevention
- Open Letter to Adoptive Parents
- 1930: Birth Records of Illegitimates and of Adopted Children
- Due Process in Adoption? Hardly
This is the 57th anniversary of my mother’s death. Had she lived, I would have been raised by my mother and father. I would have been raised the 5th child of these parents. I was three months old when I lost my mother.
Mom, not a day goes by that I don’t think of you. With every breath I take, every time I look in the mirror, and every time I close my eyes to sleep, I think of you.
You will always be my mother.
Genevieve Herr Sippel
1925 to 1956
You are gone now two years.
Not a day goes by without me thinking of you.
I love you,
RIP. Doloris T. Wheeler, “Dorothy”, January 30, 1918 – March 12, 2011. age 95
This post is written in response to Von’s post today: Bitch Slap.
As for myself, I’ve been using the term “adoption reform” for so long, over 30 years, and it’s only within the past few years that I’ve come to realize it isn’t adoption reform that’s needed. What’s needed is the end to adoption. What’s needed is a soul-searching of the inhuman practice of permanently separating parents and their children and permanently and needlessly separating sibling groups. When the realization hits those who are a part of this horrific chain of separators, they will certainly have a gut-wrenching remorse for what they’ve done. I have seen it. A slow realization for some, and for others, it hits like a ton of bricks. Once the correct words are spoken so as to change the focus of their agency-speak, then those in power experience an awakening and they are changed. And once those regular people who insist on telling me their opinions on adoption, as if those opinions carry more weight than my 57 years of life experience and my research for 39 years, once these people hear my words from the point of view of being the victim of adoption, then I see a change: one person at a time.
This soul-searching realization then turns into the awareness that family preservation, kinship care, guardianship and adoption prevention must then become priorities.
Beyond that, I’ve achieved one-on-one change by telling ordinary people the facts of adoption that go beyond the destruction of a family to create the “loving option of adoption”. I tell them that every single adoptee in America suffers the confiscation of their birth certificate by the State Government via the Court Judge controlling the adoption and that the Judge then initiates orders to place that birth certificate under protective seal, and then the Judge orders the Registrar of Vital Statistics to create a new, amended birth certificate that replaces the names of the parents of birth with the names of the new adoptive parents as if they gave birth to the child and that child now has a new name on this new birth certificate.
People are stunned. They ask, “They do this? Still?”
I say, “Yes.”
They ask, “Why?
I answer, “Because that’s the way it’s been done since 1930 in America and States aren’t too eager to let adoptees have their true birth certificates. For the States that do ‘allow’ adoptees this ‘privilege’, there are conditions and restrictions because illegitimate bastards aren’t worthy to own the truth of their shameful births. But I’m not illegitimate, yet, I am bound by this archaic law that wipes out all adoptees’ births as if they never happened. And for the two States that never sealed adoptees birth certificates – Kansas and Alaska – those states have been, and still are, falsifying adoptees new birth certificates.”
People then ask me, “I never heard of this. In this day and age, why does anyone care about illegitimacy? Every child is precious.”
I say, “Of course every child is precious, but if you are born to unmarried parents, then the law says you aren’t worthy. And every other way a child becomes adopted – me, a half orphan, full orphans, and step-parent adoptees and foster care adoptees – we all are bound by the law of shame and secrecy. Of course you haven’t heard of this. The government and adoption agencies don’t want you to know. No one is stopping the continued falsification of birth certificates when a child is adopted. It’s all big business. All of it. Adoption agencies and social workers and adoption attorneys and court staff and court judges get paid. And the Registrars of Vital Statistics get paid to seal away a child’s birth rights and then commit fraud and perjury for the sake of doing their jobs.”
People then ask me, “I never realized the scope of this. So what can be done?”
I answer, “Just stop it. Demand that these barbaric practices cease. The whole process of permanently separating families needlessly must end, and, unethical confiscation and sealing of an infant or child’s birth certificate must end, as well as the unethical and fraudulent practice of lying on government documents must end. Now you know what really happens in adoption. People can achieve the same goal – of giving a child who actually needs a home – by promoting family preservation, kinship care and guardianship instead of adoption. You are hearing it from an adoptee. Word of mouth. Go spread the word. You now know the truth and now you must decide: will you join us in the legislative fight to change these barbaric, but legal, atrocities? I can provide you with information on how to stop this.”
People need to know and are stunned to hear the facts. Change is happening.
Daniel Ibn Zayd is right. People on the ground, in the community, talking about the realities of adoption – this is making a difference in my home city, one person at a time.
But we in New York State, and America as a whole, are so far behind the accomplishments of Australia. I, too, as Von points out, may not live long enough to see the drastic changes in public opinion and public policy that are needed. I sure as hell am giving it my all while I am here!
I did not write this obituary, but I remember the man. He was my mentor even before I knew him, back in 1976 when I read his journal articles. …. For my friend, Reuben, thank you for your wisdom. When I sat in my college library in 1976, reading your article entitled “The Effects of the Sealed Record in Adoption,” I photocopied it, tucked it inside my copy of The Search For Anna Fisher, and held my head up high. Your words gave me strength to move forward as an adoption activist. And I followed your work closely. You, together with Annette Baran, and Arthur Sorosky, went on to write what was later referred to as ”The Bible of Modern Adoption,” The Adoption Triangle in 1978. We met at several adoption conferences. I am blessed to have known you. May you have a sweet journey in eternity. Peace, Joan
… … …
Remembering Reuben, July 4, 1922 – December 22, 2012, age 90
Reuben “Ruby” Pannor, a social worker and pioneer in the field of open adoption, died on December 22nd, 2012, at the age of 90. A man overflowing with kindness and empathy, Reuben was universally loved by family, friends, colleagues, and all of those in the “adoption triangle” (birthparents,adopted persons, and adoptive parents).
Reuben and his twin brother Harry were born on July 4th, 1922, to Rose and Isidor Pannor in the small village of Slobodka, in Lithuania. The twins and their younger sister Esther spent their early childhood surrounded by generations of extended family. In response to growing anti-Jewish sentiment prior to World War II, Reuben’s immediate family immigrated to America when Reuben was eight years old.
Reuben grew up in Poughkeepsie, New York, where his parents, early union supporters, worked as tailors in a factory. When World War II started, Reuben joined the Army Air Corps. Stationed on Fernando di Naronha, an isolated island penal colony 100 miles off the coast of Brazil, Reuben was responsible for predicting the weather over the Atlantic Ocean for use in military operations. He later awed his children and grandchildren with tales of befriending the island’s prisoners and his uncanny ability to identify clouds and forecast the next storm.
After World War II, the GI Bill enabled Reuben to obtain an undergraduate degree from Cornell University and a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Columbia University. One day in 1948, he was visiting the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, where he repeatedly found himself gazing at the same paintings as Sydell Alpers, a Poughkeepsie girl who recognized him as one of those handsome Pannor twins. In Sydell, Reuben found a true match in temperament and intellect, a shared passion for social justice, and a soul mate.
In 1953, Reuben and Sydell followed Ruby’s twin brother, Harry, to Los Angeles, eventually moving to Pacific Palisades to raise their three children. For thirty years, Reuben worked at the nationally recognized child welfare agency, Vista del Mar of Los Angeles, where he became the Director of Community Services and later Director of Adoptions. Through his clinical work, he noticed that the needs of birth fathers had been overlooked, leading to the publication of his first book, The Unwed Father, co-written with Byron Evans. Through his interactions with birth parents, adoptive parents and adoptees, Reuben developed several key insights: that birth parents often suffered for years from their loss, that it was natural for children to wonder about their biological origins, and that adoptive parents’ relationships with their children were strengthened, not harmed, by openness about adoption.
In 1978, he wrote a seminal book, The Adoption Triangle, with co-authors, Annette Baran and Arthur Sorosky. This book argued that adopted children had a right to know about their origins and that laws preventing this were cruel and should be abolished. Reuben championed the belief that knowledge of one’s origins should be a civil right for all. Another book, Lethal Secrets, co-written with Annette Baran, addressed issues of secrecy and genetic heritage for those who had children through donor insemination. Reuben received numerous awards for his work, including citations from the City of Los Angeles, the State of California and the United States Congress.
Reuben touched countless lives and engaged in many communities. He was constantly sought out for his wise counsel. He always had time to listen and he gave the best advice. He was a prolific storyteller, captivating his children and grandchildren with long, creative tales he made up as he went along. Reuben inspired in his family a great passion for the outdoors. Yosemite Valley, Sequoia, The Sierra, the Colorado Rocky Mountains, and the Alaska wilderness were second homes. Closer to home, Reuben was frequently spotted walking his dog through the Palisades, engrossed in political conversations, and schmoozing in Mort’s Deli.
Reuben’s surviving family include his wife of 62 years, Sydell, his children, Suzanna, Gerry (husband Rick), Jonathan, and his grandchildren, Sarah, Michael, David, Viva, Golda, Ari, Jacob, and Sam. Reuben touched all who knew him with his unconditional love and is lovingly remembered for his profound compassion, commitment to reducing suffering, ready chuckle, and his smiling eyes.
A celebration of Reuben’s life will be held on Thursday, December 27, 2012, 1:00 pm, at Congregation Kehillat Israel, 16019 Sunset Boulevard, Pacific Palisades, California, 90272.
Letters/cards of condolence may be sent to: The Pannor Family, 14607 Bestor Blvd, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
iAdoptee posted a timely and urgent post on the most recent episode of OXYGEN’S TV Program “I’m Having Their Baby”: Actually, Oxygen, She’s Having HIS Baby.
Here is the father who stated that he does NOT want his baby given up for adoption:
Yes, I do agree that OXGYEN Channel is complicite in preventing a father his parental rights.
I will add that OXYGEN is also violating the rights of his child to his father.
The child’s rights to privacy are also violated.
Is there an attorney out there to help this father?
Is there an attorney out there to shut down OXYGEN and their TV Reality show “I’m Having Their Baby”?
This show goes agaisnt true family values.
The effects of the loss of a baby on women who lost them to adoption
* * * *
Joe Soll’s video is in direct response to Dan Rather’s story introducing his upcoming show on May 1st, 2012:
Adoption or Abduction? — Forced Adoptions for Unwed Mothers: http://news.yahoo.com/forced-adoptions-for-unwed-mothers-around-the-globe.html
This past year has been very difficult. Facing death of family and friends, moving forward in grief, I’ve tried to hide the tears. But they come anyway. Just when I think it is okay to smile, a song, a walk along the canal, or a memory brings tears. I am grateful for the loving embrace of friends who comfort me.
Nicole with a touch of my hand, small groups of church friends in a room, Sandra with her hugs and warm conversation, Brian with his ever-present stillness, Heather and Cathy with their kindness and sincerity, Elaine with her lunches and laughter, Kathy for her knowledge, John and his gifts of music tricks from long ago, Mary with her lovely voice, Mary B and her cookies, Patrick and Kent with their guitars, Todd and his playfulness, Kevin J with his steady happiness, Kevin C for his smiles, Jonathan with his sense of humor and hugs, Banjo Bob and his ready wit, Jim Y for your love of life, Tom S for I Wanna Be Ignorant, Dave for dancing and hugs, Doug and Sue for their hospitality, Phil for his bridging 30 years of memories, and my new friends who greet me with acceptance and love, my old friends who I don’t see very often but we share our times of need and gatherings. When the sadness of this past year brings me to tears, I am grateful for all of you who make my life enriched.
I am also grateful for the family who still care. And for the friends of my aunt who still call. My son and daughter who bring me gifts of your souls.
I am grateful for the strength I’ve found within myself because all of you are in my life.
The following was written by an anonymous adult adoptee who has given permission for this letter to be posted here.
(What you are about to read may shock you. It may challenge you. And, hopefully, it may inspire you to educate yourself further on the realities of adoption. Please read the following with an open mind, and try not to take anything said here personally. Because this is not meant to be an attack or a judgment; it is meant to be an honest and heartfelt expression of one adoptee’s experience that would hopefully bring understanding and respect for the often ignored portion of the adoption equation.)
To all adoptive parents, hopeful adoptive parents, and anyone who has ever even considered adoption:
Being adopted hurts. Being adopted is hard. It is not beautiful; it is brutal, it is tragic, it is a cause for great sadness. For in order for a child to even be available for adoption, that child must first go through some sort of tragedy; whether that be abuse, hunger, homelessness, neglect, or even the simple fact that he or she is losing the life and family he or she was born into. This makes adoption a thing to mourn; not a cause for celebration or joy. To be joyful about adopting a child is to be glad that this tragedy happened.
I don’t think there’s a soul alive who would actually choose to be born into a situation where being relinquished for adoption, voluntarily or otherwise, was necessary.
Of course there will always be a need for children to be removed from their parent(s) and placed in safer, more stable, loving homes – but please understand that no matter how good and loving and wonderful the adopting parents are, nothing will ever erase the pain, the grief, and the loss that comes with being adopted.
The very foundation of adoption is that of loss – a child loses his or her mother, father, and entire family; a mother, father and family loses one of their children. And, yes, even a loss for the adopting parent – sometimes the loss of the expectation of having their own, biological offspring, the loss of a dream of having a baby of “their own.” A separation of one family MUST occur before a new one can be built through adoption. Maybe it isn’t a voluntary destruction, maybe the destruction is necessary for the health and safety of the child – but it is still a destruction of the very core, fundamental foundations of that child’s life that will forever be altered.
Think of it this way…one of your parents dies, and your surviving parent eventually goes on to remarry. Though you might grow to love and have a great relationship with your parent’s new spouse, no amount of love and happiness in this present situation will erase the grief you feel over the loss of your other parent. So please, if you have adopted or are considering adoption, keep this in mind.
Adoption should be the very last resort after all other options have been tried. Ask yourself this – does an adoption HAVE to happen? Is there anything I can possibly do to help this young mother keep her child? Are there resources I can direct her to, items I can supply her with, can I offer her the support and encouragement she needs to be a good parent? If so, then pursuing adoption is not the right choice. Too many unnecessary adoptions happen as a permanent solution to a very temporary problem. Adoption, after all, is forever – while a current living situation, job situation, etc., is temporary and can be changed and improved. Most women who relinquish their children do so because they feel they have no other choice…but what if she does have another choice, and only needs the support and encouragement to make it?
Adopted people know we are a second choice, a “Plan B,” a solution to someone else’s problem. While there are some people out there who would choose adoption first, most only do so after failed attempts at pregnancy or to “complete” a family of all boys or girls or to give their current child a sibling. Adding to your family through adoption should never be about meeting some need of your own…it should always and only ever be about providing for the CHILD’S needs. Please don’t put the added pressure on an adopted child by forcing them to live up to the unspoken standard of the child you couldn’t conceive or the son or daughter you couldn’t produce. Adoption is not a cure for infertility, nor are adopted people “gifts” to be passed around in order to complete somebody else’s life. We are human beings in our own right, with our own feelings, needs, and wants. Don’t add to an already painful situation by expecting us to be something we weren’t born to be.
Please be willing to be completely open and honest with the child you may someday adopt. It doesn’t matter how horrible of a situation they came out of; tell them the truth, and tell them early. For the truth can be dealt with, it can be processed and closure can be found; but nobody can get closure from fantasies and daydreams. Adopted people are stronger than you give them credit for; believe me when I say, we imagine and prepare for every possible scenario when it comes to our families or origin. Don’t think we haven’t entertained the idea that our biological parents were the worst of the worst, or idealized them as some sort of saintly creatures, and everything in between. We have already survived the loss of our original families; don’t for one minute think we can’t survive knowing the reason why. And on that note, if an adopted person ever chooses to search, reunite, or just know more about their family of origin, don’t guilt them into not doing it or make them feel beholden to you. It has NOTHING to do with you. NOTHING. Human beings are born with an innate curiosity about who and where we come from. For some adopted people to feel whole, they need to know their own personal history and explore their roots. There’s nothing wrong with that. After all, you, as the parent, are responsible for your adopted child’s happiness and well being…not the other way around. Swallow your pride, put away your jealousy, and support your adopted child in any quest for truth they may wish to undertake. Believe me, they will thank you for it.
Don’t fall into the terminology trap. Adoptees know they have more than one set of parents…two that created them, and the parent(s) who are raising them. ALL are real to the adoptee. Don’t get caught up in who is “real” and who is more important; let your adopted child choose the terminology that suits THEM. If you have been a good and loving parent, that’s all you need. Besides, a parent can love more than one child, so why can’t a child be allowed to love more than one parent? The heart has an infinite capability to love. Don’t begrudge your adopted child the possibility of loving people he or she may not even remember.
And don’t disparage the biological parents or family either. They may be evil people, the scum of the earth…but to say anything bad about the biological family is the same as saying something bad about your adopted child. The child did come from these people, after all; and better or worse we did inherit parts of ourselves from them. The old saying applies here more than anywhere else…if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
Adopted people experience a range of issues from having been adopted…many suffer from the fear of rejection and abandonment, have problems trusting others and forming relationships. After all, our very mothers could walk away from us, so what’s to stop anyone else? Though not all adoptees experience these, many do, and to varying degrees. Just because the adopted person in your life hasn’t mentioned it, don’t think they don’t feel it. Many will never, ever talk about their negative adoption issues for those exact reasons…fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, and just the overwhelmingly negative response they expect. If the adopted person in your life (your child, a friend or other family member) ever does talk about it, take your personal feelings and judgments out of it. Resist the temptation to say things like, “But you had such wonderful [adoptive] parents!” or “but you could have been aborted/thrown in a dumpster/etc.!” Adoptees are the only subset of society who are wholly expected to be grateful for our very lives, and with this expectation comes the need to try to suppress any negative emotion or feeling. Most adoptees won’t even admit to themselves, let alone other people, that they are hurting. After all, we got this “better life,” didn’t we? We don’t have the RIGHT to feel sad/angry/depressed. So many adoptees choose to stay silent and instead live a lie.
And, yes, that goes hand-in-hand with the child-parent relationship thing…remember, the PARENT is responsible for the health and well being of the CHILD, NOT the other way around. Only in adoption are adoptees somehow expected to always be careful not to “hurt” their adoptive parents; not to rock the boat or bring up something about their adoption because their PARENTS might not like it. This is another reason so many adopted people don’t speak about adoption…we are afraid of hurting our adoptive parents. I know that as a parent myself, I would never expect my children to be responsible for my well-being…so please, don’t ever place that expectation on adopted people either. After all, their adoptive parents WANTED to adopt, they WANTED a child, and chose this path for themselves. The adoptee most often did not choose it and had no say in the matter. Don’t expect gratitude. ANYONE could have been aborted, could have been abandoned, could have been abused. These are not phenomena that are solely related to adoptees. Just because a person was adopted doesn’t automatically mean they were unwanted, that they “could have been” anything…they are just people who are being raised by a different family and are living a DIFFERENT life, not necessarily a better one.
Please, if you are considering adoption or have already, educate yourself. Read books such as the Primal Wound. Read blogs by adopted people and relinquishing parents. Go into it with an open mind and open heart. Understand that there is the very real potential that the child you someday adopt might just struggle with it. And while you can be a terrific parent, a wonderful guide and mentor, the damage has already been done. Be prepared to do the hard work of helping your child deal with any grief, anger, and other issues he/she may feel. TALK to them about it. Adoptees are notorious for keeping things bottled up…let them know it’s OK to talk with you about them. Reassure them that you will NOT be hurt, offended or damaged by their feelings. ALLOW them the freedom to feel whatever they feel.
If you are considering an open adoption or have entered into an open adoption, HONOR that. Unless there is some clear and present danger to the life of your child, KEEP THE COMMUNICATION OPEN. Don’t cease contact with the biological family because it’s an inconvenience for YOU. Understand that yes, at times it might be emotionally trying for your adopted child, your child may come away from visits or reading letters and feel depressed and angry, but don’t take that as a reason to cease contact. TALK to your child. Help them understand WHY they are feeling this way. It’s only natural that this might happen; and in the same breath, the biological mother/father/family may also feel overwhelmed at times and pull back, but do what you can to keep the lines of communication open. Remember, adoption is based on loss, and being reminded of that loss can be overwhelming. But that doesn’t mean it should be avoided. Your adopted child will thank you someday for sacrificing your own happiness and comfort to allow him/her to keep this very important connection.
Try not to make a big celebration out of your child’s adoption day (and PLEASE don’t EVER use the horribly offensive and insensitive term “Gotcha Day”). The same goes for birthdays. For while it may be a happy occasion to remember, keep in mind that it also marks the day that the adopted person was permanently and forever separated from their mother, their father, their original family. Birthdays are especially hard; for most adoptees have the knowledge that our births were not cause for celebration; nobody was bringing our mothers flowers and balloons and offering congratulations; our entrance into this world was one of sadness and trepidation. And it marks the day we were physically separated from our mothers; for many of us, it was the last time we ever saw her. So if the adoptee in your life withdraws around his or her birthday or doesn’t appear to like celebrating, respect that. Understand that to many of us, it is not a cause for celebration.
I am not trying to tell anyone not to adopt. I am not saying, “shame on you” to anyone who already has adopted. What I am saying is, please step back and really think long and hard about the ramifications of adoption on the very person who is at the center of it all – the child you hope for or the child you have brought into your home. Be ready and willing to put a lot of hard work into helping this adopted child heal, to feel whole and complete in themselves. Be prepared to put your own needs and wants on the shelf and to put away your expectations, do what it takes to attend to the needs of your adopted child. All the love in the world, all the toys and gadgets and material things you might provide will never replace or erase what was lost.
Family preservation should always be the goal. Adoption should never, ever be utilized unless it is the last and only option left. Because adoption should be about finding homes for children in need; NOT finding children for people to fill a need. Jesus commanded us to help the orphan AND the widow…we as a society should do more to help families stay together instead of tearing them apart. Nobody really wants to be adopted…if given a choice, they’d rather their family situations could improve so that they wouldn’t have to be separated. Would YOU have liked it if your mother gave you away?
An adult adoptee
My adoptive mother died a few months ago. I have been slowly going through her belongings. Deciding what to keep and what to give away is a very difficult task.
I had already generally gone through a box of my mother’s old jewelry and set it aside for the “give away” pile. But a relative who was with me took a second look. She found a small plastic bag with a string of beads. She pulled it out and said, “This looks like a baby bracelet.”
I immediately swung around as my relative placed the beaded bracelet in my hands. I recognized the initials and last name as that of my natural mother. The beads were pink; this was my baby bracelet worn in the hospital after my birth.
How could I have missed this when going through the box the first time?
More importantly, why was this the first time I had seen this bracelet? My adoptive mother kept it in her jewelry box since bringing me home on April 22, 1956, four months after my birth. My natural father had given her this bracelet, along with my clothes and birth certificate and baptismal certificate. Why did my adoptive mother keep this bracelet all these years? She surely could have given it to me during the course of my reunion with my natural family from 1974 onward. But I discovered it and reclaimed it a few months after her death.
This is yet another reminder that for all I know about my birth and my adoption I shall never really know my life. I was a baby born to a dying mother; I was dying at birth. The conditions and events that surrounded the people who took care of me, especially my natural father, were tense. My future hung in the balance until my mother died. Nearly a month later, my father handed me to another couple to raise as their daughter. I grew up the only child of this couple. My former life ceased to exist.
I hold this bracelet now as a mere portion of my life before adoption. Those six weeks I lay in an incubator, clinging to life: this is what this bracelet symbolizes for me. It’s not my name on the bracelet, it’s my mother’s name, for I am my mother’s daughter and this is the way the hospital knew I belonged to her. My birth and those first few weeks of my life were not happy moments.
As I clear through the belongings of one mother recently deceased, I am reminded of another mother who died long ago. Her death changed the course of my life.
My baby bracelet brought me, not a moment of happiness, but a day of mourning a lifetime of loss.
Real birther issue is still unresolved
Joan Wheeler, born Doris Sippel, lives in Buffalo and thinks adoptees should have access to their birth records.
Published: June 10, 2011, 12:00 AM
President Obama recently released a copy of his long-form original birth certificate to prove that he was born in the United States. If he had been adopted, he would not be able to produce his original birth certificate for the public or even for his own viewing. By law, he would be able to obtain only an amended birth certificate.
Does this mean that adoptees are prohibited from becoming president?
I am an adoptee and I have two conflicting birth certificates.
As in all adoptions, the judge who presided over my adoption ordered my original birth certificate sealed and replaced with an amended one. The registrar of vital records switched most of my birth facts onto a new document, but the amended certificate does not contain the attending physician’s signature attesting that he
witnessed the birth. And it does not prove who my biological mother and father were.
In the aftermath of 9/11, to obtain a passport or an enhanced driver’s license, one must present documentation of birth filed within five days of birth. Many adoptees’ amended certificates were issued a year or more after birth; delayed birth certificates are not acceptable proof of birth. And amended certificates don’t prove who actually gave birth to the individual named. Adoptees cannot obtain documentation of birth and adoption because these records are sealed.
Birth records for adoptees have been sealed and altered since the 1930s to hide illegitimacy for mother and infant, and to protect adoptive parents. The adoptee rights movement began in the 1950s to change these laws. Two states never sealed records; six states have varying degrees of open records. New York has been a closed-record state since 1935.
I, like many adoptees, want unrestricted access to my original birth certificate. Adoptees are the only group of people denied access to their own birth record. This is a matter of civil rights, social inequality, personal dignity and genealogical knowledge. Non-adoptees can obtain their birth record, but adoptees cannot get theirs.
Opponents to open records claim mothers’ identities must be kept secret because they were promised confidentiality. Mothers who have lost children to adoption say that secrecy was imposed upon them. Additionally, the stigma of illegitimacy doesn’t hold true for full or half orphans (like myself) or step-parent adoptees. Adoptees say that stigma in adoption is unwarranted.
So, how did I get my short-and long-form original birth certificate if the records were sealed?
My widowed father, at the time he relinquished me, gave my birth certificates to my adoptive parents. When I turned 18, they, in turn, gave the documents to me.
Despite this, I am still legally prevented from obtaining my original birth certificate.
All amended birth certificates state the adoptee’s new name, replace the parents by birth with the names of the new parents and include most facts of the birth. A registrar of vital statistics certifies the facts are true. They are not, since no adoptee is born to the parents named on the amended certificate.
New York State adoptees are supporting passage of Senate Bill 1438 and Assembly Bill 2003, which would give adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates. This is half of the solution. For true adoptee equality, falsified amended birth certificates should be replaced with honest adoption certificates.