Mary­land must open its birth cer­tifi­cates to adoptees

The Capital - - OPINION - The Cap­i­tal Susie Stricker Susie Stricker joined her adop­tive fam­ily on their farm in Har­wood, where she cur­rently lives and man­ages the farm with the help of her hus­band and two sons.

The month of Novem­ber is des­ig­nated Na­tional Adop­tion Aware­ness Month. Many county court­houses across the coun­try held cel­e­bra­tory Na­tional Adop­tion Day pro­ceed­ings.

fea­tured a front-page ar­ti­cle Nov. 30 cov­er­ing the hear­ings that fi­nal­ized adop­tions of sev­eral chil­dren from Anne Arun­del County. In­deed, as the ar­ti­cle states, the cel­e­bra­tory day of pro­ceed­ings is “one of the most im­por­tant days of their lives.”

Na­tional Adop­tion

Day is a great time to pro­mote aware­ness of the needs of chil­dren in fos­ter care and cel­e­brate the for­ma­tion of new fam­i­lies through adop­tion — but we fail the adoptees through the laws that re­strict their rights and af­fect the rest of their lives.

I would know be­cause

I too am an adoptee.

It is a day of new be­gin­nings. It is the day the child be­gins his or her life as a child of new par­ents, per­haps join­ing new sib­lings and most likely given a new name.

Upon fi­nal­iza­tion of the adop­tion, the par­ents are is­sued a new birth cer­tifi­cate for the adopted child. Ev­ery live birth in the United States is recorded and the child is is­sued a birth cer­tifi­cate, con­sid­ered a vi­tal record and an of­fi­cial doc­u­ment. How­ever, the cer­tifi­cate given to the adop­tive par­ents is al­tered to re­flect “as if ” they gave birth to the child.

The names of the adop­tive par­ents re­place the orig­i­nal par­ents, and the new name given to the adopted child re­places the orig­i­nal name given at birth. Once the adop­tion is fi­nal­ized, the orig­i­nal birth cer­tifi­cate is then sealed with the adop­tion records and filed away in the state ar­chives where no one may have ac­cess to it with­out a court or­der, in­clud­ing the child.

Ul­ti­mately, it is the day the child re­ceives a new iden­tity and loses their orig­i­nal iden­tity. Although this may ap­pear to many as sym­bolic or a bu­reau­cratic ne­ces­sity, it is a step that cre­ates many hur­dles and a bur­den­some process if she or he wishes to learn about their ori­gins and ac­cess vi­tal in­for­ma­tion about them­selves.

Each state has its own leg­is­la­tion per­tain­ing to adoptees, with var­i­ous de­grees of re­stric­tions to ob­tain ac­cess to orig­i­nal birth cer­tifi­cates.

In 1947, Mary­land be­came one of all but two states who be­gan seal­ing records the fol­low­ing decade. Adoptees, orig­i­nal par­ents and bi­o­log­i­cal sib­lings wish­ing to ob­tain non­iden­ti­fy­ing and med­i­cal in­for­ma­tion could reg­is­ter with Mary­land’s Mu­tual Con­sent Vol­un­teer Adop­tion Reg­istry man­aged by the So­cial Ser­vice Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

If a match was made be­tween in­di­vid­u­als who had reg­is­tered, the ad­min­is­tra­tion fa­cil­i­tated the ex­change of in­for­ma­tion. How­ever, ad­vo­cates for open records tes­ti­fied that of­ten records con­tained in­com­plete or no med­i­cal in­for­ma­tion and that the reg­istry re­sulted in only ap­prox­i­mately 20 matches in the course of 10 years prior to 1998, thus re­veal­ing a costly and in­ef­fec­tive sys­tem.

Sub­se­quently, in 1999 a con­fi­den­tial in­ter­me­di­ary pro­gram of search, con­tact and re­union ser­vices was es­tab­lished, for a fee, for adop­tions fi­nal­ized af­ter Jan. 1, 2000. In ad­di­tion, orig­i­nal par­ents were given the op­tion to with­hold (veto) their iden­ti­fy­ing in­for­ma­tion, within the file and on the orig­i­nal birth cer­tifi­cate.

It is a fun­da­men­tal right for ev­ery in­di­vid­ual to know their per­sonal his­tory and ori­gins. Ev­ery ef­fort should be made to pre­serve the in­tegrity and avail­abil­ity of the adoptee’s bi­o­log­i­cal ori­gins for fu­ture ac­cess. Doesn’t an adopted in­di­vid­ual de­serve the right to be treated with dig­nity and feel that she or he is val­ued as the per­son they were born to be?

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