Maryland must open its birth certificates to adoptees
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.”
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?