Issues Change With The Times

Original birth certificates and name changes have been an issue for adult adoptees. Many adoptees still can not acquire their original birth certificates. My parents were adopted in the 1930s. In adulthood, both learned the names they were born as but nothing about their original families. I do have my mom’s original birth certificate which was very helpful as all she knew about her birth parents’ names was Mr and Mrs JC Moore (which reveals very little). I never could get my dad’s original birth certificate because California is one of those states that won’t release it without a court order. I did learn his birth mother’s name thanks to a handwritten note on a letter concerning the changed birth certificate in the state of Texas that his adoptive mother wrote down. Turns out she was unwed.

We still have new members come into my all things adoption group with questions pre-adoption about how to handle the birth certificate for pre-school children and name changes. In today’s modern society, most are over thinking what a more open and progressive society have made a moot point. While conservatives and evangelicals may not like these changes to marriage and family units, the changed nature of society is a positive development for adoptees.

Divorce, remarriage, blended families, single mothers and same sex partnerships, to name just a few of the complicating factors, have resulted in what once might have been a legal issue with schools and medical records, no longer matter regarding the child’s name. What does still matter is identity and true family origins. Keeping the original birth certificate intact still matters. Not sealing adoption records matters. Today, an adoption decree is all the legal documentation an adoptive parent needs to establish their responsibility to the child. A birth certificate and the child’s name no longer need to be changed. Some adoption agencies and social workers, perhaps even some legal authorities may still try to make changes a requirement but in reality, there is no longer a basis to do that.

There is one issue that did come up that could matter. That is where violence or some kind of public notoriety could follow a child throughout their life. One adoptive mother with just such an issue shared that she was able to get mentions of these events, where the child is also mentioned, removed from public access. She asked the kid’s attorney, the judge, assistant district attorney and the district attorney to send letters to the news outlets that covered the original story. They did that and it worked for this family. So, with some help, even news coverage can be buried. That said, as the child matures, they are still to be fully informed in an age appropriate way about these circumstances and if necessary, with the help of a trauma informed therapist. Never hide the truth from the child who it concerns.

One other adoptive parent of an older child mentioned that their child legally changed their name for reasons of their own. In their experience, the name change did not cause any problem with passport and Real ID, and even the change of gender did not cause a problem either. All that was needed was the proper documentation about these changes and they simply followed the rules related to those changes.

Bastard Nation

I just learned about this organization today. Bastard Nation advocates for the civil and human rights of adult citizens who were adopted as children. Only the states of Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Hawai’i, Kansas, Oregon, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island allow adult adoptees to have unrestricted access to their own original birth records!

Bastard Nation asserts that it is the right of people everywhere to have their official original birth records unaltered and free from falsification, and that the adoptive status of any person should not prohibit him or her from choosing to exercise that right. We have reclaimed the badge of bastardy placed on us by those who would attempt to shame us; we see nothing shameful in having been born out of wedlock or in being adopted. 

As a 501(c)(4), Bastard Nation does not retain all of the perks associated with being a 501(c)(3) non-profit (donations are not tax-deductible), but in return we have the freedom to support legislation and political campaigns, and in general to move beyond the arena of education into political advocacy.

Bastard Nation has published The Bastard Chronicles: 20 Years of Adoptee Equality Activism in the U.S. and the Birth of a Bastard Nation, compiled and edited by Marla Paul. It features a diverse collection of Bastard theory, and practice, Bastard and Bastard Nation history, legislative and political action, personal stories, art, and literature.

During my own efforts to uncover my grandparents’ identities (both of my parents were adopted), I bumped up against sealed adoption records in Virginia, Arizona and California. Only recently was there success in New York in opening up the records for mature adult adoptees. Had my mom’s adoption not been a part of the Georgia Tann scandal, I would not have her full adoption file from Tennessee today.

In the Bastard Bookstore is a LONG list of books related to adoption.

What Is Wrong About Adoption ?

As a society, we don’t really take care of one another.  Lately, it may seem to people hoping to adopt that the whole possibility has been hijacked and beaten up.  Adoptees and their original family feel they were sold out and ripped to shreds by those who’s financial interests took their parents or children away from each other.

The methods by which adoption has been practiced in this country are a shackle upon the most vulnerable members of the triad.  Sealed adoption records, hidden indentities, have kept people genetically related apart and have treated adoptees like second-class citizens who are denied the same basic civil rights so many people without adoption in their family history take for granted.

The rainbows and unicorns IDEAL of the adoptive experience is scarred now by battles waged by those who the practice has hurt the most.  Families formed by adoption are only seen through the smoke of lies and deception.  But that is changing and in no small part because of adult adoptees who are speaking out about the damage and about their rights to a genuine and authentic identity, even if it is a sorrowful and tragic beginning to their own life.

Back in the late 1980s, the origins of an adoption story may have started this way – An 18 year old girl becomes pregnant from an affair with her employer.  She denies she is pregnant until it is too evident to conceal.  Maybe she looked in the Yellow Pages, where she found what looked like help for her situation.  She moves to a large city and lives with a “host family” (strangers who she’ll lose contact with once her baby is born).  At birth, her child is handed over to a couple she knows only as a photograph.

By moving this young woman to a different state, she was isolated away from family and friends – those who cared about her and may have allowed her a different outcome.  Though she knew who her baby’s father was, the agency may have advised her not to tell him about his child.  She was encouraged to surrender her child by being told how deficit she was to raise that child.  This kind of practice went on for many decades, certainly in the 1930s when my parents were surrendered to adoption and as recently as the late 1980s, when Roe v Wade and the emergence of single mothers as an accepted aspect of society reduced the number of babies available for adoption.

So if you have begun to sense that there is simmering an anti-adoption movement you are not mis-interpreting the noise.  One could even call this the next frontier for reproductive justice.