The Era Of Sealed Records Continues

It is not some long ago issue. For many adoptees, their personal history, their adoption file and their original birth certificates are withheld from them even today in maybe half these United States. It is true that there has been progress made in some states. I believe New York was the most recent.

So today, I read the heartbreaking account below of yet another adoptee struggling with this, just as my mom did (however, she was denied because her mom was dead and her father’s status could not be determined – thankfully, I received her full file in 2017 from the state of Tennessee – if only she could have had the peace of mind her file would have brought her but she was also dead by the time I was able to obtain it on her behalf as her descendent).

Here’s that other adoptees’ sad tale –

I had to friend request my biological mother again. We were friends before when we first connected, but I unfriended her after writing her a long message unleashing my pent-up anger and hurt over my adoption. Anyway, the state of Florida says that if I want a copy of my original birth certificate, I need this woman to write a note permitting the courts to unseal my records. So, I have to expose myself to more trauma and talk to someone I don’t want to talk to, so I can have the factual account of my birth. I am so tired of laws that hurt adoptees and protect biological parents. It’s bullshit.

One response was this – It’s a human rights violation, considering these people signed away any legal rights they had to us, so they are legal strangers to us. They have as much to do with us as a neighbor, a store clerk or a real estate agent. Yet we are still beholden to them, when laws that separated us, make us ask their permission in the ultimate of hypocrisy.

Another adoptee shares –

I was born in the “blackout” period for Massachusetts adoptees. I think it was from 1974 through 2008. If you were born in that time frame, you need to convince a judge there is a “good reason” to give you your original vital records information. I don’t know what that is but I really don’t want my adoptive parents finding out I’m even poking yet, I’d rather have them on my side first.

And yet another from my own home state – I was adopted in Missouri. I had to have written permission from one of my adoptive parents to get my information. My adoptive dad wrote the letter for me. If he had died before the letter was written, I would not have been able to get any information.

And I agree with this adoptive parent – I have always felt that the Amended Birth Certificate was a lie and an awful thing to do to a child who has every right to that document. Blog writer’s note – For both of my parents, their birth certificates were total fabrications. How can it be a good thing to grow a life upon a lie ?

No adult should have to get any other adult’s permission to obtain their own records.

Someone else writes – I’m confused about how this protects natural parents. It seems like it’s just a difficult-to-impossible side quest to make it less likely that any adoptee will find their natural family, all to benefit adopters who fear reunion, in the guise of “protecting the birth mother’s privacy”.

Exactly !! The stated reason for the secrecy has always been to protect the privacy of the original parents but that rings hollow and it has been abundantly proven that the reason is to protect the adoptive parents from dealing with adoptee/original parent intrusions.

Sometimes It Helps To Know

Street Urchins

The Industrial Revolution in the 1880s and the influx of 35 million European immigrants to the US swelled the ranks of the poor.  Some families were unable to care for their children.  Desperate mothers gave their babies to workers at foundling asylums. Lacking resources, these children were sometimes boarded with uneducated women who killed them with neglect.

Any abandoned children found by the police were usually already dead.

Poorhouses were filthy institutions to which abandoned children were sent if they lived to the age of 4. In these places, the children were mixed in with criminally insane adults.

In times like that, orphanages must have seemed like progress.  However, early orphanages had mortality rates as high as 50%.

Another option was a “baby farm”. These were homes or apartments where, for a fee, uneducated women housed babies whose parents were unable to raise them. Some baby farmers received periodic payments, others were paid in lump sums. Some of these farmers starved, suffocated or drowned “paid for” babies.

If the owner of a “baby farm” took out insurance on the lives of the babies in their care, the death toll rose higher. An 1895 editorial in the New York Times suggested that “life insurance for children should be declared invalid because it was a temptation to inhuman crimes.”

Understandably, children growing up in poorhouses or baby farms, who survived into adolescence, often fled as soon as they were able. Therefore, by 1872, the number of street urchins was high. These children were left to beg, steal, sell newspapers and at times even prostituted themselves for food.

They were the “apple boys” and “flower girls” who sold their goods on street corners, the “singing girls” who boarded docked ships at night to entertain the men with music (and were sometimes raped).

These children slept on steps, in filthy cellars, on the iron tubes of bridges or burned-out safes on Wall Street. Ten would pile together on cold winter nights for warmth or fight for spots near grates through which hot air blew, generated by underground presses.

Homeless children had been so poorly valued that one orphanage in Nashville was called – The Home for Friendless Children. These children were often referred to as “ragamuffins”, “little wanderers”, “street Arabs” or “guttersnipes”.

Massachusetts passed the country’s first adoption law in 1851. Looked at it historically, it would seem an improvement.  Poverty has always been – and continues to be – the reason that children are separated from their natural parents.  Sadly.