What many open records opponents believe about adoptee’s access to birth records is not supported by evidence. Here’s why.
Because an adult adoptee still has to obtain permission to see their original birth certificate from their birth/first parent, this law does not address an adoptee’s fundamental civil right to see their birth records. The American Adoption Congress estimates that state registry programs nationally have an average failure rate of 98 percent. The registry is failing in Indiana because:
Most birth/first parents during the 1941 to 1993 period were never given an option to have an open adoption. Standards of the day required birth/first parents relinquishing a child give the child up with the understanding they would not contact the adoptive family or the adoptee. This was done so everyone could “move on” and adoptive families could feel protected from any unwanted contact by the birth/first parents.
Just because a birth/first parent doesn’t search for their child doesn’t mean they do not wish to be contacted.
In fact, when England opened its sealed birth certificates countrywide, a study by the British Association for Adoption and Fostering found that 94 percent of non-searching birth/first parents were pleased to be contacted by their relinquished children. Similar results occurred when records were opened in Scotland. Indeed, in all of the 13 states in the US where closed original birth certificates were made available to adult adoptees, there have been no complaints, court cases or restraining orders issued associated with the new laws.
In fact, in legal battles over access across the United States, courts are finding that confidentiality cannot be guaranteed to birth/first parents.
Every child adopted in Indiana since 1994 now has the right to view his or her original birth certificate in adulthood. The change in the access would only apply to adoptees whose records are now sealed in Indiana: those who were adopted between the years of 1941 and 1993. Adoptees affected are now adults, most with children and even grandchildren of their own. The strength of the bonds with their adoptive families is hardly in question. In fact, adoptive parents adopting today welcome the access to medical information and historical information birth/first parents can provide. They understand that when adoptees know the full story of their background, they develop better emotionally and create stronger bonds with their adoptive families.
The evidence in other states where open access has passed also shows widespread support for the measure among adoptive parents.
Evidence from states where access has been granted proves this so-called “nightmare scenario” simply doesn’t happen. In fact, in states where adult adoptees can access their original birth certificates, an average of only between 3 and 10 percent of adult adoptees request their original birth certificate. And even among this group, only a minority take the fateful step to seek a meeting with a birth parent.
HEAR supports the idea of confidential intermediaries, understanding that they can be very useful to adoptees who can afford it and who do not wish to contact their birth parents themselves. However, we do not feel using a confidential intermediary, or asking anyone’s permission, should be required for adoptees to obtain a copy of their original birth certificate, or to mount a search for that birth/first parent on their own.
Those adopted after 1994 in Indiana have the fundamental right to view their original birth certificates with no conditions. All we are asking for is that those adopted in Indiana between 1941 and 1993 have the same right — full and equal access to the essential facts about their origins.