Sunday, November 04, 2007

Scary things about adoption #3: How hard it is to get it

I find it frightening how difficult it is to get real kids to 'get it' when it comes to equal access to our original birth certificates.

Even real kids who think they 'get it', some of them, they don't. They are trying real hard, I know, I can see it.

But they don't.

Case in point: following is a very common real kid statement. It's paraphrased, but it's one I've seen countless times on forums and blogs:

Secrets and lies in adoption are the reason I chose open adoption. I have my child's original birth certificate and will make sure it stays safe so s/he will always have access to it.

I know, I can hear you now, OMG Theresa just how ungrateful can you be? What's wrong with that statement?

Plenty. But I hope I can articulate this clearly enough to make those who've said it understand. Let me try this scenario

Prior to the 1930's, divorce and marriage records were kept open in all states. If a couple should get a divorce, either party would still be able to get access to the original marriage certificate should they want it for whatever reason. After this time, however, marriage records in all states but two became sealed for a number of reasons. It was seen that sealing the original marriage certificate would save a remarried adult from the stigma of divorce. Also, some new spouses did not like the idea that their spouse would want a copy of the marriage certificate.

There has been a growing movement to open sealed marriage certificates, and several states have passed legislation to allow citizens to receive copies of their original records. In the majority of states though, records remain sealed. This is seen as a way to protect the privacy and confidentiality of those who do not wish their former spouse to track them down and intrude on their lives. Occasionally second spouses would keep a copy of the original marriage certificate and ensure it was kept in a safe spot so they could give it to their spouse at their discretion.

Please try and understand, my original birth certificate is no one's business but my own. It is a government record about me that by my status as a taxpaying citizen, I should have access to. No one has the right to determine if I should have access to it at their discretion. Not my adoptive parents, not my natural parents, not the State of Pennsylvania, not Catholic Charities, not the NCFA - no one.

It's mine, and I want it.

So when I see adoptive parents - or, on second reading of this post, even natural parents for that matter, speak of keeping their child's original birth certificate safe for them, I'd like to ask: how would you feel, now, as an adult, knowing your own parents had access to a record on you that they could determine if you could have or not? How would you feel if your spouse, or your parents, no matter that it was the best of intentions and done with a totally open heart, had access to any information on you, that you as an adult did not have access to?

You really want to give up your power that much? To allow another adult to make decisions for you?

I know it's difficult to believe, but in the blink of an eye, before you know it, your child will be an adult. Trust me on this one. Just yesterday my kids were screaming and crying and throwing temper tantrums because they were only allowed to get 1 movie at a time each from Blockbuster. But today they are adults. I don't know how it happened so fast, when just yesterday I was like, 30, but it happens.

No one should have the right to label anyone as a perpetual child needing protection from their past when they are legal adults and of an age to make that decision on their own. I'd urge anyone who has made the statement above to wipe it out of their mind, and instead of advocating open adoption, advocate equal access. Please, for the sake of your child who will one day be an adult, don't allow state governments to treat them as that forever child.

Unless you are in an open records state, the state you live discriminates against your child and considers them a dangerous second class citizen. Your open adoption will not change this, nor will it ease the anger and frustration your adult child will feel when this reality sets in. Knowing their natural parents will not take this away.

This is not about reunion - this is about their civil rights. Discrimination hurts.

And no matter how old your kids are, things that hurt them, will hurt you. I know. Anything that causes pain to any of my adult kids hurts me, because I love them. If my kids were being discriminated against, I'd go nucking futs.

I don't need my original birth certificate. I know my history.

But I want it. It's mine. And no one has the right to it but me.

Please try and understand.

In spite of this, many won't. They haven't lived having their own country and fellow citizens discriminate against them by nature of their illegitimacy, so they just won't.

For every adoptee that wants their records, there is the potential to have the four most important people in their lives advocating for them. But how many do?

And that scares me.

6 complaints from ingrates:

Anonymous,  November 4, 2007 at 3:15 PM  

The problem might have two facets. One that when a child is young it is hard to imagine them ever being older. When a child is young you are still in the stage where daddy and mommy can fix everything. It is hard to imagine an independent adult when someone is in nursery school. Second it is that if something does not hit you personally then it does not seem to matter. OK so someones child may have their birth certificate so to them they cant comprehend that there is discrimination going on.

Mary November 4, 2007 at 8:48 PM  

Seems today's aparents still have the "I will let them have their OBC" what is with the LET it is not theirs to LET.arg

Ungrateful Little Bastard November 5, 2007 at 10:54 AM  

J - point taken

Mary for me the idea of keeping an OBC safe... it's like a bandaid solution. It helps one adoptee when they reach adulthood but it doesn't address the greater issue, which is the civil rights of adoptees.

And then of course let's not forget the way adoption records tend to catch fire or become destroyed at an alarming rate. I'm not the only adoptee I know whose parents kept identifying information for me (in my case, my hospital bracelet), only to have them later destroyed in a flood/fire/etc.

Unknown November 5, 2007 at 5:45 PM  

This is an excellent post.
You put it so clearly.

I have my daughters original birth registration, i happened to make a photo copy of it before i sent it off.i had no idea how important it would become.

and i would never deny my daughter access to it. it's hers.

abebech November 5, 2007 at 11:13 PM  

"it's like a bandaid solution. It helps one adoptee when they reach adulthood but it doesn't address the greater issue"

You're right.
J's also right that all too often parents think baby, baby, baby (and occassionally child) but rarely future grown-up. We need to act with the awareness that our children will be grown-ups to whom we will be accountable for all of our actions and inaction.

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