Closed Adoption Rights: Accessing the Records

Scan 133380001by Megan Thiemann

I can remember the first time I found out my boyfriend’s father, James, was adopted. I approached him with questions about his biological parents, and all he said to me was that he was part of a closed adoption, and records on file are not always there. He had searched for his original birth certificate with the names of his biological birth parents and he did find the name of his birth mother, but without an address or phone number there was no record of her anywhere. He sat there uneasy the entire time I interviewed him, with an angry look in his eye. I had to pry this information out of him, he was so upset he wasn’t able to find anything besides a name, that after years of searching he began to think that he wanted nothing to do with his biological family, because there was no way to contact them.

After interviewing him, I decided to look into the issue a little more, because with all that hatred he had inside of him, he couldn’t be the only one feeling this way. I thought there had to be a change in these rules since his time. With my research I found that the door to accessing these records was still locked for those children who are a part of a closed adoption, I realized at this moment that James doesn’t even know where he is from, what his original hometown is, who he looks like, or if he has any siblings. All these questions ran through my head for hours, I felt he should know, and I hadn’t even known him that long.

Adoption agencies are well aware that they are keeping valuable information from these children’s lives, and yet they continue to do nothing to change this. Keeping this valuable information from the child is indecent. No adopted child should be kept from knowing where they came from, or more importantly if they have any serious health issues that they could inherit from their birth parents. Adoption Agencies and the government should allow all adopted children in a closed adoption at the age of 18 to contact their birth parents or acquire their records without their adoptive parents permission. With so many new health discoveries, the records should be easy to access, it would benefit the child, the birth parents and the adoptee.

About one million children are living with adoptive parents, and with that many adoptions there are bound to be health issues (“Adoption Statistics” par. 4). Right now, adoption agencies do not allow records to be retrieved unless it’s through a court rule, but it shouldn’t be this difficult. If there was some kind of medical emergency and the adoptive family has no clue how to help, they must rely on the information from the agency that would be allowed to be accessed.  In an article comparing a closed adoption to an open one, the research concluded that “in the last few decades our knowledge about inherited nature of many health problems has increased, making some of the limitations of closed adoption a growing concern” (“Benefits of Open Adoption vs. Closed Adoption” par. 3). These records are not just something the child wants, but it’s a medical issue that needs addressed. Imagine all the issues the child could go through life with not even knowing, but just simply being able to access these important health records could treat it.

The child is ultimately the most important part of this adoption equation, and according to the American Adoption Agency statistics have shown that “over 90 percent of adopted children ages 5 and older have positive feelings about their adoption” (“American Adoptions — America’s Adoption Agency” par. 14). This means there are no hard feelings about being adopted and chances are the child will handle meeting the birth parents well. When looking at an adoption agencies website it found that during a British study the family contact between the adoptive family and the birth family was beneficial to the child’s ability to discover a sense of identity (“The Benefits of Birth Family Contact” par. 8). Adoption agencies should take these statistics into consideration when deciding to not allow contact without the birth parents permission at age 18.

The adoptive parents sometimes have the hardest decision to make; whether or not they should be in contact with the birth parents after the age 18. Janette Logan and Carole Smith, Senior Lecturers in the Department of Applied Social Science at the University of Manchester, write a compelling argument about the impact of contact through adoption as well as the benefits the child will see. Allowing the child to contact their birth parents not only helps the child but, “continuing contact, and particular face to face contact helps adoptive parents feel confident about their parenting, more satisfied with contact arrangement and secure in a sense of entitlement to their adopted child” (Logan, and Smith 29). Not only would being in contact make it easier for the child to grow up, but it would also help the parents from both parties involved find a sense of togetherness. A group of professors in the family psychology field published a journal about the relationship of the birth mother and the child, and how it helps “mitigate birth mothers’ feeing’s of pain and loss, resulting in less destructive behavior and greater emotional well-being” (Ge et al. par. 4). Adoption is not a simple process, and if this process can be made easier for the child at anytime in their life it’s worth it. Unlike what adoption agencies would like to believe, allowing the child to contact or get the records of his or her birth parents would be beneficial. Maybe my boyfriend’s father wouldn’t be so angry, would want to talk about that part of his life, and wouldn’t feel the anger he had within if it were easier to access these records.

Works Cited

“Adoption Statistics.” Adoption Beyond. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.

“American Adoptions — America’s Adoption Agency.” Adoption Statistics. American Adoptions, n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2013.

“The Benefits of Birth Family Contact.” – Adoption Information Center of Illinois. Adoptions Unlimited Inc., n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.

“Benefits of Open Adoption vs. Closed Adoption.” Benefits of Open Adoption vs. Closed Adoption. Dex Media, Inc., n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.

Ge, Xiaojia, Misaki Natsuaki, David Martin, and Leslie Leve. “Bridging the Divide: ………Openness in Adoption and Post-adoption Psychosocial Adjustment among Birth ………and Adoptive Parents.NCBI. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 25 ………Nov. 2013.

Logan, Janette, and Carole Smith. “After Adoption : Direct Contact and Relationships.EBL Reader. Taylor and Francis, 11 Jan 2013. Web. 24 Sep 2013.


5 thoughts on “Closed Adoption Rights: Accessing the Records

  1. One huge fact that hit me was “over 90 percent of adopted children ages 5 and older have positive feelings about their adoption”. That really surprises me, since being adopted and knowing others that were adopted it was very different. There was great amount of hatred and sadness from individuals I know that came from an adoption. Even greater trouble with finding who you are as a person growing up with a family that you don’t feel like you belong. I love the article because it hits home for me. Even open adoptions are still hard to find your birth parents with all the legal information.

  2. Great article Megan! I think that once you’re 18 you should be able to find your birth parents if you want to. My mom was adopted and after she turned 18 she did find her birth mother. I think a lot of parents who adopted their kids are scared that once their child finds its birth parents they are going to be forgotten or not seen as the actual parents. My mom always says that her birth mother isn’t her real mother, my grandma is her real mother.

  3. I agree kids should be able to see who their real parents are or know about them, know there history so if anything happens it could be generic. Some kids will be hurt by trying to find who their real parents, for knowing the reason of getting adopted. I do believe once they hit eighteen it should be their decision if they want to try and find who their real parents are. This is a great!

  4. This is a great article, I personally have an older brother who was adopted from the Marshall Islands (Near Hawaii) No I believe to my knowledge it was an open adoption because his parents contacted him when he was older. I’m no sure where I stand on this because I do agree with you to a point, I think they should only be allow to see each other if both sides are in agreement. I know my brother personal would have rather had a closed adoption because he has grown up his whole life being part of our family and he didn’t like the idea that he was from a different one. So I can se both sides of this. All I know is that regardless of where my brother came from or who his birth parents are he will always and forever be my brother and I don’t see him any differently. a lot of times I even forget that he was even adopted at all.

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