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Adoption Fables and the Right to Know
One of my articles is about adoptee identity and knowledge of our natural families. Our origins; our true identities, should not be masked. This is how adoptees’ rights are restored: by allowing us unrestricted access to our unfalsified birth certificates and early care records, and by providing us--as nearly as possible--our family health histories. No adoptee should have to bear the shame and frustration of words such as none available or adopted scrawled across doctors’ health history forms. The circumstances around relinquishment and adoption are as vital to us as our original birth certificates. These records should be available upon request to adult adoptees.
The policy of “non-identifying information” metered out in miserly drops to the adopted adult is archaic. Catholic Charities continues to have a hold on my mother’s name although I reunited with her in 1993. That they are bound to the state law is infuriating but unsurprising. I see the proof in the arrangements between Church and State in the letters I salvaged from my parents’ records. Adoption required a “delicate” treatment to prevent shame and embarrassment to all adult parties, and bastards would be protected, not ostracized on the playground. The pact was secrecy.
But even the most rigid states are moving slowly to full record access, as adoptees advocate for change. On May 27th this year, I mailed forms to the Columbia, SC Vital Records office requesting a copy of my original birth certificate—uncertified, they said it would be. The state adoption law, which eased on May 26th, 2022 took effect a year later but does not grant me full and unrestricted access to my birth records. This “mother, may I?" concession allows that upon permission from the adoptive and/or birth parent(s), an adult adoptee may have them. I sent my birth mother's death certificate with my signed form to SCDHEC. At 72 years of age, I am still infantilized by my birth state. As of July 14th, that piece of mail has not arrived.
You may like to read my full piece in Visible Magazine. Here are a few excerpts:
The falsehoods around my origins adhered to me. I lied to create a self because the truth of my identity was masked.
They were incapable of offering me the comfort I needed. Their lips were sealed like my original birth certificate and my true identity.
The laws that treat adoptees as children are archaic. States are thieves of what inherently belongs to us. It is our civil right to know our identities, our heritage, and our ethnicity. It takes persistence to get these laws changed: our determination drives adoptees to seek our truths, what we lost when our records were sealed, what is most important; intrinsic to all. The movement to restore adoptees’ rights is alive. Adoptees, bastards, foundlings, and orphans have suffered a great loss--identity. We are all entitled to the truthful date of our birth, and our actual birthplace. We must have open access to our birth certificates. The laws that deny us our right to our identity must not define us.
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