Connecticut has a semi-open policy on giving adult adoptees access to their birth certificates — any one adopted after October 1983 has access, and anyone adopted beforehand does not.
The date was arbitrary, and it needs to be abolished. I wrote this for Mother Courant.
I understand adoptee desire to learn the circumstances surrounding their birth and adoption. I get a little uncomfortable, however, totally disregarding the privacy rights of the natural parents, or adoptive parents, that were guaranteed to them under existing law at the time.
A delicate balance to be sure. But one that deserves consideration, I think.
If CT has already opened the door for younger adoptees, what’s the point of keeping these records — which really belong to the adoptees — from older folks whose birth parents are dying off (that’s cold, but still).
Like I said…it’s about laws that guaranteed privacy rights at the time. The parents acted in good faith. Must not the State? Without mutual consent of the parties to a legal agreement, in my opinion, very special circumstances would have to exist to negate all or part of that kind of contract.
It’s been done. Two of my cousins went through it decades ago. They didn’t get everything they wanted, but they got what they needed. (Medical history information.)
Do birth records “belong” to the adoptees? Or the State?
I guess that’s the critical question. To my way of thinking, those records, which are so important to the identity of a person, belong to that person.
My cousins spent years in court finding out quite the opposite. Most birth records are public records, the disposition of which being under the control of law in whatever jurisdiction the record originated. Not being an economic resource, birth records are not subject to claims of property. They don’t really “belong” to any single person.
That interpretation might explain why this is just a slow process, changing legislators’ minds. I maintain that in this case, ownership goes to the person to whom the document is attached. Without that person, there would be no document. What other legal document attached to me am I not privy to ( I’m. It talking about FBI dossiers, etc.)? And I, as a nephew n-adoptee, have free and easy access my own records. keepingbthis from adoptees is strictly based in shame and adoptees have none. None! And if it’s a public record, access should not be dictated by zip code. It’s a public record.
If a claim to property rights, ownership, could be made, the person born is not the only individual “attached” to the document. There’s a parent, or two, involved. Without them, as you say it is with the child, there would be no document. There are other parties “attached” to the document. The people who created the document. The medical personnel. And some other entities could also be involved. Hospitals, for instance, and in the case of my cousins, churches. But property is not an issue. Nobody owns public records.
Legally speaking, shame is not an issue. Privacy, on the other hand is.
Alright then. Who has the larger claim on that document? The person whose birth it announces. Given the importance attached to proving identity, the only person in the equation who really NEEDS that document is the adoptee. Certainly the medical personnel don’t. The parent(s) can live his/her life without once needing to refer to it. Not the adoptee. And public records belong to the public. In this case, the adoptee has the greater claim. As for privacy vs. shame, we can split the difference on that. Why a need for privacy? Are you saying shame isn’t involved?
Being parties to an adoption contract, adoptees can assert legal claims, based on need, against those terms, or laws, that restrict their access to certain information. In adjudicating those claims, however, the individual rights of all the parties, along with laws protecting those rights at the time the contract was made, will be considered.
The adoptee’s need to know will be judged against the need for privacy asserted, and agreed to, by the other parties to the contract, at that time, and whether that need, and that agreement, remain valid in light of subsequent events.
In the case of my cousins, their need to have access to as much medical history of the birth parents as was available was recognized and acted upon by the court. Their need to know the identity of those parents was not. Things might be different now, if they made the same claim today. Laws have changed. Attitudes have changed.
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