' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Why judges oppose unsealing birth records: Remember Richard Sherman?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Why judges oppose unsealing birth records: Remember Richard Sherman?

Richard Sherman, thoughtful and intelligent
At Friday's hearing, I was asked why judges who deal with adoptions talk of "devastating consequences" if adoptees can access their original birth certificates. The two surrogate court judges* who spoke made it seem as if the vast majority of us were going to change our names and go into a witness protection program if that is allowed. Assemblyman Joseph Borelli, an adoptee who represents Staten Island, asked why they had this opinion. 

I said it was because of the emotional turmoil of the women at the time of the relinquishment, adding how it is such a difficult time. I said the judges see women who are nearly crazy with
grief and they do not want the world to know that they are giving up a baby. I think I spoke of myself at that time as being "freaked out" that my daughter's birth be kept secret and not published in The Democrat & Chronicle, where the baby's father was the political reporter, and I had been working until I had to quit. I said the judges get stuck with that kind of picture of birth mothers. But times change and so do people and most mothers want reunion. They welcome reunion. I said that how I felt about secrecy then had nothing to do with how I felt about reunion eventually. Most mothers what the records opened because they hope their children will find them. 

What I wish I said: (ain't that the way)
Lorraine at hearing

Think of Richard Sherman, the Seahawk cornerback. He gave that hyped up and emotional screaming response when he was asked about what he said to another player in a game two weeks ago. I knew nothing about Sherman before that and my impression was that he seemed about to blow a fuse, he seemed a crazy man. A day or two later, talking to a CNN reporter, he comes off as a thoughtful, intelligent person who talks about the heat of the moment, and how when you are playing you are supposed to be all hyped up--that is what your job is. I am amazed this Richard Sherman is the same person as that man screaming in anger on camera. I learn that he is a Stanford graduate. He has some credits towards his master's degree. 

Suddenly Richard Sherman is a whole different person. 

Think of birth mothers at the most traumatic moments of their lives, and that is what these judges are seeing. That is their image of the mother giving up a child. And that is the image they conjure up when these judges think about giving adoptees access to their names. They see a frightful, scared woman or teenager who wants this birth and baby kept secret. They only see part of the picture. They only see birth mothers at their Richard Sherman moment.--lorraine
*Women who relinquish in private adoption go before a surrogate or family court judge. 

WATCH A VIDEO RECORDING OF THE HEARING: http://assembly.state.ny.us/av/
State Statutes Results (New York)
State Statutes Search (choose state)

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The Adoption Reader: Birth Mothers, Adoptive Mothers, and Adopted Daughters Tell Their Stories

Wonderful, insightful, moving essays about adoption told from three perspectives. Full Disclosure: Lorraine's essay opens the book. 


  1. I surrendered my son in 1960. I returned to college, graduated, married, raised 3 subsequent children, became an educator, earned an advanced degree, and retired. My son found me in 2000. Yes, I was thrown into the grief I buried when I signed those papers, but I got past it ! I realized I was not the powerless young woman I was then. My son and I are in a mutually respectful relationship. His natural family welcomed him. He knows who he is. What could be wrong with helping people know themselves ?

  2. Playing the devil's advocate: In some very backwards cultures, the revelation that one has been pregnant may mean dishonor for the family and thus could the family feel obliged to kill the offending woman.
    Furthermore there are cases in which the child has been sired by a dangerous criminal, and secrecy in those cases is very important too.
    Protection of the privacy of the MOTHER is thus in some cases absolutely needed to protect her life, but those cases are rare. A possible contact veto is thus 100% defensible, but one might very well demand a justification for that contact veto, to be considered by a judge.

  3. My daughter's mother never wanted the OBC sealed, and in fact, didn't know this occurred until I told her (I actually didn't either, at first). Rather than there being pain from the possibility the OBC would not be sealed, she and the father experienced pain because it would be sealed.

    I'm glad we both have copies of the original. But it isn't the same to her and him, and it won't be the same to our daughter, either.

    While I understand that popular opinion likes to say birth mothers from the 60s, 70s, 80s, were promised anonymity (even though they were not), the prevalence of open adoptions today only proves the farce of that idea. There is very little true anonymity in domestic adoptions now. We could get into the rampant closure of open adoptions, but I think the general point is still that complete anonymity is not an occurrence today in domestic adoptions.

    We could argue the opening of sealed records, but in the meantime, why are we continuing to seal records in open adoption?? When there is no anonymity, why does the OBC need to be sealed?? What is the argument for continuing this ridiculous practice??

  4. Why are we still sealing birth certificates? Because of judges like I describe and agencies like sealed certificates and adoptive parents not demanding fully open adoptions and agencies don't tell women they can have them and because the law still has not changed since 1935 due to reasons above, and powerful enemies in the legislature, such as Helene Weinstein. Danny O'Donnell.

  5. Lorraine, I suppose I meant them more as rhetorical questions. It's really upsetting to me that we still have this practice, especially for my daughter. I understand completely the agency corruption and moronic judges with no ability to think logically. I read through these statements made by judges, and our situation runs counter to each one.

    At the heart of the matter is adoptees. As children, they have no say in their adoption. As adults, their voices are silenced. "We know what is better for you." My daughter will grow up knowing her other parents, and still, the state deems itself better able to determine what she should and should not have access to. They believe they alone can speak for first mothers and adoptees.

    As for adoptive parents who are against open records, it is simply a testament to their personal selfishness. It's pathetic that selfishness is what drove the creation of this law and is what keeps it in place today.

  6. tiffany, I knew it was rhetorical, but wanted to get out my anger over the still sealed records and the smug judges you are convinced they know everything. What they know is that adoptees are second class citizens and should stay that way. They would have argued pro-slavery.

  7. Another big issue is that many mothers were threatened and stigmatized by the very system that offered them protection from stigmatization through sealed records. They abuse us to keep us from abuse. it's garbage.

  8. The judges who spoke at the hearing were infuriating. It's the same story over and over again. The birthmother afraid that her "adopted child" will appear on her doorstep. My God....the judge from Suffolk County even used the word "blackmail"!

    I have stated in previous comments that I do not wish to reunite with anyone. Many do not agree with my reasons, but that is how it has to be. I am not interested in meeting anyone or trying to build any relationships. HOWEVER: I need a document of my birth that is legal, useful, and truthful. The fake document I have is useless to me. Open the records, let me read my file and learn where I came from. Let me learn how this situation that I find myself in came to be. And let me be in possession of my documents in case I should need them. I am not a child, and resent still being treated as one. I'm not going to blackmail anyone. I just want what everyone else takes for granted.

  9. I'm an AP that did not "seal" my daughter's Chinese records. I use her OBC listing her parents as unknown and the adoption certificate listing me as a single adoptive parent. I also have a "record of foreign birth" from Nevada. These, along with her "certificate of citizenship" have been accepted everywhere, including the passport office.
    It was about $5000 to re-adopt in Nevada, so my lawyer said "why bother? You don't need to seal the files".
    I have never had any anyone inspecting these documents even comment on my daughter's adoptive status over the last 14 years.
    I would like to see every adopted person use these document instead. The "amended birth certificate" is just silly.



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