' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Hawaii OPENS adoption records!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Hawaii OPENS adoption records!

"Allows adopted individuals who have attained eighteen years of age, adoptive parents, and natural parents unfettered access to the adopted individual's sealed adoption records."

This is the legislative summary of HB 2082 passed by the Hawaii legislature and signed into law by Governor David Ige on June 23, 2016, effective immediately.  No ifs, ands or buts.  All parties affected by an adoption can access the court records just for the asking. They don't have to have a good reason--or any reason at all.

They don't have to implore a stern judge, "Please, please, I have cancer and need to know my family's medical history." No delays to give "birth" mothers the opportunity to opt out which legislators in Illinois, Washington, and other states thought necessary to protect mothers from their shame, i.e. their child.

How did this law come about? The same way all reform legislation comes about--through the diligence of those impacted; in this case Jeffery Guillemette, who just wanted to know the woman who gave birth to him; the commitment of a legislator, Mike Gabbard; the support of local and national organizations including the Adoption Circle of Hawai'i; and a snowballing trend to open records in all states.

Twenty-two states now allow adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates with restrictions and more are sure to follow in the next few years--even the biggies like New York since one of the major opponents, former House Speaker Sheldon Silver, has been found guilty of corruption.*

Adoptee access to birth certificates--allowing them to know their original identities--is only the first step to transparency in adoption. Court records, which Hawaii opened, provide adoptees more information about their birth family, and information about their adoptive parents as well. Since natural mothers are also granted access to the adoption and court records, the impact of this law cannot be overstated: These records give natural parents the name of the adoptive parents and the legal name of their child, often essential for mothers to find their lost child.

My own state, Oregon, passed a law effective in 2014 giving adoptees access to most, but not all, of their court records. The law gives mothers access to court records also, but it requires the mother to obtain a court order signed by a judge although the judge must sign the order uless the judge finds a good reason not to sign  -- most unlikely. The law also denies records to mothers who lost their child through the state child welfare system. Colorado too has moved beyond merely giving adoptees their original birth certificates--a major breakthrough by itself--but the state also allows natural mothers to obtain their child's amended birth certificate and copies of all documents they signed. The victories these new laws give first/natural mothers represent is astounding, considering that in most states legislators are still claim they must "protect" these women from being contacted by their own children, now grown.

With almost half the states giving most adoptees access to their original birth certificates--though all but ten with restrictions--and Hawaii blazing a trail to fully open records, there's no going back.  In a few years, closed records will be a curiosity, much as Madmen appears to the younger generation.

Maahalo nui loa Hawaii! You may be the 50th State, but you're number ONE when it comes to opening adoption records.

And Happy 4th of July to everyone, particular our readers in the Aloha state for whom Independence Day has taken on a special meaning.--jane
*Silver is appealing his conviction and remains free on bail at this writing. A recent Supreme Court decision regarding a former governor of Virginia, Robert McConnell, also convicted of corruption, may work in Silver's favor to have his 12-year-sentence lifted as well as his conviction overturned.
We hope not.

For a copy of the law, forms, and other information see Adoption Circle of Hawai'i.
Man's efforts to find birth parents leads to legislation that eases access to adoption records

Sheldon Silver, A blockage to unsealing OBC's in New York is convicted
A Joyous New Year -- some good news in adoption reform
Another year if progress in adoption reform
Unalienable rights of parents

The Adoption Reader: Birth Mothers, Adoptive Mothers, and Adopted Daughters Tell Their Stories
With eloquence and conviction, more than 30 diverse birth mothers, adoptive mothers and adoptees tell their adoption stories and explore what is a deeply emotional, sometimes controversial, and always compelling experience that affects millions of families and individuals.


  1. HR Queen Elizabeth 2July 4, 2016 at 4:45 PM

    Yay! God bless Hawaii and all who sail in her.


  2. Twenty two is fantastic amount of states. I believe as a reunited mom adoptees and mom's should have unfettered access to records.

  3. Dear Hawaii, what a beautiful thing you have done. This freeing of human beings has, I'm certain, been met with cheers, grateful hearts and joy across the land. It certainly has in this house.

    With gratitude and great hope for the rest of the nation to follow your lead.
    signed, a mother in Missouri.

  4. This is good news, although I don't agree with the adoptive parents having access. This has nothing to do with them. The secrecy of adoption separates blood relatives, not the court-appointed parents from the child. If any information, such as medical history, needs to be accessed for a minor, then the minor child should have the authority to request his/her record. If the A-parents view it, fine, but at least it was the accessed by the child and the child knows that A-mom and A-dad are accessing the info.

    I don't trust A-parents to snoop around on their own, without the chid's knowledge. If the social worker wrote something rude and callous in the file, the A-parents could use that to manipulate the child out of reunion. ("We always suspected your birthmother had difficult family issues. It's best for you to stay away from her.")

    But as stated: this is good news...GREAT news...for mother and child.

    1. Anon, this refers to the court records, which wouldn't contain a lot of info about the first parents besides those of fact such as name and address. Our court records (which we have all the copies of) have nothing at all in them regarding the reasons for adoption or anything personal beyond name and birthdates of the parents.

      I appreciate that they included the adoptive parents since they restricted the adoptee to 18. We have a copy of my daughter's OBC, and we are so careful with it (it's in a safe deposit box). But what if we weren't, and something happened to it? I wouldn't want my daughter to have to wait until she was 18 to get another copy. I don't think the adoptive parents can do any more snooping than they could already, and for current adoptions, most of this stuff is already known and in the open since the vast majority of adoptions are some version of an open adoption.

      I've always loved Hawaii. Here's one more reason! I hope CA follows suit soon.

    2. Tiffany, as a California-born adoptee, I also hope the state comes to its senses and unseals records. However, I've not heard of any recent initiatives or legislative interest in making that happen.

      Even if California does open records, I'm not sure it would help me personally, since I was adopted (twice!) in states OTHER than California. I have adoption records in Indiana and Connecticut, neither of which allows me access.

      Unfortunately, I'm not the only person whose adoption was finalized in a different state than where s/he was born. For complete fairness, what we need is for all -- ALL -- states to fully open records. NOW.

    3. Kaye, I haven't in the past year or so. I continue to write to my representatives every few months, and I watch for anything that may show up on the dockets.

      And I agree with you- it should be a federal matter to ensure all adoptees have their OBC.

  5. I think this is a great thing -- that's why I mentioned it in a response to Jane's earlier blog post about adoption records ("What adoption records belong to whom?").

    But I'm sincerely curious, Jane -- why are you lauding this openness, while concurrently saying in that earlier entry that birth mother records are likely incorrect (due to social worker bias) and shouldn't be available to the adoptee anyway because that would be an invasion of the mother's privacy?

    1. Kaye, the Hawaii law covers COURT records, not all records. The content of court records is specified by statute. They contain limited personal information about the natural mother; typically her name, city where she lives, age, and her reason for surrender which is often boilerplate.

      My concern is with adoption agency records which can contain all manner of social worker gossip and irrelevant details about both natural parents and adoptive parents. With the exception of significant medical information and identifying information, they should not be available to adoptees or to adoptive parents.

    2. I was told that after my request was received to get records Its going to take 4-6 months just to get letter from records department asking if I wanted them and id have to send money to pay for the records. my deal is if I didn't want the records I wouldn't have requested to begin with. they should allow you to prepay for records and speed up the process. I'm grateful for being able to access records after almost 48 years but them making wait 6 more months is kind of frustrating. do you know any information about this. it is the state of Hawaii.

    3. I know it's frustrating but the court staff, some of whom get upset if the pencil sharpener is moved, are now having to deal with a big change. The records may be off site, in a warehouse somewhere. The records may not be well-indexed because everyone assumed there never would be a need for them. The legislature may not have added staff to handle the requests.

      The frontline court clerks bear the brunt of the new legislation and they may have little if any idea why anyone wants the records. It's been drilled into their heads that closed records are absolutely necessary to protect birth mothers and adoptees from each other and for adoption to function. The staff have been taught that unsealing records without a judge's order is a major transgression. Now, all of a sudden, they have to deal with a bunch of anxious people and find these records and copy them. For some it's not a priority.

      Regarding the fee, in some courts, the fee is partially based on the number of pages to be copied. They can't charge the fee in advance because they don't know what it will be until they find the records.

      Let me suggest that the folks who were instrumental in getting the legislation passed offer to meet with court staff and explain why these records are important to you. You might also explain the history of closed records -- that records were open until the 1930's or later; that they were sealed to protect the adoptees and adoptive family from noisy neighbors.

    4. Lisa--It looks like Hawaii focused on passing legislation that sounds good but made no provisions as to how to do it. What galls me is that after requesting your records you are going to have to wait 4-56 months to make the request "official" it sounds like.

      Other than how this burns my cheese, Jane is right that the clerks in charge are totally baffled on how to carry out their charge. Do you have any information on how many requests they have gotten?

    5. When I have called to ask they just told me it could be several months. They said they were overwhelmed and that's about it. I have been checking my mail daily, I submitted my request right after the law passed. Hoping I hear something soon.

  6. What a wonderful thing you have done Hawaii. god bless this beautiful state.

  7. According to the form on the Hawaii Courts website, a copy of the OBC is available ONLY to the natural parent. Is that document included as part of the "Inspection of Records" request? If so, an adoptee can only look at it, but not have a copy. WTH.


    I see that the form hasn't been updated since passage of the new law -- perhaps that's in the works?

    1. That's weird--the mothers can get a copy of the cert but not the adoptee him/herself? Let's hope that is just a clerical screwup. Both should get it, but if their minds can only give out one, it ought to be to the adoptee--whose OBC it is!

  8. Adoption records should be the property of the adoptee and nobody but the adoptee and his or her heirs should be able to access them. No parents should have the right to our court records.

    1. A first mother was actively involved in this event (the birthing of her child). She is a co-participant/co-owner of this major event for both.. Why shouldn't a first mother and, of course, the adoptee, receive ALL paperwork involved? There is not a good reason not to allow a first mother to have copies of the adoption that affected her life forever after.

      I would like to see what was written about me and see for myself why my name was redacted and replaced with a number on the OBC. It's a miracle my son ever found me.

    2. A few weeks after I surrendered my son, in 1968, my medical bills and those of my infant son, began to arrive at my parents' home. I was back home at that time," recovering " and I saw the bills, which had medical history for both of us.
      The bills were sent to my parents, as I was a minor. My parents paid the bills and by that time, my son was with his adoptive parents.
      My parents paid for all of our care. They did not want to help me keep my son, even though I was progressing well in college. They wanted him to be adopted. They set up a guardianship over me with relatives. They kept a legal file on this, which I never saw. But my father admitted that he had done this.

      As Jane has said, records can exist in many places. And Betsy is correct: the first mother actively participates in the birthing of her child...she has to in order to be the "first mother." She will also participate in the records, one way or another, usually in many ways.

    3. My daughter was a premie, and months after I left my job, and city where she was born, I got a bill for $1000 for her care in the hospital. That was roughly a month's salary at the time. And what a reminder! Not really the way to "get on with your life." It felt like, well, you fucked up big time, didn't you? Now pay for it in hard cash. My daughter's father paid for half of it right away, and I paid off most of the rest. He would sometimes send me cash to help pay the bill. Eventually, it was paid off to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, NY.

  9. Records were opened in my state. Laws were changed several times. Every time the laws were changed, the forms for access had to be changed. It took months to get everything updated each time, sometimes longer.
    It was very frustrating.

    1. Kitta- What state? When there is a gradual loosening of the old laws, everybody, please be specific. Others claim that it never happens, and this allows the truth to out.

  10. @Kaye,you must have seen the same form I looked at, the one that Adoption Circle of Hawai'i linked to. It is several years old. Probably has not been revised since the new law.
    According to Adoption Circle, all 3 parties can have copies of the docs in the file when the adoptee reaches age 18, including the OBC, which is in the court file.

    1. The Oregon courts website still has outdated information and confusing forms. The law was effective over two years ago. The site also has the original fee even though the legislature lowered the fee in 2015.

      Access to court records is not a priority with court staff. In fact some staff appear to be deliberately attempting to obstruct the law. They don't understand why people want the records -- to them it's just more work. I've offered to meet with staff and explain why the records are important to adoptees and natural parents but they've shown no interest in meeting.

    2. Jane,your being on the legislative committee that worked on this legislation ought to give you some clout with the clerks, but Have any adoptees gone to court over this or done anything to force the hand of the people running the show? What are adoptees doing to make this happen in a timely fashion?

    3. I wrote several emails to the Court Administrators' office and got no response. I mentioned the problems at a meeting of the Adoption Work Group. There was a representative of the Judicial Department there but she didn't say anything.

      Eventually everyone I know got their records. They had to deal with lost and then found records, delays, and indifferent clerks at best. This was in Multnomah County (Portland). People got a better response in other counties.

    4. Let me add, that natural mothers were having a harder time getting their records than adoptees. This was partly due to the fact that mothers have to obtain a court order so it's more confusing for them to navigate the process and the court staff was not helpful in some instances.

      The court staff appeared to have been less sympathetic to mothers than adoptees.

    5. Well, we are the sinners, right? All that bull about giving up our kids because we love them--at least that is the pap that the generation after us got--goes out the window when we emerge and want to know the children we loved so much we gave them away to have a better life.

  11. FYI to all those who love to truck in nastiness: Readers should understand that we do not post comments from people or about people who threaten to sue us, and tell me that the next time we hear from them it will be through their lawyer.

  12. When I got my court records in Cali, my name was on the case file. My signature was on the court papers, filed by the agency. The only person who never signed anything, was the infant, my child.
    Typically, papers belong to those who are old enough to sign. The only participating people who were actually legal adults at the time were the adoptive parents.
    In this situation, Hawaii has done the RIGHT thing.
    THe state of Hawaii has granted access to the three parties whose identities, papers, and lives are intertwined...equal access, and equal treatment under the law.
    No special secrecy for anyone.

  13. What if your adopted child appears to be a sociopath? Then what? I agree that the adoption industry uses insidious methods, but some of us chose adoption because we were young and became pregnant to a narcissistic sociopath.

    It's okay for a woman to make a decision which protects herself. I knew that I would never marry the guy or that I could co-parent with him. I'm sure I'll be told that I should have chosen abortion, but my religious beliefs were in conflict with that. And don't forget: there are ramifications to that choice as well, including increased risk of miscarriage and premature birth with future pregnancies. I didn't know that at the time, but what if I had had that happen? How sad if sociopath would have gone on to have the large family that he had and I would have been infertile due to abortion injury.

    My son found me several years ago; I've continued to turn a blind eye to his chronic lying, his anger and his manipulative ways. I made a choice a long time ago which I believed protected us both. I am not responsible for any unethical practices of the adoption agency. As a teenager at the time, I looked to adults for guidance and they spoke with confidence regarding adoption as being in his best interests. How could I have known otherwise? I was just a kid myself.

    Before I get slammed on this forum, (as I'm aware there is only one politically correct view that I am supposed to have regarding adoption), I just want to finish with this: I am responsible only for the children I'm raising and as a good mother, my job is to protect them. For that reason, I am close to ending reunion and I regret saying "yes" to reunion in the first place. (I only said "yes" because I thought reunion would be my happy "payback" for the crap I went through. It's turned out to be just as bad as the initial pregnancy.)

    My adopted son has a mom and a dad who promised to care for him. He needs help, in my opinion, and I fear for my safety and for my children's safety. He is the responsibility of his adoptive parents, not mine. I think there are a lot of first moms who would agree, (they just aren't on this forum). Some of us regret getting pregnant, not the choice of adoption.

    I don't think it's fair that adoptees are treated as if they are the only ones with rights. We women who gave birth have a right to our privacy; some of us chose adoption to protect ourselves, and that's okay! There seems to be this romantic notion that adoptees seek their birth mothers with only love in their hearts. Some of these people have a lot of baggage and a lot of anger. What about the safety of the woman and of the family she went on to create? Remember: the adopted child will be jealous of the raised children.

    Because of the complexity of adoption and the emotional baggage involved, adoptees must pass a psychological profile before they can obtain private information about the mother, in my opinion.

    1. As an AP, I can't comment on most of your post because I am not in your situation, and I can't (and won't) judge. I think you have every right to your viewpoint. It is your lived experience, and that has weight in any conversation, even if others disagree based on their lived experiences.

      Here is where I disagree with you, and it has nothing to do with your personal lived experience, but but a basic human right. Adoptees are no different than any other human being. They deserve a right to their own history. Had you kept your son, and he turned out the same, he would have known his biological history. Many parents do raise children who have issues and they are not able to maintain relationships. This is not unique to adoption. What is unique is that in adoption, incredibly isolated circumstances such as yours are used as justification to bar an entire group of people from their own history. This has far reaching consequences. This is unequivocally wrong, and there is no justification for it. As in real life with biologically raised families, anyone has a right to choose not to have a relationship with adults they are related to. That does not equal keeping people in the dark about their own history.

    2. As excited as I am that Hawaii may give me a chance to find my half-sister that I just found out about (age 47), I have to say that I agree with you. My mom gave up my sister, and she gave up all rights to my sister. My sister has new parents, and my mom should have privacy, if she so chooses. Lucky for me, my mom is ok if I look for my sister. So, for that, I am taking advantage of this opportunity.

    3. Good luck! Let us know how it goes. I can't imagine your sister won't be happy to hear from you.

  14. I disagree, Tiffany. Adoption is different from any other situation/family set-up. In most cases of adoption, a child was conceived in less than ideal circumstances to a woman who sadly gave her most intimate self to a man who had made no promise to stay by her side. This man had absolutely no right to what he got. Unlike a pregnancy with a man who loves a woman and is her husband, there is a great deal of sadness and regret at having been made a fool of by a horny creep. There is anger towards that man, whereas when I look at my husband, who is the father of my raised children, I don't look at him with anger about the fact that I had to carry the children and go through labor and delivery.

    There are people guilty of much greater sins who don't have to pay the exorbitant price that a woman ends up paying with her body, mind and emotions, simply due to having had sex. If some women want to put this absolutely behind them, that is their right. They owe NOTHING to the adoptee. Giving him life was enough of a gift.

    An adoptee does have a history -- a lifelong history with his adoptive family. Any information: medical history, color of eyes and hair, talents and skills, etc. of the biological parents can be shared in a non-identifying way through the agency. It's not right to barge into the lives of people decades later. What was done was done based on the circumstances. I remember when I was a kid, if I wanted clarification for something my folks had decided, my dad would say, "Because I said so, that's why!" Why do adoptees think they have the right to all information about their bio parents? The fact is: what happened all those years ago was a lot more about ME, the teenage girl facing an awful situation, rather than about him, a little bundle of cells. After everything I went through, I'm supposed to be okay with someone barging into my life just to satisfy his curiosity and to try to get to my kids? If I'm not the mother who had any benefits of raising him (enjoying any good times from his childhood), then I'm not the mother who has to deal with passive aggression, anger and feelings of rejection. That's the other mother, the one who got all the glory and recognition.

  15. Part 2 of my earlier comment:

    None of us gets to choose the circumstances of our birth. Parents make the best choice they can at the time. The right to privacy is a valid right, and I think it's actually sexist to deny that right to a woman. (People want to believe that all women pine away for the lost child and that their lives have been awful since the day of relinquishment. This is not the case for every woman. I went on to have a wonderful life and only thought about him for a short time on his birthday each year. I was told on another birth mother website that I should never tell my son that I went on to have a good life, because it would hurt his feelings. I never told him because there was no reason. But why should I lie if he would ask? That would be an insult to my husband and my raised children!)

    There appears to be one politically correct way to be as a birth mother, and that is sad. I wouldn't take issue if what you say in your post about basic human rights had been said to me by the adoption agency all those years ago. According to them, closed adoption meant he gets a family, I get my life back, and I never have to revisit this again. Closure needs to be honored. As I said, the adoptee can receive information in a non-identifying way and that could answer a lot of questions. Coming back and also wanting a second mom/family is unfair and is indicative of different issues that are not the responsibly of the birth mother, (issues of dysfunction within the adoptive family).

    The fact is: the relationships that arise after decades of closed adoption are most often full of turmoil. No birth mother should have to be catapulted back to the past and be traumatized again. What happened to her was very intimate and private and it's HER history, much more than the adoptee's history. (As I mentioned, his history is with the adoptive family.) It's a basic human right to not have to be re-traumatized and to not be pressured to just "heal" and "get over" the hurt from the past!

    So knowing their biological history CAN be done -- only anonymously. And the birth mother's right to have the past stay in the past needs to be honored. No birth mother should be contacted unless the adoptee can pass a psychological test and only if the birth mother is fully informed of the risk she is taking to her and her family's emotional health by saying "yes" to reunion. As stated at the start of my post: adoption is different from any other family situation/set-up.

  16. One last thing, Tiffany. I think it's odd that you feel the need to "reassure" me that you "can't (and won't) judge," which is basically an indirect way of stating that you are judging! Normally, a person would just state that they disagree and then state why. The fact that the word "judge" even appears in your post is very odd indeed.

    Also, what is an AP doing on this forum? It's very suspect. Don't tell me what is unequivocally wrong. I posted about the rights of birth mothers such as myself. You have no place to comment on my experience, and you have no right to insinuate that my right and my family's right to privacy and safety come last. This is typical of AP's -- always thinking of the birth mother last.

    1. Hi Anon (July 15 5:46am Anon as there are a couple now),

      I want to clarify my words about judging since it clearly came out wrong if that was your take away, and I would hate it other people got that same take away. I was simply referring to this statement of yours - "Before I get slammed on this forum, (as I'm aware there is only one politically correct view that I am supposed to have regarding adoption)." I simply meant that I'm not going to dispute your words. Would dispute have been a better word choice? I am not in your position, and I was trying to express that you absolutely have every right to your opinion regardless of it is different than others... I apparently expressed that very poorly.

      As for the rest, well, we disagree that adoptees have an inherent human right to their record of birth (their OBC). It has nothing at all to do with me thinking of first mom's last. It has to do with basic human rights being applied equally across the board. Contact is not the same as an OBC, just to be clear in what I am saying. Everyone has a right to not have contact with another person. They are different points.

  17. I find "anonymous's" comments on this post and the previous post extremely offensive. I wrote several replies to them which were not published, yet this angry, clearly unstable woman's comments continue to appear. It's unfortunate that there's so much censorship on this blog. I will not be returning.

    1. We have not seen any responses to this Anonymous writer, who appears to be from England. So while we hve this comment from you, we did not receive any others. Because of problems like this, we will be moving the blog to wordpress, hoping this doesn't happen with the same regularity. The blog does not inform the individual writing the comment that it disappeared, it just never shows up. WE HAVE NOT CENSORED ANY COMMENTS IN RESPONSE TO HER BECAUSE I TOO FIND HER COMMENTS DISTURBING AND AM ABOUT TO WRITE A POST ABOUT HER ATTITUDE.

  18. We allow anyone who write respectfully to comment, including some adoptive parents. We have encountered some who totally "get it" about adoption, and what it does to most mothers and children. This is not a closed page, it is open to the world. Your opinion represents, I hope, a very small minority.

  19. Just because I don't write what the readers want to hear does not make me unstable. I thought it was great that Lorraine has this blog, which is described as a place where birth mothers can vent. Therefore I believed that I could safely vent; I guess the key word there is "safely."

    So sorry that I've even tried to reach out to others who I thought would be able to understand my pain and the difficulties of what I am going through. Even if I have a different opinion than you, I thought there is a common bond that existed and that there could be discourse. Instead, I'm burned at the stake simply for having a different opinion.

    You think I enjoy the difficulties I'm experiencing in reunion? Did anyone even think to ask me why I feel so strongly? Did anyone even want to know some of the things that have happened that make me very concerned about having a relationship with the adopted child?

    Lorraine, you mentioned that you will be writing a post about me and my "attitude." Maybe the word "opinion" can be replaced for "attitude." And it is really, really true that some of us mourn the fact that we became pregnant rather than the adoption itself. If that offends anyone, then I am sorry, but that doesn't mean I can't voice my truth. There are as many different stories behind an adoption as there are birth mothers. My story, my pain and my feelings about it are my own and they are valid. Being outnumbered doesn't make me "wrong," it just makes me a woman with a different opinion.

    You'll be happy to know that I will never visit this forum again. It is only safe for women who are all of the same opinion.

  20. I'm wondering about old adoption records, where everyone that was involved has now passed, yet the children and grandchildren would like to have access to their adopted parent's files. This is concerning an adoption that took place in 1923 in Honolulu.

    1. Good question. Contact Hawaii's Vital Stats Dept. Let us know what you find out https://health.hawaii.gov/vitalrecords/



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