' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Why legislators balk when unsealing original birth certificates of the adopted

Friday, March 16, 2018

Why legislators balk when unsealing original birth certificates of the adopted

Access Connecticut is running into static with their bill that would fill a loophole of adoptees born before in that state born before October 1,1983. The problem? Legislators still "worried" about those birth mothers and families who will be put in a tizzy if mom's adopted-out child comes knocking. 

They are concerned that most of their testimony comes from adoptees. And secondly, from searching mothers who found their children. They need now to hear from found mothers and other found family members who were glad to reconnect with their blood kin who had been adopted out of the family. They want to hear from a siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles. I heard about this a few hours ago, and posted a call out on FMF's Facebook page and immediately found a few mothers who fit the bill, but--more is more, and more is better. So if you are a found mother, no matter where you reside--someone from Great Britain responded, and she's writing too--write and write immediately. Ask your family members if they will write a short note--two or three grafs is all it needs. Be succinct, and write from the heart. The bill is under the judiciary committee's microscope as I write, and so timing is of the essence. 


What got my blood flowing as I thought about this was realizing that one of the great stumbling blocks to opening all records are men and maybe women on the committee who are hiding from their own biological children who were adopted. Some of the men may not even be sure they had such a child, but they think, well, maybe.... Or thank god, I escaped that bullet. Consequently, they relate to the man in the closet, and they assume that most women might be like that too. They imagine lives upended by a phone call or a knock on the door.

When Birthmarkcame in 1979, I wrote a piece in Newsweek that got some attention. Angry letters from adoptive parents ensued. But the people in my life who were the most pissed off were MEN! The director/actor Ben Gazarra was one; I heard the subject of my book came up at a dinner party I did not attend and he ended up pounding the table shouting: "Who does she think she is?" I thought, Why is he so upset? That's weird.

Answer: He must have a kid out there, or be worried that he does.

It happened another time at a dinner party I did attend and the guy went at me like angry lion--now everybody there is attentively listening--until his wife shut him up. What's wrong with you, she asked, we just came back from Wales where they spent a lot of time wandering around graveyards looking for his ancestors!

He, like Ben Gazarra, were afraid of their own past with women and the children they may have had, or did have.

And women? There are some in the closet, still. A woman in New York is our staunchest enemy in Albany, Helene Weinstein. God knows what she fears. But  she, and the men who rail against opening records, or just quietly oppose and vote no, relate to those who do not want a child come knocking. What they know about adoption is how wonderful it is, how lucky the children are, how happy their adoptive-parent friends are now they they have adopted. They have not tried to understand the adoptee. They emphatize with those who have secret children. The legislators can't, or won't, put themselves in the place of the adopted; they emphatize instead with the men in the closet.

We need to have them see the other side. We need to let them know no matter how deep the secret, no one shoud have the right to deny anyone the true story of their lives, their ancestry, their true heritage. No one should deny another their ancestry because it might embarass someone.

We need to let these men--and it is mostly men--and women know that when an adoptee finds their mother, the sky does not fall, the birth family does not fall apart, that much good can come from open records, that keeping truth from a whole class of individuals is wrong, immoral and unjust in every way you can look at it.

If you are a found parent, and have family members who will add their voices to those on the side of right, do the job that's being handed you. Again are the email addresses. Please send a BCC to Access Connecticut. Other states needing testimony are also listed, New York and Massachusetts. Only you can be the change you desire.--lorraine

PS: Jane, who has served in a legislative committee in Oregon regarding adoption law, added a great insight into the lawmakers' thinking in a comment. Worth reading!

Email testimony to Connecticut: judtestimony@cga.ct.gov

Please email a copy to:

Other testimony on file: https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/CommDocTmyBillAllComm.asp?bill=HB-05408&doc_year=2018

Massachusetts: Call, e-mail, or tweet your MA representative and senator, If not a resident, contact the Speaker of the Assembly, Robert DeLeo and Senate President Harriette Chandler or write to them at 24 Beacon St., Boston, MA 02133.

In New York: Email: AdopteeWorkgroupComments@health.ny.gov
(My letter to them is posted at the First Mother Forum page on Facebook.)

Who is supporting access to original birth certificates?

Almost 200 people submitted written public testimony for HB 5408, the vast majority of whom support the bill. Who were they? What did they say? Here's the breakdown. 


  1. Lorraine, your writing insightful and powerful as usual. :-) We are getting some amazing testimonies in support of HB 5408: read the testimonies as at the link below. Your stories do change minds! We've never had as much strength and momentum as we've had this year. Be part of history and send in your testimony to judtestimony@cga.ct.gov, please copy info@accessconnecticut.org. We can do this together! Karen Caffrey, Access Connecticut https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/CommDocTmyBillAllComm.asp?bill=HB-05408&doc_year=2018

  2. Let me echo what Lorraine wrote. Legislators tend to get their information on any subject from the industry and professionals which work in it. Thus when it comes to opening adoption records, the people they've heard from most often over the years are adoption agency workers and adoption attorneys who stand to gain from keeping records sealed. These people point out that they have been involved in hundreds of adoptions and claim to know what most triad members want. In truth these people may be protecting themselves. They may have promised first mothers confidentiality. More significantly they likely promised adoptive parents that they did not have to worry about the first mother coming a-knocking at the door. The industry may present adoptees who search and first mothers who welcome them as outliers, perhaps a little nutty. Industry people may claim based on their experience that most adoptees don't want to search and most mothers don't want to be found. They may claim that mothers have come to them terrified that their secret will be exposed and their lives ruined. A lot of these representations are not made in public but in legislators' offices and fund raisers. Adoptees and first mothers, on the other hand, can claim to speak only for one person, themselves.

    Then of course some legislators are adoptive parents and others have friends who are adoptive parents. They may insist that the adoptees they know -- their adopted children -- don't want to search. In truth they don't want them to search.

    The only way to change long held beliefs about adoption is for many, many adoptees and first parents to come forward and to be supported by adoptive parents and representatives from the adoption industry. Advocates for open records need to do this not only at legislative hearings but behind the scenes.

  3. Just sent an email to both addresses, takes five minutes. Join me!

  4. It is so frustrating to see the same old tired arguments against open records used again and again. What is especially annoying is that the opponents refuse to consider the many states that have opened records and NOTHING BAD HAPPENED. In NJ even Catholic Charities admits that, no complaints from disgruntled found mothers.

    It is like gun control, we have the concrete examples of other countries that have had successful gun control laws for years and very little gun violence or school shootings, and the USA with its shameful record of politicians owned by the NRA.

    In both cases the legislators are sure they know what is right, and do not confuse them with facts. It is discouraging.

    1. maryanne, you're too charitable. It's not just that legislators are sure they know what is right, they are also afraid of powerful interests. Like the NRA on gun control, the adoption industry (often using adoptive parents and a few gullible first mothers as a front) create the fear of losing votes and the all important campaign funds if they cross these interests. Put another way, scores of mothers and adoptees can testify in an open hearing about wanting records to be unsealed are ignored in favor of a single conversation with an adoption attorney is a popular watering hole.

      I think, though, we've finally reached the tipping point where the tired arguments of mothers' confidentiality are now being discredited as media stories about happy reunions abound. The industry, anxious to promote open adoption, is tired of making these arguments.

  5. Just a report--I asked for letters from found mothers on FB with this post, and ACCESS CT reports that they got several! What Jane is bringing up, as well as pointing out sweetly that the legislators are not able to empathize with the adopted ought to be part of anyh lobbying effort. We are all single people without the clout of an agency; and as Jane says, legislators think that adoptive parents are going to vote against them if they open records. I once wrote Gov. Cuomo in NY that if he is thinking of a presidential run, he would get votes in every state from adoptees if he did something bold and made sure that the records were open. That would not just be the adopted, that would include a good percentage of the natural families, birth mothers, spouses and children of the adopted....Yes, some birth parents--fathers especially I'd wager--would be appalled but if the deed was done?

  6. My husband and I adopted a baby this year whom we love with all our hearts. Everyone was entirely encouraging; the adoptees we know/are related to, the APs we know, and even my birth mother friend who placed two babies ten years apart. No one told us not to or warned us that it was an ethically fraught thing to do.

    Fortunately having seen my birth mother friend's open adoption we sought the same thing. We were chosen by a mother who didn't contact the agency until after the baby was born, so at least she wasn't pressured to form a relationship with a family during her pregnancy. She and our child's birth father already have 9 children combined and felt they couldn't care for another. The adoption is completely open. She is and always will be my child's other mother. We are in daily contact and she can see the baby anytime.

    But since the adoption I slowly became aware of the ethical issues in domestic infant adoption and now I am consumed with guilt every day. I don't know how to make it through the rest of my life knowing what we participated in.

    When it comes to things like a new birth certificate I have no choice. I don't want my child's origins to be legally erased and yet I have no choice. I don't know what to do.

    I am obsessed with trying to do right by this gorgeous child and the natural parents who felt they had to make this choice, but so confused about how or whether I ever can. I read and research and obsess.

    All I can think to do now is practice a radically open adoption that allows lifelong free access between them. To be totally open about answering questions from our child. To advocate for adoption reform.

    I have the urge to tell other hopeful adoptive parents not to do it when they ask us about our experience, but who am I to say that? I did it.

    When I talk to people about my feelings I mostly just get placated even by my therapist and my sweet husband who bothbfeel I am being excessively empathetic towards our child's birth mother. Sort of surprisingly the only person who will have honest conversations about it with me is our social worker from the agency.

    I'm tortured by all of it every day and don't know how to proceed.

    1. Constatina--
      Adoption is a legal and ethical morass for many people and the laws have not yet reflected this, starting with the automatic change of the birth certificate that complicates life immediately for the adopted individual. You say you adopted recently...would it possible (if it is not finalized) to do, with the birth parents agreement, a "legal guardianship"? Since there are so many siblings, the child will probably want to have meaningful relationships with some of them in time.

      Thank goodness you can talk to a social worker honestly about your concerns. Since you have such misgivings,and are in close touch with the child's mother, you should tell her honestly how you are feeling and see if there is a way to find a path that is not only good for the child, but for her original family--and you and your husband. Adoption by and large does not take into consideration the longterm aspects of the act. I am hoping that others will add to the discussion. And I may make this the topic of a future post.

    2. What disgusts me about the story is, why do people who already have 9 children between them and know they can't handle another not having a tubal ligation and/or vasectomy? How do they think this child is going to feel knowing and seeing that all of his/her siblings were kept and that s/he was the only one given away. The callousness, the lack of concern for the child's mental well-being is mind-boggling.

      Isn't it clever how the adoption industry is so good at whitewashing the ethical concerns of domestic infant adoption until it's a done deal? It sounds like you did the best you could with the information you had at the time, and as an adult adoptee I don't blame you.

  7. Constantina:

    I think that you are bearing a lot of blame on your own shoulders that doesn't belong with you. Adoption has been around for many years, and yes of course the laws should be changed, birth certificates should not be sealed or changed permanently; society's attitudes should change - but it won't happen today, or this week. You wanted to do a good thing, and you did. Your child will know his/her birth parents and family, who will know their child also, do I understand it correctly? It's an open adoption, or at least is functioning as an open adoption?

    Lorraine's advice is very good. But I would add, if nothing else, when someone asks you about whether they should adopt, you definitely can clarify your own opinions - closed adoption not good, as an infant will become a child, then an adult, without knowing their own basic information about who they are, and it is impossible for them to do so under the current laws in most states. That situation is lifelong - Not a way to live, to impose on anybody. But an open adoption is, in your experience - (then, whatever your feelings are about it).

    Please don't be tortured every day by this situation. The couple decided they could not raise another child - they would have placed the baby with someone else, if not you. That's something you have no control over; it's very fortunate that their baby is with a sensitive person who cares about them, as well as their child. Stop feeling guilty. You are enlightened in a way that most adoptive parents are not (and hadn't been, in the past), and that will make a great difference, for the child and the birth (natural) parents.

  8. Constantina, I'm an AP as well, and we are in an open adoption.

    I well understand those feelings of guilt. The therapist we see for adoption (all of us see her) told me I need to work through those feelings, then let them go. My daughter has so many feelings around her adoption, she is the primary focus, and my feelings of guilt and anxiety for what she is going through do nothing to help her and may actually harm her own introspection. I suggest finding a therapist who understands adoption issues in order to help you work through this. (I looked for a therapist who was adopted herself and whose main focus is adoption so I would get good advice.) The therapist said I need to be neutral in my own feelings and allow my daughter’s feelings to be the barometer. I think it was very wise advice.

    We could not have prevented my daughter's adoption. If we hadn't adopted her, another family would have, and I do believe we are her best second family. Without getting into details that aren’t mine to share, there wasn’t anything we could or can do to change what happened. It sounds like you could not have changed the outcome either, and the parents made their decision. I absolutely understand where Lorraine is coming from, and it is worth talking to the parents to see if anything has changed or if something can be worked out with them. But if it can't, don't beat yourself up over it. I focus that energy on working for change in areas where it impacts at risk mothers- national healthcare, maternity leave, changing the societal view of single young mothers. It helps to know that even if I couldn't change my daughter's circumstances, maybe I can help someone else not experience it.

    We have a lot of potential complications that I can't share, but I struggle with not losing sleep over the impact these complications could have on our daughter. It can cause overwhelming anxiety to me if I think about them too much, so I focus on one day at a time and where we are right now. I cannot control these complications, much like I couldn't control that her parents could not keep her, and my personality type doesn't do well with things I cannot control and fix and make right. You sound similar. :) I constantly check my emotions, and if they are getting to be too much, I work through them or talk with the therapist because it is so important not to lose the focus at the center of that energy: my daughter. This is a billion times harder for her, so I will not make it about me and me feelings.

    It's easy to feel that it's good to wallow in that empathy and guilt because you think you are recognizing an injustice in doing that- you think you are being accountable for your role. But just as other APs aren't helping the adoptee when they dismiss the negative impacts of adoption, we aren't helping our adopted kids when we allow our feelings to overwhelm us to the point that the adoptee's feelings are not the ones taking the majority of our energy and focus.

    I hope this helped and I explained myself well - this is a very difficult topic because I am not saying that we should be nonchalant about what happened or ignore it or not try to right it if we can. If we did that, then everyone could just adopt and feel bad about it later, and I'm not an advocate of that. But if we can't change the circumstances of the parents, and the adoption IS going to happen, then we need to let it go and move forward with doing the best we can for our children as they navigate the complicated relationships life handed to them.

  9. Something is wrong with the comment page. When I go to it I get an error message.

  10. As soon as I start to type a comment, the banner at the top adds -Not secure- in front of the web address. The rest of the site works fine.

    I've noticed that there are several news sites with comment sections that do that as well. ABC being one of them.

    Kind of thing that would leave some folks thinkin' that it's not "safe" to comment.

    1. Cindy, that's the first report of that we have gotten. All I can say is that you may have some high safety feature on your computer that warns you about sites that are safe but don't pass some other test. I don't know. We have nothing dangerous at this site. Usually a medium setting or the "recommended" setting is adequate and doesn't send you a warning like that.

    2. Lorraine, I had to chuckle when you said, "We have nothing dangerous at this site." I guess that might all depend on whether one wants to promote closed adoption, keep records sealed, and not see any counter opinions, thoughts, feelings and information on the often detrimental effects adoption can have on those who are separated by it.

    3. And Cindy, I chuckled when I opened my email in the morning and read your comment. Still chuckling. Yes, WE ARE DANGEROUS! if closed adoption is your goal. If sealed records are sacred to you. If a form of psychological slavery is your ideal! Good morning, Sunshine!



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