RI Adoptees over 25 Years Allowed Original Birth Certificates

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Adoptees searching in Rhode Island take note. It was announced yesterday in the Providence Journal that any adoptee over the age of 25 can now request a non-certified copy of their original birth certificate.

TheGirlsNY/Flickr.com

According to the article, the certificates will not be released until July. However, the health department is announcing the opportunity now, so that adoptees can send in forms early.  There will likely we a deluge of applications, and the sooner you mail in your request the better.

Information on the new law, which takes effect on July 1, 2012, can be found on the State of Rhode Island, Department of Health site.  The forms for requesting your original birth certificate are available here as a Word document . The cost of the request is $20.00.  From the site instructions, it sounds like you can choose between in-person pickup and mailing of the document.  Only the adoptee themselves may receive the document. No other persons will be granted access to the certificate.

Of course, a birth certificate does not guarantee that you will find your birthfamily. However, you will have the correct names to get started.  Also, if your birthparent has filed a contact preference form, you will be sent that along with your birth certificate. This could include a contact address.

Kudos to RI legislators, as this is a giant step in the right direction! We can only hope that many more states follow suit.

UPDATE: One of our readers was kind enough to give additional information. He wrote, “Another valuable piece of information for RI adoptees to note is the RIARG group, RI Adoptee Resource Group, which provides support and resources for local adoptees in a variety of ways. This groups can be found at the following link: https://sites.google.com/site/riadopteeresourcecenter/home.” Please see the reply below by rhodeislandadopteeresourcegroup.

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13 responses »

  1. How sad for all those birth parents who chose adoption over abortion expecting to be able to have privacy.
    Since the 1970’s birth parents could have chosen an open adoption if they didn’t care about privacy. The majority didn’t.
    Across America the majority of the adoptions are semi open where identities are not known.
    The number of those who seek birth certificates in states that have opened birth certificates is small. 4100 out of 250,000 adoptions. 800 in Maine 1200 in New Hampshire. Not a whole bunch of adopted who want their birth certificates. Opt out doesn’t work birth parents have relied on their privacy for decades they are not aware of a change in the law to be able to opt out in a one year time limit.
    A group of outspoken lobbyist have been able to organize, gather adoptees and birth parents who support their agenda and speak out while birth parents who want privacy are not able to without giving up their identity. Those lobbyist make money on promoting their agenda by writing books, speaking to groups, creating websites asking for donations, and are geneologist waitiing for those adopted to come to them to find out about their birth family.
    How sad the legislature could not imagine what it was like for a birth parent who wants privacy. A rape victim, a young teen sent away treated poorly by family and friends, a woman who still has difficulty dealing with the fact she gave a child up and it is easier for her to put it in her past, her family who has no say in the matter, many elderly woman who come from a time of a different morality, birth fathers who were never told. Future babies that will be aborted because the choice of privacy in adoption is taken away.
    You can have privacy when choosing adoption.
    You can have privacy if a woman doesn’t seek medical care has a child in a hotel room then drops the child off at a safe haven.
    You can no longer choose privacy if you go to an adoption agency, get the medical care you and the child needs then place the child into the loving arms of adoptive parents.
    No wonder why Adoptive parents go out of the country. No wonder why abortion is easier. We should be making adoption easier not harder. A life without an original birth certificate is better than no life at all.

  2. Lisa Marie, First of all thank you for sharing your opinions here. You make some good points. However, all of them assume that a birth parent’s rights are more important than those of the adoptee. Adoptees did not sign away their rights. Identity is a human right. I do not think that adoptees should come strolling into birthparents lives, without some other communication first, letters, phone calls, perhaps even an intermediary. When I searched, I did not even tell my Uncle, who I found first, that I was his sister’s child. I was careful, gentle, and protective. Her’s was not my secret to tell.

    However, it is my human right to know that I inherited my nose from my grandfather, my love of writing from my grandmother, my outspokenness from my birthfather. It is my human right to know that “sugar” issues run in the family. It was my human right, and innate pleasure, to stand on the foundation of the first Richard’s house built in Newfoundland, Canada, which was built by my great, great, great, great grandfather. It is my human right to look into the eyes of the woman who bore me, and ask, ‘Why?”

    Surely, noone who gives birth, and chooses to give away the child, for whatever reason, can believe that their rights are more important than those of the child they gave up. The very least they can do, is to share photos, medical information, personal family history. The very least they can do is complete the identity they started.

    Not all adoptees search, and not all birthmothers cower in fear. We are all unique beings, and adoptees deserve to know how they became the people that they are.

    Adoption is not a magic. Babies do not disappear into a void,. never to be heard from again. We are real living, breathing people who deserve the same history, and wholeness of being that every non-adoptee takes for granted.

  3. Pingback: Adoption Not Magic: Babies Don’t Disappear, They Grow Up | adoptionfind

  4. Lisa Marie – it sounds as if you must be a birth mother still in hiding. I am a woman who surrendered 2 children in the 1960’s and at that time, and due to circumstances, I believed I did not want to be found, and would never have looked for my sons.
    I’m sure grateful that my sons looked for me though – meeting them and knowing they are healthy and loving men who were raised with good families has been wonderful.
    I also want you to know that my oldest son’s adoptive parents knew my name and where I had lived from the day they decided to adopt my son, but I had absolutely no idea who they were. Just who was given anonymity? Surely not this birth mother! It is a huge myth that we birth mother’s were promised or even wanted that – many were told their child would be able to find them once that child became an adult. Ha.
    It is my wish that all closed records be opened to adoptees AND to birth parents. It’s time.

  5. The statements the first person who commented made are based upon ignorance. Statistics actually show that when given the choice of an open adoption women will choose adoption OVER abortion.

    It is sad that our country still stigmatizes women who became pregnant and their infants were adopted out. How sad that a woman has to be a continued victim and keep silent because of the shame she was subjected to when she was in a very difficult time. The fear mongers (usually adoptive parents) want to keep heaping shame so they don’t have to worry about sharing their children. They are coming from a place of fear.

    People have the right to fall in love and marry without the risk of marrying a sibling. (yep, that has happened) People have the right to know their siblings. People have the right to know their genetic health risks. (a reunion I facilitated last year the woman found out her mother had died of breast cancer. The family was delighted to find out about the “secret.” One of her sisters said, “If there is a part of my mother out there, I want to know.”)

    And what about the fathers? Many times men were never notified of the birth and by the time they did find out they had lost their children. There are other family members who may want contact and they too have the right to be in touch with their family members.

    One mother told me “We were promised confidentiality, we didn’t expect to be erased.” The reason for confidentiality was to remove the stigma of women giving birth outside of marriage. That stigma has been slowly eroding from our society as more and more children are kept within their family of origin.

    When contacted, the first mom can decide whether or not to have contact. The other family members can also make that decision for themselves.

    Oh, and the infants who were products of rape? Yep, I did a reunion of one of those too. Mom and daughter are doing fine and thrilled to be reunited. “No matter how she got here, she is still my daughter.”

    • I love what you have said and it gives me hope that one day she or I will be found for this simple ending: peace. Regardless of what happened many years ago and then the stories I have heard growing up from my adoptive parents just make me feel a little unsettled. I want to find my mother and I want to know certain things. It was very very hard for me to put this all behind and I did. Then I found out that RI was passing this new law and I became interested again but I won’t hold my breath. I just hope and pray that this becomes a dream come true.

  6. Lisa Marie: Your thoughtful response to this report helps us understand how much work we have ahead of us in clarifying issues relative to the release of original birth certificates (OBCs). Your perceptions mirror those of a great many people, which accounts for the struggle we’ve had setting the record straight. I don’t know whether anything I say can shed sufficient light on the subject to cause you to take a second look at the new adoption laws being passed in states throughout the U.S., but I have to try.

    1. What adoptees seek is not a “new” right, but the restoration of a right that was firmly established for them early in adoption history but subsequently was stripped from them. You can read here how, in 1949, the U.S. Children’s Bureau (precursor of today’s Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) “…considered it ‘very important that the child’s original birth certificates be identified so that his complete birth record will be available to him when needed.’”
    http://www.uoregon.edu/~adoption/archive/UscbTCNOBR.htm

    For a more complete history of the sealing of adoption records, I invite you to read this article by Elizabeth J. Samuels in the Rutgers Law Review, Winter 2001:
    http://www.njarch.org/images/Rutgers%20Law%20Review_2_.pdf
    “This Article relates how, in the 1940s and 1950s, a variety of expert voices advised states to seal court and birth records but to recognize in adult adoptees an unrestricted right of access to the birth records. [FN13] The reason given for the closing of court and birth records to the parties as well as the public was to protect adoptive families from possible interference by birth parents.”

    So the idea that adoptees’ OBCs were put under seal to preserve the confidentiality of mothers is inaccurate.

    2. When mothers relinquish their rights to parent their children, nowhere on the surrender documents is a right of any kind preserved for them, either stated or implied. They surrender total control over the complexities of the adoption process – including the preparation, archival, and dissemination of all documentation – from that moment on. Paperwork with their names on it are seen by multiple court, agency and vital statistics workers. The handling of their child’s birth certificate is never, ever in the control of the mother.

    Why is this important? Read this and you’ll see that, in many states, adoptive parents have control over whether a child’s birth certificate is changed or not. And this: If a child’s adoption is annulled, he can end up getting his original birth certificate back! And the mother will neither be informed of this fact nor asked for “permission” to release it to him.
    http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/policy/confiden.html

    3. During the time period in which today’s adult adoptees were relinquished, no one could possibly have foreseen how easy it would be one day to locate someone with tiny bits and pieces of information provided to the adoptive parents, like their child’s birth surname on the adoption decree. So agencies and courts disseminated a great amount of information they never dreamed could one day make it possible for adoptees to identify and locate their original parents. With a surname and other clues, adoptees have been locating their original families for decades! My daughter’s parents were given my surname and approximate location, my age and the fact that I graduated high school. I checked the Internet one day to see how long it would have taken my daughter to find me online using those few key pieces of information. Fifteen minutes, maximum, including a Google Earth photograph of my house! So was this “promised confidentiality”? I don’t think so, do you? Yet my daughter is denied a copy of her OBC because of these alleged promises.

    4. And finally, it must be understood than when any mother, married or single, proud or ashamed, intending to parent or planning to release for adoption, gives birth to a child, that child is automatically a U.S. citizen with rights equal to her own. Under no circumstances does she “own” his rights. She cannot relinquish his Constitutional rights when she relinquishes her right to parent him. She may have conceived in secret, given birth in secret, relinquished in secret, but the human being she birthed is not merely a product of her reproduction. He is a documented U.S. citizen, and as such is entitled to an authentic copy of that document. Not a falsified, ‘amended,’ or substitute document, but the very instrument that recorded his entry into the world.

    Please download and read this report by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute:
    http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/publications/7_14_2010_ForTheRecordsII.pdf

    Does any of this help you understand a little better?

  7. “Since the 1970′s birth parents could have chosen an open adoption if they didn’t care about privacy. The majority didn’t.”

    REALLY? I’d like to see a citation please. According to ABC News 20/20 60 to 70 percent of new adoptions are open adoptions. The Evan B Donaldson Adoption Institute has a similar figure relating to the percentage of adoptive parents who have met the relinquishing parents. Sounds to me like the majority of new domestic adoptions are pretty open. Of course, the majority of states still seal the original documents, even in open adoptions.

    “The number of those who seek birth certificates in states that have opened birth certificates is small. 4100 out of 250,000 adoptions. 800 in Maine 1200 in New Hampshire.”

    The 4,100 figure is just the first month of requests in Illinois. In Oregon, over 10,000 original birth certificates have been issued covering a much smaller population. We also don’t know what that 250,000 figure covers. Half of all adoptions are step-parent adoptions – and original birth certificates are sealed in step-parent adoptions as well.

    Opponents to OBC access (like Lisa Marie) want legislators to think that OBC access is something new. Kansas and Alaska have NEVER sealed adoption records. Oregon and Alabama each have over a decade of experience in restored OBC access.

    But when opponents trot out statistics, are there any that support their dire warnings? No. Did the abortion rate increase? No. Are there tales of birthmothers being “outed”? No. Instead, it’s all about what “might” happen even when the experience of several states shows otherwise.

  8. To the author: As a RI advocate who implemented this change, I respectfully offer that contacting one of the advocates here in RI would have been appreciated prior to posting this blog. You are unintentionally and potentially misguiding RI adoptees and the community therein. I would personally appreciate if you would remove the information in regards to the voluntary adoption registry as its been proven to be ineffective. With access to OBCs in July revealing identifying information of birth families, and with the past year providing a window of opportunity for birth parents to indicate to the state of their contact preference the voluntary registry is unnecessary.

    Another valuable piece of information for RI adoptees to note is the RIARG group, RI Adoptee Resource Group, which provides support and resources for local adoptees in a variety of ways. This groups can be found at the following link: https://sites.google.com/site/riadopteeresourcecenter/home

    The individuals who should be thanked are the adoptees who went well beyond the scope of advocacy and democracy to learn and understand the true game of politics that effected the change which was needed to overcome the legislative opposition and neutralize the religious ties here in RI. The message that true democracy in action is what effected the change here in RI is not accurate and should not be the message other advocates in the adoptee community should be led to believe. The truth is that extraordinary and pioneering tactics and strategies were necessary and were taken on behalf of the adoptee advocates of RI-CARE in order to implement legislative change. Thank you.

    John J. Greene
    beene111@gmail.com

  9. The responses to Lisa Marie have been wonderful and accurate. I surrendered in1966 in MI during what is now called “the baby scoop era”. I searched 6 yrs until MI started the Intermediary program, then 9 yrs more.
    I believe 15 years where lost of knowing my daughter because I could not call her myself. We would have been reunited in 1990 instead of 2005. We visit each other now as much as time, distance and costs permits. Both of my daughter’s families get along and visit each other. I believe that “the truth shall make you free” and I will support equal access to OBC’s until all of the remaining 42 states enact legislation. Thank u ladies for saying all I wanted to say and more.
    I beg those still hiding in shame to own up and support your child in the fight to obtain what the rest of us take for granted.
    One can only wonder why legislators are not listening? Could it be they need to man up to a few of their own indiscretions?

  10. When I first began my search at 21 I sent away for the NYS registry forms. At the time, it required my adoptive parents notarized consent for me to join. That has since changed and there is pending legislation in NYS(as well as many others) to provide adoptees a restoration of our rights to our own identities. As it stands right now, my adopted brother is not entitled to non-identifying info (info that tells him of physical features, ages, occupations, nationalities) in NYS because while he was adopted in state he was born in another country. This is the same if you were born in NY but your adoption was finalized in NJ or another state- neither state will provide you the information. When I searched and found my mother, I did so with the utmost discretion and respect for her-expecting to be a secret. I was not. Her second husband, and my four 1/2 siblings, all knew of my existence and welcomed me into the fold. She had joined the NYS registry but we weren’t matched because of the requirements for the adoptive parents’ permission.I was 21 yet according to NY, I was old enough to die for my country, but not request information on my own history and family information without parental approval. I recieved my non-identifying info from the agency who performed my adoption. The small details aided me in finding my mother. Had I waited a brief 5 years- those records would have been lost to me. They burned in a arsonists’ fire and the agencies had never backed the records up. (more than one agency was involved) Thousands of adoptees and birth families may never be able to glean the simplest of details about their family members, yet agencies’ records are not required to be stored and backup maintained. I signed away none of my rights yet I had to beg and plead for the right to be able to complete a medical history form at my physician’s.
    While my search is complete, I will always fight for the right of an adoptee to have their own truth in identity.

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