You’ve seen the scenario on television or in a book a number of times: a child with a seemingly perfect family finds out they were adopted. Chaos, heartbreak, and an identity crisis ensue. While this may make good for good storytelling and thrilling plot devices, it is actually a very devastating real life occurrence that has happened before and has the potential to happen again as long as parents neglect to tell their adoptive children that they are, in fact, adopted. The Adoptees Right To Know Law takes this scenario and many others into account, giving all adoptees the right to access their birth files from adoption to learn about who they are and their birth parents if they so choose, giving them the tools they need to find out more about their past, and by extension, their futures.
What is the Adoptees Right to Know Law?
The Adoptees Right to Know Law is the right given to all adult adoptees to access their original birth certificates from and before adoption. This law is set in place to help adult adoptees to access their OBCs (original birth certificate), which for many decades have been sealed in most states.
Typically, in the case of a closed adoption, once the adoption is finalized and the Birth Parents have relinquished their parental rights to their child, a new birth certificate is issued to the Adoptive Parents, naming them as the only and sole parents of the child.
As is specified with a closed adoption, the Birth Parents will have no access to or relationship with their child, and the adoptive child may be raised without even knowing they are adopted. As described before, this scenario can be dangerous because there are ways in which an individual can find out the truth about their parentage, which, if it was hidden from them, can create a number of problems emotionally and with their adoptive parents.
The Right to Know Law is put in place to help prevent such devastation and hurt by allowing adults to access their birth certificate and adoption records so that they are able to learn the truth and gain access to their past.
In March of 2015, an Ohio law changed in 2013, came into effect and allowed adoptees as well as their lineal descendants to request their adoption files between January 1st, 1964 and September 19th, 1996. Only 17 states actually have full or partial access to adoption records, while the remaining 33 states make it virtually impossible for adoptees to gain access to their pasts. In a Fox17 News article that sheds more light on how the Right to Know Law is steadily unsealing adoption records I different states, an adoptee who has recently gained access to her original birth certificate was quoted in saying “Everybody has a right to know where they come from.” You can read the full article here. For the full list of states and their laws on original birth certificate access, go here.
Why Is It Necessary?
There are a number of reasons why having access to one’s original birth certificate is necessary, but perhaps the most important reason is that it is a civil right that belongs to all people, whether they were adopted through international adoption or domestic adoption. They deserve to have questions answered, to know where they come from, and to have access to this information should they want it. Unfortunately, while adoptees are still children, the right to reveal their original birth certificates belongs to their legal guardians. Though many parents may be keeping the OBCs from their children for good reason, this often leads to pain and devastation later in life. Aside from the truth being the best approach, knowing one’s biological past is important for one’s identity, health, and future.
In addition to its being a civil right, many adult adoptees want access to their birth certificates because they want to know about any health issues, dispositions, and quirks they may have gotten from their Birth Parents. This is especially important when adoptees are looking to have their own biological children, as some may want to undergo biological counseling with their spouse or partner. Similarly, an adoptee may find himself/herself ill with a chronic or otherwise serious illness. If this is something hereditary, they have the right to know as it may help them in their fight against it or help them learn to live with it. For mental health issues that may have been passed on biologically, knowing where they stem from is also incredibly helpful for adoptees to know. It gives them a chance to prepare and fight against health issues, as well as take the necessary steps to prevent other problems.
Accessing the Past for a Better Future
We all have a right to our past, even those of us who may have had a shaky start. Adoptees who have always had an open adoption and therefore know their Birth Parents may be able to attest to how beneficial having this connection has been for them and their lives. Others may not want anything to do with their Birth Parents, but they still have a right to know about their past and the people who created them for their own personal reasons. Whatever it is, the Adoptees Right to Know Law takes this into account and gives adult adoptees a chance they may have been denied throughout their life. For many, knowing their past means having a better hold and understanding of their future.