The Adoption Bill:
Today the District Council is scheduled to vote on legislation to let adopted people over 21 learn the identity of their natural parents. The measure would allow them, after professional counseling, to request the birth certificates that were sealed at the time of adoption. The natural parents would then be given the right to refuse release of their names. No identifying information would be released if a nutural parent objected, and in no case would information be available to anyone other than the adopted person.
I strongly believe that this legislation is necessary and humane, that it will serve the interests of both adoptees and birth parents and will ulitimately strengthen adoption as a useful social institution.
Adoption is an emotion-laden process. It springs from tragedy-the need to give up a child one has borne. It brings joy and fulfillment to parents who receive the gift of a child. It offers love and security to children who are truly wanted.
Unfortunately, our current adoption laws-in force for the past 40 years-assume that the adoptive relationshop is so fragile that it must be protected by permanent obliteration of the adoptee's history. The law fails to recognize the very deep need felt by many mature adult adoptees to know their origins. Our laws assume that all births parents wish to be permanently anonymous, even to the children they have borne. They ignore the pain suffered by most birth parents-particularly birth mothers-who can never hope to know how their children have fared, can never hope to explain why they made the excruciating choice to give up a child.
The adoptive relationship is not that fragile, of course. A strong parent/child reltionship is forged through years of loving and caring. Once a child becomes an adult, that relationship cannot be threatened by the reality of the adoptee's biological origins or by his or her contact with birth parents who are, after all, strangers. Furthermore, adult adoptees, who are typically well over 30 when they begin to search, are not looking for new "mommies and daddies" to replace their adoptive parents. They are seeking important information about themselves and their roots.
Ironically, while those opposing the proposed legislation have been motivated primarily by concern for the privacy of birth parents it is birth parents who may have the most to gain. Recent studies have indicated that 80 percent of all birth mothers are willing-even eager-to be recontacted by their grown children.
Clearly, however, there are birth parents who are not willing to be known to their children.The "Inspection of Adoptees Records Act" recognizes this, and gives such parents the right to say "no".
Once considered good adoption practice, the permanent denial of birth information to adult adoptees is now increasingly questioned by adoption professionals and legislatures across the country.A number of states already have given adoptees access to records, some for more than 25 years, with no known ill effects. Many more states are now moving in that direction. Moreover an HEW national advisory committee established a develop overwhelming preliminary approval to a recommendation that adoptees be given in formation without consideration of the wishes of birth parents.
By permitting birth parents the choice to forbid release of their names, the legislation now before the council takes a far more moderate stance that balances the rights and interests of all parties.