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 natural parent objected, and in no case would information be available to anyone other than the adopted person .
The "Inspection of Adoptees' Records Act of 1979" is lopsided to the pinnacle of selfishness. The stated primary aim of the bill is to afford adult adoptees the opportunity "to determine their self-identity for purposes of self-fulfillment . . ."
In the "adoption triangle" are 1) the birth parent(s), 2) the adoptee, and 3) the adoptive parent(s). But the interests and the feelings of only the adoptee are being considered in this bill.
Since the 1930s, birth parents in the District of Columbia have been assured finality in adoptions. The Relinquishment Form the birth mother has signed states: ". . . that she fully realizes that by this proceeding for adoption she relinquishes forever any and all rights as parent of said minor . . . child and that by entry of a decree of adoption by the court, said minor . . . child becomes the heir at law of the adopting parents . . ."
During the relinquishment process, the birth parent has been assured the strictest confidentiality, having been told that all records would be sealed, and could be opened only by the courts.
The precedent of unsealing records would be a dangerous one. For if this bill becomes law, what else would be unsealed? Would juvenile records be next, to haunt an adult forever? How about the confidential and privileged discussions between doctors, psychiatrists and their patients, priests and penitents, etc.?
Now, when there is a great national cry against the availability of personal information to creditors and prospective employers, a small minority-within-the-minority of this city's population seeks questionable privileges to still more confidential information-"questionable" because their motives are suspect. Some adult adoptees profess that they want to see their records so that they may know their genetic and medical backgrounds. This information is already given to adopting parents by adoption agencies.
The paramount dangerous legal precedent this bill would establish is to allow any adopted person access to adoption records, regardless of the date or time of adoption. The retroactive aspects of the bill would cause serious traumatic experiences for literally thousands of birth parents and adoptive parents, who are ignored by this bill.
In addition, the bill creates a counseling service that does not exist in the Department of Human Resources; yet, the proponents deny that it will have a fiscal impact on the city. They're saying the additional counseling services, the massive new record-keeping, the necessary specially trained personnel, and the new authority that DHR would have to establish, would cost us nothing extra. Little if any attention was paid to DHR's position on this bill when the department suggested that the measure be prospective rather than retroactive, and that such a bill would result in fewer and fewer adoptions. DHR's opinion should certainly be considered, since it would become the administering agency.
On the issue of counseling, the bill states ". . . the adoptee may choose any adult person or organization to conduct the counseling conference or service . . ." This is regardless of whether the adoptee has an emotional or mental illness propelling him or her to seek the birth parent(s) for all the wrong reasons.
The selfishness of this bill is blatantly horrible. The members of the council should recognize this bill for what it is: legislation to give a small group of people with selfish interests they want-whatever that is.