Adoption is and always has been something that many couples consider in doing throughout their lives. One couple might consider adopting a child due to being unable to have a child of their own or another in wanting to help a child in need of parents to look over them. In recent years, many young parents have given their child up for adoption because of not being able to provide for the child or the mother is too young to take full responsibility. But, the biggest concern regarding adoption is the birth records of the child that are being sealed away from them. Once the child grows up and finds out they were adopted, they are unable to look at their actual birth certificates and find out where they came from. Many have been raising questions to why they are sealed and a resolution must be found to make it fair for the adopted children to find out where they came from and who their real parents are. In the U.S., most laws from the 1930’s and 40’s still remain firm in 44 states.
These laws are forbidding adopted children who are now adults to their original birth records that are locked away from them that has the primal question: Who am I? Identity is many things, but it begins with the knowledge of one’s own truth of heritage and birth. According to Lorraine Dusky, one of the situations that are standing in the way of the further progress to resolve this problem is the argument that most mothers want to keep their “privacy” protected. She says that more work is needed to show that these outdated laws and arguments are not true but only myths. Dusky states that most mothers are more than happy to welcome in their children back into their lives and in states as in Oregon, mothers have the option to fill out a form indicating whether or not they want to be contacted. She concludes that mothers asking for no contact are now no more than one a month. (Dusky). This is a good indication that the birth parents do not want to lose contact with their child when he or she chooses to find them when they grow up. Adoption has also brought an important function to other people’s lives.
According to Annette Baran, Reuben Pannor and Arthur D. Sorosky, adoption fulfills couples’ dreams that are unable to have children of their own and want have a complete family unit that conceals their infertility and denies the existence of another set of parents. They say that in the past, adoption was more open and was not unusual before World War II for a couple to take in a pregnant woman and take care of her while she was pregnant till she delivered, then adopt the child. They state that it was easy for the mother to give her child to the couple because of the connection they formed and the mother felt comfortable giving her child to the people she knew very well who would take care of the baby and provide for it. They conclude that there is no further evidence showing that there were any complications for both the birth and adoptive parents or any harassment from either of them after the child was given away. (Baran et. al. 97-98).
After looking at the aspect of the benefits of both the birth parents and adoptive parents, there are also emotional and health issues with the adoptees. The only reason to why birth records are being sealed away is to keep the privacy of the birth parents but that is completely unfair to the adoptees that want to find out what is wrong with them and where they came from. Some adoptees have health risks and are unable to continue their treatments if they do not have their actual birth records. According to Karen March, one of the strongest challenges against secrecy comes from the adult adoptees that have established contact with their birth parents. She states that before the adoptees reunited with their biological parents, they felt a sense of incompletion from their inability to fully find out about their biological parents and background information to put together who they truly were. March says that after finally reuniting with their parents, they were finally able to move on with their life and accept the reality of why they were sent to adoption.
She concludes that many adoptees that have problems with their birth records being released find themselves emotionally unstable to cope with why their biological parents have left them. (March 653-654). By giving these adoptees the opportunity to place self with a biosocial context, reunion gave them a means of gaining stronger social acceptance. In a book titled “Adoption, Identity, and Kinship” written by Katarina Wegar, assistant professor of sociology at Old Dominion University, investigated the historical, physiological, social, cultural, and gender issues that are surrounding issues over the sealed birth records. Wegar writes that over 60 years of perspectives on adoption, she was able to find that instead of showing adoption as a social institution, many researchers have often depicted adoptive families as deviant people. Moreover, Wegar argues that some adoption activists have accepted facts from psychiatrists, who blame the adoptees’ problems rather than on social and cultural causes. She believes that the American family is a natural or a biological arrangement, to look at adoption as a solution to a social problem rather than the social problem to be solved.
Wegar concludes that the main structure of adoption in the American adoption system is the race and class, along with gender, age, family structure, and sexual preference. (Wegar 36-123). Adoption, according to Wayne E. Carp, is present everywhere in the American society that is creating invisible relationships with biological and adoptive parents and is touching many people. He states that adoption is the most controversial issue in the United States and recent articles have accused many adoptive families of being associated in Cambodian black market baby-buying rings. Carp writes that in 1994, Congress passed a law stating with the intention of prohibiting adoption agencies from using race or national origin as a basis to deny the placement of a child in transracial adoptions. Also, Carp believes that one problem with activists, is that they commonly believe that adoption causes much pain and lifelong suffering to everyone involved and in 1995, the Florida Supreme Court upheld a law stating that gay couples are prohibited from adopting.
Carp says that as late as the 1950s, most Americans would not have considered the subject of adoption or closed records as controversial. In fact, most Americans viewed it in positive terms because it seemed to solve many social problems. Also, according to Doris H. Bertocci, she says the same about how these sealed records are far more complicated than anyone would have expected. (Bertocci 252). Carp states that single women were able to escape the stigma of having a child out of wedlock and were able to move on with their lives, which usually meant getting married. He concludes that it was also an escape route for children to escape the stigma of illegitimacy and then were able to find a good home with two loving parents who on the other hand found a solution to having their own child. (Carp 434). The question was never raised to why records are being sealed away from adoptees. According to Carp, not until the early 1970s was when adult adoptees discovered that birth records were being sealed, thus they went right into the political process to change this unfair practice.
Carp, states that once the reform movement began, the birth mothers reacted immediately and the reason to that was because of the situation they were in. He writes that the mothers believed they were doing the right thing for their babies and that they would be able to avoid society’s condemnation of having a child without being married. Because of this, Carp says that the mothers received promises from adoption agencies that their identities would remain a secret and many kept it away from their husbands as well. But, many activists, according to Carp were able to gain access to adoption records through lawsuits, ballot initiatives, and state legislation, which resulted in success for the state of Oregon to allow adult adoptees to their original birth certificates, for the most part, the result of the reformers’ lawsuits have failed in the courts and failed to open adoption records unconditionally. He argues that the reason to their lack of success, there exists an ethical and moral dilemma: Who’s rights are pre-eminent, those of adopted adults or those of birth parents? Many states have tried to make both sides satisfied: adult adoptees, who want to have the right to open birth records and the birth parents, who were promised secrecy of their identity by the private adoption agencies. (Carp 435).
Taking a look at another aspect of adoption, many complications can arise regarding international adoption. In recent research done by Laurie C. Miller, she finds that since 1986, nearly 220,000 children from other countries have been adopted by American families and since 1995, the top 4 countries have been China, Russia, South Korea, and Guatemala. She states that the living circumstances of children before adoption all varied greatly and most of the children came from orphanages, where they experienced malnutrition, emotional and physical neglect, harsh living environments, and exposure to infectious diseases. Miller states that thanks to the International adoption medicine, new specialized pediatrics have been able to address the specific health care needs for the children after arriving to the United States. But, Miller argues that one of the primary concerns of international adoption medicine is the evaluation of international adoptees for infectious diseases as for other immigrant children.
She also argues that many adoptive families sometimes encounter difficult situations related to infectious diseases like the recent severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic in Asia that has affected many adopting families in the United States. Miller concludes that these days, consultants have much to offer for internationally adopted children and the adoptive parents as well as appropriate screenings that allow assessment of the child’s health. (Miller 286-287). In the United States, adoption by a same-sex partner was first granted in 1985. According to Nina Dethloff, nowadays, adoption by same-sex couples is aloud in a number of states however, there are several differences in other countries. Dethloff states that at least in six states the court has held adoptions by same-sex couples to be permissible. But, adoptions by a homosexual partner are possible in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois, Vermont, Pennsylvania, and in District of Columbia.
She says that the adoption of a child that is not biological, but the previously adopted, child of the other partner is exceptional. She argues that he or she can adopt both a biological child and a previously adopted child of his or her partner but only a few states prohibited and still prohibits adoptions by homosexuals. Dethloff states that previously held prejudices on children who live in a homosexual family are more likely to develop a homosexual orientation or might even be abused, especially by gay men, have not been fully confirmed. Furthermore, she shows evidence that there is no scientific proof that children show developmental or behavioral disturbances as a result of their parents’ sexual orientation. Dethloff concludes that there is evidence that homosexual parents raise their children differently than the opposite-sex couples, but the only real concern is that due to constant prejudices, children raised by same-sex parents may suffer from harsh discrimination. (Dethloff 201).
Every couple, regardless of their sexual orientation, should have the right to raise and adopt a child. Looking at the child’s perspective, would it not be better to give a child a home? According to Gregory K. Popcak, executive director of the Pastoral Solutions Institute, there are significantly more children waiting to be adopted than there is same-sex couples waiting to adopt. He states that by contrast, each year there are no more than 70,000 to 162,000 married couples in the U.S. who have filed adoption papers or are filing papers. Popcak believes that this means that in any given year there are 1.2 and 2.7 married couples per waiting child meaning that there is no need to open up adoption centers for homosexual couples. (Popcak 13). Though Popcak’s arguments may remain true, he is not helping in the fact that all people should be treated equally regardless of their sexual orientation and children should have a home provided for them. Dethloff shows that in a country where a large number of children are living under institutional care in order to be placed in a family, same-sex couples will be more than ready to take in a child and provide for it like any other responsible parent would. (Dethloff 202).
Though many adopted children get discriminated because of their parents’ sexual orientation, they at least know that they have parents that they could talk to and have a real home with. Because they are adopted, they will always look for who their real parents are and what is their real birth certificate as well as have the right to access to it. According to David B. Biklen, adult adoptees who want access to their birth records argue that the information in the birth records belongs not only to the birth parents or state, but also to the child, now an adult. Biklen argues that birth parents should not have control over their adult child’s access to his or hers birth name, heritage, history and the state should not continue to be a party that is keeping all of this information secret. He states that adult adoptees claim the right to their information and because they have a legitimate need, medical and otherwise, to full access to their genetic heritage. Biklen states that recent adoption research indicates that secrecy in adoption can be damaging for everyone involved.
Secrecy in a family can cause much pain, shame, and psychological damage even when the secrets are not revealed and holding back information can be very damaging to the child. (Biklen). Regarding the medical information of the adoptee, it is very important for them to know about where their health risks come from. Biklen states that current sealed records system burdens adult adoptees’ access to family medical information that may be critical to their own health care. He says that many adult adoptees have been having difficulties answering routine, even critical health questions about the health history of their genetic relatives. Also, under the legislation of some states, from having a “sin” of his or hers birth parents, the adopted child was “reborn” into the adoptive family with a new identity, name, and birth certificate to give an illusion that the child was born in the adoptive family. Biklen argues that the original birth certificates were then sealed and replaced with a new birth certificate that gave false information, a legal fiction. In addition, Biklen says that to attempting to change sealed record laws, many adult adoptees have used other ways to search for their birth information by using professional consultants, volunteer networks, and self-help search groups that help address the demands by the adult adoptees to finding their birth parents. (Biklen).
Adoptees now have become more outspoken and are searching for their birth parents without their adoptive parents’ permission. Not only do adoptees have a say on this controversial topic but as well as their adoptive parents. According to Phyllis R. Silverman, Lee Campbell, and Patricia Patti, adoptive parents are finding themselves to be caught in a situation they were never prepared for. They stated that many adoptive parents were expecting their adoptive child will not want to reunite with their birth parents for the papers are sealed and kept away. They say that in a study done of adoptive families, they preferred to have veto power over adoptees searching for their birth parents even when the child grew up into an adult. The researchers say that today, many adoptive and birth parents are now being informed that the child might or will be searching for them when he or she get older.
But, the real concern adoptive parents have is about what type of question might pop up when the child grows up and them not knowing how to answer it. They state that most adoptive parents will not know about the child meeting or them finding their birth parents or what to expect when something like this will occur. In conclusion, they say that adoptive parents get protective of their adoptive children and are afraid of them leaving after they find out the truth. (Silverman et. al. 543). The controversial aspect of adoption helps bring a better understanding of how adoption works as well as the controversy behind it. There will always be debates to what is best for the child and who is the best choice to provide for the child as to help them grow up to be better people and to have a family of their own to where they can feel complete.
Every child needs a family, but every adoptee would have preferred to stay with their biological mother from the beginning even if she could not provide for them. Others, on the other hand are grateful that they have been adopted because it gave them the happiness of being wanted in a family where the biological parents wanted the best for them, out of love. No matter what the choices are made, it is never possible to tell what the outcome may be, and that is the controversial issue. Sealed birth records have the answers to the adoptees questions and could also be beneficial to their medical health risks that could save their life or help form a healthy biological family of their own.
Baran Annette, Reuben Pannor, and Arthur D. Sorosky. “Open Adoption.” Social
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