Report Urges All States to Give Adoptees Access to their Original Birth Certificates

The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute has just released a major new report recommending that every state enact legislation restoring the right of all adult adoptees to access their own original birth certificates (OBCs).
The new Policy Brief, “For the Records II: An Examination of the History and Impact of Adult Adoptee Access to Original Birth Certificates,” is based on a years-long examination of relevant judicial and legislative documents; of decades of research and other scholarly writing; and of the concrete experiences of states and countries that have either changed their laws to provide these documents or never sealed them at all.

The Institute’s report suggests that, while a growing number of states have restored OBC access to adopted people once they reach the age of majority, efforts to accelerate the trend have been impeded by misunderstandings about the history of this controversial issue, misconceptions about the parties involved (especially birthmothers), and mistaken concerns about the impact of changing the status quo – e.g., legislators often assume that negative consequences will occur but, in fact, they do not.

“Effective policies and best practices serve everyone’s interests better when they are based on accurate information,” said Adam Pertman, the Adoption Institute’s Executive Director.  “We hope this new report will help to reshape the debate over a very important and controversial question, and that the result will be that all adopted people can achieve equal treatment with their non-adopted peers.”

Among the findings in the 46-page Policy Brief are:
Barring adopted adult from access to their OBSc wrongly denies them a right enjoyed by all others in our country, and is not in their best interest for personal and medical reasons.
Alternatives such as mutual consent registries are ineffective and do not meet adoptees’ needs.
The vast majority of birthmothers don’t want to be anonymous to the children they relinquished.

The recommendations in the Institute’s new Policy Brief include:
Every “closed” state should unseal OBCs for all adult adoptees, retroactively and prospectively.
States that already provide limited OBC access should revise laws to include all adult adoptees.
No professional should promise women anonymity from the children they place for adoption.

The “For the Records II” report is available for download from

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