Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Adoptee rights

I came across this article yesterday in the New York Times. It was written by a woman who was adopted and now has a son of her own. The son was having heart problems, and a critical decision in his treatment depended on whether he had a family history of a certain genetic disease. The mother, because she knew virtually nothing about her biological relatives, could not answer the question.

The author points out that the existing law, allowing for secret records, was designed to protect birth parents and adoptive parents, but not adoptees. She supports legislation pending in New Jersey that would allow adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates.

I completely see the author's point; it seems unfair that one would lack access to important medical records just because one was adopted. On the other hand, I worry that many birth mothers would be reluctant to consider adoption at all if they did not have the option of anonymity. Discouraging adoption doesn't help anyone, least of all the adoptee. Also, there are plenty of other people who can't get detailed data on their relatives because those relatives are deceased or geographically distant.

What do you think?


Matt said...

Wow, that's a really good question. I'm thinking that maybe the hospital could be entrusted with access to the adoption records and contact the mother to obtain the relevant information.

As they are providers of medical care, they do have some experience with keeping records confidential.

If not the hospital, maybe the adoption agency could act as an intermediary to keep records private while still passing the relevant information. This would have the advantage of keeping the number of people with access to the information low, and they have the same experience the hospitals do wrt confidential records.

Fishfrog said...

I'm in agreement with Matt. Allowing adoptee information about her birth parents seems like it involves unneccesary complications. When there is a much simpler solution that involves none of the complication, like Matt's idea of allowing the hospital to keep the records confidentially, we should go with it.

Because I'm not adopted, I have never understood the desire to know who your "real" parents are. But then I don't understand why anyone cares about there genealogy either. What matters to me is the here and now, and knowing when my ancestors came to America, or whether I'm distantly related to Napolean holds none of my interest.

Of course, this article points out one reason to know something about your biological history.

cdawg said...

Why can't adoption agencies take extensive medical information from the mothers and then give it to the adopting parents. That way the child will know the important family medical history without the wait of a bueracracy.

scarlet panda said...

Cdawg, I think your solution is a good one in terms of balancing the rights of adoptees and birth parents.

The objection of adoptees would be that this system does not allow for any new information to be discovered after the adoption. Several decades after your birth mom fills out a questionnaire, who knows (a) what additional information the birth mom might have about her own health, and (b) what additional diseases or genetic tests will have been discovered? There will still be a lot of information missing. Still, I like the idea, at least as a minimum.

The agency-contacts-the-mother idea is an interesting idea. Some birth moms who want to put the situation behind them might not want to agree to the prospect of lifelong requests for medical information, but it seems a much less onerous burden than having a kid come looking for you.

Fishfrog said...

If we just promoted abortion as a safe alternative to adoption, we wouldn't even have this problem.

FauxClaud said...

What you are wondering about the Natural mothers need for anominity is one of the great myths of adoption.
The majority of moms do not desire nor request to be made a deep secret forever, nor is actually their idenities something that is even protected. A surprisingly huge amount of personal information has usually been passed on to both the professionals involved and often the adoptive parents. They are not the one's protected in the equation, it is the adoptive parets who desire the secrecy for the most part and the professionals who give into the adoptive parenst neeeds because that is where the money comes from.

Mothers do not place their children ( and that is assuming that they have made a true choice to do so, many, many times there is not choice involved at all and they are forced to place their children) and stop feeling like mothers. The desire for their children to be happy, healthy and content lasts for life and the signing of legal paperwork has nil effect on ones heart.

Adoption is not an easy answers to an unlanned pregnancy and one that should be avoided at all costs. It has life long ramifications of pain and grief for both the mother and child. Encouraging adoption is trully encouraging an abuse of women. The majority of infant andoptions in America are completely avoidable if the mother was given the support and assistance that she and her child deserve.

Cookie said...

Claud's right, it is a myth that most women who relinquish children to adoption want or need anonymity and/or protection from their own children. The myth is perpetuated mainly by wealthy adoption agencies and their supporters, not birth mothers. Here's an article I wrote on the subject.

I was found by my son in a state which has the CI system and allowed the agency to search for me. His finding me is one of the best things that ever happened to me.

But, we were lucky, most states do not have the CI system and instead have closed records. All adoptee should have free access to their adoption records - there is no logical reason for them not to. If adoption records are opened, they are opened to the adoptee, not the entire world.

And I agree wholeheartedly with Claud about the lifelong impact of adoption and that it shoul. Adoption should be a last resort for a pregnant woman. Despite what some say, it is NOT a win-win solution that some tout it to be. You will find few birth mothers who would ever describe it in those terms.