Guest Post: Adoptive Parents and Adoptee Rights

[This post originally published by Rebecca Hawkes at Love Is Not a Pie on 2/18/13]

I registered my daughter for a new soccer league the other day, one that requires that we show her birth certificate as proof of age.

“Oh, can I see it?” she asked, with excitement in her voice, when she saw me with the copy in my hands.

I hesitated. This was it: the moment when I had to tell my daughter that the primary legal document of her life, the one she will be required to produce for identification purposes countless times throughout her life, is a big fat lie.

Ashley, who joined our family by way of foster care and is now our legally adopted daughter, knows and has regular contact with her biological mother. She has also seen the hospital records of her birth. She has read the minute by minute description of her first moments on the planet. Among other things, the record indicates that she was placed on her mother’s stomach and that “bonding was noted.”

The family later came into crisis and Ashley and her sister ended up in the foster system, but that was years down the road. All indications are that my daughter’s first moments of life were touchingly sweet and all about the bonding of a mother and child. But I only have the hospital records and the stories her original mother has told me to go on. Because, here’s the thing: I wasn’t there. It would be another eight years before I would even meet this amazing child whom I would come to love.

But there I was the other day, standing in front her, holding a document that lists me as her mother and my husband as her father as though we had been her parents all along. History rewritten.

arclogoI took a deep breath and explained to her about amended birth certificates. I talked about the current laws and how I disagreed with them. I told her about the adoptee rights movement and the demonstration I was hoping to attend in Atlanta this summer.

“Can I come, too?” she asked.

We continued our conversation as we drove to the soccer registration.

“I’m not too upset about the birth certificate,” she said, “but the thing is, I’m kind of a fan of the truth, and this just isn’t it.”

Well said, my dear!

When I posted on facebook that my daughter and I were both hoping the attend the Atlanta demonstration, one of my adoptee friends noted that very few adoptive parents have shown up regularly to support the cause of adoptee rights.

Really? That’s disappointing news.

I’ll be demonstrating in Atlanta as both an adoptee and an adoptive parent, and I’d love to see more adopted parents get involved in the adoptee rights movement. When we take on the role of adoptive parent, we take on many unique responsibilities in addition to the usual parental jobs. We take on, for example, the job of guiding and supporting the adoptee as they make sense of what it means to be a member of more than one family, of finding and forging personal identity within a complex and atypical family structure. We also take on the job of parenting someone who belongs to a class of people whose rights are legally compromised. In most U.S. states, adoptees do not have the right of access to the same personal legal documents as other citizens. This is discrimination.

I am currently working on the logistics. If I can work it out, both my daughter and I will be in Atlanta on August 12 because we are fans of the truth. I hope to see you there!

Click here to learn more about the demonstration.

About the author:
Rebecca Hawkes is an adult adoptee who was able to obtain a copy of her original birth certificate from her home state of Maine, an open-access state since 2009. Her two daughters also have amended birth certificates (as a result of foster and step-parent adoptions) and were born in a state that does not yet offer unrestricted access to original records. Rebecca writes about adoption at


11 thoughts on “Guest Post: Adoptive Parents and Adoptee Rights

  1. Oh how I wish I had the money to attend that demonstration! I’d love to be there to “represent” the birth parents that supposedly “need privacy” and to meet Rebecca and Ashley. *sigh* Ah well.

    This whole exchange is also why I’m a huge fan of the idea that a document created at the finalization of an adoption should not erase the identities of that child’s biological parents, but should include them. There’s nothing wrong with listing, say, “legal parents” and “biological parents” right underneath. I know such a document would be loathed by those parents who are hoping to deny the fact that their child has the biology of two other people, but eventually those people will have to face facts anyway.

  2. The irony is that a preponderance of agencies that have designed, implemented, and managed the institution of adoption are allegedly “Christian” agencies. One would think that honesty would provide the very foundation of their parental reassignment arrangements. Instead, not only have these agencies built families on falsified documentation, but they have largely defended and fortified these dishonest policies and practices when they are challenged. What’s more, they hide behind the skirts of disenfranchised mothers, insisting they remain in hiding, ashamed and needing protection from their own children. Sad. Shameful. Yet, in two-faced fashion, they try to convince today’s women with problem pregnancies that they’d be “good mothers” if they turned their babies over to others. Even that is a lie!

  3. OK. I don’t think original birth certificates should be sealed. I do think birth certificates need to be amended to include the adoptive parents. I don’t think that the birth certificates of children who live with their genetic parents should be any different than the birth certificates of children who live with adoptive parents or parents who are not their genetic parents (think about it – mom who delivers using donor eggs & sperm – who’s on the birth certificate?). Although anyone who looks at my family could easily guess my kids were adopted, a) there are other possible explanations and, b) it’s really not everyone’s business, especially not the airline I’m using to fly my child under 2, the soccer and Little League registrars, the Cub Scouts pack leader, and so on.

  4. They should just call it a “life certificate.” Other problems would remain but at least that one would be solved.

  5. In the UK (as far as I understand the situation) an adoption certificate doesn’t replace the original birth certificate. The birth certificate is amended to say the child is adopted, but all of the other details (including birth parents) stay the same. The adoption certificate includes the adoptive parents name and the child’s new name (if applicable). I believe both certificates are publicly available if you know the basic information required to locate them in error records (normally the persons full name and date of birth). If the adoptee is under 18 then you need to know the adopters full names as well as the child’s full name to request a copy of the certificate (to reduce the chance of birth families tracking down the adoptee if the courts have decided there should be no direct contact)

  6. In my opinion, there should be a document trail that is easily accessible to the person to whom the documents pertain to (the adoptee). I am an adoptee from NJ who has no legal access to my original birth certificate. My current birth certificate is a lie because it states that my adoptive parents gave birth to me. Yes, they are my parents, but no they are not the “birth” parents and a “birth” certificate clearly means a document to chronicle the point in time and actual circumstances of my birth.
    Laws need to change but the only way for this to happen is to get people to care about this civil rights issue. Most people in America think all Adoptee’s can easily access their original birth documents once they become adults. The majority of Americans don’t even realize this is an issue in the majority of states. We need to reach out to those that are not in the adoption triad in order to bring enough attention in order to resolve this issue.

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