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Should Adopted Children Have Access to Birth Records?


Adoption is the process whereby the legal rights and duties of the biological parents goes to another party, known as the adoptive parent. The legal transfer also means that all the responsibilities and rights of the biological parents are handed over to the new custodians. The law dictating whether adopted person should have access to his or her records vary from states to states. However, most of them do not allow the adoptee to have access to the details such as birth parents and even after reaching adulthood when they are mature. Apart from parental neglect, other reasons why children have often been available for adoption include social and economic factors. It is not always certain that those children for adoption have been rejected by their parents as some people often perceive. 

Because of the policies that prevent adopted children from accessing their birth records, they have often faced conflicting messages about their identities. The two sides of the argument have always been whether it is right or not that these aggregates have access to the essential records. Those in agreement that there should be access to birth records have said that it is very important especially in modern medical practice and for an individual to have self-identity. Consequently, the other side has claimed that such practices deter the general population to adopt children because of fear of possible interference from the biological parents once they know their children whereabouts.  This essay is in support of the argument that adopted children should have access to birth record because it help when asked about family and medical history as well as any genetic disorders among other benefits.


Background information on Adoption

Although adoption in the United States has existed for a long period, the first statute was passed in the year 1851. The adoption laws were contained in the Massachusetts adoption act and mainly ensured the fitness of the adoptive parents before adopting any child. Additionally, according to the Act, it recognized the familial status of the adoptive parents and ensured that the interest of the child was observed before the formal agreement. The issue of confidentiality of adoption records began to take shape in the year 1917 following the enactment of the law that aimed to seal the records from the public. The goal of this law was to protect the interest of the child because in some instance, the child had been born out of wedlock and if such personal records were to be exposed, it is likely that he or she would face stigma. The law, however, allows the adopted child to have access to this information under the very specific condition, and one had to have a genuine reason.

After the Second World War and with the formation of child welfare agencies, much of the shift was towards complete secrecy and closed records. The reason being that it is important to safeguard both the adoptive parent and the child from possible interference by the biological parent. Recent statistics from the United States Department reveal that in the year, United States families adopted about 7000 children. Additionally, in a researched published, 72 percent of adopted children admitted that they wanted to know the reasons why they were adopted. Another significant portion of these aggregates. 65 % wanted to meet their biological parents while an overwhelming 94 % just wanted to know how their birth parents look like. The above statistics, therefore, serve to show that despite the existing myths that many adoptees do not to know or have access to their records, many of them are constantly requesting for this information and, as a result, they should thus have access to their health records.  

Discussion (Supporting Claims)

One of the supporting claims to above stand is seen when it comes to retrieval of vital medical information. It is evident that in some cases, family medical history plays an important role in the diagnosis and management of certain medical conditions that are genetic in nature. If allowed to have access to the health records freely, an individual can gain a sense of the various genealogical condition that he or she can inherit from their families. This information can be very beneficial when it comes to explaining certain disorders or behavior that could not have been explained or could have taken an extensive medical examination and test to conclude. Following this, the doctor or concerned health care professional can thus determine the appropriate intervention to the case. Examples of diseases and conditions that have often been linked to genes include albinism, certain types of cancer and blood diseases among others. After children have been granted the access to the birth record, through proper guidance by the relevant professionals, they can determine the likeliness of them acquiring the diseases or disorder and thus device the appropriate intervention to the condition. 

The second claim to support the above stand is based on ethics and individual desires. One evident fact in everyone is that, no matter the present circumstance, everyone always wishes or has the hunger to know their heritage. Knowing heritage, means where one come from because there is a lot of disquieting loneliness even following the attainment of true success in life. The belief that opening adoption records will create an unwanted relationship, and it is a deprivation of the individual’s right to information. Additional studies have also indicated that even after the revelation of the birth records, the integrity of the adoptive family is often not undermined because the adoption child in most cases is over 18 years and is capable of making a sound decision. In some cases both social and economic factors may have necessitated the child to be adopted yet if these reasons are not made public to the child, he may leave in constant denial as he or she may be feeling unwanted and this may have negative effects on their life. If the true reason is made known to the children adopted in such a case, he or she may finally find peace and, as a result, be able to move on with his or her life without being a captive of their past. 

Thirdly, the decision on whether one has the right to access his or her birth records have often been left to the state systems. Because these people are human, they are subject to mistakes and poor decision making as others. It is unethical and unsound that an individual’s life should be defined by other people without being consulted. Additionally, to have access to the records one needs to show what they call good cause or an efficient compelling reason. However, because there is no standard definition of the word compelling reason or good cause, it makes it even harder for one to have the permit to access adoption information. An individual’s ability in such a case only relies on the case interpretation of the court officials which mostly defer from one court to another. Also, in these proceedings, the birth parents usually remain unrepresented, and true desires are only assumed. From an individual perspective, an adult should not be confined to agreements that had been made at the time of adoption because in some cases, the children usually do not have other alternatives and in many cases such laws are usually aimed at ensuring that the adopted child develops a stable relationship with the adoptive family.

An example of a case driven account in support of open record adoption is the famous reunion between Paul Dinberg and his mother. According to Carole Whitehead, she had been sent to Unwed Home at the age of 18 after she got pregnant. Although she did not want to give her son up, she had to surrender him and had requested confidentiality waived.  However, according to New York laws, such waivers were not possible because adopted children were not allowed to view their original birth certificate. Because of the above provision of the law, as his evident through her life, some mothers go through continued episodes of postponed grief and stress, and reunion with their sons would serve a great deal. Although in such a case Whitehead only came to know of her son through the help of a private investigator, the joy she experienced can explain for many parents around the world the reasons why it is necessary for the adoptee to have access to their birth records. 

Counter Argument

However, the counter arguments to the above stand have noted several reasons as to why it is important that birth records remain concealed. According to them, opening birth records is a violation of the promises made to the birth mothers and may thus result in the creation of unwanted relationships. Additionally, according to this aggregates, such practices is likely to increase abortion rates while at the same time decreasing adoption because many adoptive parents will fear to adopt children. Other reasons they have cited is that allowing access to birth records is a violation of confidentiality and constitutional protection of both parties who were involved during the adoption time. Because many adoptive parents will fear to adopt children because of possible reclamation by their parents, such a move will increase foster care population and consequently hampering service delivery and effective upbringing because there will be stress on the available facility to accommodate more children. Similarly, according to them, it means many children would lack the necessary parent care and love. 


In conclusion, it is, therefore, evident that adopted children should have access to their birth record. Some of the main reasons for this is because allowing access to access them would help when asked about family and medical history as well as any genetic disorders among other benefits. Additionally, everyone always wishes or has the hunger to know their heritage, and it is ethical that one be given the opportunity to have the necessary information that will aid him or her find this information. Because there is no standardized definition of compelling reason, it is unethical and unsound that the whole decision is left to the judges without involving the adopted child. Finally, as is evident from Paul Dinberg and Carole Whitehead case, birth parents also live with the deep desire to meet their children because there are other factors that might have forced her to adopt the child. The best solution would, therefore, to give an individual the choice or access the birth record especially when one is of age. From an individual perspective, once an individual is of age and is capable of making his or her decision effectively, he or she should be provided with all the required information especially relating to his birth.  

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