June 17, 2008
Adoptees look for their identity
Illinois bill would give better records access
By Kristen Kridel | Tribune reporter
March 11, 2008
Former Denver Broncos fullback and adoptee Howard Griffith has spent
many holidays surrounded by his wife, children, parents and other
family. But he's never been able to shake the feeling that something
"There's always still a sense of loneliness because you truly don't
know who you are, even though you have this support system,"
On Monday morning, he stood in support of Democratic state Rep. Sara
Feigenholtz of Chicago, who is sponsoring a bill that would give
many adoptees at least 21 years old access to their original birth
certificates for the first time since Illinois sealed the records in
The bill, which has been assigned to the House Adoption Reform
Committee, will be voted on Thursday, said Feigenholtz, herself an
"We've been deprived of our history and our identity," she
said. "Chapter 1 of everyone else's lives begins with a birth
certificate, a document I and everyone behind me are prohibited from
The law would allow adoptees born before Jan. 1, 1946, to
immediately get copies of their birth certificates. Those adoptees
had access to their records until the state sealed them
Anyone born after Jan. 1, 1946, will have to wait to retrieve the
document until April 1, 2009, giving birth parents the opportunity
to request anonymity through the state registry, Feigenholtz said.
(Actually, this is an OLD argument ~ no where in law were 'birthparents'
given perpetual confidentiality. These "sealed records" laws were inacted
to protect the adoptive family ~ not the 'birthparent'. For example, if
a mother relinquishes her child for adoption, but for some reason the child
is never adopted, but stays in the foster care system, the child's original
birth certificate is NEVER sealed or amended. Both TN and OR State Supreme
courts have ruled that 'birthparents' are not afforded perpetual anonymity
or confidentiality by law, and that the rights of an adult adoptee to their
original birth certificate, is not a "lower right" which should be withheld
because of another's implied 'right' to confidentiality. "Birthparent
confidentiality" is a myth of the adoption industry. Birthparents did not
ask for confidentiality ~ they were given no choice by the adoption procedures
and laws ~ laws that are unjust and unethical for the product of their business ~
the adopted individual, who does not remain a child forever, but who grows into
adulthood and deserves the same respect, dignity, and right as every other citizen of our great land.)
To have their names removed from the certificate, parents have to
pay a $40 fee or fill out a medical questionnaire, said Melisha
Mitchell, executive director of an organization called White Oak
Foundation that provides post-adoption services.
Advocates of the bill are hoping the birth parents will opt to fill
out their medical history, so their children can receive vital
information, Mitchell said. If the parents do ask for anonymity, the
adoptee can go to the courts five years from that date and initiate
a search for updated medical information free of charge.
Of the about 2,000 birth parents registered in the state, only 17
have asked to remain confidential, Feigenholtz said.
(I'm sorry, but this is ludicrous ~ it doesn't give ALL adult adoptees the same right as EVERY OTHER AMERICAN CITIZEN, and leaves them with 2nd CLASS STATUS ~ compromised health and genealogical histories, dignities, and rights ~ ALL adoptees deserve this basic human right).
Mitchell, a birth mother who chose adoption for her child, said many
parents long to know that their child turned out all right.
"By the time our surrendered son and daughter reached adulthood, we
just wanted peace of mind," she said.
Feigenholtz has spent a decade championing bills aimed at making it
easier for birth parents to reconnect with the adult children for
whom they chose adoption. In 1997, she proposed legislation that
would have opened all Illinois adoption records if it had passed.
In 1999, she got a bill passed that expanded the state's adoption
registry, which allows adoptees and birth parents to document their
desire to reunite and helps them find one another.
More recently, Feigenholtz succeeded in revising a law that used to
require adoptees have a medical reason to petition courts for
information about their parents. Now they can seek the help of a
confidential intermediary for any reason.
(Oh joy ~ I long for the day that ALL adoptees can have the right to their identity "just cause" ~ without restrictions, vetos, and infantile state-mandated third-party intermediary systems ~ these relegate adult adoptees as perpetual children who are not deemed as adults with the same rights as other citizens, and who are seen as perpetual children in the eyes of the law ~ we will not stop until ALL adoptees are equal citizens in America, and grieve with the millions of us and our children who have been adversely affected by these unjust "sealed records" laws in the industry of adoption.)
WGN Radio personality Steve Cochran said supplying birth
certificates for adoptees like himself is an issue of fairness.
"It's something you ought to have because everyone else gets it," he