June 9, 2008
© Photographer: Tyback | Agency: Dreamstime.com
New Miss Oklahoma To Urge Open Adoption Laws
By The Associated Press
When Kelsey Cartwright's father wanted to learn about his biological parents, he learned the papers that would tell him who had put him up for adoption were sealed from his eyes.
"We worked for a few years to get it open,” Cartwright said Sunday, a day after being crowned Miss Oklahoma at the 36th annual scholarship pageant in Tulsa.
Cartwright said she will use her father's experience during her yearlong reign as she promotes open adoptions during appearances at schools and before civic groups across the state.
Cartwright, the 20-year-old daughter of William and Kelli Cartwright, said her father's search for his past was confusing and frustrating.
"You never know what to do next,” said Cartwright, of Collinsville. Oklahoma has closed adoption laws and procedural and legal barriers keep adoption records sealed — even from adopted individuals who want to know the truth about their biological parents and their own heritage, she said.
"You're stuck with that. But there are steps you can take to get your file open,” Cartwright said.
Taking steps to history
State law requires a court order before an adoptee can access their personal information including details about the adoption itself, birth certificates, medical history and identifying information about the birth parents.
After years of effort, William Cartwright secured access to his personal adoption records, Kelsey Cartwright said. They revealed that he is part American Indian and part Hispanic and that his real last name is Mendoza.
Cartwright said opening her father's adoption file "was an amazing experience for our entire family.” It strengthened her father's respect for himself and filled them both with pride, she said.
Preparing for next goal
Cartwright, a student at Oklahoma City University where she is majoring in dance management, said she will start delivering her message about open adoptions when she begins making personal appearances in September.
Until then, she said she will begin preparing herself for her next goal — winning the Miss America pageant in January.
"I'm going in there for the crown,” she said. "I'm ready to finish what we started.”
Cartwright, who qualified for the Miss Oklahoma pageant as Miss Keystone Lake and received a $16,000 scholarship for winning, said she hopes to join a growing list of Miss Oklahomas who have gone on to become Miss America.
In 2006, Jennifer Berry of Tulsa won the pageant in the first of back-to-back wins by Miss Oklahomas. Berry was succeeded in 2007 by former Miss Oklahoma Lauren Nelson of Lawton.
"I am so honored to be representing the state. I'm going to put my best foot forward,” she said. "I hope I can make a great impact on all of our students and the people of Oklahoma.”
(* You can "click" on the title of this post above to read the entire article in the Daily Oklahoman, as well as "comments") Here's mine:
"As an adult adoptee I am glad to see Miss OK speak to such an important issue for so many Americans. Only six U.S. States have passed legislation which unconditionally restores adult adoptees with the same right as other citizens to their original birth certificate. Adult adoptees are the only US citizens who do not have the right to their own genealogical, medical histories, identity, and birth information. As Kelsey experienced, this issue not only affects adoptees, but also their children and grandchildren. Even "open adoption" does not restore the rights of adult adoptees to their original birth certificates. There are no laws which guarantee that a so-called "open adoption" remains opened, and every adoption is "sealed" in court, regardless if it is considered "open" or "closed" at the time of finalization. The only thing that will guarantee ALL adult adoptees the right to their heritage and identity, is for laws to be passed which allow ALL adoptees unconditional access to their original birth certificate. The American Adoption Congress has updated information & statistics regarding this important subject. Thank you, Kelsey, for bringing attention to such an important issue."