February 20, 2011
Oklahoma legislative task force on adoption completes work
Oklahoma legislative task force on adoption completes work | NewsOK.com
Adult adoptees in OK appreciate the work Representative Nelson has done in ensuring better financial over sight in adoption. It was gravely needed, based on the findings of this Oklahoma Grand Jury investigation . Interestingly enough, the task force consisted mostly of those who make their living in the business of adoption.
Six U.S. states have passed legislation restoring the UNCONDITIONAL human right of adult adoptees to access their original birth certificate. The legislation recently passed in both Maine and New Hampshire, for example, is strongly supported by The Child Welfare League of America. The states that have passed this legislation, as well as the Tennessee Supreme Court, determined that birth parents were never guaranteed "perpetual anonymity" under the law. Sealed records were not even enacted until the 1940's to protect newly formed adoptive families, not birth parents. Mothers were given no choice but to relinquish their children under sealed records laws, and a whopping 97-99% WANT to know where their child is. "Birth parent privacy" is a myth of the adoption industry. In fact, mother's who surrendered their babies for adoption are also asking for records to be unsealed. Kansas has never sealed obc's of adult adoptees. Abortion rates do not go up, and adoption rates do not go down in states which have done the right thing and restored the dignity and rights of adult adoptees.
In state law now, a Judge can open adoption records for "just cause". Adding any mention of "birth parent privacy" into the law is a farce, because state after state is realizing that it didn't/doesn't exist. If a birth mother relinquishes her child for adoption, but for some reason the child is not legally adopted and lives in foster care, for example, their original birth certificate is never sealed from them.
The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute has an excellent report on their website entitled "For the Records" which explains this issue in depth. This is a civil rights issue for millions of adoptees in America. There is more work to do.
In the task force meeting, it was made to sound as if the intent in the new bill would be that a Judge should always determine the adult adoptee's right to obtain their records as a right that outweighs "privacy rights" of a birth parent.
We tried to explain that:
1) Adoptee's don't request medical records of a birth parent ~ they request their OWN original birth certificate or adoption file, and
2) In states that have passed unconditional access legislation, it has been found that "birth parent privacy" rights is a myth, because birth parents did not ask for, nor were they promised "perpetual anonymity" under the law.)
However, the language that made it to Oklahoma Senate Bill 510 was this:
I. In consideration of a request for the disclosure of birth-parent medical records to an adult adoptee, the court shall authorize the disclosure of such records only if the rights of the adult adoptee outweigh the privacy rights of the birth parent.
Every other American citizen has the right to obtain their original birth certificate, and adoptee's should have that right restored also.
We are thankful that the OK Legislature commissioned the OK Adoption Review Task Force and that it was open to the public. They heard the voices of adult adoptees, first parents, and adoptive parents who attended the meetings, and SB 510 will help to provide better recording and financial oversight in OK adoptions.
The author of the bill and several other legislators we've spoken with understand the issue of adoptee's accessing their records in adulthood, and have agreed to remove the language. The OK Adoption Code currently allows a Judge to grant adoptee access to their file/obc with "just cause", and until OK joins the growing list of states who pass true Adoptee Access legislation, it is better than the language recommended from the task force.
•Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.
-- "Letter from Birmingham Jail," April 16, 1963 ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.