Saturday, October 6, 2012

Amended birth certificates

The first question posed to me the other day came from Sunday Taylor. She said:
Now I am going to get you in trouble...So, how do you feel about adoptees having their original birth certificates sealed and receiving an "amended" version.

Within the adoption triad this is a very hot topic. However, I've got no problem addressing how I feel about things.

First, I guess I should give a brief overview of our adoption history. Cherub 2 came to our family via adoption through the foster care system. In a way though, it was more like a domestic infant adoption. There was no history of abuse or neglect. Instead, TT's first family made an adoption plan. Originally they had planned on taking advantage of Iowa's Safe Haven Law. They were going to simply leave their son at a hospital and walk away. (Not that there is anything simple about making a decision like this!!!) After giving birth in the hospital though (because after laboring at home TT's first mom decided to go to the hospital because of the pain), they were approached by a social worker. It was explained to them that if they formally relinquished their rights, it would go faster and smoother for the baby. And since they ultimately wanted what was best for their son, this is the route that was chosen.

We were a licensed foster family and we got the call that fateful afternoon. Of course I said, "yes!!!" immediately. I was in shock. I was surprised. I was thrilled beyond belief.

Then we went about the process of fostering with adoption as the goal. The whole process took FOREVER. I think for the most part it was because our lawyer drug things out. Never did the first family not sign anything (at least that is what we were told). But it took a year before we were able to stand in front of a judge and make things official. On October 12, 2005 I had the joy of making TT a permanent legal member of my family.

TT's first family never wanted an open adoption. I was young and naive so I didn't push for one. I accepted things as they were presented to me and just loved on my son with all I had. I was grateful we had been given some medical paperwork. I really didn't give much thought to the fact that we didn't have a birth certificate yet. I was told one would be sent to us in the mail.

When it arrived I was surprised. It listed me and my husband as the mother and father. Honestly, I thought maybe I had filled out something wrong. I was a little creeped out by things. It didn't seem right to me. Being totally truthful though, I filed the paperwork away and took solace in the fact that I did know TT's first parents' names. I even had their social security numbers. I figured that if TT ever wanted to find his first family, I would have the necessary paperwork. At the time we were in the process of moving out of state and I didn't give a lot of thought to the birth certificate again for quite awhile.

As TT grew older I immersed myself in the blogosphere. I read books about adoption. I tried to learn as much as I could. I wanted more than anything to handle this topic of adoption well as an adoptive mother. I wanted to educate others about adoption. I wanted to be respectful of my son's story and help him always understand it.

That's when I learned about the whole birth certificate and how it is amended (or falsified) for adoptees. I learned what a disservice this does to adoptees and how many problems it can cause.

Again, I'll be honest...I'm not out pounding on doors trying to change policy myself. I'm not an activist in this realm. I haven't done a lot of research about what I actually can do to change things. But falsifying a birth certificate denies adoptees many things. Yes, it "protects" the privacy of their first family. But it denies the adoptee so much. Some adoptees don't even know the name of the hospital they were born in. (Yes, some states actually change the location of birth to match the adoptive family's location.) Many adoptees have difficulties using their "amended birth certificate" as a legal form of ID. Many have been denied a passport!

Like I said, I'm personally not out there actively trying to change policy. However, this past week I was made aware of a petition that is being circulated. Signing a petition is an easy thing to do. I'm asking my readers to check this out. Read the comments submitted by others that have signed. Read about the real stories of adoptees being denied something that you and I most likely take for granted. Yes, some adoptees want their original birth certificate so they can locate their first families. I think they deserve this right. Others want their OBC so they can get a passport and be allowed to travel abroad. Others just want to know the truth of their beginnings. Please read. And please sign.


Sunday Taylor said...

: ) !!!!!

The first time I learned about adoptees not being able to access there original birth certificates was after 9/11 when my mother was upset that with the new Homeland security laws she would need a passport to cross the bridge into Canada. She could not get a passport without producing original birth certificate at which she could not do because it was sealed and amended when my grandparent adopted her back 12 years old. I had no idea until I started blogging that other adoptees running into the same problems because they could not accept their original birth certificates. It seems very strange to me that someone/anyone should have a government document claiming that they were born to strangers at the age of 12.

As you said everyone has a right to the true about themselves.

Thank you, we're letting others know about something most of us take for granted.

Mama P said...

Wow! I had no idea that we were so lucky to have the original copies of Little Star and Teddy Bear's birth certificates!

I guess that's the good thing about them coming to us as older child foster adoption? We HAD to have the birth certificates to be able to enroll them in school...

CherubMamma said...

You are very lucky Mama P. All I've ever received for my foster kids is a photocopy of their birth certificate and social security card. And amazingly enough, that's worked to get them in to school. All I can do is show the paperwork to the administration, throw my hands up in the air and say, "it's all CPS would give me".

With TT, since he was a newborn, I got NOTHING until after the adoption.

The Campbell's Journey said...

So we just finalized our adoption in August. I never had a copy of Kara's original birth certificate or her social security card. Of course we have the one stating her adopted name and we are listed (just like you said) as the parents with her birth county, weight, time of birth, etc.

So this is not considered an original document? If we wanted to get a passport for her with the name we have given her, would this not work?

Just like you, I never thought anything about what you have mentioned. I of course know who she came from and have that info. We did agree to an open adoption so right now we do have contact with her bio family.

CherubMamma said...

I can't answer your question definitively about the passport Campbell. I've only begun doing the research on this problem. But it does seem that those whose birth certificate is "issued" one year after their birth have problems getting a passport.

This governmental website seems to address the problem in full though. You'll have to see how your new birth certificate was written and filed. Your child may have to have additional documentation before they could get a passport.

*Brittany said...

I had no idea it would be hard for my children after getting new birth certificates later on.. I sure hope things change by the time we ever need a passport for either one of them. With that said, I am happy that my name is on both of my children's birth certificates, that was the only change made after their adoptions, everything else on it stayed the same including place of birth and hospital. And I also have their originals. But our story is a little different than some, the birth mother abused and neglected both my children horribly and after the adoption I was soo glad to get her name off of anything having to do with them. My daughter knows her story and remembers her birth mother, I know she isnt upset that she has an amended birth cerftificate, in fact she is proud. I just had no idea that putting my name on their certificates could cause problems later on.. thats very upsetting to me..

Anonymous said...

Guess I'll need to look into the passport thing as well...

We are doubly fortunate in the area of OBCs at this house. First, our social worker gave us a copy of Grover's OBC when we were thinking of signing him up for Little League. I did NOT offer to return that copy to her when we decided against t-ball. Second, my state is one of the few that does not seal adoptee records. If Grover should want to access his OBC (other than a photocopy), he can legally do so. I'm thankful, for his sake.

I have such mixed feelings about amended birth certificates. If only so many things in this country didn't depend on me having a birth certificate that says I am the parent of this child... I would be completely against them. But it's not so simple, logistically, when you think about using that BC as a form of identification for the next 14 years.

What's the middle ground? Is there a solution that respects the truth of adoptee origins and also allows adoptive families to function in society without lots of interference and explanations and extra documentation?

Anonymous said...

BTW... Petition signed. Thank you for sharing!!

CherubMamma said...

You bring up some really good points fosterfull! In order for us to prove we are the parents we need something official. Being able to use a birth certificate just like everyone else does make that easier.

I'm glad you've got access to the OBC for Grover. I'm sure that will keep you from having any issues should he ever need more than the amended version. All I've got for TT is a very, very dark photocopy. (And I didn't even know I had that until I started looking through our adoption paperwork tonight for other reasons.)

Surely there could be a middle ground. Perhaps it could be just as your situation is. The adoptive parents get to keep the OBC on file so they can use it if necessary. Anything that's filed with the State is not "sealed". So, should the child need a copy that the adoptive parents don't want to surrender, they can access it as well independently. And last, we can get an amended version to use as a form of ID when the children are in our care up to age 18.

The big thing to me is the sealing of the records. I know some people argue that this is to "protect" the first family's privacy. But I think it denies the adoptee so much. If they want or need to locate their first family they should have the right to do so.