An Adoptee’s Perspective on Adoption

That's me holding up my original birth certificate, that shows I was a person who born in Detroit with a different name and past than the one I lived after I was adopted. This document is no longer a state secret, despite Michigan's efforts to keep it sealed in some storage area, and especially never in the hands of the human being who owns that document by birthright.

That’s me holding up my original birth certificate, which shows I was a person who was born in Detroit with a different name and past than the one I lived after I was adopted.

I am one of several million Americans who is adopted. I have been writing about this topic now for several years. I also am writing a book on the subject. It is widely misunderstood by many Americans. Most Americans do not understand how adoption operates as a legal system. In the United States, state laws that govern adoption systematically and intentionally discriminate against millions of Americans of all ages and races on the basis of one’s status at birth in most states. In all but nine states, statutes outright ban and hinder adoptees from getting what all other Americans are granted at birth–the right to know who they are and their kin.

One thing I have learned, again, while working on my project, is how unengaged and uninformed the general population is concerning the rights of adoptees. The lack of public support is tied to deep, archetypal fears of bastards/illegitimate children. The public profile of adoptee rights as a civil rights and legal issue also is linked to historic societal views of illegitimacy. Adoptees’ legal rights to receive equal treatment under the law to obtain their original birth records more recently have become mired in partisan and religious politics. Political forces who now champion adoption and antiquated practices of sealed records include evangelical Christians and the GOP, which supports adoption in its party platform as an alternative to abortion.

Those most impacted by adoption, birth mothers and adoptees, also have been stigmatized by society–historically and to the present. When adoption became a widespread social experiment to address the rise in children born by single mothers after World War II, the mental health profession created harmful and bogus stereotypes. These unscientific and at times kooky caricatures stereotyped birth mothers who had sex out of marriage and became pregnant as mentally unbalanced. They alleged an adoptee’s normal desire to obtain his or her records and know his or her ancestry represented a psychological pathology, once listed in the bible of mental health practitioners, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. As noted adoption history E. Wayne Carp has written,  “No adopted person … imagined that asking the question’Who am I?’ would end up classified as an official psychiatric disorder.” In fact, adoptees for decades now have demanded equal treatment under the law and access to their birth records like adult adoptees can do in many developed countries, including England.

It remarkable that many of these prejudicial attitudes against adoptees and birth mothers have remained constant over my nearly three decades interacting with people on this topic. Today, state public officials who hide behind discriminatory laws that deny adoptees equal rights will always claim they are supported by state law. You will be hard-pressed to find any who will admit they support openly discriminatory practices, the way officials did in the era of Jim Crow. Morally, there is no difference.

Summary of recent advocacy updates I have published:

  • On July 18, 2016, I finally received a copy of my original birth certificate, after the state of Michigan had refused to give it to me when it had no legal rationale to keep it sealed and hidden from me.
  • Read my detailed story on my struggle with the state of Michigan, ending with state vital records officials giving me my original record of birth.
  • See a detailed timeline and a copy of my requests to the state for my original record and the state’s responses on this page.
  • See my press release that I sent on July 23, 2016, with a link to my original birth record, to Michigan and Pacific Northwest media why this protracted battle of identity records is a major public policy issue of vital interest to those who work to promote equality and fair treatment under the law.
  • Review my “key facts” page on my request for what is mine by birthright: my original birth certificate. My goal is to ensure that this victory supports others who suffer from the state’s discriminatory legal practices that deny adoptees equal rights.
  • Explore my forensic analysis of email records that shows how state public records officials worked to deny me my birth certificate while expressing a culture of paranoia and confusion how the state’s poorly worded adoption statutes should be handled. I was labeled “the problem” and tagged in their system because I made a request for my original birth record.
  • Watch my video (see below too) asking Michigan to give me what is mine: my original birth certificate (published April 1, 2016). Ultimately the Michigan 3rd Circuit Court ordered the State of Michigan to release a copy of my original birth certificate, ruling in my favor.

You can read some of my essays on this topic here:

Last updated Sept. 9, 2016.