BIRTHMOTHERS NEVER LEGALLY PROMISED ANONIMITY
Letter to the Editor
Dear Editor: I am writing in my capacity as head of an independent, nonpartisan national nonprofit organization that conducts research on adoption issues. This is in response to your Jan. 31 editorial “State Should Not Change Agreements from Past Adoptions”
Studies consistently show that sealed records are an anachronism born of society’s desire to protect the reputations of adoptees and their birth parents at a time when unwed mothers were severely stigmatized and the children born to them were denigrated as “bastards.” Over time, the cultural rationale for closed records shifted to maintaining the anonymity of birth mothers; nearly all available research, however, now indicates these women – while often wanting privacy (as opposed to secrecy) – overwhelmingly desire some level of contact with or knowledge about the children they bore; favor the adoptees’ access to their records; and, contrary to popular perception, were not legally assured of anonymity. Those who were verbally promised anonymity overwhelmingly now say they’ve moved on from that point decades ago, and have the right — as adults — to change their minds and make their own decisions.
Moreover, the overwhelming majority of adult adoptees clearly want the records for a variety of reasons, notably medical and genealogical. Perhaps most to the point, the unambiguous conclusion from a growing body of research is that greater knowledge about their histories (biological and personal) yields better outcomes for adoptees and their families. That is the principal reason, in both professional practices and new statutes throughout our country during the last decade, the singular trend has been toward increased disclosure – including with open records, typically without significant caveats or with no conditions whatsoever.
Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute