Registries and intermediaries are NO substitute for open adoption records. Why?
- The right to access one's original birth certificate is NOT the same as search and reunion.This single assumption is the crux of most arguments against open records. Accessing one's original birth certificate is a basic civil right, one that for adult adoptees is manipulated into arguments over "privacy". Our birth mothers were never promised privacy; on top of the humiliation they suffered, they were told if they questioned the process they could be held legally liable. Please see the Donaldson Institute's "For The Records" report and Bastard Nation's position paper on conditional legislation.
- Registries and intermediaries are expensive.
Here in Illinois it's a $95 registration fee plus $200 per search, and that's with the special "subsidy" (usually it's $400 a search). Compare this to $15 for a certified copy of a non-adoptee's birth certificate. Those who cannot afford these rates are locked out of the only procedure currently available for records access.
- Registries and intermediaries are not accessible to everyone.
As an adoptee born in one state and adopted in another I had to fight for years to use the Illinois CI program (and now wish I hadn't). Others are still caught in similar Catch-22s due to paperwork snafus, sunspots, or other silly details. States don't keep track of how many applications get rejected, so there is no way to know how many get dumped in the circular file.
- Registries and intermediaries are ineffective.
The Illinois Registry's match rate is just 13% through March 2008 (link opens PDF); other states are comparable. And intermediaries have no access to records outside their own state; if an adoption takes place across state lines or information resides elsewhere, their Super CI Powers don't work.
- Intermediaries are no better at searching than anyone else.
You are likely to get better results through a search angel, a volunteer who also has a personal connection to adoption and likely a more vested interest in helping, than an anonymous social worker who may not even be familiar with adoption, much less how to manage search and reunion. (Another example of confusing access with search.)
- You have no control over your own search.
These programs will not tell you what steps have been taken on your behalf, so in effect they take control of your search for you. If you have been searching on your own a while, want to see if you can put pieces together yourself, or even just want to verify that you are receiving the services for which you've paid, that decision is taken out of your hands.
- There is no oversight or accountability.
I mentioned how the Illinois CI program released my identifying information to my birth mother without my consent. I still have no "official" notification, going on two years, and no way for me to formally protest or file a grievance. These programs cloak their operations in the magic word "confidentiality," which also serves to hide any mistakes they may make. You can't even find out their standard procedures, or what information they are providing your contacted relative!
- Open adoption records do not result in increased abortions or decreased adoptions.
This is another assumption that has been proven false, time and again, as records are opened in more states. See the EBD's For The Records study.
- Adults do not need third parties to manage their affairs.
Adoptees and birth relatives are perfectly capable of negotiating contact with one another without the "helpful" interference of the government.
In fact, I put forth that intermediaries may actually hinder the process by making it more complicated and overwhelming. If a birth mom is afraid of her secret becoming known, is she more likely to talk to a scary state worker or a gentle volunteer search angel? Keep in mind many of these women were threatened with legal action if they attempted to search. A CI coming along after all these years may resurrect that fear.
- For those birth mothers who do want privacy, registries and intermediaries force the adoptee to contact them in order to gain information.
When I signed up for the CI I didn't necessarily want to find my birth mother, I just wanted information and that is the only way, in Illinois and many other closed-records states, to obtain it. More confusing access with search.
- Registries and intermediaries pre-penalize adult adoptees for something we haven't even done.
Such laws assume ALL adoptees are potential criminals who only seek information in order to stalk birth family members. Could we please get rid of this stereotype? There are existing anti-harassment laws, and adoptees are no more likely to break them than anyone else. Our rights should not be denied to protect against "what-ifs."
Let adoptees and birth moms have access to original birth certificates like everyone else. It would save the state oodles of money since they would not have to run those expensive registry and intermediary programs, and it is the only way to restore equality in a system that is far from equitable.
Santa, I'm still askin'. Please send me my original birth certificate!