Home » Currently Reading:

II. A History of Sealed Records in the United States

Adoption records and original birth certificates have not always been sealed. Sealing records is, in fact, a relatively recent development in our nation’s history. Birth certificates themselves only came to be required in the first decades of this century. Because they were marked “legitimate” or “illegitimate” in most states and because of the stigma associated with illegitimacy, they were sealed to the public, but were available to the adoptee upon majority. The amended birth certificate, which names the adoptive parents in the place of the birth parents, was first proposed by two Registrars of Vital Statistics in 1931 and was utilized by most states by the end of World War II. In the decades leading up to World War II, court records and original birth certificates were sealed to the public, the explicit reason given being to protect the adoptive family from exposure to embarrassment or even blackmail regarding the illegitimate origins of the adoptee, or in cases where the adoptee had not been told of the adoption to keep that the prerogative of the adoptive parents. Many states sealed adoption records to birth parents as well, fearing their interference in the life of the adoptee. Nowhere in any of these original statutes is there is any reference to the protection of birth parents’ privacy.

Records were sealed to all parties in most states after World War II, largely on the recommendation of professional social work organizations and adoption agencies. These statutes, however, usually included the provision that records could be opened by court order, and in fact many states still have provisions on the books allowing release of records such as the adoption decree to the adoptive parents, or allowing the records to remain unsealed at the adoptive parents’ request. Even in states where this is not officially codified, many adoptive parents routinely obtain records with the names of the birth parents on them at the time of the adoption, or can obtain them by request. There are a number of reasons for this sealing. Social workers lobbied for greater “confidentiality” as a way of increasing their own power and boosting the prestige of their profession. The postwar demographic boom in single pregnancy saw a change in the demographic composition of birth mothers from primarily married or divorced working-class women who relinquished their usually older children for economic reasons, to younger, more broadly middle-class unmarried women who relinquished their children in infancy. The paradigm of the unwed mother had changed from her being congenitally feebleminded to being neurotic and therefore curable; it was deemed best for there to be a complete and early break between mother and relinquished child for the sakes of both. The child was no longer seen as innately tainted by its illegitimate origins, but as a blank slate ready for the adoptive parents to write upon. The new, amended birth certificate and the permanently sealed original fostered the illusion of a brand-new family with no prior or potentially disruptive future connections to the birth family, a “selling device” for agencies to attract adoptive parents. It was assumed that “well-adjusted” adoptees would have no interest in their origins.

While most states sealed their records in the 1940s and 1950s, some states did not do so until much later, with Pennsylvania sealing original birth certificates only in 1984 and Alabama in 1991; by 1998 only Kansas and Alaska still allowed unconditional adoptee access. In November 1998 the voters of Oregon approved the Bastard Nation-inspired ballot initiative, Measure 58, which made Oregon the first state to open, unconditionally, previously sealed records to adult adoptees. After a series of unsuccessful court challenges, the law finally went into effect on May 30, 2000. Also in May 2000, with the full support of the Governor and Lt. Governor, a unanimous vote in the House and only two dissenting votes in the Senate, Alabama reversed its 1991 sealed records law and granted unrestricted access to original birth and adoption records to that state’s adult adoptees. This was accomplished through the lobbying efforts of Alabamians Working for Adoption Reform and Education (AWARE), with the support of Bastard Nation and other adoption reform organizations.

 

Follow Bastard Nation

new! Bastard Nation Analysis and Endorsement of the Adoptee Citizenship Act 2015

new!  Bastard Nation Analysis and Endorsement of the Adoptee Citizenship Act 2015

Stop deporting our brothers and sisters!

Bastard Nation Executive Committee and LegCom page

Bastard Nation Executive Committee and LegCom page

Read about Bastard Nation leadership

THE BASTARD BOUTIQUE IS NOW OPEN! STOCK UP ON BASTARD SWAG FOR YOURSELF, YOUR FRIENDS. GIVE THE GIFT OF BASTARDY TO ANYONE, ANY TIME, ANY WHERE.

THE BASTARD BOUTIQUE IS NOW OPEN!  STOCK UP ON BASTARD SWAG FOR YOURSELF, YOUR FRIENDS. GIVE THE GIFT OF BASTARDY TO ANYONE, ANY TIME, ANY WHERE.

Your one-stop shopping for everything Bastard is now live. You can get our latest Bastard Nation swag at the Bastard Boutique. Quantities are limited! -- CLICK THE PIC!

FACEBOOK OFFICIAL BN PAGE

FACEBOOK OFFICIAL BN PAGE

Join us on the Official Bastard Nation Facebook page. The only "adoption" page on Facebook dedicated to discussion and promotion of adoptee autonomy, civil rights, bastard theory, political organizing, and activism. You can also sign up there for our BN mail list which includes all of our Action Alerts. This is not a search and support page. No Woundies need apply! (Page live on July 1, 2015)

FACEBOOK SOCIAL BN PAGE

FACEBOOK SOCIAL BN PAGE

Join the Bastard Nation Public Page, a public service for Bastard Nationals, friends and supporters. General discussion on adoptee rights and related issues.

TWITTER

TWITTER

Join us on Twitter. All the Bastardly news fit to tweet!

PINTEREST

PINTEREST

Join us on Pinterest. Bastard icons, images, members, actions, politics, and fun. And Christopher Walken!

Become a Bastard Nation Legislative Liaison!

Become a Bastard Nation Legislative Liaison!

Bastard Nation needs Legislative Liaisons in every state with laws that seal adoption records. We need eyes and ears in the legislatures, creating relationships and gathering information.

What does a BN Legislative Liaison do? They talk with lawmakers and their staff about adoptee rights and the laws that seal records. They distribute Bastard Nation position papers and FAQs to legislators and staff members. They record their conversations and report to the BN Legislative Committee.

They are organized, informed, friendly, helpful, and engaged.

What do you need to do to be a BN Legislative Liaison?

1. You need to live close to the capitol of your state.
2. You need to be able to appear friendly, even when talking with people who disagree with you or are just disagreeable, period.
3. You need to have a flexible schedule.
4. You need to agree with Bastard Nation’s mission: If you don’t know what that is, go to bastardnation.org, it’s right there on our welcome page.

Those are the prerequisites. If you are interested, click the picture of the capitol rotunda, and fill out the application form. We will be in touch and schedule an online orientation and training.

We look forward to working with you!

Read what real live adoptees have to say about secret adoption and sealed records....A service of Bastard Nation and Emma Pea! Fighting adoptacrats since 1996.

Hit the pic for archives.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Meet Sharley!

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT:  Meet Sharley!

Bastard Nation Moms Club

Bastard Nation Moms Club

Bastard Nation is gathering the names of moms who are willing to step forward and say that they were never promised confidentiality. If you are willing to participate, please comment this status. Your name (and if you choose, the relinquishment date) will be added to a list used in newspaper ads and to educate legislators.

Bastard Nation Action Alerts (from old BN page)

Bastardly Books by Bastards and Friends

-

  Photobucket

Click Here To Enter

-

 

Recent Comments

bastard-chronicles

bastard-chronicles

Help us celebrate 20 years of bastardy! Bastard Nation is proud to announce the publication of "The Bastard Chronicles: 20 Years of Adoptee Equality Activism in the U.S.and the Birth of a Bastard Nation", Compiled and edited by Marla Paul, "The Bastard Chronicles" is primer for adoptee equality. It features a diverse collection of Bastard theory, and practice, Bastard and Bastard Nation history, legislative and political action, personal stories, art, and literature. It is the public face of Class Bastard written by Bastard Nationals and those we have influenced. Get yours in time for the holidays. Available at Amazon in print and Kindle today. (After the first of the year the print edition will also be available through the Bastard Boutique.

Bastards! Our Bastard Nation Logo T-shirts are now in the boutique! Show the world that we have no shame. Wear it proudly and represent!

Bastards! Our Bastard Nation Logo T-shirts are now in the boutique! Show the world that we have no shame. Wear it proudly and represent!

We also found a stash of our vintage BN logo keychains. There are only 10 left, so order yours! When they're gone, they're gone! Click he pic!

Join Bastard Nation!

Join Bastard Nation!

This summer we are updating our membership/donation page and payment process. If you would like to join or donate, please hit the spemrie. It will take you to our Bastard Boutique page. Follow instructions from there. Be sure to include a quick note with your contact information and anything else you'd like us us know..

My, my it’s American Bastard Pie! (design by Lisa Zatonsky)

My, my it’s American  Bastard Pie! (design by Lisa Zatonsky)

See our state partners:

See our state partners:

Proud Bastard Nation Partner: CalOpen

Proud Bastard Nation Partner: CalOpen

Proud Bastard Nation Partner: Indiana Open Access

Proud Bastard Nation Partner: Indiana Open Access

Proud Bastard Nation Partner: Michigan Open Access

Proud Bastard Nation Partner:  Michigan Open Access

Proud Bastard Nation Partner: Missouri Open

Proud Bastard Nation Partner:  Missouri Open

Proud Bastard Nation Partner: Equal Access Oklahoma

Proud Bastard Nation Partner: Equal Access Oklahoma

Proud Bastard Nation Partner: Open Adoption Records in Quebec

Proud Bastard Nation Partner: Open Adoption Records in Quebec

SAMPLE STATE ORGANIZATION RESOLUTION AGAINST VETOES AND OTHER RESTRICTIONS

SAMPLE STATE ORGANIZATION RESOLUTION AGAINST VETOES AND OTHER RESTRICTIONS

Any political organization seeking to enact true open records legislation should be very clear with both their constituents and the legislators they work with about what the essential provisions of the proposed bill are. Any modification or deletion of the essential provisions of a bill should be immediate cause to have the bill killed.

Any political organization seeking the assistance of Bastard Nation to pass open records legislation must hold unconditional access by adult adoptees to the original record of their birth as an essential provision that cannot be modified or deleted. Read our Mission Statement.

Bastard Nation will not assist any political organization to pass open records legislation unless their governing board or other leadership

passes a written resolution such as the following that commits the board to a strategy of no compromise on key provisions
informs its constituents of this commitment and this strategy
informs the sponsoring legislators of this commitment and this strategy.

WHEREAS we recognize that disclosure and contact vetoes, redactions, mandatory intermediaries and registry provisions are an affront to the dignity of adopted persons everywhere and a violation of their right to due process and equal treatment under the law,

WHEREAS there has been a demonstrable negative effect on the ability to pass unconditional open records in states that have passed veto legislation and/or any provisions that are less than unconditional access on demand by the adult adoptee,

WHEREAS our primary goal is to restore the right of adult adoptees everywhere to be treated as full citizens under the law,

WE HEREBY DECLARE that under no circumstances will we accept the addition of veto, redaction, intermediary, or registry provisions, or any conditional provisions to our legislation that would be less than unconditional access for adult adoptees to the original record of their birth. All legislative sponsors and members of this organization will be informed of our policy on this matter to ensure that the bill is pulled promptly in the event of such revisions.

Share This!