Original Birth Certificates

I feel a sense of power as I sit in my office with an adopted child’s original birth certificate on my desk. The certified birth certificate will go into the child’s file, and locked away in a vault never to be seen again as mandated by Washington State law. The birth certificates list the full names of the child’s birth parents as well as the name that the birth parent chose for them. The adoptive  family does not know the birth parents last names. Nor do they know the name the birth parent originally chose for the child.

As I look at the vital document, I feel that I’m committing an infraction of sorts, in knowing that the child to whom this information belongs will never be allowed to view it.  The irony and weight of the moment is not lost, as I am keenly aware of the hours of time, money and longing that I’ve personally spent wishing for my own original birth certificate.  It’s eerie to think that a social worker in the State of Tennessee, someone not too unlike myself, filed my birth certificate away, and locked it up and sealed it  for my eyes never to see.

Why is it that I, an arbitrary social worker, gets to hold, handle, file and seal a document away? A document to those whom are not adopted, consider a vital document- one to be stored next to their marriage license and social security cards in a locked, fireproof box.  But, for the adoptee they lost that right to have access to this document, simply for being born?

I know this debate is hot and raging in many states, but I can’t help but feel a sense of debasement as I do to this child what I fought so hard for and wished wasn’t done to me.  If all individuals should have the right to know basic information about themselves, what gives a state the right to act sovereign  and supreme over an adopted child?


9 thoughts on “Original Birth Certificates

  1. I love your posts. They are so thoughtful.

    Out of curiosity, is this at the request of the birthparents? I don’t understand who benefits from this? Can an adoptee request it at 18? Where I live records have been open since 1996 but I recently found out from many adoptive parent friends esp who adopted through the Ministry do not have this information. It’s like government agencies are living in the dark ages.

    As a sidenote, we have my son’s original birth certificate but we have an open adoption. I’m unsure what would happen here in a closed adoption (which still exist), and if it’s actually the birthparents who request it. In this case the question becomes, whose rights are more important? Birthparents of adoptees? One would think it would be the adoptees… (best interests of the child).

    Not to go on and on…! But I feel like government agencies/laws are so out of touch. With the advent of the Internet/social media, any one who wants to find or be found will be successful eventually IMO.


  2. Thanks for your comment. I enjoyed your “cracking the egg” post about trying to start the adoption convo with Theo – way cute.

    Depending on the state adoptees can request their original birth certificate at the age of 18, however oftentimes the request is still up to the discretion of a judge. Just because an adoptee requests their file, does not mean that they will get access to it. Adoption reform is a slow process, and I feel that only through adoptees, adoptive parents and birth parents together advocating and resisting will we see any change.

    What do you mean by your statement, “I don’t understand who benefits from this.”?

    Currently birthparents can request the birth certificate after the birth, but before the adoptive family has finalized the adoption. But once the family has finalized I don’t believe the birthparents can request it any more. 😦

    I agree that adoption social workers should not ever promise a “closed” adoption anymore, even if adoptive families and birth families don’t know each others’ last names. We just have no idea how the internet is going to continue to make people’s information easier and easier to find.


  3. What a beautifully written reflection about the powerlessness one can feel, in an at times powerful position – of being a social worker, in charge of an adoptee’s file. Change can feel slow moving – but with people like you initiating the dialogue, change can indeed come. Thank you for sharing 🙂


  4. Thanks Karly! Yes, it’s uniquely empowering and terrifying to work in a position that is constantly hitting so close to home. I too, am hopeful that change may occur within the world of adoption. I figure blogging to help foster more awareness is a good place to start.


Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s