Monday, June 6, 2011

Why my Amended Birth Certificate is a Lie

 

This article has been read as testimony in Adoptee Rights hearings and has been widely republished, including appearing in a recent adoption policy anthology alongside essays from the National Council for Adoption and the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.

"Why would they lie?"  I thought to myself when I first saw my amended birth certificate.  I was 11 or 12 and it was out on the kitchen counter for some reason I don't recall.  I was alone in the room at the time, wondering if I was allowed to look at the document.  I didn't know my first mother's name, no one had ever told me before.  So I wondered, am I allowed to know?  Feeling very brave and rebellious, I took a peek only to be taken aback that it did not contain my first mother's name at all.  There it was, "certificate of live birth" from the state of Tennessee with my birth date, my name, my place of birth....yet my adoptive parents were listed in place of my first mother's name.  I couldn't believe it.  I vaguely remember asking my mom why she and my father were on my birth certificate and received a "we're your parents" sort of response and feeling like my question had not quite been answered.

Many thoughts went through my mind.  "Did the State save her name before they took it off?"  "Has my choice to one day know her name been taken away from me?  Why couldn't someone have asked what I wanted?"  "Why would you put wrong information about my birth on my birth certificate?"  "Is there something wrong with where I come from that it has to be hidden like that?"  Of course, I had no concept of what an original was, that it was sealed, and that this wasn't really my factual birth document.  I didn't learn about that until my early 20's .  My sense of injustice from seeing this "birth certificate" was not about me weighing in on who my "real parents" are.  Rather, I felt a conflict between the lesson of the truth being important when there were exceptions to the rule.  But what, however, was it about adoption that there was an exception to telling and knowing the truth?

What Birth Certificates Are
When a child is born, the State government collects and keeps vital statistics information.  It makes various pieces of this information available to the person who was born in the form of a birth certificate.  Birth certificates are government recorded and issued documents that contain the vital statistics information collected at the time of the persons' birth.

The Arguments
In my journey in Adoptee Rights activism, I have encountered several points others will make in defense to the practice of amending and even sealing of a birth certificate.  Some say that it is easier to have one amended certificate with the adoptive parents names on it.  Some say that amending and sealing is necessary so that no one will have to know that someone is adopted unless the family or the adopted person decide to disclose it to others.

Some say that the amended certificate isn't untruthful at all.  Despite the fact that it says "certificate of live birth" and contains birth information, they argue that the "mother" and "father" spots on the birth certificate containing the adoptive parents names is understandable because they are mother and father.  They'll point out that the birth certificate does not specifically state "mother who gave birth" or "father who fathered the child."  Some other will simply flat out state that there should be a new birth certificate made with the adoptive parents' names on it because they're the real parents.  They are the ones who did all the hard work, and they deserve the acknowledgement of being on an amended certificate.

Some might also point out that birth and biology are no longer synonymous because of surrogacy and donor conception.  They'll claim this means that adoptees cannot claim a right to know biology and birth information through their birth certificates.

Here's the Truth
It certainly is not easier for many adopted persons in adulthood to have an amended certificate and not their original--just ask those who cannot get passports and driver's licenses, to name just a few complications.  Also, want to compare your amended to the original to verify that you know correct information about yourself?  Want to know your first parents' names?  Tough cookies.  Adoptees in 44 States have a great deal of difficulty doing so.

Birth certificates are not "hide your family drama" certificates.  They are birth certificates.  During his childhood, my father had no amended birth certificate to hide that his mother did not raise him or his brother since the ages of one and two.  My grandfather could not have amended his birth certificate to hide that his mother sent him to live at a boarding school for "fatherless boys" after his dad died while keeping his brother.  Foster kids do not have their birth certificates amended and sealed to hide that they are not being raised by their first parents.  No one else, regardless of the situation, has their birth certificate amended and sealed.  Adoption should be no exception.  When there is a different rule for adoption, we assert that there is something inherently wrong with being adopted.

What are "mother" and "father" are intended to indicate on a birth certificate?  I think that the fact that the document is recorded and kept by the Vital Statistics office and that it contains all information pertaining to birth, "mother" and "father" generally speaking on anything claiming to be a "birth certificate" are clearly intending to indicate the mother who gave birth and the biological father.  Specifications of "mother who gave birth" and "biological father" on a birth certificate would be completely superfluous.

What would perhaps be ideal in the place of amending and sealing is for original birth certificates to be amended to include the names of legal parents, without any other information removed or changed.  A redacted copy could be requested for identification purposes containing whatever specific information the adoptee requesting it saw fit.  However, this is not what the current amended certificate of each adoptee is.  It is a document that presents itself as the original and in place of the original in every single way and that is why it is untruthful.  It does not indicate that it is not the original or that information on it has been changed to include information other than birth information so that I can be aware and informed that I do not have the same birth certificate others do.  There is nothing on it that indicates to me that I am adopted.  When I request a birth certificate from Vital Statistics, they don't address me as an adopted person and ask me "which one?"  They send me the amended one and only the amended one.  Should my parents had chosen not to disclose to me that I am adopted, I would recieve no knowledge or hints by looking at my amended birth certificate.  It in every way shape and form presents my adoptive parents as being the parents who gave birth to me.  Very simply put, it is a lie.  It is my government lying to me.  It allows others to lie to me if they wanted to.  It robs me of the basic human right to truth, identity, self-determination, and autonomy.

What Wanting Truth is all About
Not being on my birth certificate does not mean my parents are not my parents.  It has nothing to do with that.  I love my mom and dad.  It needs to be acknowledged that all of the parents in my life are real; if this were not so, I would not be a real person.  I would not exist.  If I choose to favor some people in my life more than others or apply some sort of heirarchy, that is my choice and not something anyone else or the state has the right to do for me.

Remember, we're talking about birth certificates here, not "I'm the real parent" certificates.  Adoptees deserve the same birth documentation all others get.  Period.  This issue shouldn't be made to be about anyone or anything else or any about any other issue.  My birth, my record, my right.  The idea that birth documents are to be altered to show which family the adoptee belongs to more or which family is more entitled to claim the adoptee is perhaps the most offensive view of all.  Adoptees are people, not property.

As for surrogacy and donor conception, a birth document lacking biological and birth information is also unethical.  It is not a justification for the way adoptees' birth certificates are changed.  We cannot argue against adoptee rights or for the practice of amending and sealing based on what rights that have been stripped off the backs of other groups.  Since birth and biological information is what is contained on birth certificates for most people, birth certificates for other individuals such as those carried by surrogate mothers and those who were donor conceived should provide all pertinent issue about birth, biology, and parentage as well.  Other countries get this right or are working on it.  I will get to that later.

My Birth Certificate as an Example
My "birth certificate" isn't even all that bad as compared to those of other adoptees (and some have no birth certificate of any kind at all).  The "birth certificates" of many other adoptees out there have been found to contain incorrect information such as anything from the wrong race (race changed to the adoptive parents race), to the wrong birth place (claiming the adoptee was born where the adoptive parents live), to the wrong birth date.  I am fortunate to have had little discrepancy from one document to the other.  There is actually more lies on my birth certificate than just the fact that it presents my adoptive parents as though they gave birth to me.  Further editing on my amended birth certificate has tried to hide that it is lying.

In plain print, my amended certificate claims to be the true and original document on file with the Vital Statistics office.  As someone who has been granted the legal privilege of accessing not only my uncensored adoption file as well as access to my original birth certificate (and my hospital long-form), I can tell you that this is not true.  My amended birth certificate is not the true and original document on file.

My amended certificate also contains a filing date that is dated one month after my birth.  Yes, the birth certificate with my parents names along with my adopted name on it claims to have been filed in June (I was born in May).  This is odd because my adoptive parents did not even meet me until October.  I did not legally carry the name "Amanda," the name listed on my birth certificate, until January of the following year.  Yet my amended certificate claims to be filed a month after my birth, before any of the information on it happened?  There must have been a time machine or a psychic in the Vital Statistics office.  The fact of the matter is, my original birth certificate was likely the document filed in June.  Making the filing date closer to the date of birth on the amended certificate simply serves to make it appear as though it is an original document.  Very simply; it's a lie.

My Identity Denied, Her Motherhood Erased
My first mother, who did not know about amending and sealing, was shocked I didn't know her name.  It was hard for me to have to tell her "my parents names took the place of your name and the certificate with your name on it was sealed."  It was when I had to explain this whole process to my first mother, a real person with real feelings who is proud of all of her descendants, that I realized just how disrespectful amending and sealing is--and not just to me as the adopted person.

Truth be told, amending and sealing is completely disrespectful to my adoptive parents as well.  If we have really come to a place in society where we accept adoptive families and other non-traditionally formed families as equal then why do we need a process and a birth certificate for adoptees that hides the fact that they were adopted?  If biological birth is not the only legitimate way of becoming a parent then we do not need a certificate that makes it look as though the adoptive parents are the biological parents.  Adoptive parents love their children; they are perfectly capable of accepting a child for who they are without denying or changing parts of the child's identity and history.

The History of Amending and Sealing Shows why it Needs to Stop
Georgia Tann was the first adoption worker to convince the Tennessee Vital Statistics Office to amend and seal the birth certificates for her adoptions.  Tann's adoptions were illegal; all 5,000 of them.  She pushed for the anonymity of the adoptee and of the adoptive parents by issuing the adopted person a new birth certificate, claiming it would protect the adoptive family from interference from the original family as well as protect the adopted person from the stigma of their impoverished and illegitimate origins by making it appear as though the child had been born to married parents.  In actuality, she was trying to leave as little recourse as possible for original families to find and reclaim their children who had been unlawfully removed by Tann.  Tann's goal was to handle adoptions across the United States and her push for policies of secrecy spread far and wide.  Alabama was first to make amending and sealing and official act of the state for all its adoptions (it is now an open access state).  Tan's stomping ground, Tennessee, was second (Tennessee is now an open access state for adoptees of Tann's era and conditional open access state for those born after Tann's era).  The practice of sealing Original Birth Certificates spread to all the States but two, Alaska and Kansas.

Birth records were amended and sealed in those 48 states based on ideas on the shame of adoption, the stigma of illegitimacy, and the attempt to hide the adoptive family from the very socially scorned original mother.  We should be past this shame and stigma and the need for such measures.  Unfortunately, these laws are still on the books.  The sealed OBC law in New York, for example, is nearing its 80th birthday.  This law was no doubt influenced by Tann herself as the governor who signed it into law adopted two children from her.

The origins of amending and sealing are steeped in shame and stigma and horrendously unethical practices.  In my opinion, the modern day justifications not only fall short but do not erase how sincerely offensive it is to me to have amended and sealed birth certificates that were not designed for my ease and comfort, but to hide who I am and where I come from, because it isn't good enough by society's standards.

Rejection of Difference
H. David Kirk, in his book "Shared Fate," hypothesized that rejecting difference or the "rejection of difference" model, as he calls it, is a coping mechanism in adoption that is employed to deal with differences between biological and adoptive families.  Adoption policy, up until recent decades, has sought the validation and the legitimization of the adoptive family by trying to make it appear as close as possible to biology.  This means people were often matched with children based on similarity in appearance.  Kirk hypothesized that couples adopting a baby which each new adopted child younger than the previous sibling is done to simulate how children enter a biological family and follow birth order in a biological family.  Amending an adoptee's birth certificate is a prime example that he used as being a part of the "rejection of difference" in adoption as it puts the adoptive parents on a birth certificate in the same way biological parents appear on their childrens' birth certificates.  We adoptees are legally equal children and equal heirs in our families because we are compared to biology as the law says we are "as if born to."  I am not equal on my own; I am "equal to" based on the biological ties others have to their families.

There are many differences between adoptive families and biological families.  Rejecting that fact doesn't make the differences go away.  In fact, ignoring of being "blind" to differences adoption brings indicates that society still thinks there is something wrong with adoptive families and adoptees as perhaps might have been thought fifty years ago.  Denying difference denies the reality of the adopted person.  What is there that denies difference more than to alter a birth certificate in this way as if the first chapter of an adoptee's life never existed?

Additional Resulting Problems
The resulting problem, as BJ Lifton so eloquently states in her books (see "Lost and Found" and "Journey of the Adopted Self"), is that practices in adoption that involve secrecy and lack of access to information have had a silencing effect on mothers and adopted persons.  As University of Baltimore Professor, Elizabeth Samuels, has written, the same has contributed to the formation of adoption stereotypes, misinformation, and assumptions (see "Families by Law: an Adoption Reader").  As Barbara Bisantz Raymond laid out in her historical account of Tann's impact on adoption policy, (see "The Baby Thief") how can ethical adoption practice be ensured when it lacks transparency so that ethics can be clearly seen and proven?  Is lying ethical?

Bottom Line
The bottom line for me is that it is just plain invalidating and insulting to be a grown adult and be lied to.  Not only does the amended birth certificate present a lie but it allows adoptees to continue to be lied to about being adopted altogether.  Yes, this still happens in this day and age.  Just a few days ago, I had a friend who recently found out I am adopted, inquire if I was a Late Discovery Adoptee (abbreviated "LDA," and no, I'm not one) and ask me numerous questions about LDAs and about being adopted in general.  Why?  Because she has a friend who hasn't told her daughter she is adopted yet. 

Every single person on this planet has the right to know the DNA they carry, the access to truth, to maintain and form their own identity how they please, and to be incontrol of their own narrative at all times.  To seal pre-adoption information is not only to treat adoptees differently than the non-adopted, it is to take the story of an adoptee's life, rip out the first chapter, as if their narrative does not even belong to them.  For adoptees who haven't been told they are adopted, they may be giving their physicians false family medical information and using it to make health care decisions.  So much self-determineaiton, adulthood, respect, and autonomy is taken from adoptees by the way our birth records are treated.  I suppose the state cannot help what adoptees are or are not told by others in their lives.  However, the state is the one who amends and seals the records; the state should never take part in deceiving its citizens.

We Can do Better
We really can do better.  There is a way to provide both adoptees, donor conceived persons, and those born to surrogate mothers with as much information as the average biologically-raised/non-adopted person gets when requesting a birth certificate.  There is no need for amending and sealing of birth documents for the adopted.  I think Australia gets the closest to having this right.  Court records, birth certificates, and adoption files are all made available to adult adoptees.  Birth certificates contain both birth and adoptive information.  A person who does not want to share the entire contents of their birth certificate can choose to request a redacted copy.  As for donor conception, New Zealand is an example of one country the United States could learn from in terms of birth certificates as biological, birth, and parentage information is all contained on the birth certificate.  The United Kingdom, which has outlawed anonymous egg/sperm donation, is considering similar reforms (and already also allows adopted persons to receive their original birth certificates upon reaching the age of majority).  We can do better too; we really can.  We can do better than handing certificates to people with information that is not correct and expecting them not to feel slighted.  We can do better than that.

In addition to works mentioned in this entry, also see works by Dr. Katrina Wegar and Dr. E. Wayne Carp

65 comments:

Kari said...

Bravo!! Thank you!!

Anonymous said...

Ah! Georgia Tann the mother of modern adoption;adoption without ethics or concern for identity.Von

Peach said...

Excellent!

Anonymous said...

Before Georgia Tann the Lebensborn homes issued false birth records for the babies they placed with good Nazi families. These false birth records were for infants born at the Lebensborn homes and for children (who had the Aryan look) kidnapped from Poland.

Read about it in Children of Europe.
Falsification of Birth Records is a Nazi Idea.

Lori said...

I think that it is an insult to the child, the mother and the adoptive parents.... telling a lie that big and expecting it to just be accepted, is assuming everyone is stupid.

Anonymous said...

Great post - I think the hypocrisy of the "as if" has now reached a new level - I read something about new certificates listing Parent 1 and Parent 2 - can't remember the link but it has Clinton in it - but why not just have a combined certificate or consider a Legal Parent Certificate so parents can enrol the kids etc and leave our Original as it was.

My amended was back dated to the same date as my original - I find it funny as it was several months before mom and dad were approached to consider adopting again...

Amanda said...

Thanks everyone for your comments :-)

theadoptedones, I agree, why not just one certificate with both information on it or a certificate of legal parentage? People have said that current decrees of adoption are not sufficient because they are too long or could be falsified as an excuse to keep amending and sealing. To which I wonder why it makes sense that since decrees of adoption are too long or can be falsified, it's OK to keep falsifying birth records. lol. Let's fix both problems. Federal regulation of adoption, papers and forms that are simplified and harder to falsify, no sealed or altered birth records, and a simple certificate of legal parentage.

Lori, you're right. It's definitely a slap in the face to everyone. When I first talked about wanting my OBC and feeling like my ABC was an insult to my intelligence, my a-mom asked me if I didn't want her to be my mom any more. And I simply told her "if you believe that giving birth is the only legitimate way to be someone's mother, I could imagine why it would be important to be on a birth certificate. But you're my mother too and you don't need to be on my birth certificate for that to be so." I have two moms. Why can't people just accept that?

It's a huge lie we're all expected to swallow.

Priscilla Sharp said...

Eloquent as usual. I'd like to see your take on amended baptismal certificates, too. Talk about institutionalized falsification of documents and lying! I wonder, if someone was consecrated to Christ under one name, and the name was changed, and if we're supposedly "called home to God" by our baptized name, how would the person know when God was calling him/her home? I can just vision the Angel Gabriel approaching someone. "Michael, Michael, time to come home." "Who are you talking to? My name is Joseph." I know that's silly, but still ... oh, what webs we weave.

jodilee0123 said...

I have all three of my kiddos' original birth certificates. I have to say I was in shock when the first one came back and didn't have his mother's name on it--since I had an original before the amended one. I guess I was assuming it would be amended with all the information on it. None of the father's are listed on the original birth certificates--what are your thoughts on that? All three first mothers are involved in our lives, so it is not a matter of searching or knowing--but I know that it may be a physical piece they want with them forever.

Amanda said...

I think fathers ought to be listed on birth certificates. It's important genealogical information for future descendants and also just validating to the person to whom the birth certificate belongs. I know that there are circumstances where fathers won't be on birth certificates (mine is not on mine) but I think an effort absolutely should be made when and if at all possible.

A lot of people know a lot more about this than I do, but sometimes expectant mothers considering adoption are encouraged not to list the fathers. I could speculate reasons why that is but I'd rather someone who actually understands more about it chime in (if anyone reading this knows). My mother knew who fathered me but I believe was told not to put him on my birth certificate. I will have to ask her why.

damianhadams said...

Great post Amanda.
Birth certificates were originally invented for taxation purposes, and at the same time were used as a means for determining your lineage. It is the single greatest document that genealogists use.
By replacing the progenitors with anyone else's name is to create a fraudulent document. It is not the truthful and accuracte record that it was always intended to be. What we are seeing is state sanctioned fraud.
It also allows parents to deceive their children, whether they be adopted or donated.
I am looking at going through the courts to get mine changed. As I don't know who my father is I will attempt to get that section left blank (which might be a difficult task). At least then it will be factual. I love the man who raised me dearly but he is not the man who I am descended from.

Alison Boynton Noyce said...

Love your blog. I just wrote a blog post (www.theyreallmyown.blogspot.com) about adoption blogs and referenced your blog. Just wanted you to know!

Alison

Anonymous said...

Loved this post!

As far as fathers on the birth certificates, if he's named, he automatically has rights. In which case the agency would either have to get him to sign away his rights, too, or go through proper procedure to have his rights terminated by force. Neither of which they want. Much easier to leave him off.

@Damianhadams: Are you changing just your father's name? How are you going about doing this? I would dearly love to have my birth certificate show my real parents.

jodilee0123 said...

Yes! As said above...in some adoption situations, if the father is listed on the birth certificate, his rights also have to be terminated in the court of law--voluntarily or with a court summons. Although, some states require both parents to terminate no matter what...like Wisconsin and North Dakota. I do believe that some agencies will encourage someone placing their child to not put the father's name on the certificate. Sad to say, but true. I think there are some situations where the name may be left off for what the mother may perceive as protection for the child. (violent situations, gang affiliation, incest, etc.) And some may really not know who the father is. Definitely situations not related just to adoption. I wonder what the stats are for fathers not listed on birth certificates is....

Claudia said...

Great post! I keep meaning to do a post about my children's ID certificates but haven't got around to it. I say ID certificates because their 'long' certificate explicitly states that it's an extract from the register of adopted children, not a birth cert. It lists me as their adoptive mother, but makes it clear that's what I am. I really like this approach. I also like the fact hat they also have a 'short' certificate, which (like the rest of the population) doesn't list any parents at all, either birth or adoptive. So they can use that one if they want to, and their long one, which is truthful, if they want to. And if they had a British OBC, they would get access to that at 18 too. (Their Ethiopian BC has us listed as mother and father, which is patently absurd, but it's also pretty obvious that it's not true so unlikely to do any major lasting damage I think).

I've been wanting a post about this issue to link to - so glad you just wrote it!!!

damianhadams said...

@afamilyofmyown
I want to remove my social fathers name from my birth certificate, in effect leaving that section blank.
I am not sure of the differences between the US and here in Oz, but I have to make an application before the courts. Initial inquiries are a bit sketchy because the courts here have never had a case like that before. Usually it is to change the name to someone else's and not just to remove one and leave it blank.
The question would then remain about whether I should change my last name also? Although it may be better for me to continue with this name until such time I have some proof of the correct one to change it too (DNA genealogy is helping in this regard). The sad thing is that any such changes have the potential to affect my own children (aargh).

Anonymous said...

thank you for this . as im trying to find my 4 kids. got ssn but that is it .no where 2 are but the 2 other girls i do not no where they are . would like to meet me and try me out . not that bad . yes the system does lie . so amend to you

Anonymous said...

my ex husband just informed me he found he has 2 birth certificates. One from may 1 and one from may 8, a week apart. do you think this could mean he was adopted. they are from a hospital in pennsylvania.

Amanda said...

Anon @3:45AM,

I'm not sure what him having two birth certificates could mean, to be honest with you. It might mean he is adopted, it might not.

In Pennsylvania, vital information is collected by the hospital at birth. It goes on the "hospital long form" which contains quite a bit of information. This goes to Vital Statistics. What is issued to each person is a simplified, printed copy that contains very basic information such as name at birth, place, date, doctor's name, and parent's names.

It's possible that these are the two certificates he has.

For an adoptee, they too have a "long form" and "short form" birth certificate with original information. But an amended certificate would be another "short form" birth certificate stating that their adoptive parents gave birth.

What he can do is contact the vital statistics office and ask if he was adopted. If so, they can tell him the county in which he was adopted and he can use that information to apply for more documentation.

Anonymous said...

I found out I was adopted at the age of 26. From originally only having two older sisters then suddenly discovering I am one of 10 brothers and 1 younger sister. Not only does my birth certificate state that my nationality is "brown" (Father must have been elsewhere whilst filling out the form) my place of birth is also false.

Does anyone know if making this information public beyond a blog would put my adopted parents in any kind of legal trouble and the level of severity it might cause? I don't wish to get them in any kind of strife as they are amazing parents but I wanted to possibly write a biography acknowledging this fact along the way.

Thanks

Anonymous said...

I wish the world would understand this. I feel sad every day that I have to explain this to some people. I can barely look at my ammended (fake) birth certificate without getting very angry. And I've been reunited with my first parents for 20 years now.
~Tracy

LilySea said...

It's even nuttier when they give two women as the original parent on an amended birth certificate. That's what our kids have.

MyAdoptedLife said...

Although no legal adoption took place, when I was 12 my adoptive parents when to Austin (I'm from Texas) and filed for a lost certificate of birth. No questions, they brought insurance and doctor records and were handed an amended certificate of birth. This birth certificate does not exist in the records. Since finding my birth mother the actual birth certificate that has her name on it - still lists me as a nameless baby. I am struggling to decide if I so through all the red tape hoops to get my name on that certificate - but in doing so - since no adoption ever truly took place - there would then be no record of my adoptive parents having any role in my life whatsoever. It's a sticky catch 22. Great post!

Julie G. said...

I was adopted in the state of Tennessee as well, and I vividly remember at about the same age you were being very, very upset at the lie that is my amended birth certificate. At 46 years old I am still mad when I look at it. The thing that is the hardest is that I don't exactly know where to direct my anger...but, believe me, it's justified.

Tiffany said...

This was a fascinating post.

I didn't even realize they still changed birth certificates and sealed records until our adoption agency mentioned it. We have not finalized the adoption yet, but I had intended to ask if we could leave the birth certificate as is. I'm not even sure after reading this post if that is possible- I had just assumed that if we requested the record remain unsealed, it would be.

We have our daughter's birth certificate with her other parents names on it. There is no name change involved since we agreed on a first name and they wanted us to use our last name from the start. So I see no reason to change anything. We are her parents, but we are not the people who gave birth to her. I truthfully don't understand the process and feel it's outdated and silly. I suppose, though, we need to have some official paper stating we are her parents; it seems they could do that without sealing the previous record, and not list adoptive parents as the parents of birth, since they are not.

In any case, we have no intention of keeping my daughter's original birth certificate from her. It's sad, though, that for many other people who are adopted, they have to depend upon their parents to do the right thing rather than the legal system.

Anonymous said...

As a citizen of 3 countries, I cannot say enough how important a birth certificate is. Mine, my mothers, fathers, grandfathers, grandmothers. All of the above. I am not adopted. I know all my relatives. I comment only to say that I would not of had the opportunity to move to the USA as a citizen (being dual at birth (Australian/New Zealand) were it not for having copies of everyone's birth certificates, among other evidence.

Now certainly not all are this lucky to have such widespread family but without accurate record keeping and filing of documents I wouldn't be so lucky either.

My heart goes out to everyone who has had their records sealed. In my family nothing is more important than keeping these records safe. If not for yourself then for your children or even as was my case grandchildren.

Anonymous said...

Great post. I was shocked and angry to find out that my birth daughter's DOB was changed. To me,it was the State of Louisiana just trying to make even more difficult to find each other. I still have anger toward Volunteers of America, Shreveport LA for the lies I was told. My advice to young Moms is to keep your child. My daughter's adopted father was a drunk and her adopted mother sick. She was their maid all through high school and treated differently after they had a son 18 months after she was adopted. It isn't always "for the best" and makes me very sad to think what she went through. She has been in therapy off and on for years.

M.B said...

I'm sad to say I'm relieved to know we're not the only ones to have certificate issues. My husband adopted my son 9 years ago and we are still unable to get a birth certificate(although his birth state reissued 2 originals so I kept them!). He was adopted in GA, but born in CA. Someone, somewhere has misfiled something and we've been on a path of wrong turns. CA says they should be ammending it, and GA(where in the adoption record states place of birth to be changed to GA- we were not aware of this at the time)says it should be issued from GA. I don't know how it can be legal to change the birthplace. What about hospital, insurance, social security, and state records. They would all say originally CA, yet my son has to say he was born in GA?? Praise God for people who are willing to put time and effort into changes for the good. Thank you for your passion!

Victor Unger said...

I was adopted when I was 8 after a few years in foster care in Washington state. Anyway on my amended birth certificate my adoptive parents had mine say it was filed the month I was adopted and when I asked why I had a fake birth certificate (hey I was 8) I was told it was my real one, when I pointed out the dates they said it was a new one and they said I got a new one because they were my parents and your parents names are on your birth certificate. Later when the adoptive mom of my sisters who was actually a social worker in our families case gave us pictures of my siblings and I with our biological mom my adoptive mom took them and hid them and told my sisters mom we weren't ready emotionally to see the pictures. This was when I was 17 I didn't find out about the pictures until 3 months later and when I did I promptly demanded to see them. And my adoptive mom conveniently lost them after searching in one location for them. And she was angry that our sister adoptive mom told us about the pictures. Well when my siblings found out they were horrified. Also my one biggest complaint about my adoptive parents is that since I am a latino and look latino we get strange looks because they are anglo so they always ask why I am self conscious in public whenever I am with them and I tell them so and they say no one can tell. But I know they don't buy it either. Also I realise my parents will occasionally make a casual remark about latinos and get confused when I am offended. I feel that, that is horrible you cam look at me as you child but don't ever forget you adopted me. They forget that adoption is one way the parent chooses the child and the child being in an emotionally unfit place and too young to make anykind of decision that important is then told to agree to this and that then wham they are now someone elses child. Just like that. Sorry that majority of this was off topic. But thanks for sticking through my rant.

Maryann Zappulla said...

The last four numbers of the Certificate Number on my Brooklyn, NY Birth Certificate represents my name at birth. I went to the NYC Public Library and searched the birth books of Brooklyn for the year I was born and found my name at birth. All adoptees should know about this. If I didn't do this search, I would have never found my birth name.

Now I'm wondering what the other numbers stand for. The whole number looks like this: 156-53-308087.

marilynn said...

Maryann Zappulla I'm helping a new York adopted person I have her amended birth certificate can you help I'm in California. I'm a free searcher. My friend from High School his wife. She's a December baby her real name would be such a gift. my email is marilynndawn@gmail.com

Nienna Valier said...

I was adopted when I was 8. My birth mother placed me for adoption at 4 because I had special needs that she couldn't afford to help.

I am in touch with her
And want my original name back. I was horrifically abused by my adoptive family. They even tried to sell me as a wife!

I want my record expunged of their name.

KDC Couture said...

I'm an adopted child. I believe a child should be told of their adoption & allowed any legal information. Parents 1 & 2, who thinks they have the right to deny us out heritage information? I unfortunately had teribile adoption parents & endured a lot of abuse. I'm now trying to obtain any of my adoption info from said adoption "m8ther". My final straw was when I was reminded @ a family funeral that my name wasn't on the 9bit card as a dtr because I wasn't blood related. To think this comes from a lady that's an ado vacate for foster & adoption kids in Canadian Co Oklahoma, geez. I also wish the adoption agencies made mandintory medical background evaluations as a part of their profile for kids. It would've been a wonderful assets in my medical care. If you treat your adoptive child as your own with unconditional love. You'll get it back in spades, with no need to be threatened by biological parents. I've been extremely successful even with my obsticles; but I stumble around in a family puzzle that I'm not a piece too. It's a very lonely feeling & has affected my relationship bonding in making my family unit. I try hard not to pass this to my daughters family. Anyway that's my 2 cents. Have a blessed day. Kristi

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Dayzee said...

The reason US parents must have a birth certificate for their child, adopted or otherwise, is very simple.
Want a passport? Birth certificate with applying parents name. Register for school? Birth certificate with parents who are registering you for school. Same with sport leagues and so many other things.
If you think this is wrong, change the law that requires parents (again-adoptive or otherwise) to have this document.
It has nothing to do with hiding drama, everything to do with proving you have a legal right to sign a child up for these activities.

Renee Maupin said...

all my life i was told i was adopted by my aunt and uncle but when i petitions the courts to open my records they said there are no records of me being adopted none! but my birth certificate says my aunt and uncle, how in the world if they did not adopt me be able to change my birth parents and my last name. i recently went to the social security office to change my last name to my married name and they asked me who my parents was for verification, i told them my aunt and uncle and they said my birth parents are on their records and not my aunt and uncle. at best they might have had temp custody nothing else, they was supposed to give me back after my mom got on her feet, i do know my birth family and in contact all the time, i have emailed texas vitals so we will see what they say, when i order it comes back as aunt and uncles not birth family. they said i need to fix this cause will cause me problems in the future but parents who raised me are passed away now and i get no help. any advice would be greatly appreciated. ---Renee

Lynn Assimacopoulos said...


A new book called "Separated Lives" is a true story about the adoption of a baby boy and years later a friend taking him on a fascinating journey to search for his birth parents.
Available from Dorrance Publishing in Pittsburgh, PA www.DorranceBookstore.com, Barnes & Noble barnesandnoble.com and Amazon.com.
Author: Lynn Assimacopoulos

D.R. said...

This was a very interesting read.

I did not realize how hurtful, confusing and disrespectful it is/could be to be adopted and not told for so long,
I think most people assume that the parents are only doing it from the child's best interest, without thinking about how it could effect the child.

It has me thinking and wondering if my son will have hostile feelings or have a tough time when he gets older.

My son has been adopted by my husband, who has been in my life and his life since before he was born.
We've known each other since we were 9 and 10.

My son's biological father is not on the birth certificate, because he didn't want to be apart of his life, they also do not have the same last name.

I have my son's original birth certificate put away and I also have an amended one, where his last name is changed.

Technically, I didn't delete any information of his, I just added some.

My husband is his father, maybe not biologically, but in every other way he is.

We did not set out to change his birth certificate, we just set out to have him adopted by my husband.

Because, I worry if anything ever happens to me, I know he would be separated from the only father he has ever known and his baby sister, my parents and my husband's parents, just out of spite.

Amending the birth certificate was part of it, and changing his last name from my maiden name, to my husband's, was a choice we made at that time.

We believe lying to our children does nothing but cause confuse, cause mistrust and makes it seem like we have no respect for them.

We've said from the beginning, when he becomes old enough to understand (before his 20's and teenage years, of course) we will explain everything, in an honest and respectful way in which he can understand, along with answering any questions he may have, because you're right, every child deserves to know who they came from, where they came from and who they are.

We've always tried to maintain or even establish a relationship between our son and his biological father, but it just isnt happening and it's unfortunate.

The circumstances are different, but I just wanted to share my experience.

Regards,
Deidre.

Unknown said...

There is a difference between Certificate of Live Birth and a Birth Certificate, at least in Canada. In your blog post it is confusing as you refer to them as the same thing it appears, however in your state maybe it is different. In canada a Certificate of Live Birth is filled out in pen and handed in to the hospital after the child is born and this can be obtained at a registry office. A birth certificate on the other hand in Canada is different than a Live Birth document. A birth certificate is for the person to have as identity and tells you the date of birth, city, and is computerized. It is not filled in pen by the parents but rather is your birth certificate used for identity.

My live certificate of birth was filled out by parents, in pen, and then signed by the hospital. The issue I am experiencing is my live certificate of birth has an area to be filled out by the doctor who performed the birth. It's called the attendee or the doctor who attended the birth. On my live certificate of birth, there is nothing filled in here. This makes me suspicious. How can a live certificate (proof) of birth, not contain any doctor listed, when it is required or at least it is implied that it is required that a doctor be listed? What good is a live certificate of birth if it doesn't have any proof whatsoever of any doctor performing the birth?

My live cert. of birth does list a hospital in the city that I was born at, but does not list the doctor, even though there is a space for the doctor to be listed.

A birth certificate doesn't contain the doctor information or the hospital information, just the city. At least in canada. Whereas the cert of live birth contains hospital information and doctor information.

Do you think that if the doctor attendee field was left blank, that this is extremely suspicious? I am trying to find out if my parents who brought me up are my real parents, as I've had several hints throughout my childhood that they or one of them is not my true biological parent.

In your state, is a cert. of live birth the same thing as a birth certificate? that's certainly not the case in canada, they are two different things.

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Ronnie Lewis said...

so i was raised by a family friend after being placed from foster care back with my birth father then placed with my birth mother so the family friend raised me from 10 yrs and older off and on until finally she completely raised me all through high school i have came to realize having a healthy relationship with either birth parent isn't a reality so at 41 we are wanting the family friend to adopt me and i want to drop my middle name and change my last to her maiden name any advice on what steps to take to speed this along . thanks Ronnie please email me at Ronnierlewisii@gmail.com

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JDG said...

So glad I read this blog post. I will be sure to request original birth certs if we do adopt. I would want my kids to have all the details. There's something special about your birth certificate. It marks your beginning and is a blip of your heritage. Having both the original and the ABC tells the whole picture. I am not their birth mom - seeing me listed as such on their birth certs wouldn't seem right. Even though we had the youngest since a day old... still no. I didn't carry her for 9 mos.

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Laidy Zabala-Jordan said...

Hi! Can you help me with my case? I want to know who I am so bad! I want to know my mother! I want to know my siblings, but I don't even have a name to go by. I was adopted by a family and even after that placed back into foster care and then I aged out because they were bad.

My BC says my adoptive Parents names and where they used to live as well. I just wish I knew something. I have been living with this for so long, and I just want to feel like I belong to someone, like I am loved by someone.

Even my name was changed when I was adopted. It's like they took my identity and my family's and then gave me to a family that destroyed me all over again.

-Afton

Lynn Assimacopoulos said...




My new book called "Separated Lives" is a true story about the adoption of a baby boy. Years later I take him on a fascinating but uncertain journey to search for his birth parents. It is available from Dorrance Publishing (in Pittsburgh, PA) www.DorranceBookstore.com, Barnes & Noble barnesandnoble.com and Amazon.com

(ISBN: 978-1-4809-1247-2)

Author: Lynn Assimacopoulos

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Vexing Butterfly said...

I am an adoptee from Michigan, born in 1982. I verified this myself when I turned 18, even though my adoptive parents told me at a young age that I was adopted. I've always known. HOWEVER, my "birth certificate" reads "Original Certificate of Live Birth" and has my adoptive parents' names on it. It is not an amended certificate, and the records office did have access to my biological parents' names, but I understood I was supposed to have an "ABC", not an "OBC" after the adoption. Mistake of someone in the clerk's office? Bad practice of state boards that long ago? I don't know, but I feel like the document is certainly a lie. It should not be your birth certificate listing your adoptive parents as "mother" and "father" as it reads in the above article. If the biological parents want their names to be protected, the document should state "Legal mother" and "legal father", in my opinion. I haven't needed a passport yet, but I hope that my OBC doesn't need any further verification showing mismatched info from the original original. Very nice article that reflected most of my views, also.

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Elliander said...

I agree completely. At the very least, if an amended birth certificate is to be used at all, the original should be automatically unsealed when the child becomes an adult, and the child should be notified of it's existence when they become an adult by the state. I see this as a problem for free access to travel as much as a right to knowledge though.

When I got my passport, they kept asking for more and more forms of identification. If I didn't keep my old photo identifications from other states I lived in, I wouldn't have been able to get one at all. I even needed my Canadian ID from the few months I lived up there, without which I wouldn't have been approved, and they don't provide any explanation for why additional forms of identification are needed. I can't imagine a person who was adopted being outright rejected and not knowing why they can never leave a country. Should an adopted parent be allowed to keep a child from ever setting foot outside this country just to satisfy their interests?

I also agree that people need access to their actual genetic family records. In some cases this can be extremely important in the identification of disease risk factors. DNA sequencing helps, but not every inherited condition is identifiable yet, so having complete medical history is very important. Then there's the issue of organ transplant, and trying to find someone who is a suitable match. So many reasons why a person needs to know.

As far as surrogates go, I lean towards genetics over even the physical birthing. If the surrogate also contributed the eggs, she's the biological mother and should be such on the birth certificate, but what about the cases where the biological mother is not the surrogate? I recall reading about cases where the genetic mother was required to adopt her biological child and request an amended birth certificate simply because she wasn't the birth mother. Her egg made the child, but she was no longer physically capable of carrying the child.

I can imagine a reverse problem coming about where the child learns about the amended birth certificate, then thinks the birth mother is the actual mother, and makes medical decisions based on this false information, or is told they are not related by blood, when the truth is they are, as could be verified by any genetic test. Why can't women who are the genetic mothers be treated as such on a birth certificate? How can we assume any legitimacy to the birth records if even the originals can contain incorrect information? If they are going to do something like that, they should have a special birth certificate for these cases that has "Birth Mother" and "Genetic Mother" as separate fields, so the child knows who carried them, and who contributed the genes.

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ZAN said...

I'm a bit late in finding this post, but I'm glad I found it.
The same thing has happened to me, that my adoptive mother's name was placed on my birth certificate in place of my birthmother's.
Very strange that these kinds of things can happen -

But it seems that, in order to cover up other illegal aspects of my adoption, the adoption agency forged my mother's name.
I was part of a short-lived international adoption program that involved the transport of pregnant woman from Russia to the US to give birth. Of course, this program involved overstayed visas by the mothers, amongst other sketchy things...

If it weren't for my very honest parents, I would probably never have questioned my adoption.
Granted, I don't look like my adoptive family, but I still don't think adoption would have really entered my mind.

It's a bit upsetting, then, that I could have lived my whole life not knowing this aspect of my story.
Equalling upsetting is the willingness of this now defunct agency to delete history... Some people may disagree, but I think ancestry is important: if not for familial or self identity, for medical history.
It makes me think that, in some cases, the child and the birth mother, as a unit, aren't of utmost importance in the scheme of the deal :/

Jessica Smith said...

I was married at 32 and immediately tried to get pregnant. When I was unable to conceive I had blood tests for fertility and was told that I had an FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) of 54 and would not be able to have children. Even though the doctors knew that I had been diagnosed with Hashimoto's thyroiditis since age 25, no one bothered to check my thyroid levels. my TSH was measured at .001. My Synthroid dosage was lowered. a friend advise me to contact a spiritualist who help with fertility with his medicine, i collected his contact and explain my situation to him he prepared a herbal medicine which i took as describe I by him. i became pregnant very quickly, I had a successful pregnancy. I have my baby august 2014. to get pregnant at age 35 with my 2nd child in september 2016, thank you papa, email contact if you require his help mallamabuduspiritualhome@gmail.com Or whatsapp him on +2349055637784

Melissa Pelton said...

THIS IS REAL AND NEVER A SCAM. THIS IS REAL..... Hi everyone my name is Melissa Pelton and i am so excited once again. I am here to share the good news to the whole world. I and my husband have lived so many years without having our own kids. We were so worried and i was browsing on the internet where i came across so many people testifying about Christ orphanage children located in africa and how they have adopted beautiful kids from Christ orphanage children. I contacted the foundation on their email: Christorphanagechildren@yahoo.com and i made inquiry on what to do and how to adopt a child and they told me what to do and i did everything they asked me to do and everything went on fine and smoothly. I adopted the beautiful babies and in 7 days time, their agent came to deliver the beautiful babies to me at my door step. African babies are really beautiful and i and my husband have no regrets for adopting the beautiful and loving kids. So if you are looking for somewhere outside your country to adopt babies, i advice you to contact Christ orphanage foundation at Christorphanagechildren@yahoo.com contact them now and have your own beautiful babies. African children are very beautiful and i love them.

THIS IS REAL AND NEVER A SCAM. THIS IS REAL..... Hi everyone my name is Melissa Pelton and i am so excited once again. I am here to share the good news to the whole world. I and my husband have lived so many years without having our own kids. We were so worried and i was browsing on the internet where i came across so many people testifying about Christ orphanage children located in africa and how they have adopted beautiful kids from Christ orphanage children. I contacted the foundation on their email: Christorphanagechildren@yahoo.com and i made inquiry on what to do and how to adopt a child and they told me what to do and i did everything they asked me to do and everything went on fine and smoothly. I adopted the beautiful babies and in 7 days time, their agent came to deliver the beautiful babies to me at my door step. African babies are really beautiful and i and my husband have no regrets for adopting the beautiful and loving kids. So if you are looking for somewhere outside your country to adopt babies, i advice you to contact Christ orphanage foundation at Christorphanagechildren@yahoo.com contact them now and have your own beautiful babies. African children are very beautiful and i love them.

Melissa Pelton said...

THIS IS REAL AND NEVER A SCAM. THIS IS REAL..... Hi everyone my name is Melissa Pelton and i am so excited once again. I am here to share the good news to the whole world. I and my husband have lived so many years without having our own kids. We were so worried and i was browsing on the internet where i came across so many people testifying about Christ orphanage children located in africa and how they have adopted beautiful kids from Christ orphanage children. I contacted the foundation on their email: Christorphanagechildren@yahoo.com and i made inquiry on what to do and how to adopt a child and they told me what to do and i did everything they asked me to do and everything went on fine and smoothly. I adopted the beautiful babies and in 7 days time, their agent came to deliver the beautiful babies to me at my door step. African babies are really beautiful and i and my husband have no regrets for adopting the beautiful and loving kids. So if you are looking for somewhere outside your country to adopt babies, i advice you to contact Christ orphanage foundation at Christorphanagechildren@yahoo.com contact them now and have your own beautiful babies. African children are very beautiful and i love them.

Unknown said...

this has been a thorn in my size for over 4 decades . They fact the state all powerful all knowing dictates my identity my self who they say i am , pisses me off to no end . after my parents {adoptive }passed i began trying to get the closure i needed my whole life . they never understood my feelings o the issue and thought it was a slight against them. They did thou save every record they had and along with the dna test i took . I was finally able to met my birth mother for the second time and i hold the judges order where my identity was stolen from me and changed forever and locked away to be a secret fro the only person who had no say in the matter . I know the truth now and will not stop until the stat5e returns what they have stolen. I'm not even asking for the pound of flesh for the emotional and mental pain and suffering being forced to live a fraud . well no more, i can no longer follow along and continue to be party of a fraud dictated by a man in a robe who might be granted authority by some but not be me and not over my very identity . Im petitioning the California superior{superior my ass } court. to return my name my identity and my true record of birth . i will no long live under their false name . I don't think i can bite my tongue either . this might be the most in your face i have no respect for your court of so called authority and never shall there words honorable be used in the same breath as the judge appointed to rule on the court. today the straw man fraud the created died and the living breathing free man retakes what is mine. great article, for so long i though it was just me who felt the empty hole inside the missing nothing at the center of my being . No one has he right to keep a persons identity a secret from them not the adoptive parents not the birth parents and sure in the hell not some members of a private club who work for the states interest at the expense of the people {who are the real state they serve }

Chikela Cruse said...

I can definitely relate to this article because this is my current situation.I found out in 2010 who my biological father is. I'm having a hard time trying to obtain my original birth certificate my mother married a man that wasn't my biological father and they had my birth last namechanged to reflect he was my biological father and he is not. It is sad that birth certificate reflect lies. I'm still working on trying to get my original birth certificate because I had it before my last name had got changed.

buay marry said...

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