Unsealed birth certificates can change adoptees’ lives

On behalf of The Walters Law Group, Ltd. posted in Family Law on Tuesday, August 6, 2013.

For many adoptees, their inability to reach their birth parents causes a void that can’t be filled. Sealed birth certificates have made it very difficult for many people to find their birth parents, though it is not impossible and often very expensive. However, a small group of states, including Illinois, have unsealed their birth certificates, providing access for adopted children, making the search for their birth parents easier.

Only 8,800 Illinois adoptees have actually requested their birth certificates, but the impact can be life-changing. The trend to seal birth certificates in adoption cases in the United States began in the middle of the 20th century, when the stigma for unwed mothers increased. The birth certificates of children of unwed mothers were usually stamped with the word illegitimate. The idea behind sealing the records was to protect the child and the adoptive family and to allow the birth mother to begin her life over again. Some supporters of sealed birth certificates point out that when birth mothers agreed to place their children up for adoption, they also received the promise of complete privacy. Research, however, has shown that both birth parents and children given up for adoption often want to have contact with each other.

Many adoptees have felt that they have the right to access their birth certificate so that they can know where they come from, as well as knowing their medical history and any issues that can arise from it. For many, there’s also the feeling that their life is incomplete until they know who their birth parents are.

Though only 11 states currently have unsealed birth records, other states are considering legislation to do the same. Unsealed birth records can affect the way that families that pursue adoptions proceed, since permanent privacy is no longer an option.

Source: The News Leader, “UNSEALED BIRTH RECORDS GIVE ADOPTEES PEEK AT PAST”, John O’Connor, July 29, 2013