Original Birth Certificates: A Basic Right for Adoptees

Maybe I hit a nerve. After posting an article on the importance of original birth certificates, I heard from many adoptees who are fed up with birth certificate laws that keep them from learning basic truths about their origins.

“At 47, doesn’t the Legislature think I am old enough to know where I come from?” one reader wrote. “It’s crazy! I was born in North Dakota. Getting information from them is worse than pulling teeth.

“Over the 30 years I’ve been searching, I have learned I have a sister who’s a year older than me who was also given up. You’d think maybe they would offer up a little information about her, but no such luck. I wasn’t even given a birth month, just a year. North Dakota is as old fashioned as they get. I doubt they will ever give up the information. At my age, medical information is almost a must.”

These restrictive laws are on the books in many states. (If you wonder whether you can get your original birth certificate, here is a state-by-state summary from the American Adoption Congress.)

As if it’s not bad enough that adoptees can’t get their hands on these documents, many have resorted to expensive alternate routes to obtain a few facts about their births. It’s not unusual at all for adoptees to shell out several hundreds of dollars for court fees and confidential intermediaries. Responsible adults who have jobs, families and homes of their own have to spend big bucks just to get a few tidbits of information about their births and birth parents. Of course, those who don’t have the money are completely out of luck. This is not right.

me and the BC bestI am one of the lucky adoptees. I was born in Illinois, which recently unsealed original birth certificates for adopted people. A couple of years ago, I sent the Illinois Department of Public Health a check for $15 or $20. Months later, I had a non-certified copy of my birth certificate.  That document revealed my birth mother’s maiden name, married name, age, address and her place of birth. With that information, I began my search for more facts about blood relatives. Thanks to that piece of paper and a wonderful search angel, I have been able to learn many important things about medical and family history.

As far as birth certificate access goes, Illinois was ahead of New York, the state where I currently live. I am glad to see the Empire State moving in the right direction. Here’s a great 20-minute video on the New York state adoptee bill of rights featuring comments from birth parents and adoptees.

3 thoughts on “Original Birth Certificates: A Basic Right for Adoptees

  1. Great piece, thanks for sharing . We just found my husband’s family after 30 years of searching. Many are gone though, if we had had his original Birth Certificate 30 years ago, so much would have been different.

  2. Having access is a must. In addition, adoptive certificates should be the original with an addendum of the adoptive information.

  3. I, too, have possession of my original birth certificate. It took a Court Order, but I got it. Although my OBC is no longer a legal document, that doesn’t matter. It is one of the most treasured things I own. It tells who I was when I entered this world. I may not have birth photos, little footprints from the hospital, the snipped hospital bracelet, etc., but I know who I was meant to be when my mom had me. After I found my birth parents, they signed releases allowing me to have the OBC…I was denied. People shouldn’t have to get a court order to gain access to information about who they were when they entered this world. It is a given for most, and should be for adoptees as well. Great piece, Lynne!

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