Why I Don’t Support Adoption Certificates

I’ve written about adoption and birth certificates before. So I don’t repeat myself, I refer you to those posts:

Recently, forums I visit and blogs I read have been talking about birth certificates. Several people have suggested that adopted children (and, presumably, adults) should have adoption certificates, or certificates of legal parentage, or something that leaves the biological parents’ name on the birth certificate while still enabling the adoptive (and legal) parents to do things like obtain health insurance and sign kids up for sports.

I don’t think that’s a good idea.

I do not believe that original birth certificates should be sealed. Any that are should be unsealed ASAP, and going forward, none should be sealed at all. But, as long as birth certificates are used as legal documents that have to be shown to numerous people, they should all appear to be the same.

There are actually many reasons why a person’s genetic parents would be different than his/her legal parents, including:

  • Traditional adoption (step-parent, kinship, foster, international, private)
  • Embryo adoption in which the legal mother carries and births the baby, which means that the legal mother is the biological mother but not the genetic mother (legally, the definition of biological mother is the woman who gives birth, even if that woman isn’t genetically related to the child)
  • Embryo adoption in which a surrogate carries and births the baby (in this case, the child might have 3 mothers)
  • Egg donation in which the legal father is the sperm “donor” and the legal mother is also the biological, but not genetic, mother
  • Sperm donation in which the legal mother is also the biological and genetic mother
  • Egg or sperm donation, or both, using a surrogate (so, again, the child could have 3 mothers and 2 fathers)
  • Old-fashioned affairs, in which the legal parent is presumed to be the father because he was married to the mother at the time of the pregnancy, but wasn’t the biological parent

So, who wants to create certificates for all of those?

The birth certificate has become a document that verifies:

  • One’s legal status as a citizen of the US
  • One’s age
  • One’s legal parentage

I do not like the idea of an Adoption Certificate, of listing multiple names as mother or father, or of identifying the mothers and fathers as adopted v. biological v. genetic.

So far, I’ve needed birth certificates to:

  • Get my children health insurance
  • Get SNAP and other benefits when Max was unemployed
  • Get my children onto planes as lap children
  • Enroll Jackson in soccer and baseball
  • Establish that I am eligible to work in the US
  • Enroll Jackson in school
  • Obtain Social Security numbers
  • Change my name
  • Enroll myself in college
  • Get into and out of the Bahamas on my honeymoon (we didn’t need passports then)

I believe I will need it to enroll my kids in camp programs as well, and I’m sure there are many other uses for it.

It’s none of the soccer registrar’s business if my kids were adopted. Moreover, though, it’s also none of the registrar’s business if my kids were born through egg donation, surrogacy, or an affair. What kid enrolling in high school wants to get into that conversation with the school’s registrar?

Creating a new class of document will not lessen discrimination. If anything, it creates the opportunity for more discrimination.


25 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Support Adoption Certificates

  1. Totally agree. Who wants to have that conversation every time you have to pull it out? It is no one’s business but the adoptee, and they should choose who it gets brought up to and when.

    • I always get a kick out of my daughter’s amended certificate of live birth. She was born in another state. Although I’m on the birth certificate as her mother, I’ve never been to the state she was born.

      The state she was born in has sealed records. I do have a copy of a redacted original birth certificate, and I plan to ask her birth mother to get me a copy of the original, unredacted, which in that state is an option. I don’t want my daughter to have to wait until she’s 18 to be able to have that.

      At the same time though, I am grateful to have the amended birth certificate. Right after adoption, we went on a plane before we got the amended certificate. I had to have the foster paperwork, a legal copy of the adoption finalization, and the requested name change paperwork. I think a certificate listing all biological/ adopted and potential fathers-pending-DNA-testing creates an unequal level of documentation that might not be as equally recognized by legal authorities.

      • When I applied for SNAP, the intake worker needed birth places. She said, “Wow, you guys have moved a lot.” I explained that our kids were adopted, and she asked, “So you get an adoption subsidy, right?” I said no, because they were adopted privately. She had no idea that kids adopted privately didn’t get subsidies.

        Anyway… I truly hope that, by the time our kids are adults, most of the states will have finally unsealed records.

        And I hadn’t even thought about a certificate listing all possible fathers. Wow, that would be really fun for a kid to explain/listen to his parents explaining.

  2. The idea would not be to create a new class of document but rather just enter the names of their biological parents and their name and just leave it at that. The mistake adopted people and donor offspring make is in trying to accommodate the wants needs and desires of other people to be associated with them in some way on that birth record and it is not necessary. The rules for an adopted person or donor offspring should be the exact same as for everyone. It’s a medical record and needs to be accurate first and foremost. I reunite families and this is a big issue and one that you are correct impacts people who have incorrect birth records for all sorts of reasons. Whenever someone is not listed as the parent of their own offspring on a birth certificate the rights of the entire family are compromised and public health is compromised as well.

    A birth certificate is a medical record and people and the government have an expectation that the parents named on it be accurate for medical and vital record keeping purposes. The information on birth certificates is collected by the CDC and is the basis for the nation’s understanding of health and fertility in the overall population. The information on birth certificates is the basis for research on heritable diseases, birth defects and genetic disorders. For public health reasons people who have offspring are obligated to be named as parents on their own offspring’s birth records because in order that their offspring and other relatives will be able to obtain copies of one another’s records and prove relatedness and attain kinship rights. Fraudulent reporting is a public health crisis as we have not recorded the identities of people who have the most children as the parents of their children and have instead misattributed those chldren to being the offspring of people who are not healthy enough to reproduce. The fertility rate among women over 40 is soaring but in reality they are not fertile at all and the children they are giving birth to is not an idication of their health or fertility but of the health and fertility of much younger women of child bearing age whose identities are not recorded. These large sibling groups appear to be born to separate families and any medical problems they have will never be able to be observed in the sibling group as a whole. Obviously the government relies upon the medical accuracy of the original birth record because they don’t collect or care about certificates amended for adoption. Those certificates with the adoptive parent’s names on them are medically worthless to the government and to the person for whom the certificate is issued. It indeed is a fake and not real vital record. Amended certificates with adoptive parents names on them are inaccurate for medical purposes and do not contain vital information about the person named and their family. Vital records are health records first and foremost. They are medical records and are suppose to be medically accurate and when they are not it undermines the accuracy of medical research and undermines the rights of the people named on the certificate as well as all their relatives who may not have access to vital records because the names of parents on original birth records are missing or misreported.
    Adopted people are given phony vital records, the information on them is not used for vital statistical purposes and the issuance of the phony record prevents them from being able to access the vital records of their parents and other relatives and vice versa because they can’t prove their relationship. This is a right everyone has that is interrupted by the issuance of a fake certificate.
    When people change their names as they do when they get married or simply have a legal name change the vital record the birth certificate does not change, it remains the same. They will have other documentation that proves they legally changed their name from the name on the certificate to the name on their driver’s license. Part of the adoption process is to change the name if the adoptive parents elect to do so. Name change paperwork is filed with the court. So the birth certificate is not the legal vehicle for changing someone’s name, it is a name change separately processed and documented within the adoption paperwork.

    Ideally a person would have their birth record, never sealed that connects them to their biological family in order that they may access one another’s records and have legally recognized kinship which is now totally severed by adoption when it should not be. You still are the sibling of your siblings and are still human and the reason the government allows people to access their relatives records applies to them still regardless of adoption. Then if they are adopted they’d have their adoption paperwork to show their change of name and parental authority. Its truthful and does not interrupt anyone’s rights and does not create a double identity where one must be sealed either. You don’t need to be named parent on a birth record to have parental authority, the adoption decree is what grants the authority. The modified birth record is a cosmetic change for ego purposes only.

    Truth is if the names of the parents on a birth record don’t have to be medically factually accurate than why not any information on the record be totally subjetive and up to the individual filling out the form rather than be grounded in fact? Location, time, names of witnesses? Weight? Length? Date? Year? If the names of a person’s parents are subject to change then really what is the point? The whole thing can be a work of absolute fiction then we should stop using any birth certificate as the basis for medical research on heritable disease and the certificate should state that it is for novelty purposes only and is not necessarily a record of actual events or persons. If it is just so changeable based on what the person or the adoptive parents wants people to think about them then its just your personal ticket to assumed identity rather than a record of who you really are. If one fact is subject to change based on preference why not all?

    There is no real reason to change a person’s birth record. Inaccuracies need to be corrected and people need to start getting their ammended records corrected rather than asking for coppies of the original. I’m starting to do this with some adopted people in reunion under the hippa rule for accurate medical records. They can remove their adoptive parents names from their bir

    • Marilyn, the birth certificate isn’t entirely a medical record. It is also a legal document. Placing the names of only the biological parents would not be sufficient to prove who the legal parents are. Birth certificates are used to prove legal parentage. Therefore, legal parents must be listed on the birth certificate, unless ALL individuals, regardless of how they were conceived and brought into their families, are also issued a certificate of legal parentage. That’s not going to happen, so we amend birth certificates to include a person’s legal parents. Original birth certificates should not be sealed.
      So yes, there is a reason to change a person’s birth certificate.
      And yes, you can also change many aspects of a birth certificate. My aunt’s birth certificate incorrectly identified her as a boy, and that was really fun for her to change. Transgendered people change their genders on their birth certificates. There are people who were born overseas and assigned “best guesses” for birth dates. When they see US doctors, the doctors find that, based on growth plates, their birth years are off. So, they get their birth dates changed.
      I also made the point in my post that one’s conception or adoption status is really no one else’s business. The birth certificate is amended to ensure that everyone has the same records, essentially. It has nothing to do with ego.

      • Well they are a medical record and the birth certificate is not actually the document that documents the legal authority of the adoptive parent – its the adoption decree signed by the judge that actually proves they have been granted authority over the child they are raising. This is why it is not necessary to amend the birth certificate and in fact many adoptive parents don’t. The person has their birth record which is medically accurate and they have their adoption decree which proves that other people have parental authority over them and may also be proof of a name change if there was one. It keeps the medical/vital record accurate and is a truthful account of the relationship between the child and the adoptive parents. There is no real need to alter the birth record.

        Additionally something many people don’t think of is that all of us have a right to obtain the vital records of our relatives for health purposes without their permission. When someone fails to be named as parent on the birth record of their offspring it interrupts the rights of the entire family to access one another’s identifying information and vital records and it is not their fault the child was adopted. Adoption should not interrupt legal kinship the way it does because the kinship is still real; they are still human and need and deserve access to that information and those records the same as anyone else. I don’t think it is ever the intention of people who adopt to sever those rights, its just a faulty law that is causing all kinds of problems.

        The families I reunite are starting to go back and not ask for the original records to be unsealed but for the current versions to be corrected so that they are medically accurate. This won’t undo their adoptions as the birth record is not the document that authorized the adoption. They remain the adopted child of their adopted parents with name changed according to the adoption decree. They have proof of that relationship already, what they desperately need is proof of their kinship to their non rearing family so that they can be found if their non rearing family is seeking them out and so they have a right to their non rearing relatives vital records. It is the perfect solution to the whole issue of unsealing or having access to original records. Tell the state you don’t need to see the original just correct the current one that has the false information that is of no medical or vital importance. Nobody gets hurt and it is what everyone else has, its equal and even and fair.

        My goal is to see adopted people be treated fairly with exactly the same rights as everyone else and having falsified medical records hinders them and is different than what others have. The adoption decree leaves them with one identity and a name change no different than if they were to get married. Also if people can change their gender these days for preference there is going to be no stopping adopted people from changing their records for medical accuracy because no parent has the right not to be named on their child’s birth record for health purposes.

        I was just hoping to give you food for thought as many people think of the birth certificate as documenting who has legal custody and its not. Think of all the separated parents where one has full physical and legal custody and all decision making authority. Even when one parent is kept away by restraining order their name remains on the birth record because that is how the child legally remains kin of their kin. It does not tell us who has authority really especially in a case like adoption when you would have the adoption paperwork as proof why falsify a birth record. It really destroys the child’s original family unnecessarily and adds nothing of importance to the adoptive family. They have all the documentation they need. Also it would help the adopted person be able to like go on a cruise later. The falsified records are not accepted in lots of circumstances. The government can tell they are fake even if it looks like a vital record to the rest of us.

      • The birth certificate is amended so everyone has the same records only theirs is a lie and is of no use to them with the wrong names on it. So really the adoption decree is what they need so they don’t end up with falsified records and still have a connection to their adoptive family. no harm no foul

        • You and I have a fundamental disagreement: You believe amended birth certificates are lies. I don’t. Amended birth certificates aren’t falsified, they’re amended. As long as the original ones remain available and accessible, there’s no problem.
          My post notes that there are many reasons why a person’s legal parents may be different than his/her genetic and/or biological parents, not just adoption. It’s no one’s business how a person came to be in his/her family. Adoption decrees are also far easier to fake than birth certificates. So, I don’t support a different method of proving legal parentage. Amended birth certificates work just fine. But again, I do believe the originals should NOT be sealed.

      • ps i believe you adore your children and have the very best of intentions. I’m sharing these thoughts with you and your readers because we are actively trying to reverse the damage done to adopted people by correcting their falsified birth records with the help and support and love of their adopted families who want them to be treated fairly equally and justly.

  3. But then people would have two birth records with two identities. They would be able to present themselves as two different individuals and how would one be able to tell which one was valid for medical purposes? Would one say that it was a vital record and one say that it was not a vital record? If a person was never informed of their adoption which one would they get when they went to the vital records office? Would they be kept clipped together in a drawer at the vital records office?

    The problem is that nobody else has two birth certificates. They have just the one and it is supposed to be medically accurate for statistical purposes. Having one that is accurate for medical purposes and an extra one is kind of like keeping two sets of books, one for the IRS and one for yourself. Can you explain how people would know the difference between the real original one and the amended one? I mean in case they were never informed of their adoption how would they know to go get the other original one for medical purposes.

    If they just had the original one and their adoption decree then it would always be transparent to them. And why should we worry about people not wanting anyone to know how a child became a member of their family? Nobody else gets that to be private. It’s not like anyone else gets to go “I don’t want anyone to know that this is my biological child I want to hide that they don’t need to know”. It is what it is the truth is the truth. What is the problem with having someone know you adopted a child anymore than having someone know you had a child?

    • I have two birth certificates. I changed my first name. I have my original and an amended one. The original has a stamp on it that it’s been replaced by an amended record. There are at least 2 states that don’t seal, but do amend, birth certificates of adoptees. I imagine they do something similar; stamp the original that it’s no longer valid.
      Did you read my post? Because there are plenty of reasons why a person’s legal parents may not be his/her genetic parents, and how that person came to be a part of the family is no one’s business. As I stated in my post, what teenager wants to explain his donor conception status to the high school registrar?
      And yes, everybody who isn’t adopted, conceived through donor eggs/sperm/embryos, or conceived through surrogacy does get privacy. What if we required different certificates for people conceived through IVF? Or rape? Or any other of a number of circumstances that are different from “the norm”? We don’t do that, nor should we. We use birth certificates as proof of legal parentage for everyone. As long as the originals aren’t sealed, there’s no reason to stop that practice.

      • OK I’m listening – I’m interested in your perspective since your not a proponent of sealed records so presumably what people I’ve reunited are now setting out to do would not shock or offend you or what you are in favor of. For these adults in reunion, or hoping to locate their family, they will ask to have their records corrected as they are not medically accurate under hippa rules for the right to have errors on medical records corrected. Since jurisdictions are now allowing all sorts of changes to birth records based on preference it should not be an issue to change it based on fact. For them it will result in one identity with one birth record and they’d have their adoption records as proof of their name change and proof of their adoption into another family as well. Having their bio parents named on their certificate will not only get them back their ability to access identifying info and vital records on their relatives, it will allow their relatives to get their vital records as well. I think they might even be able to leave their adoptive name on the birth record to make them easier to find if relatives seek them out just based on only asking for corrections of the parent names. In any event it will enable them and their relatives to exercise rights to vital records currently stunted and saves them from that whole access to the original issue.

        But tell me I am interested in your idea but I’m not clear how people could differentiate a certificate that was accurate medically biologically geneologically from one that was not? Relatives accessing the record are currently under the impression that the person is related to them for health purposes even when that is not true (then their rights are undermined as are the person named on the certificate). If a person has access to the original how would they be marked? What if they and their relatives were not told of the adoption and they thought they were related biologically if they were not? I’m just not clear how they’d know the difference. It seems like having the one that is suppose to be medically accurate does the trick.

        • I also didn’t realize that anyone in a family could access another family member’s vital records. I don’t want my sister to be able to get my birth certificate. She’s already stolen my identity once without it.
          Genealogically, adoption is just as valid as biology. Before I got a Mac, I was very into genealogy, and I was the keeper of my dad’s side of the family tree, and one of two keepers on my mom’s side. It bothered me that Family Tree Maker wouldn’t put in the adopted members of the family on trees. My cousin is my cousin; I don’t care how he came to be my cousin, for the purposes of a family tree. I mean, it matters for the DAR, but not to me.
          I do think the states must address this “two copies” issue. One must be stamped original and one amended, or something like that.

      • stamp the original no longer valid and that is how you would know which one was medically valid? Well That’s not totally unreasonable and its better than what we have now but still if they did not know to get the original, the current one would be misleading as it is now.

  4. What if the amended one were stamped not medically relevant, not a vital record not sent to CDC. Instead of stamping the original as out of date? Then at least the person would never think and nobody else would that the amended one is a vital record.

    • Both copies are a vital record. It’s just that the amended one isn’t so much a vital health record.
      When does to CDC pull birth certificates to study? Adoptions aren’t finalized in most states for at least 6 months, usually more like 1 year. If the CDC pulls each certificate as it is created, or by month, then they’d have the original copies, wouldn’t they?

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  6. Hi I have done a ton of research since we first talked. Turns out that adoptive parents don’t need to have their names on birth certificates at all! You can get a passport for an adopted kid using their original birth certificate and a copy of the adoption decree! Every school and college and public or private institution accepts the adoption decree as proof of parental authority over the child named on the birth record. What is wonderful about that is that there is no need at all to change the child’s identity! They use their birth certificate to identify themselves and the adoptive parent uses the adoption decree to prove their authority over the child to enroll them in school or whatever else. If the kid ever needs to prove they are a member of the adoptive family they show their birth certificate and adoption decree.

    This way the child remains a legal member of their biological family. They can access their relatives vital records and vice versa. They can access vital records of their adoptive family and vice versa.

    Tragedy is when the adoptive family names go on the birth record it cuts the legal proof of relationship with the bio family so in reunion they can’t do things like claim a relative as a dependent if they are caring for them or take time off work to attend a funeral etc.

    Right now its just an option for adoptive parents to not be named on certificates. We need to encourage adoptive parents not to do it! Don’t ruin the kid’s life by putting their names on their birth certificates! Everything they need to do requiring parental authority can be achieved with the adoption decree! Moving forward we should make it illegal to add adoptive parents names to birth records. Proof of their relationship to the child is on the adoption decree they don’t need anything more to prove their relationship. Good news and easy to fix so many of the rights they loose by just leaving their birth records alone.

    • Wow. I could not disagree with you more. This entire blog post is about why I don’t support different documentation based on how a child is conceived or joins a family. I absolutely think that all people should have the same documentation. Thus, a person’s legal parents should be on his or her birth certificate.

      It’s not the amending of the birth certificate that severs the legal ties/rights to the biological family. It’s the adoption itself. Having the OBC remain the only BC won’t stop that. I don’t think records should ever be sealed, which nullifies the argument that an ABC stops a person from proving that s/he is biologically related to someone else for the purposes of FMLA and the like.

      I totally disagree with you. But, thank you for commenting, really!

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