I believe that everyone has the right to an identity. In addition, I believe that it is a crucial part of one’s identity to be able to see their family members and pick out the characteristics that are comparable. In closed adoptions, children are given no biological ties to their birth parents, and have no rights to their original birth certificate even in adulthood. I believe it is a violation of civil rights to deny a person their birth certificate and the identities of their birth parents under any circumstances.
On several occasions growing up I can recall my mom and dad talking over the circumstances of my mom’s adoption. She appeared confused, lost, hopeless, and angry, and as a child I could not fathom why. It was not until I was much older that I learned that my mom had tried several times to get her birth record or any type of tangible tie to her birth parents, and over and over again she was denied the rights to not only any blood lineage, but also medical histories as well.
My mom was adopted in 1975; this was a time in which many adoptions took place in the state of Texas. It was a closed adoption meaning she and her adoptive parents would have scarce details about the circumstances surrounding my mother’s birth, along with any information on her birth parents. Even though she is an adult she still has no right to know anything about her birth family or even to her own birth certificate. The excuse for withholding the information is that it protects the birth mom, but at the same time does not protect my mom’s rights. There have been several instances where my mother expressed to me the hardships she has faced, being adopted. She expresses that although she loves her adopted parents dearly, she is lost with out a tie to someone biological. I have memories of being in the car with my mom when a song by Joni Mitchell would come on, and my mother would smile a sad smile and say “I used to pretend she was my birth mom”. Being a child and watching my mom feel a lost connection between her and her birth mother, I could not help but look at my mom and see our many resemblances and not feel saddened that she did not have that.
It was not until this year that my mom started to piece together her origins. She was contacted by the agency not too long ago by a caseworker, which informed her that someone from her birth family was searching for her. She filled out ceiling high stacks of paper work, paid hefty fees, and did hours of mandatory counseling, only to hit a dead end when her birth mother stopped replying to the caseworkers calls. This was a cold reminder to my mom that she had no rights in this situation. It has broken my mom’s heart to be denied, yet again, the right to know who she is. Refusing to give up, she gathered what very little information she received from the adoption agency, a file containing all the information about her birth parents, which had been whited out by the agency wherever any names or dates were. She studied it closely and has also put an immense time and energy into finding birth relatives through genealogical cites. My mom has recovered a few distant relatives by doing extensive genealogy research, but has still not been able to match herself to birth parents.
I believe that is unjust and cruel to keep information about a person’s birth family hidden from them as an adult. I believe we all share the right to know where it is we came from and be able to know the names of our parents. Lineage is a right, not a privilege. Some might argue that closed adoptions are a practical way to offer protection for the birth mothers who are unable to care for their child, but after seeing my mother go through what she has been through, it seems strange to me that she should be released from all responsibility to a child she has brought into the world. In addition it is even more cruel to deprive that person of their identity as an adult. I also believe that it is unusually cruel to have a file in an office that could clarify most anything my mom would need to know, yet keep it just out of reach. I cannot help but feel my mom’s frustration. Not only do these laws deny my mom her rights, but also make it impossible for my siblings and I to know where we come from. Many people do not realize the sort of confusion and exasperation that comes with not knowing what health issues, character traits, genes, etc, that come along with having no tie to some form of family history. This past year, I have watched my mom go through drastic ups and downs because of the laws surrounding closed adoption. I can not understand how in a country that is suppose to be dedicated to the people and what is best for them, there are still laws in place that prohibit someone from having their own birth certificate. This law more than has the potential to affect generations, and I personally cannot help but feel the effects of the gaps in my family history.
Kayla and her mom, Shawna