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Study Argues Unsealing Adoption Records is Safe

Cathy Duchamp
11/13/2007

Should adults who were adopted have access to their birth records? A report published this week by an adoption reform group says 'yes.' It's renewed debate about the privacy rights of birth mothers, an issue with a long history in the Pacific Northwest. Correspondent Cathy Duchamp explains.

OREGON IS ONE OF ONLY EIGHT STATES THAT ALLOW ADULT ADOPTEES TO SEE THEIR ORIGINAL BIRTH CERTIFICATES, SO THEY COULD LOCATE THEIR BIRTH PARENTS. IT TOOK A CITIZEN INITIATIVE TO GET THE LAW ON THE BOOKS. THAT'S IN LARGE PART BECAUSE OF THE PRIVACY RIGHTS OF BIRTH MOTHERS. A THEORETICAL FEAR, THAT SEEMS LOGICAL, SAYS ADOPTION HISTORIAN E WAYNE CARP:

CARP: "Oh my God. I've been promised privacy and here comes these adopted adults. They now know my identity. What will my husband say? I've never told him this secret. I've had a child out of wedlock, and here he comes knocking on the door."

CARP SAYS NONE OF THAT HAPPENED IN OREGON. THE PACIFIC LUTHERAN UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR WROTE A BOOK ABOUT IT. AND THIS WEEK, THE EVAN DONALDSON ADOPTION INSTITUTE CAME TO THE SAME CONCLUSION. STILL, IN WASHINGTON STATE, THE BIRTH RECORDS OF ADOPTEES REMAIN SEALED, THOUGH PEOPLE CAN MAKE INQUIRIES THROUGH SOMEONE LIKE CAROLE VANDENBOS. SHE'S WHAT'S CALLED A CONFIDENTIAL INTERMEDIARY WHO PETITIONS THE COURT ON BEHALF OF ADOPTIVE ADULTS OR BIRTH PARENTS WHO WANT TO REUNITE:

VANDENBOS: "I'm a birth mother myself and I was reunited with my son 25 years ago. Because I wanted to find him and I thought I had a responsibility to let him know who I was and about his family history to see if he wanted medical information or just wanted to know who I was or what I looked like."

VANDENBOS SAYS CONFIDENTIAL INTERMEDIARIES WERE SUPPOSED TO BE A STEPPING STONE TO THE SYSTEM OREGON NOW HAS. IT NEVER HAPPENED. SHE HOPES IT WILL. THE ACLU OF WASHINGTON BELIEVES PEOPLE WHO WERE ADOPTED SHOULD HAVE ACCESS TO BIRTH RECORDS. BUT THE GROUP SAYS IF A BIRTH PARENT WAS PROMISED THAT HER NAME WOULD REMAIN ANONYMOUS, THAT GUARANTEE SHOULD BE HONORED. I'M CATHY DUCHAMP REPORTING.

℗ Copyright 2007, KUOW News

12.10.18

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