Russell and Laurie, reunited in September, 2001.
When someone loses family members, or even friends, to death, divorce or a geographical move, it is considered acceptable, normal and even expected that the person grieves. When parents and other family members lose a child to adoption, they are assumed and even expected to "forget it," "get over it" and "move on." Often, those relinquished are looked upon as "ungrateful" for having absolutely natural and normal feelings and thoughts about their biological relatives. The basic familial bond that exists between people of the same blood is somehow expected to have disappeared when adoption occurs.
Sealing birth records creates a situation of inequality. Adoptees are not given the same rights as other citizens; that is, the right to their own original birth certificates. Sealed birth certificates were not always a part of adoption. The practice of sealing records came about at a time when infertility and having a child out of wedlock carried great social stigma. Beginning in the 1930s, original birth certificates, along with adoption records, began to be sealed. The reason given for this was to protect the adoptive family from the embarassment of raising an illegitimate child and from the child finding out he or she was adopted in cases where adoptive parents chose not to tell the child of the adoption. Keeping records sealed reinforces these old stigmas.
Adoptive families' fear of the first parents coming back into the lives of adoptees was also a reason noted in sealing records. The current reason given by advocates of sealed records is protection of first parents' privacy. This, however, was never a consideration in sealing records.
Everyone has a right to the record that holds the facts of his or her
birth. Discrimination by the state, however, makes adoptees the only
people in our society who have been stripped of this right. Adoptees do
not need the state to continue its involvement in their lives when they
reach adulthood. Working to change legislation that took away the rights
of adult adoptees to have unconditional access their state held birth
records, just like all other adult citizens, is needed to restore
equality between the adopted and the non-adopted.