It's the money; Birth pains

Linda Hammer
Via e-mail

The article written by Lisa Singh was a very good portrayal of the issues facing the adoptee rights movement here in Texas. However, I want to address birth parent rights, specifically the rights of the small minority of birth parents who say they do not want to have contact from their birth child.

I am a social worker. I have been involved in child placement in Texas for the past 27 years. I know there are birth mothers who do not want their birth child to contact them. They are a small minority of all birth mothers, estimated to be between 2 percent and 5 percent of the total number of birth mothers. These numbers have been verified over and over again all across the United States by search and reunion professionals. In agencies/adoptions wherein shame and guilt were reinforced in the placement process, these numbers are higher. In agencies/adoptions wherein adoption was supported as a truly loving choice, these numbers are lower.

The bottom line is that 95 percent of birth mothers would love to hear from their birth child. Was the choice they made 21-plus years ago a good choice? Only the birth child, now an adult, can really answer that question.

However, we must protect that minority of birth mothers who do not want to have this question answered--who do not want to see their birth child. The best way to do that is to set up a system wherein they can have the greatest assurance possible that their personal statements on this issue will be delivered to their birth child. If this document also contains health and other information adult adoptees most often need, the probability of an unwanted contact will be greatly reduced compared to those contacts now happening with the current system in Texas.

The current adoption registry system in Texas is not the way to have that assurance. Most adoptees and birth parents do not even know the adoption registry system exists. The large majority of adoption reunions are happening because of personal searches outside the registry system. Consequently, a significant percentage of those birth parents wanting no contact are being contacted by their now-adult birth children against their wishes. These adult adoptees did not know their birth mothers' wishes. If they had, the large majority of those contacts would not be happening as they are now in Texas.

The best way to set up a system to ensure that such contacts are eliminated to the fullest extent possible is to have a system whereby birth parents can file personal letters with their child's original birth certificate. These letters would be released with the original birth certificate to the adult adoptee.

Denying basic birth information to adult adoptees does not work in helping to protect the privacy of birth mothers. Treating adult adoptees as adults will work.

While not all adult adoptees requesting a copy of their original birth certificate are planning to search for their birth parents, whenever an adoptee searches, the securing of the original birth certificate is the most common first step. Thus, with this letter attached to that original birth certificate, a birth mother can have the greatest assurance possible that her letter, and her wishes, will be delivered to her birth child if that now-adult child is searching.

There are judges who routinely release original birth certificates to adult adoptees with no questions asked. Judge Gaither here in Dallas has done that for years. He has a large file of "Thank you" letters to prove the value of that practice. However, his court's time and resources are very strained because of the rest of his workload. The courts should not be used in this manner.

Judge Gaither is one of the strong supporters of this bill that will again be proposed by state Rep. Tony Goolsby in the next legislative session. With the proposed legislation, adult adoptees will be able to get their original birth certificates just like the rest of us. They will also get any original letters that their birth parents may have chosen to have filed with the original birth certificate.

The proposed adoption legislation will also, from this point forward, give families in the adoption process the option of retaining their child's original birth certificate and receiving a decree of adoption instead of a falsified birth certificate. Currently all adoptions in Texas involve a falsified birth certificate used to indicate that the child adopted was born to the adoptive parents. There may have been a need for such mandated documentation at some time in the past. Now with single parents adopting, when a male parent adopts, such a birth certificate can become a true conversation piece. He gave birth? People should have a choice as to how to document their child's adoption.

Again, thank you for publishing this article. We must have laws in Texas that truly reflect the reality of adoption as a loving choice. An adoptee should not lose basic human rights in the adoption process.

Bill Betzen
Board of Directors
Texas Coalition for Adoption Resources and Education

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