As National Adoption Awareness Month ends, there are many issues that the public needs to be made aware of. Public perception is about babies being adopted into economically stable homes and away from biological circumstances of unwed mothers who have no chance to raise a child in an acceptable environment. The children are then given new identities, the birth or biological mother gets anonymity, the original birth certificate is sealed, and everyone moves on.
The reality is, however, that the adopted children often want to know their biological history and connect with the family, and that in today’s world of the internet, social media and DNA testing, there is no anonymity for anyone. We are now in the era of open adoptions.
After I filed a bill to unseal birth certificates for adult adoptees — yes we grow up — opposition groups of lawyers who perform adoptions and some religious groups came forward saying that this would cause adoption rates to fall and abortion rates to rise. Basically pushing for a status quo that no longer exists. These perceptions are false.
The Florida Legislature has two bills filed this year to change the law so that adult adoptees can obtain a copy of their original birth certificate, something that has now become a reality in approximately 25 states. The bills are not without controversy, even in the adoptee community.
I am asking that the perceptions of adoption of babies be re-evaluated. Adoption of older foster children is also an issue, but not part of this discussion. During my past year and a half working on this issue, it has become apparent that the biological mothers in most cases want to know what happened to the children they did not raise, and allow them to know their medical histories. The adoptees often want to know their roots, and a simple piece of paper is that one item that verifies their true existence.
The opposition groups are often in the business of adoption and feel threatened, and this is unwarranted. Adoptive parents are uneasy too, as they may feel the child they raised will no longer have the loving relationship they thought they would continue to have. The reality is that if the child was raised in a loving home, that relationship will continue.
Most important, is that the process to the adoptee is perceived to be about everyone else but them. It is time to put the child who becomes the adult back into the equation. Many never do a search, and some that do find that there will be no relationship with the biological family for various reasons — some not so good. Even so, adoptees, like everyone else, deserve to have control over their lives, and one no longer shrouded with shame and secrecy.
State Rep. Richard Stark, D-Weston, represents Florida House District 104 in the Legislature.