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Thursday, March 20, 1SS0
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are within this category, in which the birth parents may
be known to the child.
Yet many adoptions are made to new families who
are total strangers to the natural parents. The adoptive
parents receive only sketchy information at the time of
adoption about the child's history. Most social workers
and professionals in the adoption field agree that the
number of inquiries from adoptees requesting
information about their birth parents is increasing.
In the past few years, a national trend has emerged
toward breaking operv the seals which have kept
closed the documents containing the original birth
certificates of adoptees, and toward identifying and
locating medical information about natural parentage.
Most states tightly lock the heritage of the child
within these confidential reports. Only seven states in
the nation have adopted legislation allowing open
documents with consent. Others are beginning to
review past statutes concerning sealed adoption
documents. Nine states have legislation pending to
determine adoptees' rights to know information
concerning their natural parents, the natural parents'
right to know how the adoptee is developing, or the
right of the natural parent to remain unknown.
"This right to know is a drastically complex, sensitive,
emotional issue," said Robin Peacock, supervisor of
adoption for the North Carolina Division of Social
Peacock and natural parents, adoptive parents,
adoptees, and other professionals in the field of
adoption have testified before the North Carolina
Legislative Research Commission Committee on
Rights of Adopted Children. The eight-member
committee is responsible for gathering data and
testimony from all parties of the adoption triangle and
examining the emotional aspects of the right to release
such information. Although it is not responsible for
determining legislation, the committee, co-chaired by
Rep. Mary Seymour and Sen. Willis P. Whichard, has
presided over three public hearings since October
1979 and will continue until it has submitted
recommendations to the 1981 legislature for
Bureaucracy, a tangle of legislation
and other obstacles cloud issues
and adoptees' search for heritage
"The examination of the right to release adoption
records is an extremely sensitive and controversial
subject. We are trying to receive a balance of
information from representative agencies and all sides
of the adoption triangle," Seymour said.
"Adoption is not the issue. Sealed records were the
experiment and have failed," said Virginia Rader of
Concerned United Birth Parents, a support group for
those who have surrendered their children. CUB
favors the birth parents' right to know the welfare of
the adopted. The organization is one of many
concerned private groups currently involved
throughout the country in an attempt to encourage
openness about the after-adoption process.
Other organizations, which also try to help
adoptees locate their natural parents, include
Adoptees Liberty Movement Association, based
"in New York; Orphan Voyage of Cedar Ridge,
Colorado; and Adoptees Together, an organization
founded in North Carolina. All are attempting to
change the policies of the states concerning sealed
The policy in the United States beginning in the late
'30s and early '40s was based on the idea that everyone
would benefit if adoption records were kept closed.
"There was a lack of thinking about the youngster
who would have medical reasons for up-to-date
medical information or young married couples and
their children," said Joseph Crimes, a member of the
Maryland committee to study adoption laws.
"Consider the woman who must take her child to the
pediatrician and when asked about past medical
w'ng fay Lisa Maultsby
history, all she can respond is 'I don't know, I was
adopted' or 'I don't know, my child is adopted'."
In fact, the policy in North Carolina after 1949, when
the state adopted guidelines which neither forbade
nor required that information be given out to any
parties of the adoption triangle, was extremely vague.
Although the confidentiality of the birth parent was
stressed, the statewide policy was interpreted in a
loose fashion and information was easily obtained.
Following a 1977 decision, Spinks v. North Carolina,
and the Attorney General's interpretation of the case,
however, agencies could no longer release any type of
Information regarding adoptees' history. Once again
the files were tightly sealed.
"The information is now frozen. Until the Spinks
case, agencies felt freer to release more non
identifying information," said Susan Frost, staff
attorney at Legislative Services for the N.C. General
Assembly. "Now agencies do all they can to conceal
the original birth certificate. of the adoptee. Recently
though, non-identifying medical information can be
obtained upon a written request directed to the
placement agency or Department of Social Services."
Frost has reported before the Legislative Research
Committee, on Rights of Adopted Children that
"essentially the position taken was that records should
be open to parties concernedthe adult adoptee and
the birth parent would be entitled to court and agency
records that led up to the adoption and the adoptive
parents and adoptee were entitled to records after the
adoption was effected."
This concept was modeled after the first federal
legislation concerning adoption, the Child Abuse
Prevention and Treatment and Adoption Reform Act
of 1978. HEW's Model Adoption Act, as it is titled, was
presented to the states as a prototype which could be
used by the individual states according to their
particular needs. "Adoptees have the right to search
for their biological roots' said Rodney Klein, an
adoptee and member of the Adoption Exchange in
Baltimore. "I'm concerned with these individual rights
of the adoptee and access to my own natural
background. Adoptees are not a bunch of neurotics
seeking out parents. They are seeking their past
m) ose is 19 and a freshman at UNC. She has two
LiL oWer brothers and a younger sister. All of the
children in Rose's family were adopted from
u " P0 wno 1 am 1 201 mv own person' Rose said.
I feel stable enough as an individual, wheras some
people may have overromanticized views of their real
parents. I simply want to acknowledge this fact (her
real parents) in my life.
"My natural natural mother carried me for nine
months," she said. "She cared enough to carry me. She
went thought that kind of hell to give me up. I'm sure
she wonders if she did the right thing."
Like many adoptees, Rose wonders what she and her
natural mother may have in common. "Does she feel
the same things I do about certain experiences? What
was she like when she was in college? All I have is
sketchy information which the agency told my parents
(adoptive parents)," Rose said. "I have a relationship to