Who Really Benefits From Closed Adoption Records?

[I wrote this as a response to Granny Annie’s blog about her own Illinois CI experience, which I am sorry to say was the same sort of hellish nightmare that I and others have also had. Read her sobering, mind-numbing story “The Cheese Stands Alone”, as well as similar stories in the replies to my own blog.]

Granny Annie, you and I had the same naive assumption that the CI program was actually there to do us some good. I was similarly dazzled by the CI “super powers” of gaining access to court information, especially after the runaround between my state of birth and state of adoption. I thought anything was better than nothing, even if I had to pay extra for it. I was wrong, and it may have cost contact with my mother and any hope of gaining information on my father. I hope you’ll share your experience with our legislators as they discuss HB 4623, the Bohica Bill that intends to keep giving more of the same to Illinois adoptees.

Let me get this straight – Indiana tried to charge Granny Annie for their own CI just to pass information to the Illinois one? Geez, how many more ways can they find to double-dip us? It’s like they know these schemes are never going to hold water so they are bilking it for all it’s worth while the blinders are still on.

As a side note, I understand that Ms. Morrison, whom Granny Annie mentioned as being attorney to MAC when she was a participant in the CI program, is the incoming President of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, which advises lawmakers on legislation like HB 4623. The people making decisions about adoption records are not necessarily objective about adoption themselves.

I want to know why the Illinois CI program considers its own procedures more “confidential” than what they actually do for participants – or adoptees’ very identities, as I was unfortunate enough to discover. Concealing Granny Annie’s CI file upon completion of the case is further evidence of how clandestine these operations are. Adoptees are treated like perpetual children – not only are we not allowed to know, we’re not allowed to know what we’re not allowed to know! For anyone else it would be a comedy routine. For us, it’s become de rigeur.

I’m not sure how much CI programs necessarily “protect” birth mothers, either. I’ve talked with several who have had similarly icky experiences. I think what CI programs and other methods of continuing “sealed and secret” policies do, is give control over adoption records to those who have money, power, and influence – whether they be (frequently) adoptive parents or adoption professionals, but sometimes birth parents and adoptees as well.

Around the same time my identifying information was accidentally disclosed, I heard a rumor that a birth mother was tremendously upset at being contacted via the CI program, and had hired some big law firm to rattle sabres and scare the CI personnel and judges into complicity. Now, I have no idea if this is true or not, but the fact that such a rumor even exists points to the fact that influence is what truly governs access to adoption records in closed-records states.

The only way to circumvent such personal bias is to restore unrestricted access to original birth certificates and files to the parties involved in adoption. Only then will we all be on an even playing field.

Until then, if you’re considering a CI, in Illinois or elsewhere – prepare to be a guinea pig in a gigantic, untested experiment. Granny Annie and I, and the other lab rats who went before you, think you might want to be aware of what’s at the end of that particular maze.

And be sure to write Illinois legislators – you can find contact info here and email addresses on Illinois Open’s page – and tell them to oppose HB 4623!


  1. I feel blessed that I had no personal experience with CI programs. But I’ve heard the experiences of others and it seems evident that CI programs are not in the best interests of adoptees and probably not of birth parents.

    Money talks and so often those with power do have money to get what they want. Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s was detrimental to the adoption reform movement. Just how many more are out there like him I have no idea.

    But we who are advocates for open records must show those with money and power that we are not giving up. It is past time for legislators to do what is right and we have to continue to plead with them to do just that.

    It is vital for everyone to contact the IL State Representatives today and urge them to oppose HB 4623.

  2. In 1987, I went the CI route with Catholic Charities of Kansas City and the Jackson County Circuit Court. Basically, I got nothing – one short summary redacted from the non-ID info that I was supposed to receive but never got. And a short “contacted birth parent – no medical information to update and parent wishes no contact at this time. You may try again in 5 years.”

    So 20 years later, I decided to try again, but this time upon FINALLY receiving the non-ID info I was supposed to have been furnished in 1987, I decided to hell with CIs and did my own search. I have identified my maternal family of origin, learned that I had two uncles die at the same age I presently am (BOTH before I contacted the court in 1987!) and a sister just died of cancer. But my birth mother still can’t find a way to deal with replying to my attempts to contact her for the truth. I have a family who needs to know their medical history; whose rights are we trying to protect, the fragile self-denial of a 78 year old woman or myself and my children (her only grandchildren…?)

  3. d28bob – I have kids, too, and no way to gain medical information for them. The CI program thinks that my birth mother’s mention of “heart disease in the family” constitutes a complete medical history. And there’s no mechanism for me to obtain updated medical information in the future. Say my birth mother dies – I may never know why, or what from, or if it’s something my children and I should be aware of.

    When I was pregnant with my first child I tried to get my records opened in Ohio. Despite letters from my obstetrician, my physician, even my adoptive parents (which shouldn’t have been necessary considering I’m a middle-aged woman), the request was denied.

    So my children and I can sit here with who knows what ticking time bombs in our medical heritage, with no way to find out ANYTHING.

    My sister-in-law died of breast cancer at age 32. She was adopted and did not have her medical history. Would it have made a difference? We’ll never know. I worry for her son, my nephew, who is missing half of his medical background. What will his kids have to face? What will my grandkids have to face? Generation upon generation are affected by sealed records. When will it stop?