This article from the Chicago Tribune illustrates something I’ve written about before: the increasing problems adoptees are increasingly having trying to get legal documents like passports due to their amended birth certificates.
Gabriele VanderWoude was still in diapers when she arrived in the United States, 53 years ago. In 1956, she was issued an Illinois birth certificate after she was adopted by American parents. She later obtained a Social Security number and a voter registration card. She said she has been voting since she turned 18.
Shortly after she applied for the passport, the State Department asked her for more information. She sent copies of her adoption papers, but months later the government asked for more documents. In April, VanderWoude sent a copy of the card showing her entry into the United States.
Thursday afternoon, an official with the passport office in Charleston called VanderWoude with unbelievable news: It could not issue her a passport because she is not a U.S. citizen.
VanderWoude, 55, said she and her mother have always believed she became naturalized when she was adopted 53 years ago.
Sounds to me like this woman was issued an amended (read: legally falsified) Illinois birth certificate upon her adoption. Like many adoptees I, too, have one of these legal fakeries, with no way to obtain the real one. When adoptees are adopted (NOT when we are relinquished) our original birth certificates are sealed and the fake issued in its place. When we request our birth certificates, the fake is the only one we can get. Clearly this document, which we have been assured is “just as good as” the original, is far from it.
We’ve already seen how some adoptees have been unable to use their amended birth certificates to obtain driver’s licenses. This shows how adoptees can also be barred from obtaining passports. Yet the adoption industry continues to claim that it is necessary to seal adoption records, and to put ineffective and expensive mechanisms in place of unfettered access to original birth certificates. Will this woman be forced through the ignominy of the Illinois Adoption Registry or Confidential Intermediary program, in a vain attempt to obtain her original birth certificate? I went that route, and not only did not obtain my original BC but in fact was barred from it forever, or at least until the law changes. Quite frankly I am afraid to try to get a passport or travel outside the country even though I was born here. Ms. VanderWoude and I are both nonpeople solely because we are adopted.
The article continues:
VanderWoude said she still does not understand how she has been able to vote, why she was issued an Illinois birth certificate, or how her residency status was never discovered before.
I know why she received that fake BC: because nobody cares what goes on amended birth certificates. They don’t care how adoptees may be affected by this legal fakery as their lives unfold. It is a means to render the adoption process as opaque as possible, to the sole benefit of adoption agencies and practitioners. Adult adoptees are caught unawares, just trying to go about our lives like everyone else. In short, we are rendered a subclass of society because our original birth certificates are unavailable to us.
Unfortunately I don’t think this woman will have much success. Because she was born overseas, she may have to undergo the process of becoming a U.S. citizen. This is not an isolated problem. Whether born in the U.S. or abroad, adoptees whose records are sealed are at risk. Only when ALL adult adoptees have unrestricted access to our original birth certificates, the only document that counts for anything, will we be equal to our non-adopted peers.