Discrimination Against Adoptees

On the heels of the recent Evan B. Donaldson study, ABC has posted an article concerning discrimination against adoptees. None of the information in the article will be news to us adoptees, who have been familiar with this for decades.
For me it started within my adoptive family. I was always the “adopted” daughter, emphasis on the adjective. In school I was mocked by classmates. On medical forms I have to write “unknown-adopted”. I have learned not to mention my adopted status, unless I want to be subjected to knowing looks or annoying personal remarks. “Didn’t your mother want you? Have you looked for your birth family? Aren’t you glad you were adopted?” There are adoptees who have been denied driver’s licenses and passports, and otherwise made to suffer indignities that no one else must endure. It’s about time somebody started taking a closer look at this.
In general I think it’s great that the EBDAI did a study of adult adoptees. However, one thing that annoyed me was that on the surface it seemed to apply only to international adoption. Domestic adoption was indeed part of the study, but the title “Beyond Culture Camp” implies otherwise. That’s not to dismiss the important conclusions reached concerning transracial adoptees, but I would have liked to have seen a more all-encompassing summary. I also agree with what others have said, that putting children on the cover of a study about ADULT adoptees perpetuates the notion that, like Peter Pan, we never grow up. That defeats the whole purpose of a study about adult adoptees. I would have preferred to see a picture of, say, adult adoptees mentoring their younger counterparts. Or heck, just adult adoptees (including some domestic ones). Otherwise, though, the conclusions were spot-on.

Promote laws, policies and practices that facilitate access to information for adopted individuals. For adopted individuals, gaining information about their origins is not just a matter of curiosity, but a matter of gaining the raw materials needed to fill in the missing pieces in their lives and derive an integrated sense of self. Both adoption professionals and the larger society need to recognize this basic human need and right, and to facilitate access to needed information for adopted individuals.

I’ve said it before in various places: When non-adopted people ask about their origins, it’s called genealogy. When adoptees ask, we are admonished. Most people don’t realize how our birth certificates are altered, nor that we must jump through expensive and unnecessary hoops and be subjected to intensely personal interrogations, just for the mere CHANCE at records access. No other segment of our society is treated in this manner. Adoptees are second-class citizens whose civil rights have long been ignored and denied. People think that if we, as adults, continue to “harp upon” our origins, there is something wrong with us. But this study clearly shows that

Adoption is an increasingly significant aspect of identity for adopted people as they age, and remains so even when they are adults.

I am pleased that discrimination against adoptees is finally being acknowledged, but I think it needs to go further. Every single closed-records state needs to follow the example of Maine and restore unconditional original birth certificate access to domestic adoptees. Those adopted internationally deserve to have their citizenship in their countries of origin maintained, and all documents of their origins made conveniently and inexpensively available.
Until adoptees are treated in the exact same manner as the non-adopted, we will continue to be discriminated against. Compromise legislation doesn’t cut it. Pithy promises don’t cut it. It’s not about search and reunion, it’s about civil rights. We want EQUALITY and an end to discriminatory practices and laws.


  1. Thanks, Triona. I haven’t gotten around to reading the report yet.

    One thing that’s essential is to stop supporting reformist groups that pander to the industry and to reactionary legislators. You’d think after all these years–especially when it’s been shown that the restoration of our right to unrestricted obc access is very doable–they’d get it. But they continue to compromise our rights away at the first hint of trouble under the stupid claim that something is better than nothing; we’ll come back later and fix it.

    The truth is, for the last few years genuine rights activists have been stuck killing bad legislation promoted by “our side” (note: those disclosure vetoes , etc. did not come from NCFA or the ACLU) instead of getting real access bills passed. Once those bad bills are in place, classes of adoptees are left behind forever.

    Reformists should be isolated. Bet on the bus or go home.

  2. Bravissima! No one could have said it better!

  3. Thanks, Pennagal!

  4. Yeah, I am with you Triona…I am SO sick of this and I know you are too-it is harder for Adoptees like us too, because neither of us have closure-they just keep rubbing salt into our wounds….I love Paula Boinot(and I hope I am spelling her name right, if not I apologize) for what she did in Maine and I nominate her for President :)She is exactly what this country needs and I wish to every form of goodness that she would run. Right on the money blog as usual my dear. 🙂

  5. Hi Improper–I love Paula Benoit too. 🙂 Paula, if you are reading this, you rock our world and thank you for being a voice of encouragement for adoptees everywhere.

    BD–I totally agree that we have to get rid of the deformers and their pandering and bad legislation. CARE comes to mind–BB Church has a new post up about their latest “efforts”. As you know, NO compromise legislation has ever been revisited to “fix” what wasn’t done the first time around. The compromises are simply to pay lip service to adoptee rights while furthering the status quo. If it’s not clean legislation out of the gate, it’s better to do nothing than enact bad bills that will never be revised. Another thing that concerns me are those reformers who do, in fact, want unconditional legislation–but only if they get to take the credit for it. I don’t think it matters who gets the job done, as long as it doesn’t water down bills or leave some adoptees behind.

  6. http://Anonymous says

    If disclosure vetoes did not come from adoption profiteers, where did they come from? Let’s call a spade a spade.