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November’s Costco Magazine Helps Adoptees FliptheScript

Remember when I told you that Costco was going to cover the issue of adoptee rights in its November issue, and why?

costco mag cover flipthescriptNational Adoption Awareness Month is upon us and November’s issue of The Costco Connection is hitting member mailboxes this week — but anyone can read the article online. It’s a veritable #flipthescript boost that gets people to consider the viewpoints of adopted people.

Costco asks in its Informed Debate column Should it be mandatory to give adult adoptees full access to their birth records if they want it?  It then introduces the competing rights of access to one’s personal records (the adoptee’s) and expectation of privacy (the birth parent’s).

costco mag inside flipthescriptApril Dinwoodie, CEO of the Donaldson Adoption Institute, states the case for restoring this civil right to all citizens. She cites research that shows open records do not threaten the integrity of adoptive families and that the vast majority of first parents do not wish to remain anonymous.

Megan Lestino, Director of Public Policy for the National Council for Adoption, says instead that a mutual consent registry honors the expectation of privacy, and advocates for an intermediary to protect and honor the wishes of both parties.

Informed Debate suggests you search for three articles that offer background. I did so and have links for you.

Should adoptees have access to birth parents or should birth parents’ anonymity be protected? A 2011 public radio interview with Adam Pertman (past CEO of Donaldson Adoption Institute) and James Goodness of the Catholic Archdiocese of Newark, NJ.

The Open Adoption Debate: Balancing the Interests of Birth Parents and Adult Adoptees. This opens a 10 year-old scholarly article by then-JD candidate Caroline B Fleming in the William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law. Fleming offers a comprehensive history of adoption and the movement to seal records, which began in Minnesota in 1917. The article tells about various strategies states  use to manage competing rights.

The author’s conclusion  — The decision to open adoption records rightly belongs with the adoptee — and subsequent muddification cause me to refer you to this this recent comment. Readers have pointed out that opening birth records doesn’t necessarily equate to making contact with, much less stalking, birth parents. In fact as Adam Pertman says toward the end of the interview above, lack of access to birth records can actually drive adoptees to make contact with their birth parents since they can’t legitimately access their vital records.

Risks and Benefits of Open Adoption. This 1993 (!) article by Marianne Berry, PhD in Princeton’s The Future of Children presents research on the then-new state of open adoption and mentions open records only twice — and positively. Berry says in her conclusion, “Because empirical evidence about the long-term effects of open adoption is scarce, adoption practitioners’ work is made more difficult.” That’s no longer the case.

costco helps adoptees flipthescriptClick here to take Costco’s Informed Debate survey soon, as viting results will be reported in the December issue. Or email your comments to the editor for possible inclusion. Make your voice heard and flip that script.


This post is part of #MicroblogMondays? Whazzat? A post that’s not too long. Head to Stirrup Queens to join the fun.

9 Responses

  1. I’m glad they covered this topic and agree that the decision belongs to the people who didn’t get any say in the decision: the adoptee.

  2. Talk about a win for this community! The stigma and myth around keeping adoption records closed is one that is long overdue to be addressed and broken. Too often, there is fear associated with allowing adoptees access to this information. That somehow this will cause damage. Nevermind the damage that is being done by promoting this idea of necessary secrecy and shame. It is my hope that this flyer hitting homes will get people talking and hopefully get them to reassess this myth and others surrounding adoption.

  3. Thanks for the link, and your commentary on the issue. It would be nice if the rights of the adoptee, and the – in some cases – first parents’ wishes for privacy could be balanced, and sensitively handled. And I am sure in the majority of cases it is. But when it comes down to it, it is so much more important for the adoptee to get to decide. I can’t imagine having that decision taken from me.

  4. So much interesting reading… I can’t comprehend not having access to my original birth certificate because of a decision made around me. It was so interesting to me that some of the people on the sides of the adoptees were birthmothers during the time of most secrecy. I don’t really understand how not having total anonymity would result in more abortions because people wouldn’t choose adoption if they couldn’t be totally anonymous. I know that not everyone chooses open adoption, but I feel like there could be some arrangement where you get your birth certificate as an adoptee but respect if the birthparent didn’t wish for contact. I don’t know if I am just naive about this, but I feel like with open adoption being so much more prevalent, there aren’t as many people seeking to be anonymous. But regardless, you should be able to have access to your own birth records. So interesting!

  5. Congratulations on the article, Lori! I checked out Kym’s comment, and it does put it all into perspective. I hope the script gets flipped in the very near future.

  6. Nice job, Lori – got the topic addressed, provided research…you’re awesome! And hurray for Costco for taking up a sensitive topic. Nicely done!

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