Re: CSSB 364
Dear Senator Wentworth:
The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy and education think tank that does not align with any organization or cause. We conduct research and analysis in order to improve adoption law, policy and practice. In an effort to maintain our independent posture, this correspondence is intended only to explain the research on one such issue: the (un)sealing of original birth certificates and adoption records.
I will keep this brief, as I'm sure you already have received a great amount of information from all sides. We can provide any additional data you might want, would be delighted to address any questions you encounter, and may be available to provide independent, research-based testimony if scheduling permits.
In short, studies consistently show sealed records are an anachronism born of society's desire to protect the reputations of adoptees and birth parents at a time when unwed mothers were highly stigmatized and their children were branded as "bastards." Indeed, birth certificates were often stamped with the word "illegitimate." Over time, the cultural rationale for closed records shifted to maintaining the anonymity of birth mothers; nearly all available research, however, indicates these women - while often wanting privacy - overwhelmingly desire some level of contact with or knowledge about the children they bore; favor access to their records by adopted adults; and, contrary to popular perception, were not legally assured of anonymity. Moreover, the vast majority of adult adoptees clearly want the records for a variety of reasons, most notably medical and genealogical.
Perhaps most to the point, the conclusion from a growing body of research is that greater knowledge about their histories (personal and biological) yields better outcomes for adoptees and their families. That is the principal reason, in both professional practices and new laws nationwide during the last decade, the clear trend has been toward more disclosure - including with open records, typically without significant caveats. A shrinking minority of practitioners, and organizations representing them, still favor closure - sometimes by confusing "anonymity" and "privacy" or by asserting a link between anonymity and abortion. But the research on this is unambiguous: greater openness in adoption has lowered the abortion rate, not the other way around.
I hope these comments prove useful. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-332-8944 if you have questions. Thank you for your attention and for your important work.