Dear Member of the General Assembly,
The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute is a nonprofit policy and education think tank that does not align with any organization or cause. We conduct research and analysis on many issues in order to improve adoption practices, policies and laws. In an effort to maintain our independent posture, this correspondence is intended only to explain the research on one of those issues: the sealing (or unsealing) 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 need or 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 that sealed records are an anachronism born of society's desire to protect the reputations of adoptees and their birth parents at a time when unwed mothers were severely stigmatized and the children born to them were denigrated 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, now indicates these women - while often wanting privacy - overwhelmingly desire some level of contact with or knowledge about the children they bore; favor the adoptees' access to their records; 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, notably medical and genealogical.
Perhaps most to the point, the unambiguous conclusion from a growing body of research is that greater knowledge about their histories (biological and personal) yields better outcomes for adoptees and their families. That is the principal reason, in both professional practices and new statutes throughout our country during the last decade, the singular trend has been toward increased disclosure - including with open records, typically without significant caveats or with no conditions whatsoever. Some adoption practitioners, and organizations representing them, still advocate for closure - sometimes by confusing "anonymity" and "privacy" or by using discredited data on a "link" between anonymity and abortion - but these practitioners represent a small and shrinking minority in the field.
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 or need more information. Thank you for your attention and for your important work.
Cc: Steve Meinrath, Committee Counsel