I was adopted from New Jersey, which, like many other states, has sealed records for adoptees with closed adoptions. Year by year, states are starting to open records for adoptees. Every year, I search New Jersey papers online hoping to glimpse, “Adoptee Records to be Unsealed for New Jersey Adoptees.”
This topic of sealed records is always a hot one in the world of adoption. I have always thought adoptees records being sealed was rediculous, and nobody had a right to do such a thing! I remember back in college, I turned 21, and went out to a bar. I had an out of state license, and the bouncer didn’t believe it was legit. I knew he would have an issue, so I brought along my birth certificate. I gave it to him and told him, “Well, I know you think my license is fake, and this isn’t real either,but it is all the proof I have.” The bouncer looked at me like I was crazy, and wouldn’t let me in because of my license. Nevermind the “amended birth certificate” New Jersey gave my parents when I became part of their family. It was in that moment that my true feelings about my identity were disclosed. I didn’t feel authentic. My adoptive family is incredible, and I feel 100% a part of them and their traditions. I am not made from their genes though. I don’t look like them. My quirks are not their quirks. I remember thinking, “If they would only have unsealed records, I would feel authentic. I would have a last name to the genes within me.” I felt years ago, and I still do today, that everyone has a right to their identity. To who they are, inside and out. New Jersey among many other states takes that right away from adoptees. Now, mind you, my parents were given a single sheet of paper about the hair and eye color of my birth mom, her height, weight and her hobbies. The infamous sheet of non identifying information. That sheet is nice, but the descriptions could be about any woman! So general, no specifics allowed. So… Not Authentic.
Below is a letter I wrote to the New Jersey governor, summing up my feelings on sealed records: Dear Governor: I am aware of your concerns for the increase in abortions, and the wellbeing of the birth parent(s). In reality, more birth parents want to be found than don’t. Most desire to search for their children, but don’t know how to go about doing it, or don’t think they have the right to search, because they made the decision to give their child up. I have read many books on adoption, and read many interviews with birth parents. Yes, there are a few who choose to be left alone, and don’t want to be reminded of that day that they gave their child up. There are many more though that think about their child every day, and hope maybe one day they will be found. If you talk to birth parents, many will tell you, “I wish they would look for me”, or “I want to find them, but what right do I have to do that? I chose to give them up; I relinquished my right to be a part of their life.” It isn’t that birth parents don’t want to be found. It is that they are scared of rejection, just like adoptees are.
Yes, I have located my birth family, but that doesn’t change my wish of unsealed records for adoptees who are hoping and waiting to feel authentic.