The Nation's Adoption Laws and Unsealing Birth Certificates

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Along with the heightened barriers that being a Seymour Fenichel adoptee presents, any adopted person faces an uphill battle to find out information about their birth families. In the United States, most adopted children are given amended birth certificates that have only the names of their adoptive parents.

In 44 states, original birth certificates are permanently sealed, meaning adoptees can never see their original birth certificates with the name of their birth parents. In Kansas, Alaska, Alabama, Oregon, Maine and New Hampshire, adoptees at 18 can receive birth certificates that have their birth parents names on them.

Members of the Facebook group 'Seymour Fenichel Adoptees' and other organizations like Unsealed Initiative are fighting to make more states unseal original birth records.

"It used to be first of all that adoptees shouldn't search because there was a negative stereotype of birth parents," Joyce Bahr from Unsealed Initiative said. "That kind of faded after the 1970s and now adoptees are wrongly encouraged not to search because [they're told] it could ruin their birth parent's lives."

Bahr is a birth mother who gave up her son to adoption in the 1960s. She has since reunited with him.

Bahr said that adoptees can only gain from having their original birth certificates, even if they don't search for their biological families.

"Whether the answers we find are good or bad, they are our answers and we deserve the right to deal with whatever our journeys bring us. All adoptees deserve this. Not just us," said Rachel Bernstein, the founder of the Facebook group.


If you are a Fenichel adoptee or birth parent and want to learn more about the Facebook group, click here.

To find a search angel who could help you if you were adopted in New York or raised in New York, click here to visit the New York Adoptees Group.

To learn more about Unsealed Initiative and other efforts to repeal laws sealing original birth certificates, click here.

The Adoption Database is a registry of adoptees, birth parents, birth relatives and adoptive family members. The group provides support and assists in searches. Click here to visit the Adoption Database and register.