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Maine restores rights, records access, but once again, adds an odious “contact preference” form

maine.jpg LD 1084, An Act To Provide Adult Adoptees Access to Their Original Birth Certificates took effect today in Maine.

In 1953 Maine took away adopted adults’ access to their own state held records, locking them away and forcing Adoptees to gain a court order before being granted access to their own information.

Now after 56 long years, the most basic human right, that to one’s own authentic identity, has at long last been restored.

Those 56 years represent an ugly chapter in the state’s history, a time when adopted people had their original identities confiscated by the state and withheld from them.

Some of those adopted as children lived and died in the space of those decades never knowing the truth about themselves. They were never granted the State’s permission to access the most fundamental aspects of their own lives, their authentic origins, the paperwork listing their original birthdate, in some cases, perhaps even the original names they were given.

Today, Maine has taken an important step forward, restoring access to these state impounded documents. Upon age 18, adopted people will once again have access to their own most personal information, putting an end to an era of secrets and lies and what had amounted to state held secret dossiers on those who had been adopted.

Original Birth Certificates for Maine, or OBC for ME has further information, including the link to the official state application form and the details of what will also be required when submitting a records request.

They have a lot to be proud of today. Tomorrow January 2, a set of opening day activities are planned.

Maine now joins the proud ranks of the five other states that have either never taken away or have since restored access to their adult adoptees since 2000 (Oregon having been the first to restore access.)

Bastard Nation‘s map of full access states; Alaska and Kansas never sealed their records, Oregon, Alabama, New Hampshire and now Maine have restored after an intervening period of having our most basic identity rights stripped away from us:

These are the few states that treat adult adoptees who were born there as equal citizens.

That said, even in some states that have reopened, the State is still clearly uncomfortable with with the notion of adult adoptees as being able to conduct their own affairs free of the government cast as a third party to our interpersonal relationships.

Apparently we are not to be trusted to act as other citizens, assumed to simply be able to associate freely and control our own intimate associations free from the state maintaining files pertaining to our relationships.

Sadly, Maine, like Oregon, Alabama, and New Hampshire has added a (fortunately toothless) “contract preference form,” by which the state is to collect parents “contact preferences” and then hold such paperwork to pass along to adult adoptees upon their submitted records request.

We as adopted citizens must be free to conduct our most intimate interpersonal affairs, deciding whether or not to contact our own blood relations free from government’s insistence upon information collection “on our behalf” or “for the protection of those involved” and essentially the government insisting upon being a party to our interpersonal relationships process.

It’s simply none of the State’s business.

Today at least, such “preference” forms have no enforcement power behind them, but they set a terrible precedent, AND maintain the role of the state in how we conduct our intimate associations, insisting our private lives and associations or lack thereof ARE quite literally, the business of the State.

No other class of citizen has to endure such indignities.

If you are not an adoptee, the state does not keep track of whether or not your parents or other blood relations want to see you or not. Only adoptees are subjected to such State intrusiveness.

It’s insulting, and maintains the State’s ability to portray adopted individuals as a form of ‘forever children,’ constantly in need of the watchful eye of the State, allegedly forever unable to achieve full self determination.

All of which has it’s basis in the (adoption industry propagated) mythologies that many if not all adopted people could become stalkers or harrassers at the drop of a hat, that parents must be protected from them, and that most parents would not welcome the presence of their long lost children in their lives.

None of which are true.

The facts remain, not only are most adopted people NOT stalkers or harassers, but many parents actively wish to be found. Indeed, many were promised by agencies that when their children turned 18 they would have their paperwork released to them and that their children would come find them.

In those exceptional, rare circumstances in which individuals are unable to respect a “no” or “not interested,” the violators should be treated as any other adult would be. Restraining orders and such can be issued based upon a demonstrated pattern of misbehavior.

Any attempt to instead place any form of pre-emptive restraint upon adoptees as a class, interferes with our constitutional right to free association.

Fortunately Maine does not include an actual form of pre-emptive restraint, for now at least, but it sets up the systems by which such could become possible at a later date.

The Maine law does however, continue in the fine tradition of infantalizing adopted adults, even as the concrete effect of such is to finally restore adult adoptee rights.

Sadly, it is even less kind to our parents.

Along with the contact preference form, the state has coupled the act of affirming that they wish to restore contact (or even that they do not prefer contact, at least that was their feeling at the time the form was filled out) with their adopted children with the parents’ own medical histories, something that adopted adults have no legal right to.

While adopted people may contact our blood relations and REQUEST their familial medical history, there is no legal requirement that our parents divulge their own personal medical information. They may do so at their own choosing, but they cannot be required to do so.

The contact preference clause is spelled out thusly in the law:

3. Contact preference form. The state registrar shall develop a contact preference form on which a birth parent may state a preference regarding contact by an adoptee. The form must contain the following statements from which the birth parent may choose only one.

A. “I would like to be contacted. I have completed this contact preference form and a medical history form and am filing them with the State Registrar of Vital Statistics.”

B. “I would prefer to be contacted only through an intermediary. I have completed this contact preference form and a medical history form and am filing them with the State Registrar of Vital Statistics.”

C. “Do not contact me. I may change this preference by filling out another contact preference form. I have completed this contact preference form and a medical history form and am filing them with the State Registrar of Vital Statistics.”

While contact preference forms and medical histories are not required as a precondition to records release to the adult adoptee, for a parent to affirm that they wish contact, the state has essentially coupled a medical history form to the contact preference form unnecessarily.recordsstorage1.jpg

Created in the name of protecting alleged “privacy”/confidentiality, this new set of state held files actually is quite the opposite, and becomes yet another layer of the State injecting itself into our interpersonal affairs.

Personal medical information is best shared between the individuals directly affected, not between our parents and the state, who will then file and hold such, releasing it to adult adoptees if they submit a records request.

The State needs to stop treating adopted adults differently.

What we want is equitable treatment, to be treated just like anyone else, no preference forms held by the State, none of this unnecessary nonsense. We want the ability to conduct our own interpersonal affairs without the State injecting itself as a third party into our relationships, collecting and holding information pertaining to our families.

The entire section of the law quoted above creates another NEW layer of state held files pertaining to our lives, our relations, and our interpersonal relationships. More bureaucracy and meddling that “normal” (i.e. non-adopted) citizens do not have to endure.

Just because such “preferences” are not enforced today does not necessarily mean they will not be at some future date.

States need to simply restore what they took from us, records access. Period. Not utilize such legislation as an excuse to go build NEW sets of files pertaining to adopted people and their families.

Legally speaking the personal “preferences” of our parents do not factor in. Records access restoration is a matter between adoptees and the state, and also between parents and the state.

By putting parents preferences in files for adult adoptees, the state is falsely pitting the desires of parents AGAINST their own children. This is built on the false notion of adoption as a “triad,” (parents, adoptees, and adopters.)

The reality is our records are not sealed upon relinquishment.

And despite all claims of “privacy, often raised by industry or those with what certainly appear to be dirty hands, such as the Illinois Catholic Conference (who have admitted in Illinois, that opening records would likely produce lawsuits against them, and that information contained in original birth certificates could be false) never once has a single document actually promising “privacy” to parents ever surfaced. Even if such ever should, there was no force of law behind such supposed promises. Further, parents were often promised the precise opposite as part of the process of getting them to sign away their kids, they were assured that such wasn’t forever, the kid would come find them when they turned 18.

Records access is not a matter between adoptees and their parents. Parents do not hold the power restore records access to their children.

Records are sealed upon our adoptions.

Records restoration is a matter between adoptees and the State. Similarly, parents are also battling the state to gain records access as well. The State confiscated the records, and the only place that we can turn for restoration is the State.

There is no “adoption triad.”

Adoption is built instead, upon an adoption pentagon:

  1. parents
  2. adoptees
  3. agencies/lawyers/intermediaries/lobbyists/industry/etc
  4. the State
  5. adopters

It should be noted, some parties to adoption have more power and control than others.

While it serves the State’s interests to have adoptees and parents at one another’s throats in some false game of “conflicting interests” the bottom line is, our genuine interests are not at odds.

The “preferences” of those who were not parties to our records being closed cannot be used by the state as something to hide behind in the process of re-opening them (or not.) Our parents were legally out of the picture at the point in time when our records were closed.

It’s past time the State begins to trust adult adoptees to conduct our own lives. No more state held files, no intermediaries (unless directly personally chosen by the individuals involved, preferably non-commercial/non-contracted) etc.

We’re grown ups, it’s time for the State to start treating us as such.

In the end, it’s a damn good day for Maine adoptees.

The real bottom line here is that people who have waited their entire lives for the most personal and basic of information about themselves have finally had their civil and human right to access their own information restored to them.

It’s just a shame that states insist upon insulting adoptees and their families in the process and building yet new bureaucracies upon false notions that we still are unable to conduct our own lives without the State butting in.

Finally be sure to see both Marley’s piece on Bastardette- MAINE: RECORDS OPENED, GRINCH CRINGES! and Robin’s piece on Motherhood Deleted- New Year, Same Old Myths both about Maine.

2 Responses to “Maine restores rights, records access, but once again, adds an odious “contact preference” form”

  1. Baby Love Child » South Dakota adoptees made to wait another year, both bills die Says:

    […] This ‘preference definition creep’  is precisely what I have been warning about for some time now. […]

  2. Baby Love Child » Adoptee Rights 101: Class Bastard and how to recognize a genuine adoptee rights bill Says:

    […] and how what is voluntary today could in other states or at other times be changed. (See my piece  Maine restores rights, records access, but once again, adds an odious “contact preference” form for further discussion of the issues raised by […]

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