These days, there is different access to adoption records in various countries. Thus, King, Brucker, Kriebs and Fahey affirm that “adoption choices include open, closed, or semi-open adoption”. The purpose of the sealed adoption records is to ensure the privacy of all the parties involved. Concealing the name of the mother of an adopted child protects her from the fact that he/she will ever come back into her life. The baby is also protected from the situation when the mother changes her mind and decides to get the child back. If the law does not require the concealing of records, many expectant mothers will prefer to have an abortion to get rid of the unwanted child instead of giving birth to a child and giving him/her for adoption. Nevertheless, upon growing up, more and more adopted children claim that the secrecy of adoption violates their inalienable right to know their identity, past, medical records, and heredity. Openness or the concealing of information about adoption is an extremely complex issue invariably including a problem of abortion, parental rights, and the rights of children. The purpose of the paper is to examine the question whether adoption records should be open or sealed.
When a pregnant woman decides to give her child for adoption, there are two basic ways of development but with a variety of options for each party. In the so-called closed adoption, there are contacts of the biological mother and the baby immediately after birth, and she does not know the people who will adopt her child. Information about the participants of the adoption process is kept in secret. This fact prevents any communication between them in the future. In this case, the biological mother can go on with her life, and foster parents devote their attention to the adopted child. However, some people believe that in closed adoption, a biological mother can experience an emotional void that needs to be filled as for many months and years she will have only a guess with whom and where her child lives.
In the recent years, open adoption has been highly widespread in many countries, although previously adoption records were sealed everywhere. Saltzman, Furman, and Ohman, claim that “traditionally, in addition to sealing the original birth certificate, all court records related to an adoption were sealed”. These days, the situation is different, and there are several countries, where adoption records are open. It means that between the biological mother and the family that adopts a child, there is a certain relationship. In many cases, the biological mother can choose the adoptive parents for the child from several candidates, offered by an organization, for adoption. The adoptive family can communicate with the mother during her pregnancy and even be present during the delivery. Nevertheless, information about adoption is still sealed in most counties, still making it an extremely controversial issue.
Adoption records have been secret in the United States since the 1930s. By making these records secret, social reformers hoped that they would be able to remove the negative attitude to both the biological mother and to the parents adopting her child. The secrecy of adoption records became of particular importance during World War II, when many illegitimate children were born by women whose husbands were on the battlefields of Europe and Asia.
These days, the violation of the confidentiality of adoption is the offense, the object of which includes the interests of the family, the normal formation, and the development of the child’s personality protected by the law. Conditions providing a secret of child adoption are reflected in the norms of both procedural and substantive nature. A secret of child adoption belongs to the sphere of private, family, or personal secrets. The disclosure of the secret of adoption involves a violation of the provision that protects privacy. Responsible officials, judges, and other citizens that have disclosed a secret of adoption against the will of the adoptive parents can be prosecuted.
From a medical point of view, the fundamental problem of the confidentiality of adoption consists in the fact that after all papers are decorated and concealed, there is a significant genetic link between the biological parents and the adopted child. There is no matter what is written in the new birth certificate, as the adopted child does not get the genes of the adoptive parents. Since medicine is now more aware of the role of the use of genetic and hereditary information for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, it is clear that the initial fictitious nature of adoption secrecy is not only wrong but even dangerous. Medical data are one of the most difficult problems faced by adopted children. The courts usually inform the adoptive parents about known health problems of their new baby. However, the problem lies in the fact that most women, who give children for adoption, are teenagers or about 20 years old, while the majority of life-threatening health problems are manifested in women of 30-40 years of age.
Receiving information about the child’s state of health, the adoptive parents should understand that the child is often born from random relations. The administration of the institution where the child is placed usually does not have enough information on the health status of parents. Biological parents have a high probability to have mental illness, alcoholism, drug abuse, and other dangerous diseases, the effects of which can be manifested in the child later. Furthermore, the adoptive parents cannot learn about the traumas that a child might have received earlier in life. These psychological traumas can be manifested in behavior and the character of a person many years after the adoption.
Accepting a child in the family, adoptive parents want to hide the fact that the child is adopted. The intention to maintain the fact of adoption of their child in secrecy is most often dictated by the fear to cause suffering or alienation. Nonetheless, the adoptive parents must understand that despite all the efforts, adoption almost never remains a secret for the child. Most frequently, children learn about the fact of adoption in the most unsuitable age, for example, during puberty, when a person’s mental state is highly unstable. More to say, it often occurs inadvertently. It imposes a huge mark on the child’s mental condition. As a result, children want to find their biological parents to ask many painful questions. In such a way, the openness of adoptive records will simplify the situation. Moreover, the secrecy of adoption artificially creates many other secrets such as the secrecy of the name and the place of birth.
Despite this fact, many organizations and ordinary people are still opposed to the openness of information about adoption. The process of raising a child and his/her adaptation in the family and in a new life is usually more relaxed, if a child does not know his/her blood relatives. Therefore, to protect the interests of the child and the adoptive parents, the legislator establishes the institute of the confidentiality of adoption as well as measures to ensure this compliance. Many people believe that there is no need of legal abolition of the established confidentiality of adoption. The abolition of the confidentiality of adoption at the present stage of the state of society in many countries is premature. Thus, it does not correspond to the rights and interests of the majority of children and adoptive parents.
A slight advantage, which the access to medical records gives to adopted people, will be greatly outweighed by the decrease in the number of adoptions that will certainly follow. The question is what will be more useful. One of the ways of the solution to the problem of medical data can be the so-called mutual consent registries, in which the biological parents and adopted children register their wish to meet. If both parties have registered, the adoption record would be declassified. However, such registers are also not an option because they are frequently under-funded and poorly accessible.
One way to solve the problem of opening records is a statement to the adopted children who truly want to be reunited with their biological parents. Nonetheless, this technique has opposed the rights of adopted to the right of privacy promised to biological mothers, most of whom consider their pregnancy as an unfortunate incident that they would like to forget. However, adopted people and their biological parents may avoid relations, in which they do not want to join. Many organizations claim that reunion is not an option. A large number of people look not for a family but merely for information. There are rights granted to every adult citizen that a person being adopted is deprived only because of the adopted status.
In the scientific literature, the question of the correlation of the child’s right to know his/her biological parents and the confidentiality of adoption is actively discussed. Therefore, some people offer to uncover the secret of adoption to the adopted child who has reached the age of maturity. In such a way, a person is considered an adult and he/she can decide whether to find the biological parents or not.
Ultimately, the ever-increasing availability of online information can resolve the controversy about adoption registers. Nowadays, there are plenty of websites that provide detailed instructions on how to search for biological parents. There are also links to other online sources of information such as lists of social security numbers of dead people, genealogical databases, and traditional Internet search engines.
It should be noted that maintaining the secrecy of adoption or not is a private matter of the adoptive parents. In accordance with their internal convictions and psycho-physiological characteristics, the adoptive parents must decide whether to report the fact that the adoption was applied in respect of their child. In the process of raising the adopted child, the family can take the right decision at what point and in what form to tell the child the truth about adoption.
Summing up, adoption is an extremely difficult procedure in all countries. Nevertheless, it is different in different countries. There are states, where adoption records are sealed and children do not know information about their biological parents. However, there are also countries with open adoption records. Nevertheless, many governments consider transforming sealed records into open ones. Issues concerning the abolition of the confidentiality of adoption remain extremely controversial. In many countries around the world, there is a concept of open adoption and such information is not protected. Adoption is not only a legal action but also the actual process, which often involves psychological and moral adaptation of the child. In my opinion, it is possible and even necessary to establish open adoption. It will bring many advantages such as the openness of the health state of biological parents and the easy adaptation of the child to the fact of adoption.