As I’ve written before on Strollerderby, it’s time for full disclosure in adoption. But full disclosure doesn’t mean presenting a child with information he or she never requested — or is not emotionally able to handle.
As an adoptee who did not want to be found by biological relatives, I can only imagine how upsetting it would have been for me as a teenager to be contacted out of the blue via Facebook. Adoptees had no choice in the matter of being relinquished for adoption so it’s important that they have control over the decision of whether or not to search for biological family or be found.
Regardless of your stand on whether adoption records should be open or not, it’s clear that a Facebook-facilitated reunion is not a good idea.
The situation is further complicated because in England at least, as many as two-thirds of adopted children were been removed from their birth parents’ home because of abuse or neglect.
The Guardian story tells of a number of cases where children who had been abused as youngsters were contacted by their abusers on Facebook.
One adoptive mother told of how a Facebook message from her daughter’s biological mother left the family reeling. “Our daughter, who is our prime concern, has gone from no contact from her birth family, at the hands of whom she had a difficult start in life, to suddenly finding they are there at the press of a button,” said the adoptive mother.
Adoption laws vary from state to state and by country, but there is nothing illegal about entering a birth date and identifying information into a search engine. That’s sometimes all it takes for a birth relative to track down a child they relinquished.
To be clear, I am not opposed to open records or searching for biological relatives, but it’s something that shouldn’t be done lightly. About six years ago, I got a startling phone call from the adoption agency that placed me telling me that I had an identical twin who was looking for me. So I know first hand how shocking these sorts of revelations can be.
Facebook is expected to introduce changes to its privacy settings which would make it harder for birth parents from tracking down their biological children. Let’s let trained social workers – not social networking sites - handle those complicated situations.
Meanwhile, adult adoptees in Illinois are celebrating the passage of a new law which allows them access to their original birth certificates.
“After Governor Quinn signs this legislation, I will be able to walk into the state’s office of vital records, plunk down my $15 and get a copy of my original birth certificate. On it will be the name of the woman who gave birth to me 53 years ago. I can’t wait to hold it in my hand,” said State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, a Chicago Democrat and one of the bill’s sponsors.