Original mother’s right to privacy-a crumbling wall? Is that bad?

Open Records emblem used in Adoptee Rights Pro...

Open Records emblem used in Adoptee Rights Protest, New Orleans, 2008, artist: D. Martin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


It  began with the blog: Adoption Restoration. Brought to my attention due to some common Facebook “likes,”  I traveled along with Deanna Shrodes and her brand new fist –full-of-followers. I liked that the author was a co-pastor, with her husband, of a large church in Tampa, just across the Gandy bridge from my Eckerd college home,
St. Petersburg, Florida.

In the next few weeks, I read the 16 part series Deanna wrote about her own experience,  and I found myself thinking “this woman is either my soul mate or a nut.”

It was during this period I was startled by the news that six states now allow adult adoptees to obtain their judgement of adoption. I did not know exactly what a “judgement of adoption” meant, but I knew if my state allowed it, I needed to see it. Although I had been writing about my own adoption for about a year, I was blissfully naive about current law, the direction the law was heading, and the struggle many adoptees and original (birth) mothers face.

According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway and The American Adoption Congress – Alabama, Alaska, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, and Oregon have open adoption records. This means that an adoptee can receive copies of their adoption file without restriction once the adoptee turns 18. All that is required is the filing of a simple application. There are other states that allow an adoptee to have access to some information and documentation, but with restrictions. -Carrie Craft-about.com.

I had an experience with a sealed record once before.   My sister (read about her here) offered to show me her daughter’s “record.”  My heart did a little skip-beat. I guess it was my own youth responsible for my reaction, thinking for a moment that I was about to get some insight into my beautiful, smart niece with the lovely voice; and vicariously, some insight into myself.  All the words were blacked out except “Dutch.”  Dutch! I didn’t care about the blacked out words, this one single word, with heritage attached, was very exciting to me. I was about 22.


I see an article explaining my entitlement to a copy of “my” judgement of adoption.” I call the number listed and a very helpful woman with a kind voice answered my initial questions. I told her I was sensitive to the birth parents right to privacy, which she referred to as “a crumbling wall.”

“I checked our databases and it appears that our agency provided a report to the court for you adoption but did not actually process your adoption.  Therefore, you are not eligible for our Registry as we do not have additional information about your adoption.  Contacting the Monmouth County Surrogate is your best option to see if you are able to obtain more information about your adoption.  There are additional registry and search resources available online if you would like to look into them…some include www.adoption.com, www.adoptiondatabase.org and www.gsadoptionregistry.com.” -Elizabeth Carr, Adoption Registry Unit-State of New Jersey Department of Children and Families-Division of Child Protection and Permanency

A couple of phone calls and weeks later (this stuff takes nothing but patience), a clerk from the county surrogate’s office, Jackie, explained to me that in NJ, one could pay $15 to get a petition to “break seal” but that essentially, the law is the law. In the kindest possible way, she was saying “Save your money, honey.”

The questioning reporter that is in me (one of the 25 jobs) kicked in. I sensed that my time on the phone was running short. I asked “Is my record, my sealed record, in the building you are in?” I explained that I wanted to perhaps take a photo of the building, zoom into the into the room…into the filing cabinet.

“Yes it is.”

I wanted to get as close to the information as legally possible, to understand the boundaries.  Most of all, I wanted to understand.

(To be continued…)


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