Will Secrecy See Its Demise?

By Gregory D. Luce on April 9, 2016 — 5 mins read

I’ve been trading emails with DB recently. DB is a 52-year-old adoptee from Washington, D.C. Or, to dispense with the pretense of secret adoptees, DB is Danny Berler. You can find out more about him here, and I encourage you to watch and listen to his story and help with his legal fees in seeking full access to his adoption records and original birth certificate. Here’s how a recent DC Court of Appeals decision described his efforts so far:

Appellant D.B. was adopted in the District of Columbia in the mid-1960s. The Jewish Social Services Agency (“JSSA”) was the adoption agency involved. In 2004, D.B. filed a petition in the Superior Court seeking access to the records of his adoption. The trial court partially granted D.B.’s request, but D.B. did not obtain information identifying his biological parents.

In 2014, D.B. filed a second petition, asking for the names of his biological parents as well as all records held by the court and JSSA pertaining to his adoption. The trial court partially granted the petition, directing JSSA to act as an intermediary and to investigate the identities of D.B.’s biological parents. In response, JSSA reported that a search for D.B.’s biological parents had not been successful. JSSA also informed the trial court that D.B.’s biological parents ‘were promised confidentiality’ and that ‘JSSA has never released records without the specific permission of the client.’ The trial court thereafter issued an order denying D.B.’s petition, concluding that, ‘[i]n the absence of a waiver, the guarantee of confidentiality shall not be disturbed.’

The court of appeals then kicked it back to the trial court because the judge had failed to make any findings about Berler’s specific right to access his records. As is the current practice in D.C.—which I describe a bit here with my own efforts—the trial court typically responds to petitions to unseal records by unsealing them and then punting everything else over to the adoption agency. And, as many folks know, that’s where most efforts typically go south, for a number of reasons.

First, there’s no real or meaningful oversight of agency practices in allowing or (almost universally) disallowing access to records. In response to a court order unsealing the records, the agency offers “search and reunion” services for a significant fee, but never releases any records. And that’s that: no hearing, no further recourse, you get what you get, if anything. In fact, this past week I received an email from a DC government representative informing me that I couldn’t see or inspect my own records even if I unseal them. I had already told them that I know who my birth parents are and don’t need any intermediary “search and reunion” services. Inexplicably, I got the standard response again: “Thank you for your request to conduct a search regarding your adoption.” Honestly, it would be funny if it wasn’t so aggravating, expensive, and useless.

Second, and this is a huge issue, Berler’s challenge to the trial court and agency’s approach has led to what may be the first hearing in DC courts in many years, if ever, on the issue of whether alleged birth parent confidentiality trumps an adoptee’s right to his vital records. As the appeals court noted:

[t]here appears to be a dispute about whether D.B.’s biological parents were, or could lawfully have been, promised confidentiality at the time of D.B.’s adoption.

Because of that dispute and others, the court sent the case back to the district court for hearing and to make findings on whether Berler has met his burden to show he is entitled to his records. To get a hearing specifically on the issue of “birth parent confidentiality” is particularly significant and could lead to a decision that upends adoption agencies’ continued reliance on vague and unenforceable promises of secrecy, at least in Washington, D.C. After all, there is nothing in the DC law that mentions birth parent confidentiality as an issue in releasing an adoptee’s records. Rather, the law states that:

records and papers in adoption proceedings shall be sealed. They may not be inspected by any person, including the parties to the proceeding, except upon order of the court, and only then when the court is satisfied that the welfare of the child will thereby be promoted or protected.

Moreover, with respect to the original birth certificate in the District of Columbia, it is entirely up to adoptive parents whether to have a new certificate issued or whether to keep the original one. DC law expressly states that a new birth certificate is issued “[u]nless otherwise requested in the petition by the adopters.” DC law further provides that the “Registrar shall not establish a new certificate of birth if so requested by the adoptive parents . . . .” How’s that for securing birth parent secrecy?

Other Issues

There are other significant issues involved in Berler’s case, including somewhat technical issues about what exactly is meant in DC law by “records and papers in adoption proceedings” and how those records may be controlled or restricted. The short court opinion is here and outlines the issues now being directed back for findings at the district court level, including additional issues related to the agency’s search for his birth parents. After all, the agency could not find what Berler found rather easily through his own investigator.

In talking to other adoptees and birth parents, the stories of agencies that outright lie—or do essentially the same thing by doing nothing other than charging a fee—no longer surprise me. One of the central questions Berler now raises is how we, in an open society, are able to hold agencies accountable when what they do remains behind a well-protected black hole of secrecy. Hopefully, a decision in DB’s case may lead to more stringent oversight of agency practices and, at a minimum, recognition of basic due process rights for adult adoptees in seeking records to which they should already be entitled. Stay tuned. It’s still very much up in the air.

Issues: Adoptees, DC Courts

Leave a comment

  • Interesting, Gregory. I am not a lawyer. However, I have always thought that if state law allows judges to write a court order to open the original birth certificate or the adoption file in the court clerk’s office “based on good cause shown,” then the birth parent doesn’t have privacy as far as his or her offspring is concerned. Judges can’t order adoption agencies to do anything because they are private entities. But unless the state legislature has tagged more restrictive wording to “good cause shown” then these judges are passing the buck and not doing what their office requires. JMHO. Keep up the good work, Gregory. We need more people like you who are keeping up with what’s going on.

    • Each State is different, Mary, re: the rights of the birthmother. Are you talking about DC here, i.e. that you thought this about DC, or another State.

      • Hi, Linda. Thanks for replying. In the past, many states had laws saying that judges could open “for good cause shown.” I do not know exactly how the D.C. law is worded right now. I guess I shouldn’t have interjected anything into the discussion. Oklahoma still has the “good cause” wording. In 1997, the legislature offered new birth parents the opportunity to sign an affidavit-of-nondisclosure. It only applies to those adoptions filed after 11-1-97. For any adoption before that, a judge may write a court order if s/he feels the adoptee has shown good cause–without contacting the birth parents. Many judges refuse all causes, while a slim few are more lenient.

        • I am the birth mother of a child born in oklahoma in 1962. Started searching and in 2014 . The adoption was handled by the state. It only cost me $400 and was only took about 8 weeks to be in touch with my son.. Got to see him for the first time ever. Nothing will ever keep us apart again !

  • I’m reminded of testimony in New Jersey where Patrick Brannigan of the Catholic Conference was asked why the records were sealed. He answered “because the birthparents requested it” without even thinking – so ingrained was the party line.

    He was then blindsided by a stack of relinquishment documents, including two from Catholic Charities in New Jersey. Those documents, signed by relinquishing parents, said nothing about “birthparent privacy” (requested, guaranteed, or otherwise) and listed a whole host of things that the relinquishing parent was promising – including not searching for or “molesting” the adoptive family while the child was still a minor.

    Long ago there was another find – out of California.


    Note the newspaper article about “concerns” of the time.

    • I have it, thanks! Berler and the amicus brief in his appellate case cite Samuels’s article as well. Interestingly, I wrote her some time ago to see if her collection had relinquishment documents from any DC agencies or homes, etc. She wrote back recently and, while her collection doesn’t include any DC documents, it’s highly unlikely that the DC documents are any different from ones she already has. Maybe one day I’ll actually see my mother’s document, if it still exists.

      • Most mothers did not get a copy of the surrender they signed, or any other paperwork proving that they had a child. I had a copy of my surrender paper because evidently someone gave a copy to my dad who took me to sign the papers. I found it years later among some family papers of his. Before that I did not know he had it, and never asked him about it. The only time I saw my stoic Irish father cry was when he took me to sign the papers, but he never said a word to stop me from signing. He regretted this for the rest of his life.

      • My mother was able to get her surrender papers from Spence Chapin (New York). I asked her to request them (and did the legwork for her) so I could give them to Prof. Samuels.

        I found it maddening that another mother (a well known writer, no less) was told by her New York agency that it was “against the law” for them to give her what she signed.

  • Huh, interesting.

    What’s fascinating is how many jurisdictions have similar provisions to the one you raise in WDC whereby the adoptive parents can choose whether to have an amended birth certificate issued. In Hawaii, adoptive parents can choose whether or not they want the entire file sealed or left open, without notice to or consent of the birth parents. And of course, in every jurisdiction OBCs aren’t sealed on relinquishment but upon adoption, kind of blowing the whole notion of birthparent confidentiality out the window.

    These and similar issues, as you probably know, were raised in the TN and OR cases, the upshot of which was that birthparents could not have lawfully or reasonably been promised anonymity.

    • When crying about “birthparent privacy”, opponents conveniently forget that step parent adoptions (about 50% of all adoptions) are sealed as well.

      • Same thing with other older child adoptions, those who know their parents and siblings, but are adopted by separate families and have not been allowed contact. These adopted individuals are also given new birth certificates while their actual ones are sealed – the ones that they’ve had for the first few years of their lives.

  • Promises of confidentialty and privacy are myths. We, as exiled mothers, were never promised anything of the sort. In fact, the only promises made were that we “would forget and go on with” our lives “as if this never happened.” THAT is and was a LIE. We never wanted to be parted from our newborns in the first place. Why in the world would we want confidentiality or privacy from them?? NO, this is an untruth and a phrase that the Adoption Indu$try uses to keep records and OBC’s sealed. Everyone in this country has a legal right to know who they are. No exception should ever have been made to exclude people who were adopted from the truth of their origins. Many mothers signed “Mothers for Open Records Everywhere” posted on the Baby Scoop Era Research Initiative website at http://www.babyscoopera.com

    • Yes, I can attest to that as well Karen. I was coerced by Catholic Charities in Houston, TX in 1978. I kept up with both the Texas registry AND at Catholic Charities over the years to find my lost son. In 2012, I was reunited through a search angel. Catholic Charities kept him from finding me for EIGHT YEARS he was searching and asking about me! When I watched Philomena (the movie) and the Australian Apology, I realized this has been a racketeering enterprise by many to steal young, vulnerable teens/womens children. The courts need to open ALL records and give access to women their incarceration records, maternity records and their offspring their medical and identifying information as soon as possible. I was never given any legal advice nor was there any effort to help me other than to procure my child. Shame on Catholic Charities or any religious organization or individual that took part in this crime against humanity under the guise of “helping”. They only helped themselves to our children and now they claim to be trying to protect us! They are lying!

      • Mary,
        Thank you for sharing your story and experience. As a young woman, your rights and your child rights were removed from the law books and your ‘situation’ was swept under the carpet. Please keep sharing your story: Stand up, Be Strong and Speak Loud.

    • I agree. I also am beginning to believe we do ourselves, as advocates, a disservice by even acknowledging the terms “confidentiality” or “privacy.” Both of those terms have a certain resonance with the general public and imply, just by using them, that there is an existing relationship warranting privacy or confidentiality. If there was no such relationship we are nevertheless supporting the notion by acknowledging and using these specific terms. I’m not criticizing you at all for that—it’s something I do as well. But I’m considering how best to convince a public that is having a hard time generally understanding the issue.

      I generally prefer secrecy because to me that implies a state actor—i.e., the government—which is needed to enforce the secrecy. And most folks have a deep distrust of state secrecy. People use anonymity as a term as well, but that term seems too abstract (and, admittedly, I have trouble saying it without mumbling).

      Just some thoughts. Thanks for piping in.

      • Absolutely! The minute someone falls into the “privacy” argument, they are doomed. How do you justify opposing a disclosure veto option for that “teensy percentage” of people who “don’t want to be found” (sniff sniff)?

        • The privacy argument is one of the strongest opposition to unseal records. Rather than spending years fighting this American Adoption Revolution to unseal records, many reform groups are learning that education and compromise is to their advantage to make a change.

          • “Compromise” is not a benign concept in this case. It usually means permanently denying rights to some subclass of adoptees. When you talk of compromise as necessary for change, you will never get a bill that treats all adoptees equally. That is what Greg is saying.

            Would you acknowledge a “right to privacy” or “implied promise of confidentiality” if it was known that 95% of first moms did NOT want to be found as opposed to the other way around?

    • This is what I was told also but it never happened . I never forgot !!!!!!!! Thanks to the state of Oklahoma for helping me find him. I have him back after 53 years !!

  • One thing people don’t know is that when a mother signs away her parenting rights to her child, she doesn’t sign him over to a waiting set of adoptive parents. Instead, she signs over custody to the agency “for adoptive placement or otherwise.” So the agency is free to do with the child whatever best meets the needs of adults, not those of the child.

    A recent case involving twins born to one state and placed by an agency for adoption in another state makes this point. One of the babies was battered to death by the would-be adoptive father, and the other baby also suffered broken bones and other injuries. Since an adoption had not been finalized, the surviving twin was returned to the state of birth, as was the body of the deceased one, and the agency resumed custody. So the deceased baby was named in press releases by his original name, which, of course, included his mother’s surname. His death certificate would have included the information from his (only) birth certificate – including his mother’s identity. And if the surviving but badly injured twin ended up in long-term foster care, his name – and his birth certificate – would include his mother’s identity.

    At what point would any “confidentiality” promised his mother have been valid? Perhaps only the reverse would be valid—she would not be allowed to know what became of her babies or even visit the grave of the deceased one.

    • Many of the relinquishment documents in Prof. Samuels’ study included a statement where the relinquishing parent acknowledges that the agency has no obligation to inform her if and when the child is adopted.

  • I am respectful of adoptees who wish to learn about their biological family but as a biological mom, I WAS promised confidentiality. Members of my immediate family do not know about my past–I have a right to keep it that way–or so one would think. The state in which I gave birth changed their laws around adoption and I was found. My “child” wanted a birth certificate and information about the biological father. I arranged for the birth certificate to be released but was never thanked for it. I was even lied to–the birth certificate has addresses on it–my “child” knows where I lived and where my parents still live. This person has demonstrated that truth is very flexible–in short, this person is not someone I want in my life.

    In conclusion, confidentiality was promised. It may not have been written but not many teenagers know to demand that. I gave that child up to ensure a better future for the child. No contact and privacy are minimal costs for a better life.

    • Thank you for your honesty. Women who say that they were promised confidentiality are very rare. Mostly we hear about their existence from the agencies who supposedly did the promising.

      I have a few questions, if you don’t mind:

      If you had the option to veto release of the birth certificate, would you have done so?

      If you did veto release of the birth certificate and the adoptee was able to find you anyway, would that have been worse than being found had the state not offered a veto option? Or would it have not made a difference?

      • The agency that arranged the adoption worked with the child to find me. By then, I agreed to release the certificate as that state would have released it anyway had I not disagreed. Initially, I did refuse the release but at the child’s urging, I agreed to release it. The child stated that the certificate would be delivered the following week–then changed and stated that it was never requested. Confused, I thought about it and then realised that not only my name and the name of the biological father were on the certificate–so was my parents’ address. This child has discussed his/her background in research and suggested that anyone can be found. He/she has full access to my information and that of my parents–frankly, I am worried about my elderly parents being contacted. They knew but certainly don’t need to be involved as they are in their 90’s.

        In hindsight, of course, I should have never agreed to the release but I was trying to right what I felt was wrong. No good deed….. I fear that attempts will be made to find the biological father who was hideous. I pray he will never find me–he was 33, I was 17–he still scares me and I never saw him since I was 2 months pregnant. I am more frightened now than I was when I was pregnant.

        • From what I can see, you are not in control of the relationship. Since you appear to have shut this adoptee out of your life (for whatever reason) you can’t expect them to abide by your wishes. I know many adoptees who are just wanting to hear both sides of the story.

          As for the adoptee now having the information to identify his/her father, and your fear that it will enable this hideous person to find you – well, that person had your information but didn’t find you for all these years. Why would a call or letter from the adoptee suddenly put them on a quest to find you and why do you think the adoptee would divulge your current whereabouts?

          I don’t know what the relationship was between my parents. I found my mother and she was quite happy to know me. I’m still looking for my father but when I find him, I have no desire to “get the whole family together again”. I would never tell him where she lived or anything about her that he didn’t remember. I would simply mention that I had found her and leave it at that.

          • I have not shut this child out of my life, I have simply taken a step back and suggested that we keep in touch “from time to time”. The father didn’t look for me as he likely assumed that I had an abortion–I let him think that as he explained that he was married and had a child on the way–he didn’t mention that before. I knew from mutual acquaintances that he and his family left the area shortly after the birth of his child.

            What you would do if you found your father (which I hope you do) has nothing to do with what my child may or may not do. You are not the same person.

            As for wanting to know both sides of the story–the father was a despicable liar. If my child were to find him, who knows what he would say about me? I do know I would never discuss him with my child.

    • If the agency promised you confidentiality, they lied. A surrendered child’s birth certificate is amended and sealed upon adoption, not upon relinquishment. If your baby had never been adopted, your name would have remained on that birth certificate forever, as part of the public record.

      You seem to be angry with your child. It’s not your child’s fault you don’t completely understand the ramifications of your actions.

      As an adoptee, I’ll tell you very frankly that none of us has a right to anonymity. If you don’t want to know your child, fair enough, but you’re not actually entitled to manage that person’s access to his/her siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents. That puts your needs above his/hers, and that’s the very definition of inequality.

      We are adult citizens, and we should have the same rights as non-adopted adult citizens.

      Your wish for secrecy doesn’t trump your child’s right to know his family, identity, and heritage.

    • Also, a question. What if adoption didn’t provide your child a better life after all? Should your price still be demanded?

      • I sound angry? I am. I acted in good faith–then and now. I disagree with you about privacy. I made a horrible mistake when I got pregnant. I could have had an abortion–I felt that would be forever wrong. I was sent away under a cover story of college. My younger siblings and their families know nothing about my life then. I never married and never had more children–some people take mistakes seriously–I am one of them. I was afraid that I would mess up and not be able to care for children, so I never married.

        The agency likely did lie to me but as it turned out, they did not lie about the child’s adoptive parents. They are wealthy and provided everything the child could want.

        I do deserve privacy. My parents deserve privacy. My siblings would be hurt that I never told them and their children would be shocked and hurt. I gave EVERYTHING I had–my first, last and only child to wealthy people. In return my parents and I paid for my stay at an unwed mother’s home, all of my prenatal care, the delivery and my travel to and from the home. I worked in the nursery of that home, caring for newborns–all the while knowing that I would not be allowed to take my child home. Did I not pay enough for that child’s better life?

        I’ve learned that biology does not have anything to do with family. I tried to share broad family history–I was accused of being dishonest. So much for heritage. That child HAS a family and an identity.

        I am not demanding anything. I would like to know when I will be allowed to live without fear of being found out? Privacy is not a price I demand–it is a right I have to maintain my equality.

        • You have no right to kept secrets.

          That’s not a right any of us has.

          I can’t demand that my secrets be kept. That’s why I don’t have secrets. They–and the lies that always accompany them–are poison.

          You do have a right to privacy. If you don’t want a relationship with your adult offspring, that’s your choice, and that choice should be respected. You don’t, however, have a right to anonymity. Nor do you have the right to decide for other adults in your family what their relationships will be with your son or daughter. Those choices aren’t yours, and those relationships aren’t under your control, nor should they be.

          I’m so very sad for you. I can’t imagine living buried under so much regret and fear. You don’t have to. You had a baby without being married. That’s not a crime. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. Those who love you won’t think badly of you for it. Anyone who does isn’t worth one moment of your worry.

          If you want to be angry, be angry. But your child shouldn’t be the focus of your anger and resentment. He or she is the ONLY one who had no say in any of this.

          We didn’t ask to be born. We didn’t ask to be given away. We didn’t ask to be adopted. And it is UTTERLY normal, natural, and human to want to know who we are and where we come from.

          I grew inside my mom. I am half her. As a mother, I can’t imagine not understanding that connection. I can’t wrap my brain around the fact that there are human beings who think they can conceive, grow, and give birth to a child and then simply pretend it never happened.

          My dear, that’s just not how it works.

          I’m sorry that you were told you could get away with that, because








          • I suppose we will to have to agree to disagree. I do have a right to privacy and that includes the pregnancy. I don’t think it is right that someone I don’t know can walk into my life and expect acceptance. NOR should that person have the right to insert themselves into the lives of my family members.

            I am not trying to get away with anything. I did the right thing by giving birth and ensuring that the child was adopted into a loving and financially secure family. If anyone thinks I walked away and was done with it, that person is a fool. I have suffered every day of my life from regret, fear and loss. It is not expecting too much to be able to live the rest of my life without fear of my child contacting my family members and destroying what I have worked to achieve. It is easy to say that anyone not accepting my past is not worth my time–the thing is–I love those people and have not lied to them. I simply did not tell them about those agonizing months and endless years of loss.

            I respect that you want to know about your biological family but stripping away the right of those who do not want to be found is plainly wrong. I do have a right to keep secrets and I don’t buy that I am the only person on the face of the earth who has done so. I have addressed the possibility to my parents that my past could be disclosed–they were greatly distressed and tried to assure me that such a thing could not happen. Are you seriously suggesting that a person they never knew should have the right to approach them and try to coerce answers? My parents are in their 90’s–should they continue to suffer for my actions now?

            I was promised that the adoption would be protected by the law. My identity would never be disclosed. I was never promised that “I would get away with anything”. Clearly, if I wanted to get away with something, I would have had an abortion. I never tried to pretend that I didn’t have a child. I simply didn’t disclose that fact to people who have no need to know. Sadly, with the changes in the law and retro-active opening of sealed records, I almost wish I had taken the abortion route.

          • It’s so very sad that you feel your siblings, nieces, nephews, and other family members have no “need to know” their own flesh & blood.

            What was done to you was and is repugnant. And beyond tragic. But bottom line, your secret is your responsibility. ONLY yours. And there is a way to be free from it and all the fear and anger and misery that accompanies it.

            Come clean. Share your truth. Set your burden down and walk away. Enjoy the life you have left.

          • “I have suffered every day of my life from regret, fear and loss.”

            Which has nothing to do with your child contacting you NOW.

        • You have kept a heavy burden in your heart all these years. Why don’t you contact your biological child and work it out? It might give you peace?

        • First, I actually appreciate your posting your story here. I have some honest questions to help me understand a bit better.

          A basic one first: is there something that could happen or that you could foresee that would change your mind? That is, is there a circumstance in which you would support unrestricted access to original birth certificates?

          And then one that is somewhat related: if you were able to change how the experience with your child unfolded, i.e.,the experience around the post-adoption issues of his/her access to records, what would you change?

          Again, thanks for participating. We disagree, but it is valuable for me to understand.

          • Agnes,
            Let me say first that I am so sorry you feel betrayed by the very people you thought were trustworthy. I don’t know (m)any fourteen-year-olds who have the ability to discern the motives of other people. Most of the time we can rely on what people tell us and we do, but adoption is one of those subjects that is so very complicated. It’s legally complicated, as well as the emotional component being complicated. I would suggest that you should have had legal counsel at the time you signed the relinquishment form, except that many lawyers don’t understand the issue well enough to give birth parents an honest answer–which is that birth parents don’t have privacy from their children. Didn’t then and don’t now.

            You said in one of your emails that your child went to wealthy parents and s/he had everything. Just because a child has a lot of “stuff” doesn’t mean the home is happy. There are lots of rich people who are terribly unhappy. For one thing, how do you know the parents aren’t alcoholic? Or narcissists. Or whatever. Because the same people who told you about your privacy told you they weren’t? I hope you will be consider thinking about this. You have made it clear that your child knows you don’t want to be found. Why should s/he thank you for being unwanted? S/he is probably scared out of her tree that if she calls you, you will somehow reach through the phone and shoot her. If you really want to protect her from the birth father, you would contact her and tell her. JMHO. I am so sorry you are having to deal with this gut-wrenching situation. I hope things work out for you.

          • I do see a scenario that I would support unrestricted access to OBC–that would be prior to the relinquishment of the child, the birth parents are informed that the records would be open. Then, the parents would have the opportunity to decide if they wish to go ahead with the adoption. To open the records decades after the relinquishment of the child and after confidentiality was promised is, in my opinion, wrong.

            I was sent to a state away from my home so that I would not be seen by anyone who knew me. There was no court appearance–my child was collected by the case worker after she filled out the paperwork and notarized the documents herself. She promised repeatedly that I would never have to worry about being found.

            As for my child’s access to the OBC–which IS in the hands of my child–I would never have changed my mind about blocking access to the records unless I could receive a copy first to see what was on the OBC. I never was–and will never be–allowed to have a copy of that OBC. Had I seen the document before it was released, I would have seen that my parents address was on it and I would have refused any release of it unless and until my parents are deceased. I caused my parents great sorrow and significant financial expense–they should not have to continue to suffer for my actions. My parents arranged for me to be sent away to ensure that my future would not be derailed by my bad decisions. They never expressed anger or disappointment. They continued to support me through college and encouraged me to do and become whatever I chose to be. I owe them peace now.

          • Agnes, you are suggesting that ALL parents and adopted people abide by your wishes. You are but one case and a sorry one at that.

            My mother died when I was three months old. No one calls her my “birth mother”! She is, and always will be, my mother! She died at her age of 30. My father was 31 when he buried her. He kept his 4 older children and relinquished me because a priest told him that the baby needs two parents. There is no shame in my conception and birth, and yet, by your circumstances, you would have all adopted people held captive because of, what? Your shame and fear?

            Facts are facts. Your name and that of the father are on a medical record of live birth, whether you like it or not. Too bad for your feelings. This isn’t about your feelings. This is about the facts of conception and birth. Period.

            Who cares whose addresses are on the birth certificate?

            No one gives a damn about the rights of the child who was born. It appears to me that you want to control the birth records of millions of adoptees because of your fears. Pretty darn selfish of you.

            The concerns you raise are why some states put into place a “no contact preference form” and not a “no release” form.

            I was not born a bastard and I resent being treated like one. Thank you for driving home the point that adoptees are bastards, all of us.

    • Thank you for sharing your story, but I find it interesting that you felt ‘slighted’ that you did receive a ‘thank you’. Why? The only reason your biological child received his/her OBC was because the law unsealed records in your State. Furthermore, you state, “I gave ‘that’ child up to ensure a better future for the child”. Don’t you have some interest to learn if ‘your’ hopes for ‘that’ child were fulfilled? Perhaps, the child felted you didn’t want to be involved in his/her life? With this standoff, I don’t think you need to worry about privacy..seems it has been sealed.

      • Your understanding is incorrect. I knew of the change in the state law where I had the child. I placed a refusal to release the OBC in the file shortly after the law changed. Years later, AFTER I was contacted by the child, I did communicate with the child. He/she wanted the OBC, against my better judgement, I agreed to the release. He/she stated that the certificate would be delivered the following week–then silence. In later correspondence, he/she stated that getting the certificate was “too involved”, so, did not get the certificate. That was just one of the lies I was told.

        I worry constantly now that the child will contact my family members looking for more information. I never spoke to or saw the biological father after I told him I was pregnant. He was such a stand up guy that he offered $50 toward an abortion–then he left. The child wanted information about him and I had none to offer. The child did not believe me and stated that.

    • Your offspring, who is now an adult, did not agree to anything you’re describing. They did not agree to exchange “no contract and privacy” in exchange for “a better life.” Can you understand that? As an adult, your offspring cannot be held to a contract that they did not sign. YOU may have made a bargain with the devil, THEY did not.

      Your offspring has an obligation to their own offspring. There’s medical and genetic information, which some of my colleagues decry as a justification for contact, but I continue to believe in. Your adult offspring has an OBLIGATION to their offspring – your grandchildren – to provide them with contemporary medical history and genetic information to protect their health. Your wishes not only don’t matter, but if you care about your progeny you ought to endorse this.

      ALSO what if one of your descendants needs a donor organ such as a kidney to stay alive? Should your offspring’s offspring be placed at higher risk of death for lack of a donor organ to suit your preference to keep your past a secret? Should your grandchild die to keep your secrets? And if one is going to need a donor organ, is a person more likely to donate a kidney to a complete stranger who bursts suddenly into their life, or to a family member with whom they’ve established a caring relationship?

      I’m sorry about whatever has filled you with the plainly evident shame and self-loathing you exhibit in your posts. I can understand that your past was painful and hard. And I pity your offspring who might have hoped for a warmer greeting then they evidently received. I hope you can work out your pain and get to a place where you can let go of the lies told to you in your past and embrace the opportunities that adoptive reunion offers you for love and happiness in the future.

      • My answer to this again because my post was an earlier reply. Often like myself adoptees get raised in very close proximity to where they were relinquished. So it is common to fear dating their own relatives and then like me who now have children of dating ages, I have to worry if they will date an unknown relative. This has to stop. We deserve it to stop now, even for our children as well!

      • Bargain with the devil? Interesting perspective. Cruel, but interesting.

        I did provide a FULL medical history to my child. Furthermore, you seem to think that I must also offer myself up (or my siblings and their children should) as organ donors to my child. Sorry, I have MS and the only donations that I can make are after my death. If someone needs brain or spinal tissue, which is ALL that I can donate, that person needs to present themselves to my neurologist within hours of my death to haggle over who gets what.

        I did offer a welcoming and kind reception to my child at first. I wanted to have a relationship. S/he decided that I was either mentally challenged or just plainly stupid with comments made.

        Bargain with the devil…quite the judgement of a scared 17 years old. Where does one go to “work out” being in league with the devil?

    • You were never promised confidentiality by the child – who had no say in any of this – nor by any government body. No one has a “right” to lies and secrets. You weren’t thanked?! “Minimal costs for a better life?! I’m curious why you think that you were owed any thanks. For “allowing” someone to have what is theirs? And why would any “cost” be the obligation of that child? They didn’t ask to be brought into this world, didn’t choose to be born to you, didn’t ask to be relinquished, and didn’t ask to have the facts of their birth hidden from them. Those are all decisions YOU made, and no one but you should have to pay for that. I don’t care that you don’t want a relationship with someone. No one has a right to a relationship. I don’t care that you chose not to parent. You seem to think you are owed something in reward for all these decisions you made that affected someone else’s life. You aren’t. Your victim-complex is strong.

      • I as an adult adoptee went to high school with a biological half brother unknowingly. I also have sons of dating ages and have cousins in the same city. I believe we have the right to know if we are related to people in our area. No we do not have a relationship with birthmother if she does not want it, but at least we deserve the chance to avoid possible situations.

        • Mona, I was sent away from my home–out of state. It is remotely possible that my child could have met someone to whom s/he is related but pretty remote.

          • Look, unfortunately years ago when the obc were closed they did not take into consideration the effect it would have on us adoptees, I as an adoptee never felt like I belonged and most of that was due to being unaware of my heritage. I actually had to pretend to be a different nationality for years. Can you imagine that? I also had this overpowering desire to know who I was. At my adoption they never figured in my rights at all, actually you Agnes have all the rights and call all the shots! Look I can not even be put on a family tree correctly because of all this. Lastly through my entire search I have always considered how hard this must have been for my birth mother, but in her cold rejection I do not think once she is worried about my feelings, this is sad and one sided and can be fixed if we have access to our history, It is her loss that she did not take this time with me to free herself of her guilt and do what is healthy and let me this secret out once and for all. I am a good loving person and this she did miss out on, please reconsider and put your self in the adoptess shoe for just a moment. Peace and love to you Agnes!

          • Mona, I am honestly sorry that you were not able to establish a good relationship with your biological parents. It is important to remember that biological parents–mothers in particular–were not calling the shots. Mothers were living in a time in this country when children out of wedlock was a very shameful event. Adopting parents were able to capitalize on that shame and while working with the adoption agencies, mothers lost their children.

            From our perspective now, an unmarried mother is no big deal. Then it was. I always wanted my child to know me. Sadly, when we did have contact s/he seemed to have a list of demands–OBC, medical history, pictures of me and my family, list of jobs we all had held, where we lived, and wanting to hear my voice. I offered information on heritage–I research family history and have done so for decades–that was dismissed as “fantasy”. My child has the OBC, medical information and two photos of me. I have no plans to share anything else.

            Mona, you seem to think that sharing information with you will magically free your mother of guilt. For me, my attempts to share were met with disdain–I feel worse now than before I was found.

            You have not been mean spirited but if you read some of the comments on this post, many of those comments are mean spirited. I have to ask myself if times have really changed. Being accused of making a “deal with the devil” and general comments that I have no right to privacy make me realize that attitudes toward unwed mothers have not changed–if anything–they are worse.

            I did put myself in my child’s shoes many times but getting smacked in the face with demands and lists of things to comply with? No. But putting my foot down and saying “No” is my right. I tried to be helpful but was mocked and treated very rudely. My child seems to think that MS causes mental deficiency–it doesn’t.

            I honestly hope that you find what you are looking for. As for me, I plan to reexamine my profile on any search engine and continue to maintain my anonymity. I don’t need and I won’t tolerate more abuse from those who don’t know me and have no right to judge me. …but then, I did make a “deal with the devil”…

          • Agnes, I thank you kindly for your thoughts I am in triad groups where all info and thoughts do help. I also know my birthmother was a single Mom to a son she kept 3 years before she gave me up, he was also the product of the same affair. She raised him and she already had the stigma of being an unwed mother so her reasons for non contact amaze me, I simply want all parties involved to understand us adoptees at this point have no rights to the knowledge of our real ancestry, and for me even as a child it never sat well with me. I needed to know and still to this day I want to know and I always want people to know I am a human being who DOES exist, not a secret, good or bad, stuff happens and we need to accept all of us adoptees as real humans with real rights! I wish I could let things go, it would be so much easier. But I will continue to fight for my fellow adoptees rights to get their obc. Simply because we deserve it, and we deserve peace as well. My birthmother made her choices to still hide me because she does not want her son( my full brother probably) to know she hid this from him. I find it selfish and unfair to both him and I. So as I understand your views are your views, this is why my views are my views. Once again I wish you peace and love, for this situation is definitely very hard, I hope I have helped make an impact on you as to why we need closure to heal!

      • You are completely right! The father shouldn’t have to pay for anything–he just made deposits and I am the vicious evil person who tried to do the very best I could facing an extremely difficult situation–but, of course, my intentions were evil and hateful. I gave life to a human being–what an outrage!!!!

        Enlighten me, how long do I have to atone for my sins? Since you seem to have ALL of the answers, just what would be sufficient? I have arranged for the child to have the OBC and a full medical history. So what else do I owe? My parents and siblings didn’t have that child–why should they be subjected to my evil ways?

  • Most mothers were coerced into “surrendering” their children OR worse were outright robbed of them. It is those involved in taking and placing those children who wanted the children’s mothers edited out of the children’s lives and any documents resulting from the familial breakup.

  • I relinquished a child in 1967. She is NOW 48 years old, and we have been in reunion for 14 years. I was NEVER promised that my identity would remain secret. I was, in fact, elated when she found me. Secrecy protects NO one and is harmful to both mother and child. Can you IMAGINE not knowing your genetic make up, your familial history, and never seeing a single soul that resembles you. I surely cannot not, but that is what my daughter endured for 34 years. And, when I attempted to get her OBC from the District of Columbia, I was talked to as IF I was an 15 year old. I am now 67 years old and would give the world to present to her her original birth certificate with both her father and mother’s name on it. My daughter was placed through Catholic Charities, who never bothered to counsel me as to the programs that were available in 1967. Had I know then what I know now, I would NOT have surrendered my child. For both of us, it was a heart breaking decision …. Adoption, the gift that keeps on giving..

    • So, wait, what happened when you asked DC for the original birth certificate or any other adoption records? I’m specifically interested in seeing how cases proceed where search/reunion has been taken out of the equation, like yours.

      • New York judges will not release any documents even if you show up with your birth AND adoptive parents. They will tell you that “you already know what’s in the files so you don’t need them”.

        • This is where I think there is room to mount legal challenges that, bit by bit, chip away at the notion of secrecy and court/agency oversight over OBCs and adoption records. We don’t know what’s on the OBC or in the files. That’s the point. And “protecting” us from learning more about already known truths is absurd. Make the whole secrecy argument disappear by removing any reason for secrecy—i.e., all parties want the records released. Suddenly, the courts and agencies are simply trying to defend a notion of secrecy by saying “well, they are just secret.” You should have to have a better legal reason, other than circular reasoning, to withhold basic rights for adoptees.

          • AMEN.

            I believe the stumbling block is actually adoptive parents. I believe the courts are refusing to unseal these files to protect them, not adoptees and/or “birth” mothers.

            I know, for example, that there is info on my “price” in my files. My adopters told me how much they spent adopting, but they were unusual people, and I can understand that that’s something many adopters wouldn’t want revealed to their adoptee.

            At any rate, both my adopters have passed away, so there’s no one to protect any longer.

            Unless the court wants to come right out and say it wishes to protect me, a 54 year old retiree, from my own true story. And in my opinion, after saying that, they have no reasonable or legal leg left on whch to stand.

          • Absolutely! My adoptive parents never wanted me to know that I was adopted. My amom passed away when I was 24. I found out about my adoption at age 31. My adad refused to even acknowledge that I was adopted. He died some 25 years later.

            One day, I called the Surrogates Court for the county I was adopted in (Kings County, NYC). I asked for “everything that I am entitled to”. The gentleman I spoke to took my information and instructed me to call back the following week to see if he had found my file. He told me that the only thing I would be entitled to was a Certificate of Adoption (basically a certified abstract of my adoption order) but could only get that with permission from my adoptive parents or if they were deceased.

            At the time, I was 54 years old and a licensed CPA in New York. Oh the irony! New York recognizes my ability to opine on the financial statements of major corporations but I’m not mature enough to know that I was adopted. Got it.

            As luck would have it, my father died the following week so I could truthfully say that both my aparents were deceased. Perpetual children, anyone?

  • *sigh*

    once again for the slow… THIS IS NOT ABOUT “BIRTH” PARENT SECRECY… that is just a LIE the adoption industry tells everyone so WE will be blamed for THEIR machinations of the law.


    First parents are NOT promised confidentiality. Ten to one the agency never even asked this man’s parents whether they wanted to be in touch with him. Dig enough and it’ll come out the records were “lost in a fire” or some crap like that.

    Honestly. Can we stop being at one another’s throats now? Believe you me, if someone’s first parents don’t want to hear from them, they WILL say so on their own when found. And that’s relatively rare.

  • The vast majority of birth parents (natural parents) were coerced to relinquish their child to adoption, if they were not married, during the Baby Scoop Era. The entire process was an atrocity — nothing short of being considered barbaric. It was not about the natural mothers, nor the adoptees, but a big money making process for Adoption Agencies to make bank off people who could not have children of their own. Because of this old and outdated practice, millions of mothers and adoptees suffer. Adoptees are the only segment of our society who do not have equal access to their medical history and heritage. This is 2016, and not much has changed in most states. I’m happy to announce that Colorado is now an Open Adoption State — about time, and long overdue. All states should implement Open Adoption status. Personally, I think the secrecy that shrouds adoption is the cause of the shame that still often applies to adoption. It’s time to get realistic, and stop the idiotic nonsense. Open all the records, as we’re dealing with real lives here — not pretend families.

  • I, too am working for accountability, but from the front or ‘beginning side’ of the adoption process, specifically dealing with coercive persuasion by the industry professionals. Something the ‘adoption professionals’ have perfected as the industry has been forced to morph away from the Baby Scoop Era (1940-1980ish) and move to this new Coercion Era. The ‘professional’ adoption attorneys, case workers and agencies know just how far to push the envelope, what to put in writing, and what not to, how to sign moms in crisis up on ‘the payroll’ and cut them checks every week, and taking advantage of them by not telling them they should have their own lawyer & have them find one that will not be on the ‘professional’s payroll’, and steering clear of that conflict of interest.

    I have loads of documented coercive tactics, including broken state statutes on audio, video and in writing trying to scare mothers in to giving up their children while they are still in the hospital and days after giving birth. Telling them that they are facing jail, a court battle because they will be sued to force them to pay back the expenses that they received (which is illegal in majority of the states). Many also drop the mother if she revokes her consent within her state statutes, telling them they will have to figure out how to get their babies back from the PAPs/HAPs. Many mothers after changing their mind and deciding to parent are then accused of fraud, accused of knowing the entire time thst they were going to keep their baby, and accused of stringing everyone along. All of this of course is done verbally, because it is against the laws, and coercive to do to a mother. But there are no laws detailing the punishment for thr adoption prodessionals who break these laws, or uae coercive practices. Nothing. They get a complaint filed against them, a slap on the wrist, and then they move on to the next mother in crisis and do the exact same thing to her.

    I hope this all works out and he is able to get to his OBC. It is a basic human right and he is being discriminated against, because he was adopted. It is wrong. DNA will soon dismantle the secrets and lies and deceit the adoption industry is built on, and I cannot wait for that day to get here. My son was lost to an unnecessary adoption. I was a mother in crisis, and he was an innocent child, who did not need to be separated from me, his mother. His mother needed someone to tell her she could do it, that she was already doing it, and that everything was so very temporary and that adoption is so very permanent.
    Now, I do what no one did for me. We’ve helped over 50 mothers keep and successfully parent their infants, and their temporary crisis has Ling since passed.

  • I hope birth certificates will be available to adoptees and that their records will be open.

  • Mr. Luce:
    Please keep us posted of DB’s progress with the courts. Glad to know that we are finally reading current cases which are challenging issues such as privacy and adoption agencies! These agencies have been gone under the wire too long for exploitation of women and children. Thank you for keeping an intelligent dialogue ongoing.

  • Wow! I am overwhelmed by the responses here…

    I am DB in the case that Greg cites on his blog. Many thanks to Greg for a well-written overview, and to everyone else who has posted. I respect all of your opinions even though I may disagree with some of them. I am particularly touched by the birth mother who is afraid of her parents and other family being contacted – you have obviously carried a lot of pain for a long time.

    I have learned many things since I began searching, and am still learning each day. I have found that the search and reunion processes are very different things. I have also learned that there are many stories going on at once: my birth story, my birth parents’ stories, my adoptive parents’ stories, the legal story, the search story, and probably a few others. Each is its own, but they obviously coincide and sometimes get very confusing. What I know is this:

    1. Finding the identities of my birth parents, who were deceased when I found them, and learning about them and seeing photos changed my life in ways that are difficult to describe.

    2. I was somewhat relieved that my birth parents had died by the time I found their identities so I didn’t have to deal with any of the ways it could have gone wrong (although based on what I have learned about them, I think they would have been glad to know me and I them).

    3. It took years of therapy and a great adoptee support group to realize that I had actually been harmed in the process, in that I have never had any say in the matter and still don’t, although I am trying to change that through the courts.

    4. I view knowing where we come from as a fundamental human and civil right, and while it may make some people uncomfortable, most specifically birth mothers, I don’t believe their rights outweigh my rights. After all, they have the opportunity to ask their parents and relatives about their familial histories if they choose to; adoptees simply aren’t afforded that opportunity.

    5. With that said, I also believe that everyone deserves respect, and my intentions upon reaching out to my half-siblings have always been to “not create harm” to them or their children or the memories of their parents. Weighing this against the “truth” however is not always simple and requires respect and a certain delicacy. To this end, I believe intermediaries can be extremely helpful as an option and suggestion, but never a requirement.

    6. I have spent many years being angry at the Jewish Social Service Agency (JSSA) for obstructing the search and being disingenuous in its reporting to the Court. JSSA and other agents of the court, such as Catholic Charities, cannot be absolved for their misdeeds, but the truth is the final responsibility lies with the Court and always has.

    7. It seems to me that, at least in DC, the problem has not been with the wording of the statute itself (although one that simply opens records at 18 or 21 would be ideal), but rather with how the process has devolved over time to one where the court delegates its authority to all these agencies who have differing philosophies, approaches and interests. Fundamentally, this why the only consistent and reasonable cure has to be opening records when an adoptee can state prima fascie that it will promote his or her welfare.

    At the end of the day, adoption can be a wonderful thing. The problem is that often judges and social workers just don’t get it. They focus on the placement of children with families, which is really super important, but then they think that’s the end. Good deed done. They don’t realize there’s at least one more piece that needs to happen much later on in order to close the loop. That’s certainly true for the adoptee, and often for the birth mother too. In my mind, this is really about “closing the loop.” Ultimately, I believe that the truth is just the truth, nothing more or less, and that no healing can take place without it.

    Ok, I’ve written plenty enough here, although I’m sure I could go on and on, particularly around my court case. As I head back to the halls of justice in a couple of weeks, it’s nice to know there are people out there supporting and encouraging me from afar.

    Finally, I would encourage you to view an 8-minute video of me telling a “piece” of my story at a storytelling event recently. It was cathartic to stand up in front of 300 people, and if there are any doubters I hope you’ll see how profound it can be to know our stories. Please feel free to share it if you’re so inclined.


    My best to all of you,

    • “Ultimately, I believe that the truth is just the truth, nothing more or less, and that no healing can take place without it.”


      Thank you so much for leaving this comment! Your story has been inspiring to me, and it’s wonderful to “hear” your thought.

  • When I first went to the adoption agency (DePelchin in Houston) hoping to identify my mother, I was 18. They fed me a few lies, laughed at me, and sent me on my way.

    I went back a number of times–always with basically the same result.

    When my son started talking about starting a family, I went back again–this time I asked for my non-identifying info. They claimed my files had been lost when they digitized records.

    I petitioned the Harris County court that finalized my adoption in 1962 for my records. The judge agreed to unseal them, but he was only willing to release them to DePelchin. I appealed that decision, saying that they shouldn’t be trusted with my records, since they’d proven themselves unable to keep them safe. The judge agreed and released my files to the agency AND to a C.I.

    With my (heavily redacted) non-ID info, I myself identified my mom and reunited with her. We have a good relationship. She claimed she couldn’t remember my father’s name. I knew that was BS, but I realized I wasn’t going to get info on the subject from her, and since there wasn’t anything on him in my files, I turned to DNA testing/matching. It took three years, but I finally identified him via two second cousin and one first cousin matches. He passed away in ’97, sadly, but I’ve been welcomed by most of my paternal family, and we’re all getting to know one another.

    I am about to petition the court again for my records. I know who my parents are/were, and I have an affidavit from my mom stating she was never promised anonymity.

    I want my files.

    Do you have any thoughts or suggestions, Gregory? I’m not asking for legal advice, I’d just like to know if there’s anything you would or wouldn’t do in my situation.

    • These are great questions. They are also questions I am sorting out as I prepare a second petition. A few things I am still working through are 1) whether an adoptive or birth parent, or both, should submit an affidavit or other statement in support of release; and 2) the issue of a court, like Gaye Tannenbaum mentioned in an earlier comment, responding with “you have all the information you need already, so why should I give you more;” and 3) the difference in vital records (which includes the original birth certificate) and the adoption records (which are broader and not so easily defined at times).

      There are also constitutional issues that so far have fallen on deaf ears in the courts, and I’m not sure how to tweak those to make them more compelling. But, they should be included to preserve them in case of the need for an appeal.

      Finally, the typical standard for challenging these court cases is whether a judge abused his or her discretion. That’s a hard standard to overcome on appeal so the focus has to be on reducing issues where discretion is available and would lead to denial of your petition (such as the “privacy” of various parties or, more difficult, the interest of courts in controlling their sealed documents).

      Finally, I’m toying with the idea of forming a “legal team” that gathers lawyers and advocates in a small group to work out many of these issues and to come up with a larger strategy, including one that could be used for the so-called “left behind” adoptees who are increasingly facing disclosure vetoes over their OBCs.

      • Why is it that adoptees are the only group of people (other than those in the Witness Protection Program) whose actual birth certificates are not only confiscated by the government but their official certification revoked, and, upon the finalization of adoption, a new birth certificate is created, swapping in adoption information that replaces the actual facts of conception and birth? Who decided this? Why was this decided? The answer? It was to hide illegitimacy. So, tell me why then, do the same rules apply to children who were adopted by their step-parents, and to children who were born legitimately but lose one or both parents to early death, and to children who were removed from their parents due to abuse or neglect? In all of these cases, the children were born legitimately, but the law was written to hide illegitimacy. Why does the government, and adoption agencies, continually spout on and on about “confidentiality” when none exists?

  • Here in Michigan after a confidential intermediary located and did not get a reply from birthmother, while having said file in her hand, made me reapply and petition the court all over (and pay again) to find out my birth father was deceased and then was issued his death certificate. The problem is that she said the courts did not like you to handle both searches at once. My feelings are it was all about the money and it was up to the individual court appointed C.I. To decide if I needed to pay again. Another case of draining the adult adoptees. I am fortunate I could afford this and then went on to do DNA and find the birthmother, who lived in my same area, and still denied contact. My point is what about the adoptees who can not afford all of this? That is why I want this system changed!

    • Fortunately, DNA testing is getting quite affordable ($79 for Ancestry) and there are many knowledgeable people who will help you interpret your results for free. With more and more people getting first and second cousin matches (something that was unheard of just two years ago), these DNA search angels don’t have to devote as much time to each case. Most of the advice will revolve around making contact rather than interpretation. There are even some groups which donate DNA tests for those who can’t afford it.

  • I am a 72 Year old adopted in DC in 1945. I have identified me birthmother (deceased 1990) and my 4 half siblings. Petitioning the court to learn the identity of my birth father sounds daunting and generally unsuccessful. Do you have suggestions? My wish to know concerns health and genetics – And, of course, just wanting to know. My records are with DC Family and Child Services. I have my so-called non-identifying information.

    • So sorry it took me a bit to respond (and I’ll also follow up by email). Under the current approach to this issue in DC courts, you would file a petition to break the court’s seal ($80 filing fee) and the court will kick it over to the agency, in your case DC’s Family and Child Services. That agency will ask you to pay $500 minimum to do a “search” for your father. Once that fee is paid, the agency will attempt to contact your father and, if he is amenable, agree to contact. If he is deceased, it is a crap shoot as to whether the agency will release any information. Generally, as I’ve seen in some petitions, a parent’s death without having already agreed to contact will end any effort by an adoptee to learn the parent’s identity, at least through the court’s or agency’s files.

      That said, because you know the identity of your mother you may be able to ask for, and receive, the court’s adoption files (not the agency files), which may have other identifying information. It is entirely possible that there is no record of your father’s identity in the court’s files.

      I’ll write a bit more about this later. It’s a process that is in some flux and may see changes if adoptee’s like you and me continue to challenge the court’s approach. Good luck!

  • It’s because your biological parent(s) are still living. The courts unsealed my mom’s 1946 adoption file because the search found that they were no longer living. The judge said “therefor no harm could be done”.
    Prob a different judge. My mom was adopted through Catholic Charities.