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Public Policy Project

Grace Elizabeth

on 20 June 2013

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Transcript of Adoption

Adoption Policies:
By Carolyn Sheridan and
Kerri Williamson

Access to Birth Records
Trans-racial Adoption
Adoption Statistics:
(Why is this an issue?)

Six in ten Americans have had personal experience with adoption.
About 1 million children in the United States live with adoptive parents.
There are millions more world-wide waiting for a family.
There are more than 118,000 children in foster care awaiting adoption.

What's the problem?
The arguement is whether or not to allow children who have been adopted to access their birth records, which includes:
medical records
information about their birth parents and families.
Proponent Viewpoint:
Proponents say that adoptees should have the same right to their birth certificate that everyone else does. Access to their birth records would also allow adoptees to learn their family medical history, which could save lives.
Measure 58- 1998 Oregon
Adoptees could access their birth records when they turned 21.
The policy became effective in 2000.
Many birth mothers took it to court because they believed it was their Constitutional Right, according to the 14th Amendment, to privacy.
In July 1999, a US circuit judge ruled against the birth mothers.
In 1996 Tennessee a law was passed that allows...
Adult adoptees and close relatives access to birth records.
"contact vetoes," (which means either party to opt out of contact.)

Many people there were waiting for the law to go into affect because of family medical histories. Including Charles Raymond Lokey who contends that not having access to such records may have saved the life of his brother, who died of a heart attack related to coronary disease (a usually genetic condition).
*The Boys and Girls Aid Society is for changing laws to allow open adoption records for future records but is against taking away confidentially of past adoptions.

Their mission statement reads: “All of the work done by Boys & Girls Aid is motivated by our desire to help children. To keep our staff and leadership moving in the right direction, we use a core purpose statement and a set of core values as guidance.”
Current policies/situation:
As of 1999, only Kansas and Alaska allow full access for adoptees 18 and over and 19 other states allowed limited access.

More recent laws include:
2009 - Colorado - a court of appeals decision allows people adopted between 1949 and July 1, 1967 easier access to their records
2005 - New Hampshire - all birth records are open to adult adoptees.
Opponent Viewpoint:
Opponents say that allowing adoptees access to birth records invades their natural parents constitutional right to privacy and confidentiality.
Bastard Nation is a lobby group that fights for adoptees rights.

Their mission statement reads: "Bastard Nation advocates for the civil and human rights of adult citizens who were adopted as children. Millions of North Americans are prohibited by law from accessing personal records that pertain to their historical, genetic and legal identities. Such records are held by their governments in secret and without accountability, due solely to the fact that they were adopted.”
The Child Welfare League of America is now for state laws that allow open adoption records. They were previously against such practices.

Their mission statement reads: “CWLA leads and engages its network of public and private agencies and partners to advance policies, best practices and collaborative strategies that result in better outcomes for vulnerable children, youth and families.”
People against opening birth records:
Those against opening birth records are mainly birth mothers who want their privacy protected. Most birth mothers who have sued for their right to privacy have done so under a "Jane Doe" pretense to protect their identity. (Such was the case in the Measure 58 lawsuit in Oregon.)

Interestingly enough, many adoptive families are against the birth parents having information on their child because they fear that the natural parents may change their mind and want their child back.
Homosexual Adoption
Proponent View
Opponent View
Allowing Homosexual adoption ignores the child's best interest because the child may feel pressure to become gay, live in an "immoral environment," be molested by their adoptive parents, or be exposed to AIDS. Children will also miss out on having two different gender influences.
Homosexual parents should be able to adopt because not allowing it violates their right to equal protection, privacy, intimate association, and family integrity.
Frank Hunsaker Esq. was the lawyer that represented the birth mothers in the Measure 58 lawsuit. He argued his case through the viewpoint of the few mothers who do not want to be contacted.

The President of the National Council for Adoption, Bill Pierce, also follows this thought. Adding that the government should protect the rights of minorities, in this case the birth mothers who do not want to be contacted.
What's the Problem?
There has been debate about whether or not homosexual couples should be allowed to adopt
What brought this issue to the public eye?
Problem: The adopted child not having access to birth records.
Solution: Open the adoptee's birth records so they have access when they turn 18.
Problem: Birth parents need confidentiality.
Solution: Only allow records to be unsealed if the birth parent consents.
The adoptee has access to their medical history, and they can learn about their birth parent and about their family history.
Allowing the adoptee to access this information can be an invasion of the birth family's privacy. Also, at 18 it may be too late to save an adoptee's life via family medical history.
There is no violation of the birth family's right to privacy.
The adoptee would not be able to access family medical records that may save their life. Also, the adoptee would have to information about the culture that they were born into.
Our views:
We believe that family medical history records should be open no matter what. Without this information many adoptees are left vulnerable to treatable medical conditions that could lead to death. As for other birth records, we believe that there should be a registry system in which both the birth parent and the adoptee both consent to contact and/or unsealing of records.
What brought this issue to the Public Agenda?
Civil Liberties Union V Florida
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a class-action lawsuit against a Florida statute that prohibits homosexuals from adopting children
In 2000 the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of four gay men in Florida, leaving the law banning homosexual adoption in place
Barack Obama-Democrat
Barack Obama is the former senator to Illinois and the current president of the United States. He believes in equal rights for homosexuals, including the right to adopt.
Mitt Romney-Republican
Mitt Romney is the former governor of Massachusetts and was the Republican Party’s 2012 Presidential Nominee. He believes laws involving homosexual adoption should be made at the state level. However, he has stated that while he personally believes that this situation may not be ideal for the child, he is not against the idea and would not try to stop such adoptions from occurring.
Who is involved in this issue?
Florida remains the only state in the United States that does not allow Homosexuals to adopt.
The Family Research Council is against allowing same-sex couples to adopt children.
“Family Research Council (FRC) champions marriage and family as the foundation of civilization, the seedbed of virtue, and the wellspring of society. FRC shapes public debate and formulates public policy that values human life and upholds the institutions of marriage and the family. Believing that God is the author of life, liberty, and the family, FRC promotes the Judeo-Christian worldview as the basis for a just, free, and stable society.”
What public policies are currently in place regarding this issue?
In September 2010 in Florida state law ruled in favor of homosexual adoptions...
Third District Court of Appeals ruled that the ban on gay adoption was against the equal protection clause of the Florida Constitution.
What are the proposed solutions to this issue?
Homosexual adoptions leave children without two different gender role models in the home.
Look to heterosexual couples to adopt before homosexual couples.
Potential of an unsafe home environment.
Have a stricter screening process on the character of those looking to adopt
The adoptee has two gender role-models and a "normal" living situation compared to that of the unique homosexual family situation.
Many homosexual couples see this as discrimination and there may be a shortage of heterosexual couples to adopt.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Proposed Solutions...
This ensures that people who are adopting are good people and the kids will be placed in a safe environment.
The adopting process takes longer, fewer couples are willing to adopt (and even fewer couples get approved.) Less children will get adopted and the cost will increase.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Proposed Solutions...
We believe that this situation may not be ideal because of the lack of a male or female role model. Concern has also been presented about the safety of children in these homes. We believe that homosexual couples who want to adopt should have to go through the same procedures to adopt as heterosexual couples, and that a safe home and loving family is better than the alternative.
What is the Problem?
It is under question whether or not children should be adopted across races.
Points of View
Proponent View:
Parents can be educated to deal with racism. It is more important that a child is raised in a loving home. Many minority children are left waiting for adoption because of the lack of same-race adoptive parents.
Opponent View:
Children raised in a different race environment are not taught to cope with racism. They become at risk for low self-esteem because they are so obviously different than their adoptive families. There are enough same-race families willing to adopt but the process is discriminatory.
How did this issue come to be on the Public Agenda?
A county judge ruled that he was to be returned to his birth mother because the state had not given any consideration to the value of the African-American culture in the baby’s life.
In 1996, an African-American baby whose mother was a drug abuser was placed with a white foster family. After the mother got out of rehab and went to school and got a job, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services wanted the baby to stay with the white family.
President Clinton called for doubling the number of adoptions of chilren placed in public care by 2002.
President Bush committed his administration to encouraging adoption.
What linkage institutions have influenced the movement of this issue to the public agenda?
The National Association of Black Social Workers(NABSW) opposes placing black children in white families.

“NABSW Inc., is comprised of people of African ancestry, they are committed to enhancing the quality of life and empowering people of African ancestry through advocacy, human services delivery, and research. To do this they work to...
Create a world in which people of African ancestry will live free from racial domination, economic exploitation, and cultural oppression.
Continue to leverage its collective expertise to strategically develop capacity of people of African ancestry to sustain and flourish.
The Adoption Promotion Act(2003)
Reauthorizes adoption incentives started in the Adoption and Safe Families Act and creates incentives for “older child adoption.”
What are the proposed solutions to this issue's problems?
Transracial adoptees have lower self-esteem because they are so different than birth parents.
When kids are adopted transracially set them up with a counselor that will help them as they get older.
Transracial adoptees grow up around a different culture than they were born into.
Require placement into homes that match the culture adoptees were born into.
The adoptee hs a professional that is with them from the start and they have constant access to help.
The expense of the professional may not be necessary and the child could become dependant on him/her to solve their problems.
We think that a child being placed with a family that has a different race or culture is not ideal, but it is more important that the child is placed in a loving and safe environment.
After World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War the number of children being adopted from other countries (of different races especially) increased.
Society has become more sensitive and aware of children's developmental needs. Especially the effects of institutional care.

The rise of teenage pregnancy leaves more children in need of adoptive homes, which traditionally consist of two adults.
Divorce rates have gone up, increasing the number of adoptions by step-parents.
Social Effects: Adopted children are more likely to have:
parents that stay together
less depression
less alcohol abuse
less vandalism
less group fighting
less group violence
less police trouble
less weapon use
less theft
Economic Effects:
$4581 million (2008) and $4453 million (2009) spent by federal government on foster care system
Adopted children are better off econmically
More social effects: Adopted children have:
higher test scores (acedemics, social competency, and other indicators)
better quality home enviornment
better access to health care
The adopted child will feel accepted and not different
The economic standing of the adoptive family may not be the best. Thre are also fewer same-culture homes available.
Current policies/situation to this issue?
Economic and Social Impacts of Adoption
The "Baby Jessica" case in Michigan forced foster parents who had cared for a child for two years to give up a child because the birth parents changed their minds.
Full transcript