- The Washington Times - Monday, January 20, 2003

Nearly 15,000 adult adoptees have asked for their original birth records from four states that have opened those records in the past four years, a survey by The Washington Times has found.
Many adoptees use the information to search for biological families, and in instances where biological parents have commented, they overwhelmingly welcome contact. More than 80 percent of about 854 biological parents said it was all right for an adoptee to get in touch with them, according to The Times' analysis of data from Alabama, Delaware, Oregon and Tennessee.
These results hearten groups that support adoptees.
"All adoptees feel they should be able to have their birth certificate and we're just going to keep fighting for that in every state we can," said Carolyn Hoard, who tracks adoptions in Delaware for the American Adoption Congress.
There is, however, some opposition to the opening of birth records.
Thomas Atwood, president of the National Council for Adoption, did not provide information about biological parents whose privacy has been invaded because of the new open-records laws, but said such intrusion should not be unexpected.
"What good could birth parents hope to achieve by complaining about these violations to the authorities or the media?" Mr. Atwood asked. "By going public, they would destroy the very privacy they were hoping to preserve."
It's difficult to have a balanced debate on open records, said Tennessee State Rep. Carol Chumney, who fought to add privacy protections for biological parents to the law.
"As the bill came through the legislature," she said, "a lot of people were speaking on behalf of people who wanted open records, but the people who had a reason to keep them private weren't able to come forward and talk about it. They were trying to stay anonymous."
State officials told The Times they hear far more from adoptees than biological parents, and that many of the state searches for biological parents as required in Delaware and Tennessee are unsuccessful.
Data from the four states, however, reveal that most biological parents are willing to be contacted by the children they gave up for adoption.
In Alabama, for instance, "almost all" of the 110 birth parents who sent in contact-preference forms said they wanted contact, said Reginald Strickland, deputy director of the Center for Health Statistics at the Alabama Department of Public Health.
In Oregon, 367 out of 447 biological parents agreed to contact, either directly or through an intermediary, said Carol Sanders of the Oregon Department of Human Services. About 7,171 adoptees have asked for their birth certificates, she said.
In Delaware, where a biological parent can block the adoptee from getting his or her birth certificate, only 15 have chosen to do so, said a spokeswoman in the state Department of Health and Social Services. In the meantime, 472 adoptees out of 502 applicants have gotten their records, she said.


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