Sunday, March 11, 2007


The computer that holds the birth records at the Guilford County Courthouse may be state-of-the-art, but it guards a peculiar relic of the past."Certificate of Live Birth" is the title over a blacked-out Register of Deeds entry — this one from 1959 — with only a handwritten note legible: "Contact Raleigh for future copies."That hurried note is the earmark of a closely held, century-old practice — sealed adoptions, designed to protect the identities of tens of thousands of birth parents who relinquished children for adoption in North Carolina.In 2001, the law changed to allow an open process in which biological parents can have contact with the families who adopt and raise their offspring. But records before that date remain under lock and key — an issue that supporters of pending state legislation are trying to change.Under bills introduced in the House and Senate, adoptees who are now adults could obtain their original birth certificates, naming their biological parents and birthplace.Take, for example, Greensboro mother Lori George, 38. At age 3, she was adopted from foster care by a Reidsville couple who gave her a happy upbringing. Nonetheless, she feels an increasing need to know her family and medical history. But unless George spends thousands of dollars for a lawyer to petition the court to release details, all the DSS can give her is "non-identifying information.""You were born in a hospital on February 24, 1969..." begins the government-redacted version of her life, giving few facts about her birth mother, who was 19 and left the baby with another family. George recognizes that given the DSS involvement, the truth may not be "pretty," as she put it. Still, she wants the truth."Someone is dictating whether or not I can 'handle' that information," said George, whose searches of microfiche birth records and efforts to go through a private investigator were fruitless. "The intent may be to protect children, but children become adults capable of making decisions."In 1999, opponents in Raleigh soundly defeated the last such effort at reform — a proposed state registry that would have allowed adoptees to be reunited with birth parents.This time, opponents see the same objection: Chiefly, that a lack of confidentiality might scare people off."We believe that could significantly undermine adoption, and it could make adoption a lot more complicated," said John Rustin, a lobbyist for the N.C. Family Policy Council, a nonprofit conservative research group. "They might choose another alternative, such as abortion."The reality for Edith Votta, a post-adoption specialist at the private Greensboro agency Children's Home Society, is that confidentiality has never been guaranteed. Moreover, Internet databases have revolutionized searches, and birth mothers are being located "left and right."In Votta's experience, birth parents often have the same unresolved longings as the children they gave up. Recently, an adoptee turning 21 called Votta, asking about his birth mother. The next week, the birth mother called Votta looking for her son."I told them that I had to follow the law," she said, "and the law did not allow me to facilitate a meeting. Even if they both wanted one."


iris eyes said...

She cannot allow them to meet even if both want the meeting..who the hell are they protecting?

oh, never mind, we know the answer to that one.

dory said...

I used to live in NC - it's pretty backwards. I don't have much faith that it will pass - not to mention two of the biggest and very well funded people who are against opening records are adoptive parents.

Ungrateful Little Bastard said...

Yeah I hate to be a downer but I agree with dory here. It struck me that this report would write twice in one week (Sunday's opinion and today as well) on the open records issue. If something is that big that it's causing two editorials to go in the same week, I just feel trouble a-brewing. I hope I'm wrong for those in NC but it stuck me.

Roberta said...

Roberta MacDonald of the NC Coalition for Adoption Reform (NCCAR) here. By now all of you know that a CI program was passed instead of the access bill we wanted.
Well NOW is the time for anyone who is in NC and does not want a reunion but DOES want their OBC to get off of their butts and come foward.

On January 28, 2008, February 13, Mar 5, and April 16 there will be a House Select Committee - Adoptee Birth Certificates meetings.

We HAVE to have WARM bodies in the audience. Adam Pertman will be at the March 5 meeting to talk about National items such as how the contact preference form actually DOES work in other states, and how abortion will NOT rise if this happens.

Please get the word out to ANYONE you know living in NC to contact us at

Roberta MacDonald
Chair of NCCAR
NC State Rep for AAC

debbie said...

I think that it is wrong for the greater powers to be to deny us our birth rights. Yes, some of us were born in a different time with different morals back in those days. But I agree that they should let us know about our birth parents. It is our right. Yes, they gave us up for adoption, and no, I do not harbor any ill feelings against my birth mother or father. But the times have changed and it is no longer taboo for a female to have a child out of wedlock. Nor does it bring shame anymore. I myself will be attending one of the NCCAR meetings to help try and pass new laws.