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Adoption records in most states in the United States are sealed. Domestically adopted children are issued a "new" birth certificate at the time of adoption, and have no legal right to the information on their original birth certificate. In the past decade, many adopted people have viewed this as an abrogation of their civil rights. Individually and in groups, adopted people have tried to break down some of the legal barriers that separate them from information about themselves. In many ways, such efforts have succeeded, and more importantly, these efforts have raised awareness about the need for adopted people to have access to this information for their medical and psychological well-being. Many adoptees conduct searches for their birth parents, often wanting simply to "see a face that looks like mine." Depending on age and individual circumstances, most adoptees are "not looking for a relationship, but for a relation."

The Internet has greatly facilitated adoptees' ability to search for their birth parents. The typical searcher is a female in her late 20s usually married. The search is often triggered by a significant life event such as having a child, or death or divorce of an adoptive parent. Experts concur that for most children, a major consequence of search is the clarification of the adoptive parents' dominant position in the adoptee's life. A survey of Danish-born adoptees, now adults, who met with their birthparents, found that most subjects concurred with social anthropologist David Schneider's statement "kinship is socially constructed not biologically inscribed." These young adults all emphasized to the researchers "when I said my real mother of course I meant my adoptive mother."


From THE HANDBOOK OF INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION MEDICINE by Laurie C. Miller. © 2004 by Oxford University Press, Inc. Used by Permission.


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