Saturday, December 6, 2008

To Know or Not To Know....

If you are not adopted, try this exercise:
Close your eyes, and imagine all of your life not knowing your mother or father. Think of growing up for 30+ years never knowing your family name, your mother's first name or your father's first name. Now imagine that you don't know this information, not because it doesn't exist, but because that information is kept secret from you by the law...this is only a glimpse into the pain/frustration that some adoptees face.

To know or not to know, that is the biggest question to an adoptee..

This post is delving into an area which I am not very familiar with because it really doesn't impact me. The reason being is I have no information in my adoption file about my biological family, so I have never faced this issue. However, many adopted children do face this issue.

What's the issue? If you are not adopted or are adopted but have never tried to find your birth family, you may not be aware of this issue.

To the best of my knowledge right now, by law, adopted children do not have the right to know who their biological parents are. Right now, the law supports the parents' right to privacy over the child's rights to know.

The difficulty with this issue is the fact that both parties have their individual rights; granting one party their rights would infringe on the other party's rights. The parents' right to privacy prevents a child's right to know, and vice versa. Obviously this topic is very "sticky" and difficult, however I'm not going to shy away from this issue!

Biological Parents' Right to Privacy

How far does a mother's right to privacy extend? This is the same argument that is used to support abortion. That it is a woman's body and its her privacy (besides my Christian belief, the fact that I'm adopted also gives me a huge personal bias on the abortion issue). But you have to ask yourself how far does a mother's privacy go? I'll admit that this privacy may extend on where you define a baby or a life. However, when you deal with adopted children who eventually become adults, when do their rights become enacted?

I believe I can understand the argument for the biological parents' right for privacy. The reason being is these people have a new life, and may have remarried or have had new children and family since they gave up their child for adoption. To have this grown child return could bring extreme disruption to their current lives. This is the line of reasoning used today to protect the biological parents' privacy and thus infringing on the child's right to know.

I can see the logic behind this line of reasoning, however there is another scenario that we need to explore. The fact that this "right to privacy" does not work both ways. Meaning, while the biological parents' have a right to privacy, the child and their new adopted families do not get this same right to privacy. Biological parents, even after giving up a child for adoption, still have rights to know about their child and the adoptive parents. There are even cases of adopted children being taken from their adoptive parents and returned to their biological parents, after the transfer of custody. If biological parents privacy are protected under the law than the adoptive parents and adoptive child information should also be protected under their rights to privacy. That way both parties are protected utilizing the same "Right to Privacy" line of reasoning.

Child's Right to Know

My feeling on this is the law is too concerned with the biological parents' rights that they overlook the child's rights. There seems to be no understanding of what an adopted child psychologically goes through when facing this issue; only to find out that their biological parents' rights outweigh their own rights.

Right now a mother's rights outweigh their unborn baby's rights when discussing abortion. Now we see that a mother's rights again outweighs the rights of adoptive parents and also the rights of a child to know the names of their biological parents. Why is the mother's rights seem to outweigh anyone else in this equation? When does the child start having rights and when does the law recognize a child's rights?

The law needs to start considering a child's rights. The law recognizes a child's legal separation from their parents at the age of 18. However in adoption, the mother's rights to privacy always seems to outweigh the rights of the adopted child no matter how old they are. Does this seem right? At what point in an adopted child's life do they finally get some rights in these cases? Since 18 is the age of legal separation, would this not be a logical place to make the distinction between a mother's right to privacy and a child's right to know? I can understand the biological mother's right to privacy to protect her from being legally responsible for a returning minor child. However, after that child turns 18, there is no legal responsibility, so why does the mother's privacy extend beyond that? And why does an adoptive child's right to know not become effective when they turn 18?

If the information is available, shouldn't everyone have the right to know who their biological parents are? While this is not expressly written as an inalienable right, but how ridiculous is it to think that this is not a basic right of any human. The more that I think about this subject, the more frustrated I become. For the life of me, I can not fathom how a lawmaker feels that a mother's privacy is more important than a child's right to know who their parents are????!!! How can anyone in the world with a conscience stop a person from finding out who their biological parents are?

I don't think the lawmakers that made these laws fully understand the effects that they have had on adopted children. As if life was not difficult enough growing up in a different country, with strangers, and a strange country, but to have the law stop you from easily finding your parents is just too much. I can understand how adopted children become frustrated with the whole process of trying to find their parents. The nagging question on my mind, and I imagine most adoptees, is "Why was I given up for adoption?" While the answers are probably usually less than ideal (such as wedlock, poverty), sometimes just knowing the answers at least provides closure to the longest unanswered question of our lives.