Sunday, February 26, 2017


As states have unsealed or are working on unsealing adoption records, the debate continues. Some contend it violates the confidentiality of birth parents who chose to remain anonymous. Some feel troubled that birth parents of the past were not given the opportunity to remain in contact as the years progressed. Still, others argue that adoptees should have the right to their medical, genetic and cultural information.

As of January 1, 2017, New Jersey has implemented a law (signed in 2014) unsealing original birth certificates for people adopted in the state of New Jersey. While birth parents initially had the option to request remaining anonymous, the brief period of time for this request has since passed.

My own daughters have had different experiences surrounding their adoptions. I had contact with their birthmothers either during their pregnancies or shortly after their birth, but did not maintain contact afterwards, other than sending some photos and updates through the adoption agency. Back then, open adoption was rare. We never even discussed it.

Discussions in our family started when they were very young and continued as they grew. We went from “babies come from ladies bellies and when they are born a decision is made who will be the mommy. Some babies go home with the lady whose belly they were in and others go home with other ladies. That’s how I became your mommy.” We moved on to using the word adoption and how a judge said they would be my daughters forever. I reaffirmed that I would take care of them and love them forever. As the days and years progressed, my daily actions proved my dedication and commitment.

Part of my role as their mother was to explore adoption and the meaning it held in their lives. Questions surrounding their mother, father and siblings came and went. Why an adoption plan was made for them was answered to the best of my ability. One of my daughters was satisfied with the information we had. The other wanted more. When these questions persisted into her early teens, it was time to get her that information. With the adoption agency’s assistance, we were able to locate her birthmother and get some answers.  We were lucky. We had enough information and the adoption agency who I had worked with was still around. For those born in an era of fully closed adoptions, there was no contact with birthparents and information was provided through a third person. Accordingly, history has proven instances of inaccurate and rewritten birth history and circumstances surrounding an adoption. Adoptive parents were given little information to pass on to a child. In fact, some even were told not to reveal the adoption to the child.

Birth parents and adult adoptees who have had no contact or who have lost contact may have many questions and mixed emotions. Now, in the state of New Jersey, they have a venue to possibly find that information, integrate it into who they have become and resolve some of those feelings.

Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. She has prepared thousands of adoption homestudies, counseled adoptive parents and parents-to-be, and has trained professionals to work with adoptive families. She was Director of the Ametz Adoption Program of JCCA (March 1992 to March 2015), Head Writer for and a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption Series. She is currently a member of the Adoption Advisory Board of Path2Parenthood and active in the Adoptive Parents Committee in New York (including being the 2016 Conference Keynote). She lives in New York City where she has a private practice specializing in adoption and adoptive parenting. She was named an “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. Follow or reach her at ADOPTION MAVEN BLOG or EMAIL