University of Pittsburgh School of Arts and Sciences
School of Law
Women’s Studies Program
Professor, University of Baltimore School of Law
Adoption, Identity, and Confidentiality:
The History of Closed Records
Thursday, September 30
G-20 University of Pittsburgh Law School
3900 Forbes Avenue
Currently, when children are adopted, they are usually issued new birth certificates in which the names of adoptive parents replace the names of birth parents. Copies of their sealed original birth certificates have been unavailable to adult adoptees in most states for varying numbers of years. But recently many states around the country have considered, and some have passed, legislation restoring adult adoptees’ right to receive uncertified copies of their original birth certificate upon request. House Bill 1978, now in the Pennsylvania House Health and Human Services Committee, would restore this right, overturning the 1984 law that foreclosed access. Another bill in the House, H. B. 1968, takes a different approach: it would establish procedures by which a court or agency must locate birth parents and obtain consent before providing identifying information to an adoptee. Against the backdrop of these bills, this talk will discuss the surprising, often misunderstood history of adoptee birth records and the significance of that history with respect to adoptees’ rights and birth parents’ concerns.
Elizabeth Samuels received her J.D. from the University of Chicago. She is the author of an influential article in the Rutgers Law Review on the history of sealing adoptees’ birth records, has written about laws governing mothers’ consent to the adoption of their newborns, and is currently doing research on the surrender documents birth mothers signed during the last century. She has made presentations at national conferences on adoption, testified in state legislative hearings about adoption law bills, worked on projects with the Donaldson Adoption Institute, and received the “Angel in Adoption” award of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption of the U.S. Congress.