Adoption registers

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On February 11, 1980, the Board discussed the policy that we support a managed adoption register, namely, an adoption information record managed by a sensitive experienced staff whose task it is to bring about those desired reunions of biological parents and adoptees that will benefit all, or at least not seriously harm any of the parties concerned and to prevent those that would seriously harm some party

There were various objections; a more detailed policy was requested. It was proposed that consent of the adoptee’s biological and adoptive parents be taken into account. It was politically quixotic to support managed adoption register. Some held that the present underground operation of such a register would be halted if we tried to make it official. According to the Adoptive Parents Association there is no longer strong opposition to a managed register. In fact, that Association has itself made representations to the Minister of Human Resources to bring such a register into being. Given the apparently changed political climate it is less likely that the good work of social workers now helping unofficially would be stopped by the attempt to create all official managed adoption register. The following policy has been approved by the Board:

  1. That the BCCLA recognize the rights of adoptees to information about their biological parents and vice versa, but not necessarily to the exclusion of the right to privacy of other parties to the adoption.
  2. That adoptees and their adoptive parents should have access to all of the biological parents’ medical records pertinent to the health of the adoptee.
  3. That an adoption register recording identities of an adoptee’s biological parents and adoptive parents be opened to the adoptee and the biological parents if there is mutual consent of all parties to the adoption.
  4. If mutual consent is lacking, but the adoptee is of the age of majority, then once all parties have received counselling to ease the possible negative effects, the adoptee should be given access to the register.

The Board would like information on the effect such a policy has had in those countries where it has been in force.

A controversy concerning adoption registers

Many adoptees claim a moral right to information about their biological parents, even a right to acquaintance with them. These rights are usually derived from the premise that the information sought is essential to the well-being of the adoptee, together with the principle that everyone has a strong entitlement to well-being. There are, however, a few biological parents of adoptees who use the same principle to support a moral right to privacy~, which allows them to keep secret the very information the adoptee seeks. Privacy, they claim, is essential to the well-being.

The records of the identities of the biological parents of adoptees are kept in adoption registers. The question is raised whether those records should be open to public view or closed to all but certain officials who will release information only as it is needed for medical problems, prevention of marriage to siblings, or other serious reasons.

Advocates of the open register point out that ninety per cent of reunions of adoptees with their biological parents are beneficial to both parents and adoptees. Even happy reunions, moreover, cannot be ignored.

The policy which suggests itself, then, is a register managed by a sensitive and experienced staff whose task it is to bring about those desired reunions that will benefit all, or at least not seriously harm any of the parties concerned, and to prevent those that would seriously harm some.