A Brief History of Adoption Records - Part 3

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This is the third in a series of articles focusing on the history of adoption records. Hopefully this information will help you better understand how our present system developed and what information and resources are available to you today.

Illinois sealed its adoption records in 1945. During this period of time, the leading professionals in the adoption community saw adoption as a single event, completed with the transfer of the child into his adoptive home. All parties to this event-the birth mother, the adoptive parents, and the child-were thought to be best served by a "clean break" with the past. Sealing the records, and in effect obliterating the past, served as an instrument to this professionally orches-trated view of adoption.

Whatever professional and mainstream family goals were served in closing records, it was not long before its consequences came under fire. Beginning in the fifties, adult adoptees attacked the legal basis of their inability to get the genetic and background information they wanted. Then with the more general social changes and questioning of traditional values that broke loose in the sixties, more voices joined in. Several adult adoptee searches began during this era, with the main goal of opening up adoption records.

These groups grew in number and were joined by some birth mothers in the late seventies and throughout the eighties. These women had placed their children for adop-tion in the middle decades when birth mothers had been encouraged to forget about their child's birth and get on with their life, a directive they found hard to live with. At the same time as these older birth mothers were uniting to open records, younger birth mothers found themselves in a much stronger position for getting the assurances they wanted if they were to place their children.

Greater access to and use of effective contraception coupled with a less punitive view of single motherhood sharply reduced the availability of Caucasian infants. Birth mothers considering adoption began asking to review and choose the families into which they placed their children. At first, only a few agencies throughout the country responded to these birth mothers and to the concerns of adult adoptees by beginning to open adoption negotiations between biological and adoptive families. By the early nineties, greater openness in adoption was gaining headway in both independent and agency-assisted adoptions.

Next month's article will discuss information and resources available to families whose adoptions were completed in Illinois.

If you have questions regarding how to access information about your child's birth family or thoughts about this subject, please send an email to me at NGolden@macadopt.org. All questions will be answered in a future newsletter article and your name will not be included if you so request. I look forward to hearing from you
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