Access for all adult citizens to their original birth certificate, if they want it, is one thing. It’s a great, worthy goal – all civil rights and equal treatment under the law is. However, there is so much more that could be done. In fact, we should just be erasing the need for adopted persons to have a separate birth certificate in the first place.

What is a birth certificate anyway? A birth certificate is a legal and historical document recording the place and time of a person’s birth, as well as their legal name and parents. It is a document that shows a natural parents legal responsibility to a child and proves that child’s identity and citizenship. Thus, it should list where the child was actually born (city/state/province/country and the hospital or home or wherever else), when the child was born, the child’s name at birth, and the people responsible for giving that child life and a genetic history.

In adoption, the natural parents relinquish their legal responsibilities and rights to their child. The child is given to the adoptive parents (APs), and the original birth certificate (OBC, often not listing the name the child was given by his or her natural parents, if any) is sealed, never to be seen again. The child is, upon the finalisation of the adoption, issued with an amended birth certificate – one that looks exactly like an original, only the parents are listed as the adoptive ones and the name they picked for the child is there. If the child didn’t know they were adopted, they wouldn’t be able to tell from their birth certificate, because according to that document, the child was actually born to his or her APs.

This is wrong. This is a lie, a state sanctioned lie. The adopted person was not born to the APs and to suggest otherwise is a lie. In some states, it’s even okay to change the place, time, and/or date of birth.

The APs also receive another document once they have finalised the adoption of their child – the adoption decree. This is the legal document stating that the child was adopted to the APs, giving the APs the legal responsibility and rights as any other parent.

Thus, there is absolutely no need whatsoever to seal or amend the birth certificate of the adopted person. Here’s how it should go:

Original (and only) Birth Certificate: Issued to every child upon their birth, recording the details of that event. For parents, it lists the name of the biological mother and the biological father. For name, it gives the name of the child at his or her birth, as given to that child by the biological parents. Place, time, and date all stay the same, reflecting the truth. No lies, and history is preserved.

Adoption Decree: This will be given to the APs upon the finalisation of the adoption. It will simultaneously state that the natural parents have relinquished their rights, that the APs are now the legal and social parents of the minor child, and change the child’s name to whatever the APs wish to call him or her, should they indeed choose to change it. Again, no lies, and history is preserved.

[However, I would also see an option to list both the natural parents on the certificate, as well as the legal (adoptive) parents, though this could potentially delay the issuing of the BC, as adoptions take a while to finalise and natural parents, in most states, have a (rightful) period of time after the birth in which to decide to parent.]

This means a couple of things for both the adopted person and the APs:

A) No possibility of lying to your child about their status as an adoptee. I’m not sure anyone still (officially) advises APs to lie to their child about that anymore, but the fact remains that plenty still do it and this wouldn’t allow them to.

B) Requirement to show both to establish identity and parental rights. All things considered, a very minor inconvenience. Just make some copies, or get some copies, and paper clip them together. End. Not anymore hassle than keeping track of just a birth certificate.

C) The adopted person would always know some of their history and the names of their natural parents – a very scary prospect for APs. APs are terrified of the natural parents. Stop it. It’s annoying, frustrating, and heartbreaking. To your child, you are god. To us, you are our parents, just as our natural parents are our parents. We have two sets of parents, equally important to us for different reasons. We have two sets of parents – that’s a fact that you’re never going to be able to change, so get used to it. We should never have to choose between the four of you.

For those APs that don’t see an amended birth certificate as lying… What else is it? You’ve got a legal document that says your adopted child was born to you. How is that not lying? Most of them seem to, on some level, realise it’s a form of lying, but are still okay with it because of the convenience of having an amended BC. To that I have to say, what are you teaching your child when you’ll allow a lie for the sake of convenience?

Note: There are some circumstances where I think it useful and necessary to have an amended birth certificate with the original sealed away and locked up. It is appropriate for people who are going into witness protection programs, and children who are taken away from psychotic parents who might very well hunt them down to kill, maim, or otherwise destroy their lives. Those kids deserve a completely fresh start. Other than that? We are not a shameful secret, and the circumstances of our birth should not be hidden and kept from us. Ever.