U.S. Children's Bureau, “The Confidential Nature of Birth Records,” 1949

 

Source: U.S. Children's Bureau, Baby-Week Campaigns, Revised Edition, Miscellaneous Series No. 5, Bureau Publication No. 15 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1917), illustration no. 10.

a model birth certificate, 1917

The original goal of confidential adoption records was not to prevent adoptees from obtaining the information on their original birth certificates. As this 1949 excerpt makes clear, the U.S. Children's Bureau considered it “very important that the child’s original birth certificates be identified so that his complete birth record will be available to him when needed.”

The Confidential Nature of Birth Records, including the special registration problems of children born out of wedlock, children of unknown parentage, legitimated children, and adopted children

Section D. Legitimated and Adopted Children

1. State laws should stipulate that the State registrar shall accept evidence of the marriage of the parents, together with an acknowledgement in writing of paternity by the father as satisfactory evidence of legitimation.

The purpose of such statutory provision is to relieve the registrar of the necessity of adjudicating the evidence. In most cases, legitimation recorded of the basis of this evidence will stand.

2. Complete reports of all court decrees of adoption and legitimation and annulments thereof should be sent to the State registrar on standard forms prescribed by him. These reports should be filed within a specified time limit and should contain sufficient information to identify the original birth certificate and to enable an amendatory birth record to be prepared, showing the essential facts about the adopting parents and the new name of the child if so desired by the adopting parents.

These reports should be made by the clerks of court to the State registrar in the State of legitimation or adoption at the end of each month. Use of a standard form by the various court clerks would improve the completeness of the report and assure its adequacy for registration and statistical purposes. It is very important that the child’s original birth certificates be identified so that his complete birth record will be available to him when needed.

3. The original birth certificate of an adopted or legitimated child should be sealed and an amendatory record showing the new status of the child should be placed in the regular file. The amendatory record should be used in making certified copies.

To protect the person, all certifications for routine purposes should be made from the amendatory record and not the original certificate. The original certificate should be sealed to prevent its use except in the cases specified in section D, paragraph 7 and 8.

4. Each State registrar should forward reports of adoptions and legitimations, or annulments thereof, for out-of-State births to the State registrar in the State where the child was born. In the State of birth, the State registrar should seal the original certificate and file an amendatory record indicating the new status of the child.

Routine reporting of adoptions and legitimations to the State registrar in the State of birth is essential both to complete the person’s birth record and to prevent duplicate registration which is detrimental to the individual’s own interests and to the efficiency of the vital registration system.

5. Standard forms for the reporting by courts to State registrars of legitimations and adoptions should be developed and adopted by all States.

Interstate reporting and the compilation of national statistics on legitimations and adoptions would be facilitated by the use of a standard form by all States.

6. If certifications are issued by local officials their record should conform to the record in the State office. The local registrar should be required to maintain the confidential nature of all birth records in the same degree as is required in the State office.

So long as it is possible to secure certifications from two or more different sources, great care must be taken to assure that the several records are identical and show the latest status of the person. It is also essential that in such cases the records in the local office be fully protected from inspection by the public.

7. The right to inspect or to secure a certified copy of the original birth certificate of a legitimated child should be restricted to the registrant, if of legal age; his parents or parent, guardian, or their legal representative; or upon court order.

(See section A, paragraphs 2 and 3.)

8. The right to inspect or to secure a certified copy of the original birth certificate of an adopted child should be restricted to the registrant, if of legal age; or upon court order. The right to inspect or to secure a certified copy of the amendatory birth record of an adopted child should be restricted to the registrant, if of legal age; the parents or parent by adoption or their legal representative; social and health agencies upon approval of the official custodian of vital records; or upon court order.

The reasons for careful protection of the record of an adopted child are similar to those previously mentioned. In many cases, the original certificate will show that the child was born out of wedlock or that its parents are unknown. It is desirable, also, that the natural parents and adopting parents should remain unknown to each other.

 

Source: U.S. Children's Bureau, “The Confidential Nature of Birth Records, including the special registration problems of children born out of wedlock, children of unknown parentage, legitimated children, and adopted children,” 1949, Publication Number 332 (Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1949), pp. 5-7.

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To learn more about The Adoption History Project, please contact Ellen Herman
Department of History, University of Oregon
Eugene, Oregon 97403-1288
(541) 346-3118
E-mail: adoption@uoregon.edu
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