North American Center on Adoption, Position Papers—Search (Opening Sealed Records), 1975

The North American Center on Adoption was founded in 1975. It was a special project of the Child Welfare League of America. Its purpose was to address the problems faced by “waiting children” in the foster care system.

We recognize that a growing number of adults who were adopted as children are engaged actively, today, in a search for their biologic parents. We are also keenly aware that, years ago when the vast majority of these men and women were adopted, social agencies legally contracted not to reveal the identities of birth parents. Without this assurance of confidentiality, many mothers—and fathers—might not have arranged for the placement of their babies via legal channels. Hence, social agencies remain reluctant to participate in efforts toward identifying either biologic parents or adoptees. Contracts should not be lightly breached, nor should the past be revered without question.

Present practice must be reviewed in the light of current awareness and intelligence. We are sensitive to those adoptees who have deep feelings about their identity (both psychologic and biologic), who feel they have a “right to know” their past, but we recognize as well the complex nature of the issues involved, not the least of which is an invasion of privacy. We favor agency practice that makes available all information on the adoptees to the adoptive parents, short of naming the biologic parents, at the time of placement. Further, we support the enactment of laws that will henceforth require written disclosure of such information, copies to be filed with the courts so that the adoptee, on attaining adulthood, may have access to this available information, whether or not it has been offered to him before that time.


Source: North American Center on Adoption, Position Papers—SEARCH (OPENING SEALED RECORDS), n.d., Child Welfare League of America Papers, Box 16, Folder 5, Social Welfare History Archives, University of Minnesota.

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