‘Plenary’ adoption is defined as a legal separation of child from parent, such that the original birth certificate is no longer valid, holding no legal weight. A new birth certificate is duly drawn up and the adoptive parents put in place of the actual parents. This becomes the sole, binding, legal document pertaining to the baby’s identity and lineage. Of course, the key thing overlooked in this most clinical of transactions is the bond between birthmother and baby. As any adoptee coming out of the Fog will tell you, that break isn’t quite so clean.
Adoption is a massive industry, and one which for the most part operates under the radar. It’s incredibly difficult to get facts and figures, the true numbers involved, but it is nevertheless a billion-dollar business. Historically, the adoption agencies have capitalised on war, poverty and trauma… it has for the most part been an exercise in extended colonialism, privilege and entitlement trumping the rights of those regarded as second or third-class citizens. Famine in Africa, India, the Korean and Vietnam wars, Mexican and Chinese, Kosovan, Syrian.. the list goes on.
And in many US states, adoptive children are not allowed by law to see their original birth certificates. Social Workers and people in authority can know more, have access to information that would ordinarily be personal and legally protected by law for any given individual. The rights of adoptees are waived completely. The cynical conclusion to this sorry state of affairs is that many adoptees, upon turning 18, are finding that they are not naturalised Americans and are being forcibly ‘repatriated’ to a country they were forcibly removed from in the first place.
It’s a great irony to me that the Home Office is requiring my own original birth certificate to prove my mother was indeed my mother. Perhaps it is a legal document after all…