It's often easy to sympathize with adoptees who are advocating for the opening of adoption records. But what happens when an adoption reunion isn't welcome by all parties? Such was the case for Kathleen Hoy Foley and Elaine Penn, whose story is detailed in a March 9 article in the NY Daily News.
The desire for an individual to find his or her biological and historical roots makes for a convincing argument in favor of transparent adoption records. And that desire often runs deep, say adoptees like Elaine Penn. But, when she sought out her birth mother, Kathleen Hoy Foley, the welcome she got was anything but warm. Painful for Penn, no doubt, but also for Foley. Foley was a rape victim who'd made an adoption plan for her child in 1964. That excruciating chapter of her life closed with the adoption; it was one she hoped she'd never revisit again.
Fast forward 30 years when that child she'd placed for adoption so many years ago began to make contact. Penn's adoption records were closed, but her personal research eventually led her to Foley. The unwanted contact by an adopted child and the unwelcome reception from a birth mother make for a painful story on both sides.
Many adoptees search for their birth parents and, often times, those reunions are met with eagerness on both sides. Adoptees across the country are advocating for increased openness in adoption records, specifically, for their right to access their original birth certificates.
According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, most states have laws that force adoption records to be sealed after adoption finalization. There's movement afoot in many states to open up adoption records. States like Oklahoma are entertaining legislation that increase transparency in adoption records and, thus, open up communication channels that have traditionally been closed.