it’s a lie.

Adoptees share one thing in common: questions. Questions about our roots, our adoption, and the complexity of our story. Some may be answered and some may not, but there is one question every adopted child has asked: who are my biological parents?

Unlike some, my adoptive parents were open and willing to discuss the questions I had regarding my story, one of these being my birth certificate. I wanted to see it, hoping the piece of paper would somehow seal a bit of my identity I had always been looking for. Opening the filing cabinet, my mom shuffled through the drawer of important documents and handed me the cream colored piece of paper. I grabbed it, glancing down at it with an overwhelming excitement that only adoptees can understand. But, under mother and father, there were different names filling in the spaces.

My adopted parents.

I stared at it longer. How could this be? They didn’t give birth to me. They adopted me four years after I was born, they didn’t even know I existed until I was three. My heart dropped to my stomach.

“It’s a lie,” I thought, “I am a lie.”

My mom, clearly picking up on my confusion, calmly explained that an adoptee’s original birth certificate is amended; the names of the biological parents replaced with the adopted ones, since they, according to the law, were your legal parents. It made enough sense in my 10 year old mind, and I didn’t give it too much thought thereafter.

Fast forward a few years.

I was a young 20 something and needed my birth certificate to travel abroad, so I visited the local county office to retrieve the paper. Approaching the desk, the clerk placed the sealed envelope on the counter. “It will be $26 dollars please.” As I fished for my wallet, it came back to me: that paper was a lie. The familiar feeling of disappointment sank in, and as I exchanged the envelope for the wad of cash, I was determined to find out why, why so many of us were attached to a birth certificate that held little truth.

The changing of birth certificates started in the early 1900’s, a practice intended to protect the adoptee from knowing they were adopted, that being an ”illegitimate” child guaranteed shame and criticism within that cultural view. The thought of that mentality still ringing true today feels rather absurd, but somehow, the practice remains in place.

There are so many adoptees who don’t know their birth parents’ names, and they lack the access to do so. The process of finding their original birth certificate, often presents itself to be one of closed doors, frustration and difficulty.

There needs to be a change.

A change that doesn’t hold onto the lie that adoption is shameful. A change that embraces diversity and uniqueness instead of hiding it. A change that encompasses the culture of today.

I don’t have an answer or solution, but I know I’m not the only one in this. There are many who have searched for this missing puzzle piece and struggle to find it. We need to talk about it: share your story, your questions, and your thoughts. Raise awareness. Spread knowledge. And maybe, just maybe, one day we can see a change.


  1. You write beautifully and share your heart. I love this. Through our own adoption, I also was surprised to learn that they amended the birth certificates to change the birth parent’s names to the adoptive parents. I have to admit that I felt it was very odd, and it gave me an icky feeling inside. Yes, of course I am now their legal parents, and I would NEVER want to change that at all. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel that this document should reflect, as you sort of state, the truth of the BIRTH parent. It is a BIRTH certificate. Yes, I understand it makes legal things easier and less complicated, however, it made my heart hurt a little. It’s very confusing, even for me as an adoptive parent. I am lucky that I had access to their original passports and birth certificates, which I copied and hold on dearly to. I am sure one day they will treasure these documents as they originally were. I do not want to replace their birth parents, I only want to support them as their adoptive parents. I hope that makes some sense. Thank you for writing about such a delicate topic. I truly appreciate your thoughts and perspective!!!

  2. I agree. I am adopted too, I met the woman who gave birth to me and it was a disaster ( I talk about it in my blogs), but I also have an amended birth certificate. The unfortunate thing is that the further I dug, I found out that the woman who gave birth to me, never put my biological father on any paperwork and refuses to reveal who he is to me… so my heart hurts too. I understand what you are saying; it would have been nice to have both… a BIRTH certificate with original names (as my name was changed too (first, middle and last) and then when you’re adopted a new certificate but ADOPTED one, if that makes sense

  3. Thanks so much for sharing your story. As new parents to two adopted kids, we are learning how complex this process is emotionally for everyone. My husband and I actually changed our last names as our kids (who are biosiblings) came with two different last names, and we thought it would be a nice symbol for us all to have the same last name. We had to give up our original birth certificates and get new ones, too. It’s so strange that those documents can be changed. I think it is perhaps a bit outdated – or maybe we need to stop calling them birth certificates and start calling them “name certificates”?

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