it’s a lie.

As adoptees, many of us have questions. And although all adoptee experiences are different, there is one question every adopted person has asked: who are my biological parents?

Growing up, I knew of my biological mother’s name but was unaware of my father’s. I approached my adoptive mom, asking her if she had my birth certificate. I figured that the missing piece of information would be on that piece of paper. Opening the filing cabinet, my mom shuffled through the drawer of important documents and handed me the cream colored piece of paper. Grabbing it eagerly, I glanced down at it with an overwhelming excitement; a lifelong question answered with only my glance. 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, explained that an adoptee’s original birth certificate changes after adoption. The names of the adoptive parents replace the biological ones since they now are an adoptee’s legal guardians. Handing back the paper, disappointed, I was left with the question of who my father was.


I have since been able to find my birth father’s name through my connection with my birth mom’s side and I am so grateful to have the ability to get that information.

But what if I didn’t have that connection?

Many adoptees who don’t know who their biological parents are, turn to their birth certificate in hopes of finding out who they are. But instead of answers, they are met with a lie.

The changing of birth certificates started in the early 1900’s, a practice intended to protect the adoptee from knowing of their adoption. An illegitimate child guaranteed shame and criticism in the culture, so the birth certificates were amended to hide any evidence of such adoption. Our culture has shifted since this practice originated, but somehow, it’s still practiced; still a law in today’s society.

There has been a push for adoptees to have access to their original birth certificates; ones with the names of their biological parents. But this process proves to be difficult and sometimes still impossible, depending on the outdated laws and regulations that are upheld.

There needs to be a change.

A change in the law, giving adoptees the same rights as those who aren’t adopted. Allowing adoptees access to what is theirs to help them place missing puzzle pieces of their life together. 

Changing laws take time, work and advocacy. It’s not an easy task. Adoptees, keep sharing your story. Spread knowledge and raise awareness. Keep advocating for each other and for future adoptees. Together, we can make a difference, together we can even change laws. 

6 Comments

  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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