In May 2014, New Jersey joined eight other states in opening up access to adoption records for adoptees. Today, the nature of open adoption record legislation across the United States is still evolving. For those foster children who were placed in care at a very young age, these records can represent a vital link to the past. Sometimes, however, the release of these records can also represent a violation of the biological parents’ wishes; the conflict between the rights of the adopted and the rights of the parents is central to understanding why many states still do not allow adoptees to find adoption records. For this reason, adoption record information is generally understood as belonging to one of two categories – identifying and nonidentifying information. As adoption law grows and adapts, more and more states are opening up these records and finding ways of navigating the complicated legal situations that spring up from these distinctions.
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What do these distinctions mean? According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, nonidentifying information includes (but is not limited to) the adoptee’s date and place of birth, physical descriptions of birth parents and their education levels . For almost every state, nonidentifying information is available to adoptive parents or adoptees, and roughly 26 states make similar information about the child available to birth parents.
Georgia’s Senate recently passed the Keep Faith in Adoption and Foster Care Act (Senate Bill (SB)375), which would permit the state’s foster care and adoption agencies to refuse LGBTQ parents and others who do not share the agencies’ religious beliefs. As reported in Newsweek, the state Senate passed the bill on Friday, February 23.
The implications of this Act would reach deeper than many might think, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a LGBTQ rights organization. Not only would it allow agencies to refuse adoption to LGBTQ parents but also to interfaith couples, single parents and those who have been divorced. It would also impact services offered to LGBTQ youth in care.
In a statement, Marty Rouse, National Field Director of the Human Rights Campaign said, “It’s unfortunate that leaders are focusing on this bill instead of concrete ways to improve the child welfare system in Georgia. We ask the Georgia House of Representatives to reject this bill.”
While detractors, including GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, call the Act an imposition of religious values for the purpose of discrimination, others feel the Act will not impact the LGBTQ community in the ways it fears. Georgia Senator William Logan has stated that prospective LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents will be able to go through other non-faith based agencies, adding that such arrangements would allow agencies tied to religion the ability “…to exercise their fundamental right to practice their faith.”
Georgia is a stark contrast to New Jersey, where LGBTQ families are welcomed by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency. To learn more about National LGBT Adoption Laws, click here.