|Children have no say in their adoption as minors, but they should as adults. Photograph: Tatjana Alvegard/Getty Images|
Still, the public perception is that adoption is always a good thing – that it’s always in the best interest of the child, and that everyone lives happily ever after. But many adoptions don’t work out for a number of reasons: a mismatch of personalities, parental inability to love someone else’s child, outright dislike of the child by one or both parents.
When an adoption goes bad, like mine did, adoptive parents have options to end the relationship. Some parents have put children on an airplane alone and sent them back to their home countries. Other parents turn to a shadowy underground network to “re-home” their children with strangers. But if an adoptee wants to get out of an adoptive relationship, the only option is to be adopted by another adult – even if the adoptee is an adult.
This doesn’t make sense; adoptees should, upon reaching adulthood, have the absolute right to annul the adoption if desired.
Look at it this way: suppose you got married and it didn’t work out. You file divorce papers and are told that the only way you can divorce spouse number one is to marry somebody else. Sounds unfair, right? But once you’re adopted, you’re adopted forever – whether or not you want to maintain a familial relationship with the people who adopted you. That’s not fair either.
I already hear people arguing that non-adopted people can’t end their relationship with their parents. But that’s not really true. Children can apply for early emancipation, or they can find another adult to adopt them no matter how old they are.
Annulling an adoption does present logistical problems, because states require that a parent be listed on the birth certificate. And, when my adoption was finalized, my original birth certificate was permanently altered: the state erased the names of my genetic parents and replaced them with the names of the people who adopted me. My original birth certificate and all my adoption records were sealed by the State of California which, to this day, denies me access to that documentation even though my birth parents are deceased.
If one or both biological parents are willing to re-assume that role in an adoptee’s paperwork, then it should be easy to just discard the revised version and revert to the original – but it’s not. And if neither biological parent wishes to be re-listed, then adult adoptees should have the right to simply be listed as parentless. I’d be satisfied with “unknown” or “none”. And, moving forward, states should consider not altering birth certificates at all and instead just issue adoptive parents an “Adoption Decree” that can be easily voided with a court filing.
Logistical problems notwithstanding, adult adoptees deserve the right to decide whether or not to honor the contract that binds them to an adoptive family. If adoptive parents didn’t uphold the “parents” part, they shouldn’t get to keep a legal connection with the kids that they failed. There needs to be an easy, standard way for adopted children to annul those relationships.