Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Everyone Else Gets A Fake Birth Certificate, Why Can't We?

Apropos our previous discussion of fake birth certificates, this article from the Sydney Morning Herald:

A couple has launched legal action to obtain a NSW birth certificate for the daughter they adopted in China so she will not have to use Chinese documents, including a "certificate of abandonment", as identity papers in Australia.

The NSW Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages, which issues birth certificates, has opposed the application in the District Court of NSW. The office is a division of the Attorney-General's Department.

The couple is part of a group of adoptive parents angry that children from China are treated differently from other children adopted from overseas who can obtain a NSW birth certificate.

The different treatment arises from China's insistence on the adoption process being completed in China. For other children the adoption process is finalised in the NSW Supreme Court, giving them rights to obtain a NSW birth certificate with the adoptive parents listed as the parents.

The Chinese children arrive with identification papers translated into English that usually include a birth certificate listing the child's Chinese name and stating "natural parents unknown"; a "certificate of abandonment", and an adoption certificate confirming the legality of the adoption.

* * *

Another couple, Linda Morrison and Leo De Luca, parents of Scarlett, 3, said they also wanted a NSW birth certificate so their child would not be different from her peers. "Each time she produces her documents she will be reminded she was abandoned. I want one document saying she was born in China and that we are her parents," Ms Morrison said.

How bizarre that a person in Australia would ever have to present the abandonment certificate. I've NEVER had to produce it here, even to get my kids' passports. Anyone else?

Even to prove that "she was born in China and that we are her parents," as Ms. Morrison desires to prove in one document, would only require TWO -- the Chinese birth certificate and the Chinese adoption decree. Why would the abandonment certificate come into it?

Would my attitude toward the fake birth certificates I railed against change if I had to produce my kids' abandonment certificates to enroll them in kindergarden? I don't know. No doubt it would make it harder. . . . a lot harder!

But I'm not persuaded by the argument that "one document" is a laudable goal -- mere convenience isn't enough for me, as I said before. And I'm not sure I'm persuaded by the idea that each time she produces the abandonment certificate that she'll be reminded she was abandoned -- from reading what adult adoptees have to say, it's not something that people who were abandoned ever forget.

The "be like her peers" argument is really interesting in this Australian context -- who are her peers? Adoptees? in which case she gets the same fake birth certificate as other adoptees? I have a feeling that's not really what adoptive parents are looking for! The fake birth certificate is to make an adopted child just like non-adopted children in having a state-issued birth certificate. But again, reading what some adult adoptees have to say about these fake birth certificates colors my reaction to this argument (see here, here, and here, for example).

Well, I didn't really mean to get into all of this again (I know, I know, you're saying to yourself, "I KNEW she couldn't let it go!"). I really didn't intend to revisit the issue (so soon!), but I thought those defending the practice would want to see this article supportive of their arguments (see? I do try to be fair-minded!), and then I got all wound up again. Well, as so many of you generously remind me, it's my blog, I can rant if I want to!


Amyadoptee said...

The way I envision a birth certificate as an adoptee. I can see one document that records my first parent's names, what they named me and then what my adoptive parents named me and then their names.

With all this sealed business going on all over the United States, I think the industry wants us all to still feel ashamed because that is how they control us. I do mean all of us in adoption.

One of these days I need to tell you about how they abuse confidentiality laws. I may write a post about it. I do not think that sealed records protect anyone except the industry itself.

Meadow said...


I mentioned before how it is done in Ireland. The birth cert we have from China is just 3 lines, typed and says parents unknown etc.

We register the childs paperwork in the governmental adoption authority, and we get an adoption certificate with the date of adoption, where the child was born, lists us as her adoptive parents and lists the adoptive name. There is no cover up or pretending, it is considered the same as a birth cert, but it is different.

I would have a problem if I were to have to produce her Chinese birth cert or she had to over the years as it is a clear indication and reminder of her abandoned status, obviously it is up to her, but I think that it could be problematic.

I don't think the australian couple want her to have a birth cert per say, just a NSW adoption cert maybe?

I know Australia are very strict about adoptive parents retaining the childs original name along with their adoptive name.

It makes me so sad though when I think of sealed records.... that is an abuse of human rights.(in BSE)

Dee said...

Malinda, while I do get your take on fake birth certificates, and while my husband and I did a "re-adoption" in our U.S. state so our daughter would have a single state-issued document to prove her birth, I'm wondering how you reconcile having gotten a FBC for one of your daughters but not the other. If or when your younger daughter asks, "Mom, why does JieJie have a TX b.c. but I have just my China birth document [which of course states that parents are unknown]"? I guess that while I get it that the state birth certificates are "fake" in that they list the adoptive parent(s) as a child's parents, I also had a lot of trouble consigning my daughter to a future of proving the fact of her birth with a document that says not only are her parents unknown, but so is her birthplace. Of course she will never forget that she was found and then adopted...I get it. But does she have to open herself up to possibly ignorant/intrusive questioning about her own story every time she has to produce official proof of her birth? The fact that I answer the last question, "She shouldn't have to open herself to that" is what led my husband and I to re-adopt in our state, which then generated a state document showing DD was born in China, the date, and lists us as her parents.

malinda said...


Valid questions, to be sure! I don't have a problem explaining why I got Zoe a FBC, and that I've thought differently about it since then. I think it's harder to explain to Zoe why I did hers than to explain to Maya why I didn't do hers!

There's also no time limit by which I need to get Maya a FBC. When she's older, we'll talk about it. If she wants one, she'll have one. And if Zoe never wants to use hers, that's fine, too. I'd like it to be their choice, not mine.

My kids' Chinese birth certificates do not say parents unkown, nor do they say place of birth is unknown. They are essentially 2 lines long, and say they were born on a particular date in a particular city in China. Their abandonment certificates say their birth parents are unknown, and unable to be found,but their birth certificates don't mention parents at all. I guess different provinces do it different ways. So when I weigh the cost and benefit, I'm calculating from the basis of documents that seem different from yours. I didn't know there was that much difference in China-adoptee documents.

As I said in the previous post, I'm making my decision against a backdrop of decades of secrecy in adoption that called for sealed records and fake birth certificates. Though our situations may be a little different, getting the fake BC for Zoe made me feel complicit in continuing that pernicious history. I won't do it again, unless Maya -- the one affected by all of this -- asks for it.

Dee said...

Malinda, thanks for your reply. You're so much more articulate on this issue than I am right now (and probably ever will be!). My DD's documents were issued in Guangxi; her birth document says she was born on such-and-such date, and her place of birth is unknown. I think the circumstances of my DD's finding probably led the adoption officials to conclude her place of birth "unknown."

I totally get the pernicious history of faked, sealed adoption documents and files. Insofar as we chose to re-adopt DD so that now has the state issued document, I am complicit in the continuing ruse. She is a preschooler, so this was totally our decision (like so many things in adoption). I myself never plan to acknowledge the state document as anything other than what it is...a piece of paper that our state issued saying the date DD was born, that she was born in China, AND that we are her parents. DD knows she was born to her mother in China, and that her father in China gave her the other half of her wonderful genes.

Anonymous said...

we may be writing to the converted here, but anyway, please see >

Anonymous said...

we may be writing to the converted here, but anyway, please see >

malinda said...

Dee, you said "I am complicit in the continuing ruse."

I was very careful in my original post and in my comment here to say that getting the fake BC made me FEEL complicit -- that's more than lawyer weasle words! I'm not making a judgement that fake BCs in international adoption is the same as the practice in domestic adoption, at least in part because we're not replacing a Texas birth certificate with a fake Texas birth certificate.

I'm not sure, either, that that's a distinction that makes a difference. So far, it hasn't made a difference to me -- it just made me feel slimey when I got Zoe's BC!

Anonymous said...

Both of my girls' (one from Hunan, the other from Guangxi) Chinese birth certificates state their date of birth and then say that their place of birth and parents are unknown (which certainly implies that they were abandoned). Of course, the date of birth is likely an estimate, so it may not be accurate, just as their "fake" TX birth certificate is even more inaccurate. But as I said before, having both will give them the option of choosing which one they want to use if they ever need to present a birth certificate. I'd think it would be a choice between the lesser of the evils, depending on their perception of such, or maybe it just won't even bother them much at all. Maybe they won't even need one... the only time I have needed mine was when I adopted them! But it is good that they could order the TX version from vital statistics. I'm sure I will give them theirs, but my parents sure didn't give me mine (which is either inaccurate or reveals a family secret)! The best solution, I think, is to request that the state use an alternate form. How would you design it?
Sue (aka anonymous)