Washington State Adoptee Original Birth Certificate
October 31, 2014 8:04 AM   Subscribe

Washington state recently enacted a law that allows adoptees to request and receive a copy of their original birth certificate. I was adopted from Washington state, I know my birth name and my birth mother's name but I was still surprised by a couple things that were not on the copy I received.

For instance, no name for me! Birth date and time, but no name. My birth mother kept me for a few months before deciding to give me up for adoption. Was my name scrubbed from my birth certificate upon adoption, thus not making this the original original certificate? I had a name when I was adopted, it's in my adoption papers, but maybe my birth mother had not named me yet when they made out the certificate? Was that done? Send a teenager home with an unnamed baby?

Secondly, no name for the father. There is no information on that line. Not "unknown" or "declined to answer" or "deceased." It doesn't appear blacked out. It's just blank. Does that mean he requested his identity to remain anonymous? (This is allowed by the new law.) Does that mean that my birth mother could have declined to give a name (or some other reason) and they left it blank? What would have been happening in the middle-1970s?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Does that mean that my birth mother could have declined to give a name (or some other reason) and they left it blank?

Yes it does. This is not uncommon in birth certs dug out by adoptees.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:19 AM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

As far as names -- I have a friend who did not decide on a name for a few days! Not an adoption situation, they just took a while to decide. This is allowed and would mean that part of the birth certificate was blank for however long it took them to make the choice. Perhaps your birth mother never made an "official" designation of your name and so it never got entered on the birth certificate, but just was informally listed on the adoption paperwork?
posted by rainbowbrite at 8:24 AM on October 31, 2014

It's actually difficult to list a father if the couple isn't married. I know a couple who had a child in the 2000's in Washington who planned to get married when their daughter was a few months old, the dad was at the hospital, and they had to jump through a lot of hoops to get his name on the birth certificate too. I don't think it's as simple as the mother choosing to name someone.
posted by Margalo Epps at 9:13 AM on October 31, 2014

The details of how this is enforced may vary from place to place, but in general an unmarried mother cannot include the name of the father in a birth record without signed consent/acknowledgement of paternity from the father.
posted by drlith at 9:29 AM on October 31, 2014

Additionally there have been movements in some adoption agencies at various times to encourage mothers to leave the father's name off the birth certificate so that he doesn't have to agree to terminate his parental rights.

So as you can see from all of the above answers, it's very common to see on the birth certificate of an adopted person.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:46 PM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

It took us 3 days to decide on a name for our first. They would have let us leave without the name, they said it would just be more paperwork for us later.
posted by bq at 1:16 PM on October 31, 2014

California not Washington state, but: one of my sisters chose not to put down the father's name when she gave birth in 1978; the kid's birth certificate just lists the father as "not stated", rather than Joe Smith or a blank or 'unknown' --- she knew exactly who the father was, she just chose not to legally acknowledge him. Sister did this because she wanted to be sure it'd be easier for her to keep the kid if/when her partner left her.
posted by easily confused at 4:10 PM on October 31, 2014

Literally every US state has different practices for listing the father's name, and those practices have changed over time, and they can vary from location to location within a state, especially when adoption is involved. Only people familiar with original birth certificates issued to adoptees in Washington are likely to know the reasons, I'm sorry to say.

For example, sometimes a certain hospital in town was de facto the only place where unmarried women went to give birth, and that particular hospital may have had its own routine practice in advising women when filling out the birth certificate. DarlingBri has some good suggestions, but I caution you to ask people familiar with practices in Washington around the time you were born.

Having said that, check the new WA law about what happens when the birth father refuses to be identified, and whether that means his name could have appeared on the BC but has been redacted. I'd think WA would have to notify you he refused, but it may not be the case. I've seen some archaic and cruel practices in this arena.

I agree with DarlingBri that your birth name missing from the BC probably means you didn't have that name--or any name--at the time the BC was filled out. Possibly your birth mother thought she would relinquish you sooner than she ended up doing, and thought she shouldn't name you. But unless WA law has anything about your first name being scrubbed from the original BC (which doesn't make sense given your birth mother's name is on there), then it's unlikely to be an attempt at redaction.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 5:02 PM on November 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Anon, if you are in the Seattle area, drop me a line via MeMail if you like. I attend a small adult-adoptees group monthly that can help provide access to other adult-adoptee birth identity experiences and perspectives.
posted by mwhybark at 12:48 AM on December 13, 2014

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