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Growing in the Dark: Adoption Secrecy and Its Consequences

by Janine M. Baer

Generations of adults who were adopted as children have been kept in the dark about their original identities. The law sealing birth records forever, even to the adopted person, passed in 1935 in California, sweeping adoption´s emotional complexities under the rug and making it possible to keep an adoption itself a secret.

Growing in the Dark: Adoption Secrecy and Its Consequences takes you through California´s early adoption laws, highlighting the passage of the original law that sealed records, and discusses the various consequences of this policy as they unfolded throughout the 20th century. To this day in California as in most states, adoptees are still unable to obtain their original birth certificates. Psychological theories, baby sellers, society’s harsh view of out-of-wedlock births, and the views of child welfare advocates in the early 20th century are all part of the story. The book ends with the successful ballot initiative in Oregon in 1998 that reversed the sealed records law in that state.

The book´s title refers to the frequent experience of adoptees, including those of the baby boomer generation like the author, who grew up “in the dark” about what being adopted meant, in a society that was equally in the dark in its understanding of the harm of secrecy and the importance of both nature and nurture. As the book concludes:

“Scientists have discovered what adoptees instinctively know: nature and nurture — genetic traits and life experiences — work together in an individual and not in opposition … in adoptees as in everyone else. It is time for laws and social mores governing adoption to catch up with that reality.”

Adoptee Author: Janine M. Baer

Publication Year: 2004

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Growing in the Dark: Adoption Secrecy and Its Consequences
Growing in the Dark: Adoption Secrecy and Its Consequences
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