Why It’s Wrong to Ask Adoptive Families for Additional Proof of Adoption

Apr 16 2014

CAUTION: I’ve got my Adoptive Mama panties in a bunch today. Buckle up, folks, ‘cause off we go!

The crux of the matter is this: it’s not okay for insurance companies in the United States of America to require adoptive families to provide adoption paperwork as proof of legal dependency when the family can provide a state-issued birth certificate, instead, which already lists the child’s adoptive parents as the legal parents, is infinitely more simple and equitable, and is less, shall we say, a TOTAL CRAP MOVE.

I keep hearing from adoptive parents who are being asked, over and over, to provide extra documentation of legal parentage when they’re already able to provide proof that is easy to understand and legally relevant (i.e. a birth certificate listing the adoptive parents), and I gotta say, the whole thing is starting to boggle my mind.

Meghan1It happened again this week when my friend Meghan, whose husband Stefan is employed as a middle school teacher, learned that the Oregon Educators Benefit Board (OEBB) is conducting a dependent eligibility verification review to ensure that those covered by its insurance are, in fact, eligible to receive it.

There’s no problem with review itself, of course. Knock yourselves out, I say! Review away!

The problem is the fact that OEBB, as part of this process, is, for no discernible reason, treating adopted kids differently than kids who are, in their words, “natural.”

(Psst… adopted kids aren’t unnatural, folks. Let’s retire that one, shall we?)

According to OEBB, a birth certificate listing the OEBB member, spouse or domestic partner as parent is sufficient proof of the dependency of a “natural” child, whereas the parent of an adopted child must provide adoption paperwork, instead.

IMG_1677

Which… are you kidding me?

Because there’s a problem here.

A BIG problem.

Or more than one.

I’m just not sure that handing over adoption paperwork – in the languages of, say, Vietnamwhich is where we adopted our first baby, or Ethiopia, where Meghan’s baby was born, or Spanish or Haitian Creole or Russian or Chinese or any of the other myriad languages in which our paperwork is written – is going be all that helpful to the person at the insurance company in charge of dependent verification; a person who I’m going to guess isn’t even a little bit trained in authenticating international adoption paperwork or verifying the adoption paperwork of all 50 United States.

Avoiding this type of confusion and the Adopted vs. “Natural” disparity is exactly why adoptive parents go through the often overwhelming and always extensive, paperwork-heavy process of adoption and then re-adoption in our home states; so our adopted children have exactly the same paperwork as the kids we birthed ourselves and so we have proof of legal parentage. The same proof of parentage that biologically-related families have. Verified already by both state and federal agencies. With fingerprints and home studies and FBI criminal background checks.

Asking to see additional adoption paperwork when adoptive families can provide a state-issued birth certificate or United States passport that list the adoptive parents as legal parents is, quite frankly, like asking biologically-related families to additionally provide their hospital or homebirth paperwork. It’s pointless, nonsensical and invasive. 

And asking to see additional adoption paperwork isn’t harmless. A few months ago, a mom from another state contacted me about a similar situation with a different insurance provider; in her case, though, she was asked for proof of adoption while her child, who experiences anxiety and attachment difficulties, was present, listening to every word that assigned him as different and other. I mean, can we see the problem here? The position in which we’re unnecessarily putting kids who may already feel unsure of their places in their families, their belonging in their world? And can we recognize that we needn’t add to their uncertainty a burden of extra “proof” when we already have a better, more clear source of it?

When a child is adopted (or re-adopted) in the State of Oregon, the adoption decree states,

“From this day forward, this child shall to all legal intents and purposes be the child of Petitioners, the same as if born to them in lawful wedlock. … The adoption of the above-named child by Petitioners is recognized as a valid and legal adoption for all purposes in the State of Oregon and is hereby ratified and confirmed under international law.”

It’s time we started acting like that’s true.

Meghan2

…….

P.S. If you’re an adoptive parent and you find yourself in this position – being asked for additional adoption paperwork when you’ve already provided legal proof via a state-issued birth certificate that you are your child’s parent – here’s a list of somewhat pissy, passive-aggressive and pointed questions you can ask your insurance company:

  1. Are you concerned that this birth certificate is fraudulent? If so, why?
  2. Are you concerned that the state or federal government has not done their due diligence in confirming that our adoption is legitimate before issuing us this state birth certificate or United States passport?
  3. Do you ever ask biological parents for their hospital or home birth records to supplement a state-issued birth certificate? If not, why not?
  4. Given that every state and country has different paperwork and that no two adoption decrees look the same or have exactly the same stamps, seals, notarizations, and certifications, who do you have on staff or on contract responsible for and qualified to verify its legitimacy? 

Or you can be like my friend Meghan and write a kind letter, instead. 

Whatever.

In the end, though, I hope we’ll all genuinely ask this one:

What can I do to help change this requirement for adoptive families?

Because we all, every last one of us, deserve to be treated like we belong.