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

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.


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.



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. 


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.


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30 responses to “Why It’s Wrong to Ask Adoptive Families for Additional Proof of Adoption”

  1. Thanks for the encouragement, Beth. I just had to write my own (fairly) kind letter to a medical office for my 2-year-old. One of the intake questions was “Is this child your biological child?” and because the answer was no, they stopped the intake so that we could provide proof of the adoption. (The kind letter was me saying that we weren’t going to, but would provide either a birth certificate or insurance card IF they also required these things from parents seeking care for their biological children.)

    Just off the top, 1) someone could lie in response to that intake question, and the office doesn’t appear to request proof of biological relationship; 2) someone could think they are a biological parent of the child but they aren’t (even if they’re a legal parent by virtue of being married to the child’s mom at the time of child’s birth, say); 3) someone could be the biological parent and not have legal custody or the right to consent to care for the minor child. It’s just not the right question to ask to get the information they want.

  2. Perhaps some contact with the state office that manages & oversees health insurance would be in order, if the insurance company remains obstinate. Perhaps the State attorney general? Perhaps some well worded letters to state representatives? Not that government is always effective at helping, but finding out what the law actually requires, and pointing out to the guys who make and enforce the laws that insurance companies are either flouting said laws or that the laws themselves are discriminatory, might make a difference. If you can actually find a state legislator with direct experience with adoption, you might find a champion with passion, as well.

  3. Sorry I am late commenting on this post, but does “boiling MAD” still count if it is many days later???? THE NERVE!!!!!! GAH!!! What fresh Hell is all this insurance crap??? OH ya, Obamacare…
    AMEN, SISTER to your post!!! And, may I PLEASE adopt those cute kids in the picture??? Beyond beautiful.

    • There are a couple of problematic issues in this comment. Firstly, “Obamacare” has nothing to do with this. Secondly, there isn’t just open season on cute kids.

  4. I was adopted in the US many years ago and my birth certificate has almost no information on it (just parents and my name) but we never ran into this kind of issue. That said, I had my little girl outside of the US using donor egg and was told that I couldn’t register as my daughter as a US citizen – her biological mother had to do it! As with adoption, we had to sign many legal forms that clearly specified we are her legal parents and the donor had no claim to her whatsoever but this didn’t matter. I did as you suggested here and wrote a letter with very specific questions as to what the legal precedent was that required me to even divulge this information (the person asking told me they only ask women over a certain age because these women are more likely to have assisted fertility treatment). I pointed out that this seemed discriminatory, especially as this question isn’t asked of anyone in the US undergoing the same treatment. In the end they allowed me to register her but it wasn’t without some gutwrenching humiliation. (Initially, we were told that she would have to get immigration visas for every trip to the US.) I don’t care how she got there – this is my baby girl!

    Anyway, very glad it all worked out for you. It makes me crazy. (Same as the idiots who ask me as an adopted child, ‘but do you know your REAL mother?’ ‘Yes I do! She’s been right there with me my entire life.’

  5. UPDATE: Today I went in person to do the OEBB required verification. There was a line so I had decided to just show the paperwork and followup with a letter later so as not to inconvenience the innocent bystanders.

    When it was my turn, I presented my marriage certificate & 1040 listing “married” to verify my husband’s eligibility. The rep then asked to see the documentation for my oldest son. I handed over his birth certificate, paused and when she started to enter it said, “I also have his adoption decree here if you need that.” She looked momentarily confused and said, “I don’t need that since you are listed on the birth certificate as his mother.” I smiled and replied, “I had wondered why you would need an adoption decree with the birth certificate.”

    She asked, “Do birth certificates for adopted children always list the adoptive parents with the child’s name?” I told her that as far as I knew they did; that I had never heard of one that didn’t. Her reply? “Then we should probably change our form to say ‘a birth certificate OR an adoption decree.’ As I handed over the paperwork for my second son, I agreed that such a change would indeed be good.

    She stopped to make a note that I assume was in regards to this, but I may still follow-up with a letter to OEBB. Perhaps this will become a quick fix like you, Beth, created at the Oregon DMV!

    • Dawn that is SO great to hear! I’m hoping to hear a positive response to my letter soon and I’ll report back as well.

    • This will not be a quick fix. This is the same problem Oregon had when we adopted in the late 1980’s and early 90’s. And, in case anyone cares, Oregon is a progressive state. Whatever. Can’t believe all my screaming at them 20+ years ago was futile. Dipsticks.

  6. First, this is terrible. TERRIBLE. Totally not cool. A legal document is a legal document. Period. End of story.

    And second, FYI. Those of us that have had children at home DO, in fact, face all sorts of problems. My second child was refused (military) insurance because he was born at home. We had to go through all sorts of extra steps to get him listed in the system.

    And several of my home birth friends have told absolute horror stories about trying to get a passport in states that list “home” as place of birth on the birth certificate. The regional offices or post offices often refuse to take these birth certificates. LEGAL, state issued, official birth certificates. We did not have a problem with our third child, the only one born in a state that lists this on the birth certificate. (Ironically we did the form intake in a military base post office.)

  7. My kids were adopted from Korea. Both are adults now. I never had such ridiculous things imposed on us. The birth certificate was always accepted. One son had a episode happen after 9/11. (sort of his fault) He traveled to Cananda without his passport. When he went to come home, those without passports were lined up as to country of birth, so he got home hours later than his wife, after getting his naturalization number, etc.

  8. I totally agree, that is unacceptable.

    But I have to admit that I was ALREADY incensed, because of the requirement that you provide a marriage certificate if your dependent child’s last name is different from yours.


    First, there’s no legal obligation for EITHER parents’ last name to become the child’s last name. Second, there are MANY cultural traditions governing naming, and in some of them the so-called “last name” is unique to each child, or to each generation. Swedish children’s last names are traditionally Momsnamedaughter for girls and Dadsnameson for boys, for example. Third, there are LOTS of unmarried mothers in this country who are raising children who have their father’s family name.

    In NONE of those cases would a marriage certificate provide proof of relationship between a parent and child whose surnames are different.

    This form has has made some SERIOUSLY misinformed assumptions.

  9. I agree with you completely, going through all that we go through to make our child feel like a complete member of our family and then to be questioned this way by strangers is a slap in the face. I’ve never really faced this exact issue, my son, who was adopted as a teenager, has a birth certificate that looks exactly like my other kid’s birth certificates. We’ve always just presented that as if he was a birth child and no one has ever questioned it. Maybe, it’s just because I’m kind of a mean person and they were scared of me, lol!

  10. Us too. Another school board insurance program. We have to provide proof of our son’s adoption in order to get him on my spouse’s insurance.

    Along the same lines, but even more infuriating to me, has been our battle to access his pre-adoption medical and public health records. We’ve been told by the manager of the local public health clinic that he has a responsibility to “black out” any info in our son’s record that pertains to his previous guardians so that we (and our son) can never see it. So this manager can sit alone in an office, with a marker, and black-out sections of our son’s legal chart, at his own discretion, without oversight. Besides the potential loss of information an overzealous blacker-outer might destroy, there is the issue of a manager sitting alone in an office, with a marker, given free reign to destroy parts of a chart his own nurses created. And the law in our province says this is standard procedure (I made the calls, thinking this nurse was out of his mind). This would never, ever fly with bio kids. A nurse destroying their permanent records would be considered illegal. All too late now, the adoption has finalized, and the nurse has had his day with the marker and our son’s records.

  11. Excuse my yelling but I AM SO OVER THIS!!! It’s absolutely infuriates me!!! We have three Chinese kids. And no they don’t look like us AT ALL! We have 5 bio kids in this never happened. Adopted kids?!? Truly makes me MORE insane.

  12. Adoptive mom of one pale-skinned, blond-haired bio kid (who looks exactly like us) and one dark-skinned, curly haired adopted kid (who looks nothing like us, except for his sense of humor) … When he was first born, I grit my teeth and carried adoptive paperwork (just in case) every time we flew and went through customs or security. Now, we just travel with our passports. We’ve never been questioned or put on the spot, but I still tense up a bit every time we have to show documentation. It didn’t matter so much when he was a baby, but it will as he grows up.

  13. I am currently in a knock down drag out with my local school district. My kids come from the state foster system. So they lived with us for 6 months before their adoption happened and another 6 before it managed to work its way through to become final. At which point I popped right down and submitted the information to their school. But all the school did was stick it in a drawer. No one changed the records anywhere else. Another year later I discovered that my kid was still being forced to use a birth name to log into a computers and “pay” for lunches. When I went down to find out why it was explained that no child name changes are executed until a parent notifies every department individually and only after 6 months. Never mind we waited a year and the children got by not even knowing their birth name. Never mind that it was the name of a man who had down unforgivable harm to my little girl. “If we changed with every custody change name change then we’d be doing it all the time.”

    First this is not a case of divorce. It is not a change that came lightly or that will ever happen again. Adoption is different. It is the districts job to understand that names have power and kids who are adopted need communities to recognize those new family bonds to help them feel safe from the past. Last of all why on Earth didn’t one of the many teachers think to tell me? Why did they tell my kid she just had to deal with it and not to tell me!?!?!??!!!

    I got my kid squared away but I am continuing to work on changing school procedures so this will not happen to another kid. So far I cannot believe the apathy and lazy people who are supposed to care about these kids. So be warned if you adoption goes through after your kid is registered in school it is not enough to take copies to the secretary. You have to see the lunch folks and computer lab folks and district office folks and school library. Because they are often too unorganized or unfeeling to talk to each other. They treat these kids like “just another divorce” which is a stupid thing to say. Kids with unstable or changing parents need active support not ignorant lazy disinterest. But adoptive kids need the world to honor and not make them ashamed of their new families!

  14. For years, as a biological child born overseas to U.S. born parents while my father was in the air force, we had to carry around a portfolio of at least 4 documents–including, excuse me, NATURALIZATION PAPERS, which my parents eventually found they needed to assure thst I was not a German citizen (the country in which I was born– in a U.S. Air Force Base Hospital). My parents voiced their disapproval, but at the time it was an uphill battle.

    Finally, all I need these days is my State Department birth certificate. Hope it gets that simple for adoptive parents and children soon.

  15. Ridiculous! They should ALLOW adoption paperwork in place of a birth certificate if needed (my daughter’s adoption was final in China, and I have not yet completed the re-adoption process, so she doesn’t have a state issued birth certificate). But to require it for children who do have a state issued birth certificate with the (adoptive) parents names on it is ridiculous.

    The follow up piece should be why “they” (hospitals, schools, libraries, whomever) shouldn’t ask for “proof” of relationship for kids who don’t “match” their parents physically if they don’t ask the same for all families, because a) not all kids who don’t look like/aren’t the same race as the parent they are with are adopted and b)not all adopted children “don’t match”. If you are really concerned that people might be bringing children to whom they are not related to receive medical care or library cards or whatever, you need to ask everyone for proof of parentage. Otherwise, don’t ask anyone! This hasn’t happened to me, but it has happened to many friends of mine. Ridiculous!

  16. Beth, I adopted my daughter here in Florida almost 37 years ago. I couldn’t count how many different insurance companies we had in those years, but I never have run across this. My adopted daughter is the same as my biological children, always was, always will be. Does she challenge me at times, sure, but that just strengthens my theories of nature vs nurture. Sometimes, nature wins!

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I know someone who might be interested in this (an attorney) and will pass it on.

  17. This post means the world to me, Beth! We are not getting anywhere with changing this policy in Maryland and that makes me sad and frustrated. But THANK YOU for being a big voice for the adoption community on big issues.

  18. Maybe adopted kids aren’t “natural”, but rather supernatural. They may just be trying to figure our what super power they posses, cause I am sure flying can be pretty tricky the first few times until you get the hang of it. Might have a few doctors visits to deal with the bumps and bruises 🙂 In all seriousness though, those questions are awesome! I have also have OEBB insurance and only have to show a copy of my marriage license to the business manager at school. They never asked me for additional proof and I never sent anything to them. Doesn’t seem fair or right at all.

  19. Just unvelievable!!! My two older boys are my husbands step kids and are still on his insurance, no one ever asks for extra “proof” that they are eligible!!!! I can’t even imagine what I would do if someone asked for additional paperwork because our daughter is adopted but I am pretty sure after using some of your questions I would also throw in the word ” discrimination ” and “I’m calling a lawyer”. Because they certainly have no right to anything past a state issued birth certificate!!!!!

  20. I agree that the “natural” language has got to go. But I’m actually uncomfortable with using my daughter’s birth certificate because it doesn’t list her birth parents’ names. It lists me as her biological parent, and that is a lie. (I would like to see birth certificates changed to list the legal parents and the biological parents both.) While I absolutely want equality for my daughter, it is NOT the “same” as if I gave birth to her. Do I love and claim my daughter completely? Yes. But she doesn’t belong only to me. She belongs to her birth mom, too, and I don’t want to erase that relationship on paper.

    • Oh Beth…THANK YOU! I am another that has to verify to OEBB my adopted children’s status. I have refused to send copies of the paperwork through the mail. So on Friday, I will go in person to let a representative look at my paperwork. I have been trying to figure out how to respond to get my point across politely (because I kinda need to keep my insurance…).

      I’ve been considering a letter, but I love your questions as well. We’ll see how Friday plays out as to which way I may go! Thank you for bringing awareness to this issue! I plan to take the birth certificate listing us as the parents. I kind of wonder how they would even know that they aren’t “natural”. My husband and I might just like to travel to South Korea during our pregnancies…. But, I will have the adoption decrees as well. I am tempted to take entire file on each boy. If they want paperwork, I can deliver paperwork!

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