This January, a 21-year-old Utah woman named Jenessa Simons located her birth mother via Facebook by posting a picture of herself holding her adoption information ("Born November 17, 1991...They named me Whitney"). The photo went viral, with more than 160,000 shares, and Simons received an email from her birth mother just two days later. In the three months since, Simons' success has inspired countless imitators, both birth parents and adoptees, clogging Facebook feeds with similar messages.
These posts have brought questions of adoption and its consequences to the forefront. While adoption is usually lauded as a win-win, some say situations like Simons' highlight major problems with the institution, problems which cause suffering for birth parents and adoptees alike.
Claudia Corrigan D'Arcy, a birth mother who reconnected with her son via MySpace in 2006, sees the recent rash of what she calls the "Adoptee Searching Picture Meme" as a sign that the adoption system is badly broken. Adults like Simons, Corrigan D'Arcy says, should have the legal right to documents revealing their biological backgrounds.
"Imagine a world where adult adoptees could access their birth records like EVERY other American and know the name they were given," she writes. "Then they wouldn't have to post pictures of themselves on Facebook holding signs with personal information all over. Then they wouldn't have to beg for strangers for shares in order to find out who they look like and if cancer runs in their family."
Corrigan D'Arcy isn't the only one who believes adoptees should have easier access to information about their birth parents. "Adult adoptees in most of the advanced, industrialized nations of the world have unrestricted access to their original birth records as a matter of right," says the Adoptee Rights Coalition, an organization that fights for more transparency in adoption. "In contrast, adult adoptees in all but six states in the U.S. are forbidden unrestricted access to their own original birth certificates, due to archaic laws that are a legacy of a culture of shame that stigmatized infertility, out-of-wedlock birth and adoption."