Adoption Laws

Adult adoptees in nine states have unrestricted access to their own original birth certificates (OBC). Kansas, for example, has always had unrestricted access–adoptees who want their OBC need only to follow the regular procedures for obtaining a state vital record. In 1995, British Columbia, Canada became the first province to unseal adoption records. Family members can obtain the identifying information of a family member they have lost to adoption; adoptees can obtain a copy of their original birth registration. Today, most states and provinces are updating their laws to allow adult adoptees and natural parents access to birth records.

I live in New York State. Sadly, “New York law denies adult adoptees access to their own original birth certificates, except by court order. Based on how judges have handled adoptee requests to unseal records, New York may be one of the most restrictive states in the U.S. on the issue of access to an original birth certificate.” https://adopteerightslaw.com/new-york-obc 

Well, my friends, today may be the day! New York State Assembly Bill A5494 has passed in the State Senate and we await results from the State Assembly.  This bill establishes the right of adoptees to receive a certified copy of their birth certificate upon reaching the age of 18.

“The legislation restores important civil rights to adult adoptees such as their right to access information that non-adopted persons have a legal right to obtain.” “Access to your personal information – who you are and where you come from – is a human right,” said Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried, Assembly Health Committee Chair. “New Yorkers need their own medical histories in order to make better health care choices. And connecting adoptees and birth parents works; in the overwhelming majority of cases, these reunions are cherished by both parties.  https://www.qgazette.com/articles/weprin-and-adoptee-advocates-push-for-vote-on-adoptee-rights-bill 

Restricted and unrestricted, sealed and unsealed, closed and open! If only it was as easy as an on/off switch for adoptee rights. I was adopted in Quebec, Canada and I live in New York State. For almost 40 years I have repeatedly applied for information, searched with and without the internet, and defended my search to friends. How different my life would have been if I’d been born in British Columbia or Kansas! This is no small deal–it is life-changing. I pray for the New York State Assembly to pass Bill A5494 for New York adoptees today and in the future.

Over the years, I have explained my search for my birthparents using different analogies–I never wanted to cause sadness or pain to anyone. Adoptees are known to worry about hurting others’ feelings or causing family conflict. My favorite reassuring analogy is that of a candelabra. After one candle is used to light another and another, it glows as brightly. When I learned the identity of my birthmother, my love for my mom and dad was as strong as ever. Finding a new love or friend does not diminish our love for the most precious people in our lives.

Candle Light!

Original Birth Certificate, Please!

Most people have a birth certificate, and it shows their birthparents’ names. Proof of age is very important in so many circumstances. Our children were often required to give a copy of their birth certificate to sport teams, schools, and the DMV!

In adoption, birth certificates are an even bigger deal. When an adoption is legally finalized, the original birth certificate is replaced with a new one. In a closed adoption, like mine, my original birth certificate was sealed away in a vault—by law, it was sealed forever. The new, or amended, birth certificate had the names of my parents who adopted me, my mom and dad.

In my memoir, I reserve the names, mom and dad, for my parents. My birthparents are my birthmother and birthfather, or mother and father. So, at a glance, the reader knows who’s who!

Once I knew my birthmother’s name, I decided to ask for my original birth certificate. It was a tricky process, but thankfully, I succeeded. What a joy to hold that simple document, a lawful and legitimate record of my illegitimate birth!

When I showed it to my son, he said he was surprised it wasn’t framed and on display—he knew how important an original birth certificate was to me. It is the only record I have that includes my birthmother’s name, her signature, my name, and my date of birth. That is who I was until my parents took me home at eight months. In fact, legally, my first name was my name until my adoption was finalized. I was almost two years old. That’s a long time to have a different legal identity! 

Adopted at 8 months!