Pending Legislation will Give Adoptees The Right To Know
by Joyce Bahr
A strong lobby by activists with New York Statewide Adoption Reform's Unsealed Initiative has brought the assembly bill A2277 to 75 sponsors and 31 supporters. This issue has taken a long time to be listened to because, adoptees who wanted to know their origins were vilified by some who disliked the idea of adoptees and birth/natural parents searching. Adoptees whose birth certificates were sealed beginning in 1935 include those who were adopted near the time of their birth and some who were adopted at older ages by stepfathers or stepmothers. Bill Aronis was adopted by his stepfather at age 19 and his original birth certificate was sealed at that time making it impossible to obtain a copy. Bill who is 80 years of age is not the only adoptee in the same predicament.
Adoptees began searching in large numbers in the 1970's and as of now there are many adoptees and birth/natural parents who already know their origins or the child they relinquished but adoptees are still denied the right to know. With this issue becoming more mainstream legislators are more aware of the issues and many have come around to support this long overdue right. However there are a small number of legislators who feel adoption policy should remain as it was 30 years ago. Adoption Social Workers will tell you adoption practice is always ahead of policy.There are many social workers in New York State along with members of the Child Welfare league of America who support the right to know.
New York State's adoption policy for adoptees and birth/natural parents who want to know pertains only to the New York Adoption Registry, meaning both parties must register and if that doesn't work too bad. The policy says do not search. This is an outdated policy in which human nature is not considered. Human beings have needs and they must be recognized. With current New York law adoptees and birth/natural parents have no say in the matter leaving them frustrated and humiliated.
A comprehensive report by the foremost think tank on adoption issues, the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute released on November 12, 2007 found adoptees must be able to learn their identity, and urges all states to follow the path of the 8 states that allow adoptees access to birth certificates. The report depicts adoptees as the only class of Americans not permitted to routinely obtain their birth certificates. Kansas and Alaska never sealed birth certificates and four states, Maine, Oregon, Alabama and New Hampshire have passed legislation similar to New York's Bill of Adoptee Rights.
New York bill A2277/S235 gives all adoptees at age 18 the right to a copy of their birth certificate and has a contact preference option for birth/natural parents. Meaning they can choose Yes, I want to be contacted, I want to be contacted but only through an intermediary and No, I prefer not to be contacted at this time. Those birth parents who choose no contact are asked to fill out an updated medical history form. Many adoptees have no medical history, even though the U.S. Surgeon General stresses the importance of knowing one's medical history and doctors say most people die from genetic diseases.
Maine Senator and adoptee Paula Benoit who lobbyed for passage of the recent Maine legislation urges you to join the fight in New York to end discrimination to adoptees. Spokesperson for the adoptee rights movement Darryl McDaniels says non adopted persons begin their lives at chapter one while adoptees begin theirs at chapter two and have the right to know the first chapter. New York activists are demanding the right to know now!
Joyce Bahr is President New York Statewide Adoption Reform's Unsealed Initiative
Friday, November 28, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
England gave adoptees rights in 1975. A new movement to end adoption scecrecy and lies was born. many countries have followed and changed laws unsealing birth certificates for adult adoptees. some countries give birth parents rights too.
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