Saturday, November 7, 2009

Letter Albany Times Union

It's time to unseal birth certificates

First published in print: Sunday, November 1, 2009 Albany Times Union

by Joyce Bahr

November is National Adoption Month and adoptees born in New York are much more hopeful for passage of legislation giving them the right to a noncertified copy of their original birth certificate and updated medical histories.

Bills A8410/S5269 give birth parents the option to file a contact preference. Some may not want to be contacted and others may want to be contacted directly by the adoptee or through an intermediary.

Adoptees are grateful to Republican sponsor Sen. Bill Larkin, an adoptive grandparent, and welcome a new Senate sponsor, Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, chairwoman of the Children and Families Committee. The Assembly sponsor, Assemblyman David Koon Rochester, continues the fight in that house.

Birth parents who had no rights and no options presented to them signed surrender papers that terminated their parental rights, but did not provide confidentiality for them. Recent research by professor Elizabeth Samuels of the Baltimore School of Law concludes confidentiality was for the adoptive parents.

A 2007 report by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute finds birth parents lives' are not ruined when they are discreetly contacted by adoptees.

No law prohibits adoptees from searching for their birth parents. It's time for a law unsealing birth certificates.

Senate Democrats and Republicans are in support of one, while the Assembly bill with 70 sponsors has been stalled in the Codes Committee since June 2006. Adoptees are saying out loud, "It's time for our rights."

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