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New York State Adoptees Bill of Rights


            I, like so many of my fellow adoptees who live in New York State, have been seeking reform to the way New York State handles all closed adoptions, permanently sealing adoption records and denying adoptees vital information to their past.

            For many years now I have been actively following legislation which has been introduced yearly in the New York Legislature proposing the establishment of an adoptees bill of rights, which would grant adoptees access to their sealed records. And each year I have watched as each bill, which has so many co-sponsors who I assume support this legislation, was relegated to either the Health Committee, Rules Committee, or Codes Committee where it promptly dies, never coming out of committee and to the floor for a vote.

            As it currently stands, any adult individual who was given up for adoption in New York State is not allowed to obtain a copy of their original birth certificate which includes not only basic information of their birth but also information related to the biological families who relinquished them for adoption.

            By denying adoptees their original birth certificate complications can arise, as Brad Cupples found out when he applied for a passport. After submitting his application with a copy of his amended birth certificate he received a letter back from the passport office saying that the birth certificate he submitted was not sufficient to receive a passport because it was filed more than a year after his birth. In Cupples case his birth certificate was not filed until he was three years old, at which time his adoption was finalized and his amended birth certificate was issued.

            By denying adoptees access to their information they are also being denied their family medical information that every non-adopted person knows as a matter of fact, growing up in their biological family. This medical information, as all non-adoptees know, is important to how they manage their current and future health choices. This medical information can only be given by the biological families who relinquished them for adoption. 

            This year I watched again as the new year began and legislation was again introduced in both the New York State Assembly with Bill A909-2013: Enacts bill of adoptee rights clarifying language and procedures for obtaining birth certificates and medical histories for adoptees and the New York State Senate version Bill S2490-2013: Establishes the Bill of Adoptees Rights.  But just as each bill was introduced, in the Assembly on January 9th and the Senate on January 17th, each version was quickly committed to the Health Committee, just as they had in previous years.

            In recent months there has been a push to bring attention to these bills in the legislature through both the media and by adoption groups who have started petitions in support of the bills passage. But while there has been a great deal of support from legislators to enact this law as well as support from both adult adoptees and birth mothers who gave up their children, the bill still does not find its way to the legislative floor for a vote.

            With the end of the legislative calendar sessions now at an end we will have to wait yet another year to introduce the bill again and fight for our most basic right in the world – the right to know who we are and where we came from.