Bills in three states, Oregon, Ohio and Washington, open the door to greater adoptee--and in Oregon, first parent--access to adoption records.
Oregon is leading the way with a bill that will allow adult adoptees to see their entire court file, other than the home study. The Senate passed the bill, SB 623, unanimously on Tuesday, April 23. If this becomes law, adoptees will no longer need a
judge to order access. The practical effect will be to allow adopted individual to learn details about their
adoption. Additionally, first mothers, and first fathers if their consent for adoption was required, will have an easier time gaining access to court files to learn their child's adoptive name and the names of the adoptive parents. (For details on the bill, click the link below, "Opening court records to adoptees and first parents.") Oregon--of which I am a proud resident--led the way on opening records that had been sealed by passing a 1998 ballot measure allowing adult adoptees to have copies of their original birth certificates.
OHIO BISHOPS AND RIGHT-TO-LIFE IN SUPPORT
What's truly amazing in the Ohio situation is who has come out in support of these bills: the Ohio Catholic Conference of Bishops; the Ohio Right-to-Life and the Cleveland Clinic. And that, my friends, is history. Right to Life and Catholic organizations elsewhere have been staunch opponents. Even as recent as a few years ago, the National Council for Adoption was pushing the false idea that opening the records would increase abortions. In that sense, we've come a long way.
Betsie Norris of the Adoption Network Cleveland who has worked long and hard for access to original birth certificates is optimistic that this is the year. A majority of legislators have signed on to the bills. As for post 1996 adoptees, they're still subject to a first-parent veto. Although no one is keeping track, it appears that only a small number of vetoes have been filed, according to Betsie. Legislation in the future is needed to fix that anomaly, and give post 1996 adoptees the same rights as other Ohio adoptees.
Meanwhile, the Washington Legislature is slithering down from Olympia to some sink hole populated by 1950's era moralists and privacy fanatics. It passed HB 1525 that allows adult adoptees to receive a copy of their of original birth certificate unless a first parent files a "contact preference" stating she or he does not want a "copy of the original birth certificate released to the adoptee." This "preference" expires upon the death of the birth parent (a truly macabre provision), and is, in fact, a veto. Adoptees can request that the Department of Health check records each year to determine if the objecting first parent is deceased. ("Oh goody, mom's dead so now I can learn her name.") What's particularly galling about the Washington bill is that the perpetrator of this absurdity is not the Catholic Bishops, Right to Life, the adoption industry or adoptive parents, but First Mother Sen. Ann Rivers, spurred on by the Washington American Civil Liberties Union. (Them again! They seem to only care about first mothers, not adoptees!)
HB 1525 was originally introduced by Rep. Tina Orwall, an adoptee, as a clean bill, without a until-death veto. Sen. Rivers muscled Rep. Orwall into agreeing to the amendment. Apparently, Sen. Rivers thinks she needs to protect mothers from their shame. We say, what's shameful is the Washington Legislature.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee has until April 29 to sign the bill. It's likely he will since it passed both houses with few dissenters.--jane
For more on bills
Oregon SB 623
Ohio HB 61
Ohio SB 23
Washington HB 1525
Opening court records to adoptees and first parents
Adoptee legislator supports birth-parent veto in Washington
OBC-access bill with 'birth mother' veto may become law
Reunion: A Year in Letters Between a Birthmother and the Daughter She Couldn't Keep After decades of separation, 26-year-old adoptee Katie Hern writes to her birthmother, Ellen McGarry Carlson. Written over a course of one year, this book follows the women's progress - from elation to understanding to accepting - and efforts to create an honest relationship. After several months, mother and daughter finally meet face-to-face in an emotional and exhilarating reunion.--Amazon For mothers and sons and daughters who cannot meet face to face initially, this is a helpful guide of how others handled the situation.
Love I LOVE THIS BOOK!
Its sweet, heartbreaking story is told on pages of vibrant colors and uneven widths, pages with cut-outs and strip-ins, pages with peepholes—pages of all shapes and colorful varieties. This story is a simple one about a little girl. She has parents, naturally, but they went away when she was nine. And as she has no relatives to care for her, she is taken in by an orphanage. Lonely and a bit unusual, she stares at people with her big eyes. She often does things that aren't very nice, and people aren't very nice to her. In fact, they want to send her away. Until, one day...
Lorraine here: I found this book in an unusual book store in Saginaw, Michigan, a year before I met my daughter's father. I treasure it dearly, and have given copies to close friends, lovers, daughter. If you appreciate art, Love is a treasure.