|I see blue skies somewhere...|
Colorado will allow adult adoptees to obtain their original birth certificates come January 1 (realistically, Monday the 4th), any previous disclosure vetoes notwithstanding--except for a very small loophole.
Likewise in New Jersey, after decades of tireless efforts, is one year closer to allowing almost all (damn veto in the bill) adoptees born in that state to get their original birth certificates. People named on the original birth certificate (OBC) have until the end of 2016 to file a veto; adoptees will be able to obtain their original birth certificates in January, 2017. Ohio enacted a law allowing all but a very few full access to their records. Bills are in the pipeline in several states--Texas, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and New York, and I am sure, elsewhere. The Pennsylvania bill, with a redaction clause, passed the House and will be voted on in the Senate when the legislature is back in session in Harrisburg.
In New York State, the leaders of both the Assembly, Sheldon Silver, and the Senate, Dean Skelos, both stumbling blocks for our clean bill, were convicted of various charges of corruption in December. The opposition from Skelos was particularly galling, as he was an adoptive father. In a turn about, his conviction was for bartering his influence in the Senate in return for no-show jobs for his son and other payments to his son, who turned out to be something of a layabout, and was convicted along with his adoptive father. Silver was just a simple sleaze, taking kickbacks from certain firms. He always blocked our bill from coming to the floor for a vote. Anyway, of course appeals are in the works, but at this point, all are facing jail time.
Yesterday I learned there is a bill in New York's legislature that would allow adoptees to go to court to ask that any biological siblings over 21 be contacted and let them know of their sibling's desire for contact. Yes, I know, this still leaves the matter in the hands of the another--not the adoptee. But this also means that siblings kept in the dark about their adopted-out brother or sister--might first learn of this via a letter from the state. Or an adoptee also might find a family that has been trying to find her! To me, it's a way to get inside the house through the side door rather than the front. The bill makes it very clear that no information regarding the birth mother will be revealed! Because you know, they were "promised" anonymity!!! This is largely malarkey, but that is the thinking of those opposed to giving adoptees the right of full autonomy--and that includes a heritage!
It is likely that some might oppose this bill, but if it is passed and the sky doesn't fall, it will be another step toward the legislature realizing that the time for dumping that old law sealing original birth certificates and issuing "amended" certificates with the name of non-birth parents, a law that dates from 1935. It's a step in the right direction.
But...I could also point out that after decades of agitating for change, there is still so much to be done. As of January 1, the number of states that are full open is eight, with Colorado joining their ranks of Alabama, Alaska, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon and Rhode Island. In those states, an adoptee can obtain a copy of his unamended birth certificate. In Colorado, adoptive parents can obtain a OBC for their under-18 children, as can decedents of adoptees; siblings can also ask for not only the OBC, as I read the law, but along with the others mentioned, may have access to some adoption records.
By my reading of the law, this is one of the most liberal laws I am aware of, given how many people can ask for an individuals OBC--but wait! There is one tiny exception: If both birth parents are named on the OBC and either of them has filed a veto, his or her name will be redacted, but the other parent will be named when the adoptee (or other individual, as above) is given the document. As our stalwart Colorado advocate, Rich Uhrlaub, notes below, "Given that only about 25 percent of all Colorado birth certificates include both names, it is likely that only a very small number of people could fall into this quirky category.
While that is the good news, the change has been so long in coming. I've been working for reform myself since the early Seventies, after I read a piece about Florence Fisher and the Adoptees Liberal Movement Association in the New York Times one morning in July of 1972.
It shouldn't be this hard. Or slow.
But tonight I am not going to belabor what should be or shouldn't be. Even though sometimes I feel defeated over how far we have yet to go, I do marvel over the vast sea change in adoption attitudes about contact between adoptees and their natural parents. Open adoption to a greater or lesser degree is commonplace--and more openness rather than less is the way it is going, even though we know so many open adoptions are not "open" at all. This was unheard of when Jane and I, and so many others of the Baby Scoop Era, gave up our children with gnashing of teeth and despair in our hearts. A great many more adoptees and birth mothers and fathers are involved in adoption reform than before. More mothers are willing to speak out; the same is true to adoptees.
It's the end of the year. Call you loved ones and tell them you love them. Call them to say hello. Call someone who might need a call. Love the ones around you, the people who love and cherish you back. Not everyone who searched in 2015 found who they were looking for. Reunions are hard and difficult and the beginning of the next chapter, not an end to anything. But tonight, tomorrow, let us for the time, enjoy what we have in our lives, not what and who is missing. And maybe this is the year that instead of merely lurking on blogs and Facebook pages, more adoptees and natural mothers will get involved in reform. Every one who speaks up takes up is another cog in the wheels of change.
As the year ends, we thank you all for your comments, your insights, your support of one another. We've both learned from you, our readers.
And Jane and I wish all of you a Happy New Year!--lorraine
*Corrected on Jan. 2, 2016. For more detail on Colorado, see the comments below.