' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Summing up 2015 in adoption


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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Summing up 2015 in adoption

I see blue skies somewhere...
I could write: look how far we've come for adoptee rights. Or: look how far we yet have to go. Both would be accurate. This year we've seen progress in continuing to bring our cause to more people's attention. Nearly two decades after Oregon became one of the first states to unseal adoptees' original birth certificates, the state passed legislation allowing birth parents to request adoption court records--a first.

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 another first, in that ground-breaking state of Oregon, birth parents can easily obtain a court order allowing them to access adoption records which include the names of the adoptive parents and the adoptive name of their child unless the children were removed from the home by the state. The judge must grant the order unless there is a good reason not to. This is a 180 degree switch from the old law where birth parents had to give a good reason to obtain the records. Adoptees can obtain the records without a court order; all they need is identification, Adoption agencies can disclose information from their records including the names of the adoptive parents and adoptive name of the child. Let's give a shout out here to fellow blogger and attorney Jane who has been on a legislative committee forging new adoption policy in Oregon.

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. 

Oregon to allow first mothers easier access to child's adoption records

Another year of progress in adoption reform

Ohio opens sealed birth records Friday


  1. Thanks for the recap! It's definitely progress! If you want to read more about the Ohio laws specifically or are looking for support in Ohio, you can learn more at my blog. Happy New Year!

  2. According to Mari Steed, the CO law does contain a disclosure veto that was in place before 2016:
    SB 14-051 provides access to original birth certificates upon request to adult adoptees regardless of adoption finalization date, but also enacted what is described as a “Contact Preference Form." However, in addition to stating a contact preference, the forms contain an option for the birthparent “to authorize or not authorize the release of the original birth certificate to eligible parties.” (In other words, a disclosure veto).

    The disclosure veto option on the CPF under SB 14-051 expires on January 1, 2016. Thereafter, CPFs will not be distributed that contain a disclosure veto option. However, this bill provides that any vetoes filed prior to January 1, 2016 remain in full force and effect.

    1. Thanks for the correction! I got my information yesterday afternoon from the AAC page on state legislation, which does show Colorado as a full access state, which surprised me. I read the law a couple of time and I thought it got rid of the exceptions--and with AAC listing it as an "access" state, not partial, I thought something happened that I was not aware of.
      AT the American Adoption Congress site:

      SB 51 (Tochtrop/Saine) was signed into law on May 22, 2014. The bill repeals and reenacts portions of existing law (see Section 19-5-305, C.R.S.). Creates a uniform standard of access to adoption records held in court and state agency files effective 7/1/14. Starting 1/1/16, it makes original birth certificates in the possession of the Colorado State Registrar available to adult adoptees, and certain other eligible family members, upon request with proof of identification and payment of a fee. Allows an eligible party to request that the State Registrar perform a search for the death certificate of a sought party and provide a copy of the death certificate. Eliminates the option on current 2005 version of the Contact Preference Form for birth parents to authorize or not authorize release of the OBC effective 1/1/16. Preserves current access to records (see below) and OBCs during transition period from 7/1/14 to 1/1/16. Preserves confidentiality of records from the general public. Preserves option for a searching party to utilize the services of a Confidential Intermediary if they so choose. Full text of measure as signed by Governor John Hickenlooper. Visit the Colorado State Judicial Branch website for updated court forms and instructions on how to request records.

  3. More discussion over exactly what the law in Colorado is today. I had asked for information from states with action in the last year but go no response from CO until the blog was posted. And I relied on the AAC site. I will try to find out from the state how many vetos or negative contact preferences are on file.

    No one on a birth certificate can file a veto as of today (in effect Jan. 1. 2016). However, if a veto or contact preference form had been filed (allowed under a previous law), it stays in effect unless retracted; or there is mutual consent of the reunited parties (meaning the birth parent and child have already reunited; or the birth parent is deceased, or the adoptee obtains a court order. In effect, this law will be similar to the NJ law as after a certain date no one will be able to file a disclosure veto. Yes, it continues to be unfair, but after the state passes a law allowing a veto, it then seems "unfair" to then declare those vetoes are invalid. The state thus creates a legal dilemma for itself.

    The important relevant language found in Section 19-5-305(1.5)(d)(III) states: IF THERE IS NO CONTACT PREFERENCE FORM ON FILE PRIOR TO JANUARY 1,
    PAGE 3-SENATE BILL 14-051

  4. Lorraine, thanks for posting the language. There have been about 125 CPFs filed since 2005, with just 9 filed since 7/1/14. We don't know what preferences have been stated on them. If you read the posted language carefully, it says that any CPF stating a preference for non-disclosure may not be released before 1/1/16-- not that the "veto" remains in effect after 1/1/16. This has been confirmed by the attorney from Legislative Legal Services who drafted the bill, the assistant AG who advises Vital Records, and our attorney who helped draft the language. Please correct your post. Thanks.

  5. Over 2000 OBC requests have already been processed since a 2009 Court of Appeals ruling that granted access to records for those whose adoptions were finalized between 7/1/51 and 1/1/67.

  6. Rich-Well, then, does that mean as of yesterday, or realistically the first day the state offices are open, ANYONE can get their ORIGINAL BIRTH CERTIFICATE? No matter if their birth mother filed a veto. It sounds like you are saying that. If so, then today Colorado is a full access state.

    1. If that is not the case, can you state without just posting the legalese, who will be able to get their OBCs from now on.

  7. Happy New Year to all here. Mine is especially happy, as my son and wife and adopted grandkids are coming here to visit for the first time ever, and will also be meeting my son Dan who lives with us. I am a nervous wreck but also totally delighted that my son is finally coming home! We have been to their place but this time they wanted to come here. We hope to take the kids to a little local museum, and I am so excited to get to use our grandparent's membership:-)

    1. Congratulations are in order! I hope you have a wonderful time. So much good has happened for you in the last couple of years, after so long a wait.

    2. It all went great! We has a lot of fun at the museum which is very kid friendly and had lots of hands-on activities. The kids were all over the place, they had little supervision in foster care, but my son and wife are very good with them, firm but patient. We went out in the field to try out the light-up football I gave my grandson who loves football, and my granddaughter is a little sweetie who wanted to hold grandma's hand:-) The brothers got along fine. My son liked some of my old artwork around the house, and they gave me beautiful glass creatures, a pelican, a pumpkin, and a lovely Swarovski crystal ornament.We all love glass, they have a bunch in their home too. It was a perfect day, all both really special and blessedly normal.

    3. I am truly happy for you. Oddly enough, I love glass and crystal myself.

    4. Thanks ladies, I appreciate your good wishes. I could not have imagined this in the many years of no response. Things have gotten even better on this super grandparents weekend; my youngest son called from CA with the news that his wife gave birth to their baby boy yesterday afternoon, third grandchild and first biological grandchild for us! Mom and baby are well and healthy, no complications. He is extra cute judging from pics and video, but then I am prejudiced:-)

  8. Thanks Lorraine. Yes, as of yesterday, or in reality Monday January 4, the following parties have direct access to the OBC and certain adoption records (including the Final Order of Relinquishment): the adult adoptee (18+); a birth/first parent named on the obc; the adoptive parents or custodial grandparents of a minor adoptee; a sibling who shares at least one commom birth/first parent with the adoptee; and with the adoptee's written consent, an adult descendant, spouse or adoptive sibling of the adoptee, or the above parties if the adoptee is deceased; or the legal representative of any such person. This is true, regardless of any preference stated on a CPF filed prior to 1/1/16 (this is why there was a wait period from 7/1/16 to now). A significant percentage (we don't know how many) of any non-disclosure preferences filed were already negated by the 2009 Court of Appeals ruling that granted access to records for adoptions finalized between 1951 and 1967. The new law makes the other time periods consistent with the court ruling, since similarly situated people were being treated differently under the law. Happy 2016, CO adoptees! The new form should up on the CDPHE Vital Records site Monday. Also, don't forget that birth/first parents can now get copies of records they signed during the relinquishment process as well.

    1. To be clear--Richard, every adoptee over 18 with a Colorado birth certificate can now get a copy of it? And for good measure so can the adoptive parents of minors, and a sibling, full or half...? And there are no exceptions, as in the case of OH, which still has a little hole in the inclusiveness.

  9. The one "hole" left over from the old law is in the (imo very rare or nonexistent) case in which both birthparents are named on the obc, and only one of the two has consented to the release of the OBC, the name of the nonconsenting parent would be redacted. The adoptee still gets the OBC, but with only one name. Given that only about 25% of all CO OBCs include both names, and there is no way to know how many of those have a "yes" CPF filed, all I can say is that it is possible that a very small number of people could fall into this quirky category.

    1. Aha! It is hard to say that this is not "full access." If you get one name...and it is almost always going to be the mother--you have as much information as most people who get one with something like "unknown" where "father" should be. Once again, I will note this above in the post itself since not everyone will be following all the comments. Weird little gap in the law.

    2. Rich--It's been interesting having this conversation!

    3. You use the word "consented." I am taking that to mean a passive consent by not having had filed a veto in the past? Fixing a terrible law of social engineering is taking a lot of time--with complications galore.

  10. The old CPF, created as a result of a hijacked bill we ran in 2005, had boxes to check saying whether the bp "authorized" or did not authorize release of the OBC. If no CPF is on file, the adoptee gets the unredacted OBC. If both parents filed a CPF authorizing release,same situation. But if one authorized and the other didn't, then the OBC is released with only the consenting bp's name. So, out of an estimated 70,000 OBCs on file, at most a couple hundred CPFs have been filed. Of those, any pertaining to adoption finalized between 1951 and 1967 were negated by a Court of Appeals ruling. Of the remaining records, the adoptee or descendant gets the unredacted OBC if/once the birth parent is deceased. A certain percentage of adoptees won't request their OBC for any number of reasons. So in our view, the chances of all these factors aligning to produce an OBC with one name redacted seem virtually nil, though still possible. Thanks backatcha for a good conversation.

  11. How will the office of vital stats know a birth parent is deceased, especially if they have moved out of state or did not die in CO? Death certificates I believe are filed in the state and county where the death occurred.

  12. One thing is clear to me -- the scales have tipped to allowing access. About a third of the states allow most adoptees to access their OBCs and states are beginning to allow natural parents access to adoption records. Access states include a couple of big ones --Illinois and Ohio.

    My New Year's prediction is that within three years the majority of states will open records. With the prevalence of open adoptions and internet-facilitated reunions and the demise of opponents, people will soon ask what all the fuss was about.

    1. Ohio has a very small window of people who are still denied, as does Illinois, which I do not count as an "access" state because a birth parent may file a veto as long as the she or he is alive: A birth parent of an adoptee born after 1945 may file a form to veto disclosure of the birth parent's identity for as long as the birth parent is alive.

      In fact, it is a more restrictive provision than what passed in NJ: The birth parent who relinquished a child for adoption BEFORE August 1, 2015 may submit a request for redaction of their name and other identifying information of the birth parent to the office of the Registrar before December 31, 2016. After that, it is too late.

      In my mind, any restrictions prevent a state from being fully free for adoptees, and still gives the state control of the identity of a certain class of people. Ohio restrictive window is very small. God willing, someone will see the absurdity of their restriction and move into to get rid of that absurdity. As I ws looking over these laws, all I could think of was: What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive....and deception is what changed/amended birth certificates do. They are legal documents that perpetuate a lie.

  13. I agree, Jane. sealed records are as antique and stupid a law as prohibition, and it is time they ended. Time is on our side on this one, nothing bad happens in states where records are open, and people are beginning to see that.

  14. ...Bill Pierce, founder of the National Council for Adoption, once told Florence that on day the records would be open. This is despite all the doomsday garbage he spoke to the media.

  15. How do I get information on Florida laws concerning birth mother rights.

    1. Cheryl, go to the FMF Resources page, link on lower right. The page gives you a link to state laws. The Resources page also has a link to a site where you may be able to find a free or low cost attorney to help you.


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