' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Adoptees, first parents rally in Manhattan for adoptee rights

Monday, June 10, 2013

Adoptees, first parents rally in Manhattan for adoptee rights

Sen.Velmanette Montgomery, Asbm. David Weprin, Carol Schaefer, Lorraine
The odds of buying a cup of coffee from your father and not knowing he is related to you are not quite off the charts, but that is certainly a rare coincidence. Yet it happens. Joe DeCarlo Pessalona said of frequenting a deli in Manhattan's Greenwich Village: "I used to buy my coffee from him [his father] and I had no idea it was him." he said. Pessalona
related this incident yesterday at a press conference in support of the Adoptee Rights Bill in New York that would allow adult adoptees to obtain a copy of their original, unamended birth certificates at age 18. The incident was reminiscent of Steve Job's going into his father's restaurant in California before he knew who his father was.

A enthusiastic group of adoptees and first parents in support of the proposed legislation--approximately a hundred strong--demonstrated in the hot sun at New York's City Hall. The chief sponsor of the bill, Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Queens), stated in his introductory remarks: "The Bill of Adoptee Rights allows adoptees to gain knowledge of their religious and ethnic heritage and gain access to vital medical information that may be beneficial for preventative health care for the treatment of diseases or disorders linked to family history and genetics."

Weprin then related the story of first mother Jill Auerbach who found her son as he was approaching 40, and was able to inform him that both his father and paternal grandfather died of heart disease in the 40s. The information, Weprin said, allowed him to see cardiologist because now he had "valuable and life-saving information" that he would not have otherwise had. He pointed out that not only may Auerbach have saved her son's life, she also found the peace that such a reunion can bring, but was able to do so only because she had the resources to hire a private investigator. This right of mother and child to connect--and share such valuable medical data--he added, should be readily available to everyone, a feat that would be accomplished for most if adoptees were given their unamended birth certificates.

On the steps of City Hall in Manhattan yesterday                                      Photo by David Petruzziello
Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, (D-Brooklyn), who is co-sponsoring the bill in the Senate, pointed out that the bill has bi-partisan support in both houses of the New York legislature, and that she was hopeful for passage if not this session, in this legislature, which has another year to run before an election. Any previous concerns about "birth parent rights" had been addressed, she added. The bills (A909 and S2490) have a contact preference clause that would not prevent adoptees from getting their original birth certificates. The birth parents may opt to be contacted by an intermediary, indicate they wish for direct contract from their son or daughter, or that they prefer not to be "contacted" at all; but in event, the individual would get a copy of his original birth certificate. When asked why the bill had not already passed, she simply said, "politics."

Ah yes, politics.

Weprin noted that we have 82 sponsors of the bill and he was quite adamant that if he can get the bill to the floor of the Assembly, it would pass. Passage in the Assembly would certainly give new focus to the Senate bill, co-sponsored there with Anthony Lanza (R-Staten Island).

Pessalona said that he was able to get all of his information because his adoptive parents had it. "Babies grow up to be adults," he said, "and we want to know our medical history and genealogy and heretige."

Weprin and enthusiastic supporter
It sounds like such a simple and basic right: Let the adopted know who they were before they were adopted, who they were when they were born, but it is taking a half century of countless time and effort and money to get there. First mother Joyce Bahr, addressed birth-parent privacy, the main reason our opponents give when they oppose this bill. She noted the right of the adoptee must trump the right of the birth parent or adoptive parent. Joyce is the founder of Unsealed Initiative, the group of first parents and adoptees advocating the release of original birth certificates to the adopted.

Zara Phillips, an adoptee singer/songwriter from England now an American citizen, said that while the United States was seen as a leader in many areas it was hard to understand how behind we could be on adoptee rights, noting that England opened its records to adoptees in 1975, and has done so without incident.

In my moments at the mike, I spoke of how first mothers do not make "new lives" without the children present in our life, and that most of us think of them all the time--but whether we do or not, any supposed right to privacy we have should not be the law of the land. What I was not able to do was read the names of the many out-of-state New York adoptees and birth mothers who contacted me last week in support of this bill. They have no real voice in the legislature because they have no elected representatives that they can go to and ask for their support and vote on this issue; yet as they were born and adopted in New York State the right to their identities--and for first mothers, the identities of their children--is tied up here. Although adoptions are declining in general, the practice of placing children with families in other states will exacerbate the lack of representation for the adopted in their state of birth.

I am posting here the names of the adoptees and first mothers who left me their information who could not be there with us yesterday. A few are from New York, but the great majority live out of state.  Weprin stated what we have said her again and again: legislators need emails and letters to let them know there is a crying need for this legislation. Everyone with a New York connection needs to contact the Speaker of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver, and let him know this legislation must be passed, that the time for waiting is over. The email addresses are in the right sidebar. Please contact Weprin and thank him for being a tireless supporter of the Adoptee Rights Bill--he can bring hundreds of emails to the floor if he has them, but only if he has them--and Sheldon Silver needs to hear from you too, as he is the man who controls most of the legislation that gets passed in Albany. Then you need to send the same email to New York's Governor, Andrew Cuomo.

There are only two weeks left in this session. Time is running out. The last day of this session is June 20. Let them hear from you NOW. If you do live in New York, please also contact your own assemblyman and legislator. Be heart-felt about why this legislation is important to you, be assertive, be brief. We do have opposition--surrogate court judges have gotten into the act opposing us for reasons of birth mother privacy; some legislators such as Helene Weinstein and Danny O'Donnell (Rosie's brother) will never vote for our bill. But the rights of the adopted to know their true identities must trump all other rights. No one should be denied their identity because it will embarrass someone, however deeply they have kept this secret. No adopted person should be denied the truth of their origins. It must be an inviolate right for all men if all men are truly to be free and equal.--lorraine 

VIDEO OF THE EVENT AT CITY HALL, filmed by Victor Gamble 

Out of state adoptees and birth mothers: 

Erica Sohlstrom Varnell, Born in New York City, January 18, 1945, lives in Houston TX now.

Elizabeth Fiffie nee Boutell, Born in 1971 in Rochester, currently resides in Florida. 

Mattie Vega Gorski: Born Mattie Lancaster, June 24, 1944 at City Hospital, Manhattan, N.Y. Then called Blackwell Island, Roosevelt Island, etc. Aug. 4th I was placed in the home of Jennie & Leopold Gorski. Adopted by them on Sept. 1949. I want the right to my original Birth Certificate, to find out my Mother's name, etc.

Patti Gallagher, Born 1959 in Rochester, currently lives in Burlington, VT

James Winter, Born 1955 in Middleton; resides in Deland, FL 

Michael Potter, Born May 19th, 1970 in Albany, New York; in Portland currently.

Karen Virginia Brush Lenhard, b. in Buffalo NY 6-13-49, Resides in Denver, Colorado

Katherine F. Trumbaturi My name was Shirley Ann Alford, born in Queens NY April 4, 1944, lives in Satsuma, Fl

Arlene Vislocky. Born Female Cassidy, June 19, 1953 Unity Hospital, St. John’s Place, Brooklyn, New York; Adoption finalized in Nassau County, December 1953; lives in Boca Raton, FL 

Joanne Pagnotta Currao;  Born Tracey Elisabeth McCullough in 1964 in New York, NY, lives in West Chester, PA

Dorothy (Cornell) Conley; Born/adopted in Brooklyn in 1948, lives in Virginia

Jeni Gay Flock, Born she thinks, 1968, in Utica, resides in Atlanta

Lisa Hedlund Sampson, Born 1979 in NYC, now lives in Waterboro, Maine

Leigh Tyler nee Tadddeo, Born 1968 in the Bronx

Ed Grazioso, Born 1966, adopted in Brentwood

Mary Ann Krandis, Born 1968, New York Foundling Home, lives in Hudson, Florida

Kathy Johnson, born 1947 in Lackawanna, lives in Cambridge, Mass.

Sylvia Chechester Ackerson, Gave up a son in Albany, 1965, lives in NC

Keith Sciarillo, Birth name Stephan Spiegel, Born 1979 in Manhattan, lives in MD

Joseph Russell, Born 1918, Manhattan. History being searched by family

Linda Solomon, Born 1948, the Bronx, lives in Tucson

Gaye Tannenbaum, Born 1953  on Staten Island, now lives in Uraguay

Joan Dennan, Born 1956 in Queens, as Baby Girl Forest, lives in Delores, CO

Margie Pregent, Born 1964 in Syracuse, lives in Cleveland

Elizabeth Stern, Born 1982, in NYC, lives in West Orange, NJ

Mary Kathryn Stevenson, her daughter Julie was born 1967 in Buffalo, surrendered in Rochester

Dorothy Cornell Connelly, Born 1948 in Brooklyn, now lives in Virginia

Julie Larson, Born 1951 in NY, now lives in Greer, SC

Todd Hollister, Born in Manhattan in 1963, adopted in Nassau County the following year. Had my non-ID since 1997 and am still searching for both birth parents. Currently lives in NM

Nancy Hatch Annas, age 67Searching for Casey Ann, born in Rochester in 1968. Resides in Yarmouth, ME

Tracy Teza, Born Carol Mackey 1960 in Syracuse, lives in Florida

Elizabeth Steen/1982 relinquished in NYC, Lives West Orange, NJ


Andrea Lang-Lubovich, Baby Mary Lynn (or Marylynn)  Born at OLV Infant Home on Monday, 04 September 1967, lives Tampa Bay, FL

Sheldon La Vern Barber, born in 1944 in Buffalo, lives in Denham Springs, Louisiana 70726

Lynn Sheer, surrendered a son, Mark David Sheer in Buffalo in 1968; presently lives in Chloe, WV

Julie Hastings Schneider , Born 1960 in Elmira, NY;  currently lives in Charleston, SC
Mary Beth ( Howenstein) Knoblauch, born 1960 in  Schenectady , NY., now resides in in Oak Island, NC

Joanne Denner, Born  2/19/56 as Baby girl Forrest in Queens NY, now lives in Dolores Colorado

Diane Howell Bianchi, Born 1974, Middletown, NY (Orange County), lives in West Palm Beach, FL

Renee Ast, give birth to son in 2011, now lives in FL Anne Winslow (born Lily Marlene Tinga). Born on 2/8/63 in Manhattan, NY (St. Vincent's), now lives in  Lancaster, PA until I finish school, and then will return to Baltimore, MD

Ed Gunsalus, born in Albany NY, 1956, Adopted 33 days after I was born, currently resides in Dallas, Texas. I so hope this passes this session. My birth mother would be 84 years old if she's still alive. 

Carol Warner Burdick, Born in Town of Union, Johnson City, NY @Springer Hospital on 12/14/48 Home for unwed mothers. Please open records...we have rights too

Judith Scanlon (birth name Cecelia Jones) DOB 10-01-1956, Binghamton, Now living in Orleans, MA.  I lived in MA for 40 years and could have had my OBC years ago if I had been born in MA, but I lack the same rights as my fellow MA-born adult adopted citizens because I was born in NY State. 

Elizabeth Ann Hamlin (nee Shrout) Born March 11, 1968 in Buffalo, adopted thru Lutheran Service Society, Now living in Covington Ohio   THANK YOU!!!!

Mitchel Weinberger (birth surname Katz) DOB 12/12/1956, Brooklyn, Now living in Seattle, WA

Debra Glaser, born Mary Geoffrey, DOB: 2/13/1954 Union, Broome County

Scott Paul Overmyer (John Phillip Adams) Born: 3/31/1952, Union, NY (Springer Hospital), currently living in Astana, Kazakhstan & Toronto, SD

Jessica Tagliferro, Born in NYC in 1972, now residing in Fairfield Co. CT. I support open birth records.

Ruth Hochberg Salsman, born in New York, 1965, now lives in PA.


  1. Kudos, Lorraine. Interesting press conference to say the least.

    My son worked in a store that I serviced as a merchandiser. If I had ran into him. I would have done a double check on him. He looks like his dad as does his full sister they are book ends.
    We always were within 10 miles of each other but to work in same store is amazing. Time elements may have been different but not by much. He was there a short time, I was there a little longer.

    Was the guy with the baby and adoptee or was his wife? Annoying to me.

    Also, the man that started talking about slaves not knowing their ages he needed to stay on point.
    I assume he was relating slaves, and adoptees not knowing facts. Just long and hard to follow.

  2. Congratulations on a successful press conference. I relinquished in California, another supposedly progressive state that has yet to open records. I was involved in early efforts there, but no such luck. For cryin' out loud, why don't they GET IT!?

  3. I was talking to a friend of mine last night--someone who totally "gets it" about why adopted people should get their original birth certificates, and I said, something like, It sounds so simple, like this should have happened a long time ago.

    She said, Oh, no--I know a lot of adoptive parents.

    Meaning: She hears from them a great deal why ... they don't want "their" children to have their real unamended records, and thus find out they are not from the same tribe.

    I think that our opponents who use first mothers' skirts to hide behind are really using it as a smoke screen--various religions don't want the truth to come out because then...their children would not be, say, officially Jewish. There was a piece in the paper the other day about the controversy over whether the purchased egg has to come from a Jewish mother to be create a truly Jewish person. And my friends, that may be part of the issue.

    More to say about this at a later date.

  4. All of the adopted children I know of who were raised by Jewish parents were quietly taken to the mikveh (ritual bath) for formal conversion. None of the ones I knew of were older than toddlers, so it bore a resemblance to take-a-dip-with-daddy rather than anything scary.

    In fact, the Jewish nursery school my sons attended had a mikveh on the premises, and a crowd around its always-locked door signaled "adoption day." (Women who use a mikveh monthly go at night.)

    So, in my non-rabbinical function, I would assume that unless an observant Jewish couple knew for a fact that a purchased/donor egg came from a Jewish female (a sister, say), it would be routine to complete the ritual immersion shortly after the circumcision (for boys) or baby-naming ceremony (for girls).

  5. What Makes a Jewish Mother

    from the story:

    Since the 1990s, the consensus among Jewish authorities has been that the bearing mother, not the woman who provided the gametes, is the child’s mother. But recently the pendulum has begun to swing the other way. Some rabbis in Israel now say if the donor is not Jewish, then the child is not Jewish. Opinions coming out of Israel carry a lot of weight.

    “If the egg is from a non-Jew, then the DNA is from the other person,” said Rabbi Shaul Rosen, who founded A TIME, a support network for infertile Jewish couples. “In order for that child to be Jewish, it would have to go through a conversion ceremony like any other non-Jew.”

    While this certainly is not the issue among adoptive parents, it is possible that a part of the reason that our staunch oppositsion comes from a "liberal" Jewish woman, is that many or some adoptive parents in her district do not want to deal with this issue one way or the other, and urge her not to open the records, which they see as a Pandora's Box of difficulties.

    Call me crazy, but Helene Weinstein's opposition is fierce. His district has a large Jewish population. On another note, our strongest supporters are also Jewish, so this may have absolutely nothing to do with her opposition. Just sayin.'

  6. VERY interesting article, thank you. For me, here's the money quote:

    “'We don’t want people to say, "‘My child is more or less Jewish than your child,’" ” Rabbi Weitzman said."

    But yet they do, in the Jewish community. Because I've written publicly about Jewish identity issues--been on teevee and everything--I've had any number of people frown at me and ask, "Are your children REALLY Jewish?"

    Yes, they are. They really, really are.

  7. Denise.

    I had my son in Ca too. He petitioned court, the first judge said no they wanted my notorized signature, I also sent a copy of
    his dad's death certificate in
    case that was the next problem.

    If your son is willing you may be able to get it.

    It was so nice seeing my name on cert along with dad no lies there.
    I had my son in 66 took them a year to send it. Had to call Sacramento and the lady said she had it on her desk...hello can she send it....I thanked her for her attention.

    ps named my son after his dad..


  8. Curious, were there any adoptive
    parents there?

  9. To that I do not know the answer. I did not meet any. That would have been nice. To see adoptive parents at a demonstration for adoptee rights.

    In general, ain't gonna happen.


  10. I am an adult adoptee, born in Middletown, NY in 1955, and currently live in DeLand, Florida. My natural mother and father have both passed, but I have been successfully reunited with my natural siblings for over 3 years now. There is absolutely no reason why I shouldn't have access to my original birth certificate and adoption papers. This information belongs to me. It is who I really am and has information I still do not know about myself, that non adoptees can take for granted. I did not choose to be separated from my family. That choice was taken from me (and my natural mother) and no person or government has the right to keep it from me now that I am an adult. Thank you for your proactive support of this initiative.

  11. I know when I was born and one of the doctors who delivered me in Queens in 1944. Want answers....



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