Advance “CLEAN” New York Bill of Adoptee Rights
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New York residents, natives and all friends to adoption reform:
HELP NY ADOPTEES GAIN UNRESTRICTED ACCESS TO THEIR ORIGINAL BIRTH CERTIFICATES! PLEASE SIGN AND SHARE!
Since the 1930s, New York State adoption records have been sealed.
Sealing adoption records includes the denial of original birth certificates which hinder adoptees from knowing their origins and seeking complete health history. We believe that adoptees should not be denied heritage or treated as though they have a pre-existing medical condition (simply for being adopted) that is not consistent with current national initiatives to extend healthcare to all. New York adoptees are being left behind.
Adoptees who appeal to NY courts with medical concerns are routinely denied, and some have died without the benefit of proper healthcare.
This is a blatant violation of basic human rights and the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
For over 20 years, NY lawmakers have been considering legislation for adoption reform.
The law must be changed in New York as soon as possible.
As of 2016, nine other U.S. states offer unrestricted access to original birth certificates for adult adoptees. Seven of the nine states enacted unrestricted birth certificate access / “clean” reform (Alabama, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon and Rhode Island). The other two states, Alaska and Kansas, never sealed adult adoptee birth certificates.
In Oregon, judicial precedent was set by upholding unrestricted birth certificates access / “clean” reform:
- Oregon citizens approved a ballot measure for unrestricted birth certificate access / “clean” reform (1998)
- Oregon state courts upheld the ballot measure (1999)
- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor helped, refusing to delay Oregon reforms (2000)
We are fighting to make New York the next unrestricted birth certificate access / “clean” reform state:
From 2003 – 2015, the NY Bill of Adoptee Rights would have allowed adult adoptees (18+) the right to a copy of their original birth certificate to help them search and confirm health history (similar to the other nine unrestricted birth certificates access states). Birth parents would have been able to complete non-binding “contact preference” forms at any time to designate openness to contact from adoptees.
Sadly, in June 2015, the NY Bill of Adoptee Rights was weakened by some of the 22 member Assembly Codes Committee. The amendments replace unrestricted birth certificate access / "clean" reform with a process that would begin with a court petition, followed by a bureaucratic and costly four month state-run intermediary birth parent search procedure. It then leaves tremendous power in the hands of judges who will apparently retain the unfair option (“discretion”) to withhold birth certificate information (actually redact an adoptee's own original birth certificate); even in cases where a birth parent cannot be found, or may desire contact and/or to at least share their name with the adoptee! These are the same NY judges who have denied adoptees’ health history petitions for years and who remain PUBLICLY OPPOSED to any adoption reform upon grounds that have been repeatedly “debunked” here and in other states!
That proposal's costly and slow bureaucracy ignores the task of honoring the human and civil rights of NY adoptees. Rights cannot be compromised.
Happily, on March 10, 2017, Senator Tony Avella introduced a new “clean” NY Bill of Adoptee Rights! The new bill offers:
- Unrestricted access to long form original birth certificates (OBC) for adult adoptees, just like all citizens and adults who “age-out” of foster care!
- OBC access for family, or legal representatives, if the adoptee is deceased
- OBC access for legal representatives / social services
Adoptees in New York deserve to get adoption reform right the first time!
We believe your voice can help encourage NY lawmakers to ADVANCE the “clean” legislation now.
PLEASE SIGN THIS PETITION: ADVANCE THE “CLEAN” NY BILL OF ADOPTEE RIGHTS!
This petition will ask the New York Assembly and New York Senate to advance the “CLEAN” NY Bill of Adoptee Rights proposal (begun March 10, 2017), and reject the amended proposal (begun in June 2015).
PLEASE SIGN AND SHARE THIS PETITION WITH OTHERS!
Advance "CLEAN" NY Bill of Adoptee Rights!
We, the supporters of this human and civil rights petition, feel very strongly that New York will benefit from a “clean,” New York Law of Adoptee Rights (S5169-A / A6821-A). “Clean” reform will allow all adult adoptees to gain unrestricted access to their original birth certificates.
WE RESPECTFULLY ASK:
1. VETO, and actively reject, A5036-B / S4845-B:
This bill "relates to adoptee rights” but, in fact, would deny adoptees any new rights to access information about their origins. Even legislators who have reluctantly voted in the affirmative openly admit, in floor debates in both houses, that it is poor legislation. It maintains a judicial structure, adds an intermediary function to the Department of Health and increases the ways adult adoptees will be infantilized and denied access to vital information. It masquerades as a "first step forward" and is really a discriminatory leap backward. From a practical standpoint, it is fiscally wasteful and was never vetted through any legislative hearing. It has failed to win the support of any major organizations or adoption reform groups.
2. Support, and actively advance, S5169-A / A6821-A:
This is the "clean" New York Bill of Adoptee Rights. The 2015 – 2016 forerunner companion bills (A2901 / S3314) garnered, before amendment to A2901, over 80 cosponsors in the Assembly and 28 in the Senate, including the Senate Majority Leader! The new companion bills, S5169-A / A6821-A, will, as widely intended in the legislature, restore the right to obtain original birth certificates for adult adoptees. It pursues equal human and civil rights policy based on well supported logic, research and best practices. It is economically sound and similar policy in other states has, for decades, been politically successful and able to withstand legal challenge. Its merit, and pertinence to New York, was well established at the January 2014 Assembly Health Committee hearing on adoptee rights. It has gained support from major organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics, The Child Welfare League of America, the North American Council on Adoptable Children and the Donaldson Adoption Institute, just to name just a few.
WHAT ARE SOME WAYS A5036-B / S4845-B WOULD DISCRIMINATE AGAINST ADOPTEES?
Under present law, adoptees may gain access to their original birth certificates via rarely granted court orders. A tiny minority in the Assembly mistakenly suggest these court orders are granted with regularity. From this overtly false premise, they then argue that no reform is necessary. Nothing could be further from the truth as court orders are rarely granted and the need for reform is imperative. Yet, under A5036-B / S4845-B, the law would become even more stringent. Birth parents, who were never offered life-long anonymity, nor do they want it over 95% of the time, would, even though they surrendered all parental rights, receive the new right to have the adult adoptees’ original birth certificates redacted. And, if the birth parents do not respond or cannot be located via the expensive 120-day state quest to locate them, then the judges will retain the “discretion” to redact anyway. Where there are two identified birth parents, and only one requests confidentiality, the release of the other birth parent’s information would, amazingly, also be subject to the discretion of the court. As such, we may surmise that even birth parents who want to share their names may, at the end of the day, be blocked from doing so. Note that the judges went on record in January 2014 opposing adoptee access based primarily on the “debunked” premise of past promises of confidentiality in the law and on surrender forms. So, it’s not challenging to see how court “discretion” might play out.
UNRESTRICTED ACCESS IN THE UNITED STATES AND ELSEWHERE:
Many other nations, including England, Australia and Israel, offer adoptees access to their original birth certificates and/or adoption records. As of 2016, nine other U.S. states offer unrestricted access to the original birth certificates for adult adoptees. Seven of the nine states enacted “clean” reform (Alabama, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon and Rhode Island). The other two states, Alaska and Kansas, never sealed adult adoptee birth certificates.
MULTI-PARTISAN SUPPORT FOR “CLEAN” REFORM NOW:
A growing number of our legislators, across all party lines, now see the importance of getting adoption reform right the first time. Notable examples include, but are not limited to:
• Independent Democratic Conference: Tony Avella, prime sponsor
• Democratic: Bobby Carroll, prime cosponsor. His statement from the Assembly floor:
• Republican: Dean Murray, who we welcome as a new cosponsor to A6821-A. On the floor of the Assembly, after hearing from many supporters of this petition, he said:
“What surprised me was every single one of these emails, every single one of these messages I got, they begged me to please vote no on this [A5036-B / S4845-B]. As much as— as I said, I’m a cosponsor of the bill [A5036-B / S4845-B] and I recognize what we’re trying to do, but when we have the people we’re trying to help reaching out begging, saying please vote no on this, I’m going to have to vote in the negative on this bill . . .
Now it’s my turn to beg. I’m going to beg and I’m going to plead the [Democratic] majority leadership to let the other bill move forward [S5169-A / A6821-A]. Let the bill move forward that is going to deliver what [adoptees] really want and need.”
We feel that comments such as these had the vital effect of reframing the debate away from the two false notions that either (a) A5036-B / S4845-B is an acceptable first step or (b) a vote in the negative on A5036-B / S4845-B can be automatically construed as opposition to adoptee rights in general. To be clear, neither of these ideas is true.
BENEFITS OF A "CLEAN" NEW YORK LAW OF ADOPTEE RIGHTS WILL INCLUDE:
1. Protection of health for many New Yorkers:
Direct access to original birth certificates will provide quicker, equal opportunity to confirm medical information, facilitate proper treatment and, in some cases, save the lives of adult adoptees and their families, who, by extension, are also denied rights with sealed records and regressive proposals. This human rights imperative alone would justify immediate action to support and advance the “clean” bill now. And it would be consistent with current state and national initiatives to extend healthcare to all. Anything less is tantamount to treating adoptees, who we estimate to be 3.34% of our population (647,960 sealed records), as though they have a pre-existing condition (being adopted) that would prevent them from gaining equal opportunity to seek appropriate healthcare, which begins with direct access to vital records and information. This would be an issue even if adult adoptees or minor adoptees, with help of adoptive parents, gain an option to request updated medical history at any time.
2. Saved money:
Unrestricted access to original birth certificates, which can allow for a non-binding birth parent contact preference form (but not a judicial or intermediary structure with redactions) is virtually free of charge to the state. In fact, adoptees would pay a nominal fee just like all other non-adopted New Yorkers, including those who "age out" and leave foster care as adults. However, the proposed employment of a bureaucratic, multi-department system (A5036-B / S4845-B) will slow court business and overburden the Department of Health whose main priority extends far beyond adoption. It will discriminate against adoptees, who will continue to be saddled with court filing costs, and require needless waste of taxpayer funds that could be better spent on other initiatives.
3. Progressiveness that is legally sound, achievable and effective:
New York, which considers itself a progressive state in general, has an opportunity to make a progressive, equality for all, statement on adoption reform, like the nine other unrestricted access states. Research has shown that unrestricted access provides orderly, beneficial results for all parts of the adoption triad (adoptees, birthparents and adoptive parents), and even suggests that the rate of adoptions will increase.
• Court of appeal upheld Oregon ballot initiative:
• Oregon statistics, for example, reflect national findings that a vast majority of birthparents are open to contact:
• Potential to raise adoption rate in any state:
4. Saved time:
New York’s resolution to proceed with unrestricted access will help ensure that the adoptees of New York, and their families, will be presented with a beneficial remedy to 1930s health laws that have failed our adopted citizens. Fragmentation of adoptee rights, or enacting a regressive proposal, will require that we continue to fight in Albany for the changes we have supported for over two decades, since reform was introduced to the legislature. We will not give up until Albany does what is necessary to fully honor our legal, civil and human rights in a complete and proper way.
NEW YORK CAN LEAD THE WAY FORWARD:
It is a hardship of unacceptable proportions to expect New York adoptees to tolerate the inadequacies of alternative, even regressive, proposals (A5036-B / S4845-B). Nor would it be fair to presume that we, adoptees of New York, are inherently insensitive to the worthy aims of compromise in cases where intent of proposed legislation can be preserved (S5169-A / A6821-A). We believe New York understands that it is the adopted child—who becomes an adult—that was supposed to be the primary beneficiary of adoption, not either set of parents.
On so many issues, for so long, New York has exercised, not the charity, but the wisdom to live up to its motto of "Excelsior” (ever upward). In the context of adoption reform, unrestricted access to original birth certificates for adult adoptees is how the Empire State will fulfill its long tradition of equality in a way that will make history and improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of our citizens. New Yorkers will benefit and, thus, New York will benefit. This will resonate across the United States and around the world.
Please veto / reject A5036-B / S4845-B and support / advance S5169-A / A6821-A, the New York Bill of Adoptee Rights.
Thank you for your consideration.
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