Petition update

Governor Cuomo Team Receives Our Appeal to Enact “CLEAN” Adoption Reform Law (S3419) + Status Report

Tim Monti-Wohlpart
Brooklyn, NY, United States

Jul 10, 2019 — 

Friends of “clean” adoption reform,

We remain right on target!  On July 4th, we had the privilege of making an updated petition delivery to Governor Cuomo’s counsel, with our appeal to enact S3419 into law.  We have confirmation that all materials are in review and, as always, this 14th delivery included your excellent comments!  Read on for status and our letter to the Governor.

TOPLINE UPDATE:

  • July 2nd: The Wall Street Journal quotes Tim on our appeal!  We thank Acacia Coronado and Alexis Gravely for including us!
    • "'We believe it is a basic human right to know where you come from, and so it is a basic civil right to have access to the documents,” said Tim Monti-Wohlpart, an adoptee and the national legislative chair for the American Adoption Congress."
    • "'The original birth certificate will be the restoration of equality,” Mr. Monti-Wohlpart said. “Ancestry and 23 and Me will never give that.'”
  • July 4th:  Petition delivery with S3419 supporting materials
  • Our new, detailed letter to Governor Cuomo, below the end of this update, may assist if you would like to now politely contact him in support of S3419 and adoptee rights.  We will also advise of a more specific call to action soon and / or when the Governor receives S3419 from the Senate.  

https://www.governor.ny.gov/content/governor-contact-form

518-474-8390

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

  • We remain in contact with:
    • Governor Cuomo’s senior staff
    • Sponsors, Assemblymember Weprin and Senator Montgomery. 
  • As previously reported, the next step is for S3419 to travel to Governor Cuomo (from the Senate).  With his signature, he can make New York the 10th U.S. State with a policy of unrestricted access to original birth certificates for all adult adoptees (and the 8th to enact such a law via “clean” adoption reform!) He can lead us to an awesome victory towards equality for all citizens!  

Read on for anticipated next steps, which we will continue to update you on, and adjust if necessary, as things proceed.  

2019—NEXT STEPS:

1.  Bill transmittal from NY Senate to Governor Cuomo: 

  • Will occur sometime between now and about 10 days before the end of the current calendar year.  We are not certain yet of an exact transmittal date.
  • Timing of transmittal can be affected by a number of factors including, but not necessarily limited to: volume of other bills, ongoing work to consider proposals and the effective date of a given bill.
  • As S3419 would go into effect on January 15, 2020, the pace of our proposal remains right on target.

2.   Governor receives the bill:

  • When the Governor receives S3419 from the Senate:  A finite period of days, from the time of receipt, will be afforded to make a final decision to enact or veto.
  • As we are in the middle of the 2019 – 2020 legislative session (which convenes two times from January to June), we believe the Governor will have 10 days (not counting Sundays), from the day of receipt, to make a final decision.

3.   Governor decision: 

  • If the Governor honors our appeal, he will sign S3419 into law before the end of 2019.  It would become an official Act of New York. 
  • We feel optimistic!  Whatever happens, our efforts for our proposal, and our cause, will continue!

4.   Department of Health: 

  • If the bill is approved by the Governor, we will remain in close contact with his Executive staff and the Department of Health.  We will assist if desired and / or appropriate, as they work to specify the new procedure for completing requests for copies of adoptee original birth certificates. 
  • We will report all details to you.  All specific procedures, such as forms to complete a request to the Department of Health, and the nominal fee, would be within the “clean” law enacted.


2020—NEXT STEPS:

1.   January 15, 2020 (Wednesday):

  • Law:  If Governor Cuomo approves S3419 (per 2019 steps noted above), then the “clean” Law of Adoptee Rights will go into effect on what would be this very great day in New York history (1/15/20)!
  • Process:  The Department of Health would be prepared to receive applications and nominal fees to begin processing requests for adult adoptee original birth certificates.
  • Joy:  Smile New York adoptees and direct line descendants!  If S3419 becomes law, this is the day we will regain equal citizenship in the Empire State for the first time since 1936!  We will thank all supporters!!

2.   Beyond:

  • We will declare a great victory for adoptee rights!
  • Our work to support adoptee equality will continue!

WE CONTINUE TO THANK:

  • You—Last month, we made history with overwhelming legislative passage of “clean” adoption reform!! Thank you for your ongoing support of our human and civil rights appeal. Including you, we count 8,800+ petition supporters and rising—Please keep sharing!
  • Sponsors Assemblymember Weprin and Senator Montgomery. And over 100 legislative cosponsors!
  • Allied advocates from across the state, including our American Adoption Congress (AAC) members and those from the New York Adoptee Rights Coalition (NYARC).
  • The American Adoption Congress, where Tim also serves, for ongoing support.   Check out, join and support the AACGo to the 2020 Conference is in San Diego (April 15 – 18, 2020)!

Contact Tim with outreach updates, questions or news you’d like to share!  tmw713@gmail.com

Adoptee rights are human rights!

Adoptee rights are civil rights!

Adoptee rights will again be New York rights!

Stay tuned for further updates and next steps to appeal to Governor Cuomo to lead New York forward!

Tim, Doris and Jennifer

=============================

GOVERNOR ANDREW M. CUOMO:

https://www.governor.ny.gov/content/governor-contact-form

518-474-8390

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

OUR CURRENT PETITION LETTER TO GOVERNOR CUOMO: (POLITELY BEGIN WITH YOUR OWN STORY OR THOUGHTS IF YOU CHOOSE TO ADD THE FOLLOWING TO YOUR LETTER)

RE:  Enactment of "CLEAN" NY Law of Adoptee Rights (S3419)

Governor Cuomo,

We, the supporters of this human and civil rights petition

( https://www.change.org/p/enact-clean-ny-law-of-adoptee-rights ), feel strongly that New York will benefit from the enactment of the “clean” Law of Adoptee Rights (S3419, companion bill is A5494). “Clean” reform will allow all adult adopted persons to regain unrestricted access to their original birth certificates.  This will advance equality in New York State.

OUR APPEAL:

We respectfully ask that S3419 be signed into law.  With your endorsement, it will go into effect on January 15, 2020.

PROGRESS:

During the 2019 - 2020 session, S3419 / A5494 has garnered:

S3419 WILL PROVIDE:

1.  Unrestricted access to long form original birth certificates for adult adopted persons.  This will restore rights commensurate to:

  • All non-adopted citizens, including those who “age out” of foster care
  • Nine others states, two of which never blocked adult adopted persons from accessing their original birth certificates
    • “Clean” reform enacted in:  Alabama, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon and Rhode Island
    • Access never blocked in:  Alaska and Kansas


2.  Original birth certificate access for direct line descendants, or legal representatives, if the adopted person is deceased

3.  Original birth certificate access for legal representatives of adopted persons 
 

BENEFITS OF “CLEAN” ADOPTION REFORM INCLUDE:

1.  Promotion of public health and well-being:  Equal opportunity to seek information such as medical history and heritage

2.  Fiscal common sense: The elimination of court filing fees, and the wasteful judicial process, will save money for both the State and adoptees.  Moreover, New York State will collect revenue from the nominal fee received to issue original birth certificates

3.  Progressiveness: Advancing genuine human and civil rights reform and equality

4.  Saved time: To enact historic reform that will be appropriate compared to the very different, vetoed regressive proposal that was expensive and unacceptable (2017):
https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2017/a5036/amendment/b

SUPPORT FROM ORGANIZATIONS AND ADVOCACY EFFORTS:

Bill specific memos of support (A5494 / S3419):

  • American Adoption Congress (AAC) + policy item
  • Citizens Petition to Advance the "Clean" Adoption Reform Bill
  • National Center on Adoption and Permanency 
  • North American Council on Adoptable Children
  • Academy of Adoption & Asst. Reproduction Attorneys (AAAA) 
  • Faith Getz-Rousso, Women’s Bar Association, State of NY (WBASNY) 
  • AMT Children of Hope Foundation 
  • Adoptee Rights Law Center 
  • Bastard Nation
  • Adoptive and Foster Family Coalition of NY (AFFCNY)
  • Philomena Project
  • Saving Our Sisters
  • Concerned United Birthparents 
  • Lorraine Dusky, birth mother and author
     

General resolutions of support:

  • Academy of Adoption & Assisted Reproduction Attorneys (AAAA)
  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Child Welfare League of America (CWLA)
  • Presbyterian Church
  • National Adoption Center

ADOPTEE STAKEHOLDER WORKGROUP REPORT (2018):

https://www.health.ny.gov/press/reports/docs/adoptee_workgroup_report.pdf

Our participation in this Department of Health process allowed for:

  • Advocacy
  • Increased support among participating organizations
  • Pathway to 2018, then 2019, bill content we helped create and support (S3419)

IN ACCORDANCE WITH BEST PRACTICES IN ADOPTION:

Adoption in America Today: The Good, The Bad, and A Path to Reform (2016):
http://www.slideshare.net/DonaldsonAdoptionInstitute/adoption-in-america-today-the-good-the-bad-and-a-path-to-reform


Openness in Adoption report (2012):
http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/old/publications/2012_03_OpennessInAdoption.pdf

“CONFIDENTIALITY” / “PRIVACY” VERSUS ANONYMITY:

  • “Confidentiality” / “privacy”: Any potential, personal assurances of “confidentiality” or “privacy” to birth parents were ephemeral, related to not revealing the news of a pregnancy in progress to the community at large.
  • Anonymity: No legal promise of lifelong anonymity from surrendered sons and daughters was possible.  Reasons include:
    • Law: The law does not provide birth parents with anonymity or any additional rights that supersede the rights of adopted people--DRL §117.1 (a) "After the making of an order of adoption the birth parents of the adoptive child shall be relieved of all parental duties toward and of all responsibilities for and shall have no rights over such adoptive child or to his property by descent or succession, except as hereinafter stated."
    • Courts: For as long as adoptee birth records have been sealed, the law under DRL §114.2 has had a mechanism for judges to unseal birth records upon a demonstration of “good cause.” Such petitions are, however, costly, rarely successful and provide no right to personally identifying information.--DRL §114.2 "No person shall be allowed access to such sealed records and order and any index thereof except upon an order of a judge or surrogate of the court in which the order was made or of a justice of the supreme court."
    • Placement: Initial placement forms signed by birth parents do not include any assurances, rather often specified that birth parents should, for example, “...maintain contact with the Agency and my child.”
    • Surrender: Birth parent final surrender forms do not include any assurances to them, but have often required pledges from them not to interfere with adoptive families. *  For example:

New York 1936 (“pledge myself not to interfere with the custody or management of the said child in any way, or encourage or allow [anyone] else to do so”);


New York 1951 (“pledge myself not to interfere with the custody or management of the said child in any way, or encourage or allow anyone else to do so”);

New York 1959 (“pledge myself not to interfere with the custody or management of the said child in any way, or encourage or allow anyone else to do so”);


New York 1964 (“agree and pledge not to interfere with the custody, control, care or management of said child in any way or encourage or allow anyone else to do so”);


New York 1966 (“agree and pledge not to interfere with the custody, control, care or management of said child in any way or encourage or allow anyone else to do so”);


New York 1968 (“pledge not to interfere hereafter with the care or management of said child in any way”);


New York 1970 (“expressly pledge not to interfere hereafter with the care or management of said child in any way").
 
* Source: Professor Elizabeth J. Samuels University of Baltimore School of Law. Author research page: http://law.ubalt.edu/faculty/profiles/samuels.cfm

  • Foster care youth: There was no guarantee of an adoption, in which case the birth certificate would remain unsealed. Per item number eight (8) of the Office of Children and Family Services Bill of Rights for Children and Youth in Foster Care, “After I am 18 years of age, and have been in foster care for at least six months, and discharged to my own care, I have a right to my United States birth certificate, social security card, health insurance information, medical records and a driver’s license or state issued identification, if eligible.”

MANY NEW YORKERS AND THEIR FAMILIES WILL BENEFIT:

As the Department of Health (New York City and New York State) has not released data on the number of sealed adoptee original birth certificates in New York, we have used data from other states as a guide to calculate the following:

  • Estimated total of NY sealed adoptee original birth certificates: 647,960

A New York Law of Adoptee Rights that restores unrestricted access to original birth certificates will provide vital human and civil rights reform for scores of adult adopted people and all the biological families they create.  Families who, by extension since the 1930s, have also been denied their basic human birthright to heritage and equal opportunity to seek other information such as medical history. 

NEW YORK CAN LEAD THE WAY FORWARD:

We believe New York understands that it is the adopted child—who becomes an adult—who is meant to be the primary beneficiary of adoption.

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, restoring unrestricted access to original birth certificates, as in S3419, is how the Empire State will continue its long tradition of promoting equality in a way that will make history and improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of citizens. New Yorkers will benefit and, thus, New York will benefit. This will resonate across the United States and around the world. 

Please enact S3419 to restore adoptee civil rights and advance equality in New York.

Thank you for your consideration.


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