Adopted People in NY Deserve Their Truth

Today’s modern family is evolving and ever changing and so too are their needs. Regardless of makeup, all families have a need and a right to be healthy and strong, which requires families to be able to live their truth.

Recently, the majority of the New York State Assembly Health Committee voted to move a bill forward that does not reflect healthy lives for adopted people or their extended families. The bill, A05036B, creates a cumbersome and potentially costly system of unnecessary checks, balances and permissions for adopted people who wish to access their original birth certificate (OBC). Most of the language in A05036B flagrantly disregards research and best practice guidelines and instead continues to place adopted people in a separate class of people who are not entitled to know their full background. The irony is not lost on us that a committee charged with promoting the health of NY constituents believes A05036B, which promotes secrecy, shame and stigma, is a healthy solution for individuals and families. Denying adopted people the right to access their OBC dehumanizes them.  It is not healthy. And it is a practice that must be stopped.

Many people are unaware that the majority of adopted people in the United States live a legal fiction from the moment their adoptions are finalized in court, an action which seals their OBC from them in perpetuity. The majority of states continue to deny adopted people full access to this vital record even when they become an adult. However, research conducted by The Donaldson Adoption Institute (DAI) demonstrates that when the public is made aware of this inequity, the majority support an adopted person’s right to access his/her OBC.

One common misperception of those who oppose adopted people accessing their OBC focuses on the falsehood that birth parents were guaranteed lifelong anonymity from their child when they surrendered their parental rights. Although there is no evidence of such legally protected promises, nor can anyone’s anonymity be guaranteed in today’s advanced DNA and social media technologies, this outlandish belief persists.

It is also seemingly irrelevant to some lawmakers that for many decades now, adoption has been practiced within a spirit of openness, which means birth and adoptive families stay connected over time in various ways. Closed and secret adoptions shifted to open ones many years ago because researchers, practitioners and families realized it is always healthier for families to live their truth.

There are other reasons opponents offer to rationalize denying an entire class of people access to their birth document. Yet none of these reasons are based in fact. None of these reasons are borne out in the research. None of these reasons reflect the true experience of adoption — or for that matter any human being. It’s not so hard to understand that a person naturally desires to know his/her full background. In fact, websites that offer genealogical research tools and companies that provide DNA testing flourish precisely because people have an innate need to know their past. This is a human need — not an adoption need. Yet it is only those of us who are adopted who have to defend this need and continue to be denied this right.

Are some people suggesting that the needs and rights of adopted people are “less than” the needs and rights of other human beings? Because the solution offered in A05036B is implying exactly that.

The truth is that adopted people are just like every other human being. The fact that we were adopted after we were born does not negate this. Policies like A05036B deny this reality and prevent adopted people from knowing their truth. If lives begin in a place of secrecy and falsehood, how can we set individuals and families up for strong and healthy lives?

Following the vote in the Assembly Health Committee the NYS Assembly Codes and Rules Committees reported out A05036B and the bill is now scheduled for a vote on the assembly floor. We urge the New York State Assembly to vote NO on A05036B. Policy decisions must be made that uphold the truth all people — including adopted people — have a right to know.