York Statewide Adoption Reform's
Our focus is on New York State, where restoration of adoptees' rights to their Original Birth Certificates was signed into law in 2019 (see details below).
Please contact us if you would like to volunteer.
We are a volunteer-staffed organization. There are no salaried positions.
RECENTLY IN THE NEWS
Before a month celebrating adoption, a day to recognize adoptees' trauma, Religion News Service, Oct. 28, 2022. For many adoptees, the day is a chance to reclaim their adoption narrative from religious groups that often portray it as a spiritual win-win.
Newenglandadoptees.org has succeeded in its work for Massachusetts and Vermont adoptee rights! See Massachusetts legislation to remove a legal hole that denies any right to the OBC to those born between 1974-2008, and Vermont Restores Adoptee Rights After 76 Years.
'How Did This Man Think He Had the Right to Adopt This Baby?', NY Times, Nov. 10, 2022. Army Rangers killed her parents. A Marine is raising her in America. But her Afghan family says she was taken under false pretenses.
Ireland Opens Decades of Secret Records to Adoptees, NY Times, Oct. 7, 2022. Thousands of people are being promised new rights to information, a potentially momentous step in a country where unmarried mothers were pressured for decades to give up their babies.
Taken Under Fascism, Spain's 'Stolen Babies' Are Learning the Truth, NY Times, Sept. 27, 2022. Thousands of Spanish children were taken from hospitals and sold to wealthy Catholic families. This is Ana Belen Pintado's story.
Apology for the Church's Role in Coerced Adoption, Catholic Vancouver, May 6, 2022, Archdiocese issues apology for role in post-war coerced adoptions. and Adoption: Loss and Healing.
Adoptive Parents For Open Records
Special thanks to the late Hope Catrica, who headed the Adoptees Political Action Coalition; and to Sharon Wemple, who headed the New York Statewide Adoption Coalition, and went on to lobby Albany with our organization.
Adoptive father John Carway helped his daughter find her natural mother, and went on to help more than a thousand adoptees find their natural families. He was a social worker and Director of the Probation Department of Mineola, NY for eight years before retiring and served as a regional coordinator for Unsealed Initiative.
Adoptive mother, adoptee, and adoption attorney Cara Romanzo is a strong supporter of open birth records.
The late adoptive grandparent and NY State Senator William Larkin became the prime sponsor of our legislation from 2005 until 2010, when Democrats took control of the Senate and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery took over sponsorship.
Adoptive father Adam Pertman was the director of the foremost think tank on adoption issues for several years. He accomplished a number of important studies on adoptee access to birth records: "For the Records I" and "For the Records II". He was influential with the National Council For Adoption (NCFA), ending their lobbying against open records legislation. After becoming President of the National Center for Adoption and Permanency he lobbied with Unsealed Initiative in Albany several times.
Marc Butler, NY State Assembly (R) and adoptive parent; our team met with him several times, and he supported our bill.
Adoptive father Stephen Saland was one of the most powerful members of the NY State Senate (Poughkeepsie), and he was the only legislator to speak out against open records legislation in the 1990s. He and his wife did not want their adopted sons to know their birth parents, even when the boys were 40 years old. He believed that he and his wife had made an agreement with the natural mother.
A member of our lobby team and close friend of Saland's, Jill Auerbach, appealed to another friend, a judge, to inform Saland that there was no confidentiality agreement. Hence, he became a supporter of our legislation, which influenced NY State Senator Andrew Lanza to get back on board and continue as primary bill sponsor.
However, Saland soon lost his bid for re-election because he supported the same-sex marriage bill.
A MESSAGE FROM OUR PRESIDENT, JOYCE BAHR
With England opening adoption records in 1975, many adoptees, mothers of adoption loss and adoption professionals were inspired to organize for open records. Nineteen adoptees from the Adoptees' Liberty Movement Association (ALMA) filed a federal class action lawsuit, hoping to win the right to receive their birth records; the lawsuit failed. And in 1980, adoption reform advocates found themselves up against a nationwide organization formed to oppose them, the National Council For Adoption (NCFA).
By the late 1980s, adoptees began protesting sealed records. In 1989 there was a march from NYC to Washington, DC that took 18 days. Although there was a small number of marchers, 700 advocates showed up for the DC rally, which was sponsored by the Manhattan Birth Parents support group and by other search and support groups throughout our country. There were subsequently six more marches organized by Joe Soll (adoptee, author, psychotherapist and Director of Adoption Healing). I managed to march all the way from NYC to Washington, DC in the 1989 march, and during the 1990s I organized five protests at NYC Vital Records, one at Gov. Mario Cuomo's NYC office, one at his Albany office and one in Binghamton, NY, all sponsored by the Manhattan Birth Parents support group.
Before I became president in 2005, we were not being taken seriously because we were lobbying in Albany only once a year. Being there more often meant a huge job for us, but within a few years we were told by the Assembly Health Committee that we had a strong lobby.
From 2005 until 2010, when Democrats took control of the Senate and Senator Velmanette Montgomery took over sponsorship.
It's not uncommon in any state for powerful legislators to block a bill by tabling the bill without a discussion, which is what we had to contend with. New York was blocked by Long Island State Senator Kemp Hannon in Health Committee for 25 years, Brooklyn Assemblymember Joe Lentol in Codes Committee for 12 years, and Brooklyn Assemblymember Helene Weinstein for 13 years in Judiciary Committee and another 13 years in Codes Committee.
Assemblymember and Bill Sponsor David Weprin amended our bill in 2014, making it one we could not support. The changes were unacceptable, and we showed a strong opposition. By doing so, we were given the go-ahead for a few amendments, which were not enough as the amended bill was still so bad. Only one person in our group supported it. (It's very common in other states for legislators to amend bills without the support of advocates. Look at the states that had their bills amended and an unwanted redaction was added. Honestly, how many advocates would accept a bill with a redaction? Hardly any.) No wonder Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed the amended bill.
A path to success became possible when State Senator Hannon was not re-elected in 2018, and our bill was reported from Senate Health Committee and moved to the floor for a vote. We never gave up, and many of us were able to get our State Senators to sign onto our bill by the time it was voted on and passed in the Senate Health Committee.
The bill passed both houses in 2019, and on November 14, 2019, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed our bill into law.
I am especially proud of our board members, regional coordinators, volunteers and Albany lobbyers.
Visit DNA Detectives on Facebook for search help.
NYC Vital Records workers have resumed processing Original Birth Certificate applications.
For the latest information on receiving a copy of pre-adoption birth records in light of the current COVID-19 health crisis, please follow this link to the NY State's Health Department website.
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The New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Records has published information on obtaining Original Birth Certificates:
Obtaining Original (Pre-Adoption) Birth Certificate for Adoptees (EXCEPT for those born in NYC)
Obtaining Original (Pre-Adoption) Birth Certificate for Adoptees (for those born in NYC)
FOR ALL BORN IN NY STATE EXCEPT NYC:
New York State Department of Health
Bureau of Vital Records, PAC Unit
PO Box 2602
Albany, NY 12220-2602
Walk-in Window (temporarily closed):
800 North Pearl Street
2nd Floor - Room 200
Menands, NY 12204
Phone: (518) 474-5245
Hours: Mon - Fri, 9 am - 3:30 pm
Please visit the above link for details. VitalChek online application is also available.
FOR ALL BORN IN NYC:
Office of Vital Records
Attention: Sealed Record Request
125 Worth St., CN-4
New York, NY 10013-4090
Office of Vital Records (temporarily closed)
Bureau of Vital Statistics
New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
125 Worth Street, Room 144
New York, NY 10013
Hours: Mon - Fri, 9 am - 3:30 pm
Please visit the above link for details. VitalChek online application is also available.
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(For those adoptees born before the 1970s or 1980s, it's highly unlikely your father's name will be on your pre-adoption birth certificate. Even if your birth parents wanted your father's name on the birth certificate, it didn't happen. Our Vice-President Joan Morgan is one of a small number of adoptees to find her birth father's name on hers even though her parents were not married. She was born 80 years ago in Manhattan.)
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localsyr.com: Local woman discovers biological father through 23andMe
13 ABC WHAM: Avon man receives long-awaited answers in search for biological family
13 ABC WHAM: Advocates for NYS adoption law celebrate changes, officially apply for birth certificates
Associated Press (AP) (+ over 40 outlets): Adoptees can access birth certificates under new NY law
ABC: New York law now gives adoptees right to birth certificate
CBS: Starting Now: Adoptees In New York State Can Apply For Original Birth Certificates
Fox 5: Adoptees can access birth certificates under new NY law
Staten Island Advance: 'Every person has the right to know where they come from': New law allows adoptees to obtain birth certificates
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ADOPTEE RIGHTS BILL PASSED!!!
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed
NY Adoptee Rights Bill S3419 into law!
Governor Cuomo Signs Legislation Allowing Adoptees to Receive a Certified Birth Certificate at Age 18
Contact pages to say "Thank You!" to
Governor Cuomo, Velmanette Montgomery (Senate Sponsor), David Weprin (Assembly Sponsor)
Read the bill, marked "SIGNED BY GOVERNOR"
UI President Joyce Bahr's letter to the Albany Times-Union, published November 24, 2019: Adoption records law is fair and consistent
buffalonews.com: Editorials: Knowing their own truth
msn.com: NY adoptees can receive a certified birth certificate at 18
riverreporter.com: New law on birth certificates
spectrumlocalnews.com: Adoptees Will Have Access To Birth Certificates Under New Law
nysenate.gov video: Montgomery/Weprin "Clean Bill of Adoptee Rights" legislation passes Senate Health Committee
nysenate.gov video: Senator Montgomery's Historic Adoptee Rights Bill Passes Senate
whcuradio.com: Governor Cuomo signs legislation allowing adoptees access to certified birth certificates
Rochester Democrat and Chronical: Attention adoptees: You will soon have rights to your birth certificate
13 ABC WHAM: Landmark legislation allows adult adoptees to receive a certified birth certificate
NY POST: New law lets adoptees obtain their birth certificates in NY
NEWS 12 LI: Gov. Cuomo signs bill ending secrecy of birth records for NY adoptees
NY NEWSDAY: Law will allow adoptees access to birth certificates, including parents' identity
CBS 6 ALBANY: Cuomo signs law allowing adult adoptees to get birth certificate
ABC NEWS10: Gov. Cuomo signs legislation allowing adoptees to receive birth certificates at 18
SPECIAL THANKS TO THESE UI SUPPORTERS AND LONGTIME ADOPTEE RIGHTS ADVOCATES:
Adam Pertman and his organization, The National Center on Adoption and Permanency. He is responsible for getting the National Council For Adoption (NCFA) to discontinue lobbying against adoptee rights legislation throughout the U.S.
Joe Soll, adoptee, author, psychotherapist and activist. His website, AdoptionHealing.com, offers many resources for adoptees and natural mothers.
Betty Jean Lifton, author of Journey Of the Adopted Self, Twice Born: Memoirs of an Adopted Daughter, and Lost and Found: The Adoption Experience. Her books can be purchased here.
Professor Elizabeth J. Samuels, Baltimore School of Law.
Concerned United Birthparents
Manhattan Birthparents Support Group
Ellen Durant, a natural mother who got NY politician Scott Stringer to sponsor our bill in the Assembly in 1993.
Sandy Musser and her group, We Are Alarmed
Adoption Community "Field of Dreams" USA - ONE VOICE
Racism and White Privilege for the Adoptive Family
And thanks to everyone who over the years mailed, faxed, phoned, emailed, lobbied, marched, demonstrated, shared, in support!
Some who now have their Original Birth Certificates: (l-r) Sharon Wemple, Joe Soll, Susan Moyer, Cara Romanzo, Joe Pessalano.
Assembly Passes Bill to Let Adoptees Access Birth Certificates
On Thursday, June 20, 2019, Speaker Carl Heastie, Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried and Assembly Member David Weprin announced that the New York State Assembly had passed legislation that would allow adoptees to obtain a certified copy of their birth certificate (A5494, sponsored by Weprin).
Press Release from the office of Richard Gottfried
"Knowing who we are and where we came from is critical not only to understanding our heritage, but for knowing our health history and any risks it might pose," said Speaker Heastie. "This legislation would ensure all New York adoptees have access to the information they need and deserve."
"Access to your personal information - who you are and where you come from - is a human right," said Assembly Member Gottfried. "New Yorkers need their own medical histories in order to make better health care choices. And connecting adoptees and birth parents works; in the overwhelming majority of cases, these reunions are cherished by both parties. I am proud we passed this bill today and look forward to the governor signing it into law."
"For too long New York's archaic laws have denied adult adoptees access to background information and a complete health history that nearly everyone has a legal right to, including those who 'age-out' of foster care," said Assembly Member Weprin. "Our outdated laws are designed to protect the anonymity of birth parents that may not have even requested it, with no regard for the needs of the adoptee. Today's legislation will deliver equality for all New York adoptees."
Under the bill, adult adoptees 18 years and older would be able to receive a certified copy of their original long form birth certificate. If the adoptee is deceased, the adopted person's direct line of descendants, the lawful representative of such adopted person or lawful representatives of such deceased adopted person's direct line of descendants would be able to receive the birth certificate of the adoptee.
Under current law, original birth certificates are placed under seal and cannot be accessed without a judicial proceeding, which does not guarantee that the adoptee will be given access.
Wall Street Journal online, July 2, 2019: Bill Would Grant New York Adoptees Access to Birth Certificates for First Time in Decades
News 10 Albany: Adoptee rights bill awaits Gov. Cuomo's signature
Lorraine Dusky's op/ed published in the Albany Times Union on June 6th: Commentary: Allow adopted people right to know their true identity
New York Newsday interviews UI members in June 17th article: NY weighs releasing original birth certificates to adoptees
On Thursday 6/20/19, the Assembly voted YES to pass A5494 (140-6). No further action is needed.
WATCH THE VIDEO: NY Assembly 6-20-19 Session Part 2 (skip to 3:39:43) or choose another format to watch or listen here.
The Assembly bill, A5494, had 92 co- and multi-sponsors (including 78 Democrats), in addition to many supporters (out of 150 legislators).
On Monday 6/3/19, the Senate voted YES to pass S3419 (56-6). No further action is needed.
WATCH THE VIDEO: NY State Senate YouTube Channel (skip to 14:30)
CO-SPONSORS: Bailey, Biaggi, Carlucci, Comrie, Gaughran, Gounardes, Harckham, Hoylman, Jackson, Kaplan, Krueger, Lanza, Little, Liu, May, Mayer, Metzger, Myrie, Parker, Ramos, Salazar, Savino, Sepulveda, Serrano, Skoufis, Thomas.
Unsealed Initiative's Blog: End 80 year old sealed birth certificate law now!
2010 Manhattan City Hall press conference with State Senator Velmanette Montgomery and Assemblymember David Weprin.
Read the April 30, 2018 Health Department Task Force Adoptee Stakeholder Workgroup Report
Susan Moyer's new book, "The Lonely Child", is now available. She speaks publicly for unsealing birth certificates and will be joining us to lobby in Albany this session. Watch video and read article, "New Yorkers adopted as children, pushing for rights to certified birth certificates" on ABC-Syracuse here.
Read the article in the Democrat and Chronicle
here; read the article in the Albany Times-Union
Manhattan Assemblymember Rebecca Seawright (l.) introduced Joyce Bahr to the Assembly on June 5, 2018 and thanked Joyce for her activism. Ms. Seawright and Joyce Bahr both spoke out in support of direct access bill A9959B at a press conference held at the Capitol and organized by the bill's prime sponsor, Assemblymember David Weprin. We thank Assemblymembers Brabenec, Carroll, Gottfried, Johns, Seawright and Thiele for attending and speaking out for the Right to Know.
Birth Parents terminated their parental rights many years ago. They did not get rights. They should not be allowed to alter or deface an adoptee's birth certificate, which is the record of their birth. The idea of the redaction removing all names from original birth certificates was not well thought out. It is not a good step forward for women or adoptees. It would be a blunder, a stupid or careless mistake that would punish and humiliate adoptees if enacted into law.
Adoptees are being held to a contract they never agreed to, nor can they outgrow or escape from it. As social beliefs have changed and current research bears out, denying adoptees their fundamental human right to understand their biological connections retains the Victorian Era system of keeping adoptees second-class citizens. It is Unsealed Initiative's stand that adoptees deserve their original birth certificates without redaction and that all members of the adoption triad be given the opportunity to heal from the mistakes of the past.
On Friday, December 29, 2017 Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed but tabled the amended bill. The Health Department, which is a part of the Governor's office, assigned a task force made up of bill sponsors and a diverse group of people. It was the job of this task force to to come up with a bill less cumbersome for adoptees and less costly for the state.
In 2010 our President Joyce Bahr and our Legal Adviser Ellyn Essig, Esq. worked with Senator Velmanette Montgomery's Chief of Staff and Legal Counsel to amend our clean bill of rights. Some of the wording in the bill text was improved, and changes were made in the contact preference form and other sections of the bill to make it less costly for the state.
At the end of the 2017 Albany legislative session, amended bill A5036B (this bill was amended in assembly Codes Committee making it more restrictive) and senate bill S4845B ("same as" bill) passed in both houses.
View several of our Assembly sponsor David Weprin's videos in favor of adoptee rights
here. View Assemblymember Robert C. Carroll (a co-sponsor of clean bill A6821A) speak AGAINST the badly-amended bill
here. View Assemblymember Joe Borelli's assembly floor debate speech
here. View Assemblymember Fred Thiele Jr.'s speech
Even adoptees with life-threatening diseases such as breast cancer are denied rights. Watch an adopted woman speak out at a 2013 Unsealed Initiative protest at Assm. Helene Weinstein's office
TLC's Taken at Birth Investigates Black Market Adoption Ring That Illegally Placed 200 Babies.
People.com, October 8, 2019
Their Mothers Chose Donor Sperm. The Doctors Used Their Own.
nytimes.com, July 21, 2019
2 Officials Who Were Both Adopted Clash Over an Adoption Law.
nytimes.com, July 8, 2019
Susie Stricker: Maryland's birth certificate policy discriminates against adoptees. It's time for a change.
CapitalGazette.com, July 15, 2019
Mothers forced to surrender their babies demand an apology.
ctvnews.ca, March 23, 2019
NY State Assemblymember Pam Hunter's childhood inspires her to reform adoption in New York.
syracuse.com, March 19, 2019
Adopted woman seeks access to birth records for her and thousands of New Yorkers.
wnyt.com, March 19, 2019
Assemblyman Out To Overturn 84-Year-Old New York Law That Keeps Adopted Children's Birth Parents Concealed.
newyork.cbslocal.com, March 14, 2019
Adopted Abroad as Infants, Raised in US, and Now - They May Face Deportation.
nbcbayarea.com, February 3, 2019
Following News10NBC investigation, lawmakers introduce legislation to update 80-year-old state law.
WHEC.com, January 29, 2019
The maternity homes where 'mind control' was used on teen moms to give up their babies.
The Washington Post, November 19, 2018
Why won't the U.S. ratify the U.N.'s child rights treaty?.
The Washington Post, November 21, 2014
The Irish Government has approved the forensic excavation of the site of the former mother-and-baby home in Tuam, Co Galway.
RTE.ie, October 23, 2018
The New York Times special report on Tuam.
nytimes.com, October 28, 2017
The Latest: Pope denounces Ireland's forced adoptions.
Fox News, August 26, 2018
Adopted and Undocumented: He Grew Up Thinking He Was American - Until He Was Deported. A judge finalized his adoption at age 6.
The Intercept, August 12, 2018
Tug-of-Love: Immigrant Mom Loses Effort to Regain Son Given to US Parents after being arrested in Missouri for working without documentation.
abcnews.go.com, July 18, 2018
An adoptee Chuck Sweeny: Vietnam vet served the U.S. but can't get a passport because he doesn't know his birth mother's name.
rrstar.com, July 25, 2018
'The shame is ours':
Senate report chronicles forced adoptions in post-war Canada.
globalnews.com, July 19, 2018
MPs to demand apology for forced adoptions in UK. Commons debate to recognise suffering caused by practice from 1960s onwards.
The Guardian (U.S. Online Edition), July 7, 2018
Arkansas Blog: Adoption files will open to adult children on Aug. 1; birth parents may redact information.
Arkansas Times (arktimes.com), May 4, 2018
Iowa State Rep. Marti Anderson and daughter DNA-matched and reunited by Ancestry.com
The below Adoption Quilt section (part of a larger quilt) was started by adoptees and mothers of adoption loss in 1989, and added to over the next 10 years:
Adoptees Bob Gordon, Jennie Seymour and Jim Clevo:
They lobbied Albany but died without medical history
that could have saved them.
Even if only one adoptee needed medical history,
adoptees should have it. Serious health conditions might be revealed.
US News & World Report article on this subject
Senator Joseph Robach asks a Good Question: Why can't adopted children access their birth parent's medical history? (2016) https://youtu.be/skv8lFqs0W0
Transcript from June 18 Assembly debate on A2901A available here, courtesy of Jennifer Sarro.
Archived Video - Thursday June 18, 2015 Part 1 - http://assembly.state.ny.us/av/session/
Three Identical Strangers (trailer).
Read the Variety Review, "Tim Wardle's gripping group portrait of triplets reunited at 19 breaks fresh ground in uncovering why they were separated in the first place," here.
Adoption information Registry: New York State Department of Health
Birth parents can consent to release information to the adoptee on DOH4455 form
Arkansas joins the list of states giving adoptees rights
Dateline NBC: Saturday 1/28/17
Who is Sean Michael? An Adoption Mystery (4-part series)
Watch the video
Public Hearing to Allow Adoptees to Access their Original Birth Certificates, Lower Manhattan, January 31, 2014.
Lobbyers in Albany with Assm. Scott Stringer (center), 2004.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Cardinal for England and Wales, Archbishop of Westminster and President of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, apologizes to mothers for the Catholic Church's role in 'forced' adoptions. ITV documentary airing in England on November 9, 2016:
Britain's Catholic Herald article
America: The National Catholic Review article
Watch testimony on YouTube for the Adoptee Bill of Rights A909 from our NY State Assembly Health Committee hearing, held in Manhattan on January 31, 2014:
Joyce Bahr, UI President and Founder, Manhattan Birth Parents Support Group
Kathleen Rice, Nassau County District Attorney & Ellen Mohr, her aunt and an adoptee
Joe Soll, Psychotherapist, Author and Adoptee
Rod Shinners, Father in Search
Nancy Horgan, Reunited Mother from Rhode Island
Michael Schoer, UI Coordinator for Brooklyn and Staten Island
Joe Pessalano, UI Lobby Team member
Lorraine Dusky, First Mother Forum website
James Lane, NYC Green Party
Dana Stallard, Spence Chapin Services to Children and Adoptive Families
Leanne Jaffe, Adoption Consultant, Adapting to Adoption, Psychotherapist
Pat O'Brien, President, New York State Citizens Committee for Children
Doris Bertocci, Clinical Social Worker, Psychotherapist
Professor Elizabeth Samuels, Baltimore School of Law
Adam Pertman, Director, The National Center on Adoption and Permanency (NCAP)
Judy Kelly, PhD, LMHC, Manhattan Birth Parents Support Group, birth mother and facilitator
Michele Wadowski, Manhattan Birth Parents Support Group, birth mother and facilitator
Two surrogate judges speaking AGAINST the Adoptee Rights bill:
Judge Cyzgier cites The Matter of Linda F.M. saying the court found blackmail. The matter of Linda F.M. was heard by the Court of Appeals, the highest court in New York State. The judges conjectured and speculated blackmail, a slur against the motives of adoptees and Linda F.M. was denied on February 24, 1981.
John Cyzgier, Surrogate Court Judge of Suffolk County
Assemblymember Helene Weinstein also made the slur of blackmail in her debate speech at the assembly floor debate on June 18, 2015.
Peter Kelly, Surrogate Court Judge of Queens County and Executive Chair of The NY State Surrogates Association
Visit http://assembly.state.ny.us/av/ and look under Archived Videos for the complete video and audio recordings of the proceedings.
Join us to lobby our legislature and/or volunteer!
Email us at email@example.com
There were never any written promises of confidentiality for mothers who surrendered to adoption from anywhere in the country. Indeed, surrender papers that unwed mothers signed terminating their parental rights contained no mention of privacy or confidentiality for them. Many of them never heard the word. Anonymity was imposed on them, but confidentiality was not given. The word "promise" was not spoken by either social workers or adoption attorneys. Court decisions in the Tennessee Supreme Court (1997), the Oregon Court of Appeals (1999), and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (1997) held that open records legislation in Tennessee and Oregon violated no rights of birth parents under respective state constitutions or the federal constitution. Opponents of the new laws failed to produce any written promises of confidentiality.
New York Assemblymember David Weprin was quickly able to see there was no legal confidentiality for birth mothers but, according to the Speaker's Counsel Jim Yates, there was intent in New York's 1938 sealed birth certificate law to give unwed mothers confidentiality. Yates commented, in a meeting with advocates in Albany at the end of the 2014 legislative session, "We don't care about adult adoptee constitutional rights." Possibly Mr. Yates is wrong and should care, because studies conclude the intent was for confidentiality of the adoptive home — so the child could grow up without intrusion from the birth/natural mother (who was considered to be a lowlife).
Adoptee Filmmaker Jean Sacconaghi Strauss (seen here with Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.) has announced her candidacy for State Representative to the Massachusetts General Court (2/24/2018).
Her videos can be viewed on Vimeo here.
Professor Elizabeth J. Samuels study, "The Idea of Adoption: An Inquiry into the History of Adult Adoptee Access to Birth Records" concludes laws were enacted to protect the confidentiality of adoptive families, not birth or natural families.
She has reviewed surrender papers and finds no evidence women were given legal confidentiality.
Link to her testimony at the NY State Assembly January 31, 2014 hearing:
Link to her website:
Rod Shinners is a member of our Albany lobby team and a father in search of a 49-year-old born on Long Island. The natural mother will not divulge the gender of the relinquished person. All he knows is the person was relinquished for adoption. Rod's search is difficult — if you know anyone 49 years old who resembles Rod, let us know!
U.S. States that never sealed birth certificates: Alaska, Kansas
States giving adoptees the right to a non-certified copy of the original birth certificate with a contact preference option for birth parents: Alabama, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island (note: theses states along with Alaska and Kansas give all adult adoptees rights)
States with contact veto laws (limited access): Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington
News Articles and Letters to the Editor
"Adoptees fight for view into past" by Leigh Hornbeck, July 13, 2015, The Albany Times Union
"A Son Given Up for Adoption Is Found After Half a Century, and Then Lost Again" by Gabrielle Glaser, July 10, 2015, The New York Times
"Law Would Permit Adoptees to Find Birth Parents" by Eric Levitz, January 29, 2015, citylimits.org
Ohio to unseal 400,000 adoption records - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV
Joyce Bahr's letter to The Albany Times-Union:
ADULT ADOPTEES NEED RIGHT TO BIRTH RECORDS
Sunday, June 8, 2014 Section: Perspective Page D3
'Gertie's Babies,' Sold at Birth, Use DNA to Unlock Secret Past, The New York Times (front page) Sunday, April 5, 2015
Why a Generation of Adoptees Is Returning to South Korea, The New York Times (Sunday magazine cover story) Sunday, January 18, 2015
WNYC Leonard Lopate segment: Why a Generation of Adoptees Is Returning to South Korea, January 15, 2015
New York Adoptees Fight for Access to Birth Certificates, The New York Times, June 15, 2014
Lebanese Adoptee, Searching for His Roots, Finds Islam, The New York Times, August 1, 2014
When Children Are Traded, by Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times, November 20, 2013
The Child Exchange: Inside America's underground market for adopted children, Reuters Investigates (5-part series), September 9, 2013
Mirah Riben's Adoption Reform articles in the Huffington Post
David Weprin, our Assembly bill sponsor, held a press conference for A909 in Albany on Tuesday March 18, 2014.
JOIN US TO LOBBY IN ALBANY
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Adoptee Rights filmmaker Jean Strauss and President Obama.
Her videos can be viewed on Vimeo here.
Most of the world is looking down on Ireland and many U.S. states for failure to keep up with the times, to recognize badly needed human rights for adoptees and natural parents and to apologize to the victims. Scotland changed its sealed record law in 1930 and England in 1975. Kudos to the British for making the film Philomena.
Ireland to allow adopted people to get their birth records for first time
Profile of Philomena Lee in The New York Times, November 11, 2013:
A Forced Adoption, a Lifetime Quest and a Longing That Never Waned
Philomena Lee Meets Claire McCaskill, U.S. Senator for Missouri to Discuss Adoption
Real-Life Woman Behind 'Philomena' Gets an Audience With Pope Francis
Sean Ross Abbey, Roscrea, Ireland
Philomena Lee and Martin Sixsmith on film portrayal
Meet the Real-Life Philomena Lee
The Real Philomena and her daughter, Jane
"How Ireland Turned 'Fallen Women' Into Slaves", a History Channel story by Erin Blakemore, March 12, 2018.
"Broadcaster Niall Boylan praised for his 'courageous' and 'extraordinary' story of Mother and Baby Home", Irish Times, March 23, 2018.
Irish Times article (12-4-17) on Adoption Authority of Ireland Conference: Adopted children must have right to contact with their birth families
Disturbing news of medical research conducted on babies in the Irish Mother and Baby Homes. Bodies of dead babies were sent to the anatomy department of medical schools.
Award-winning writer, adoptee and foundling Jeanette Winterson is interviewed on NPR about her life and latest work.
The Fallen Woman exhibition at London's Foundling Museum presents stories of women who surrendered their babies to the Foundling Hospital in their forthcoming autumn exhibition: Sept 25, 2015 through January 3, 2016. Help support the show: The Fallen Woman and read more at larahentz.wordpress.com
are a Pro Adoption Reform Organization
Adoptees must be free from a law legalizing the
falsification of permanent records. A bill signed by Governor Lehman in 1935 and enacted in 1938 which nullifies the inalienable
and civil right of a person to know the actual facts of their birth and obtain a copy of
Governor Lehman signed the closed record law in July 1935.
We are committed and dedicated to the cause of removing this outdated, unfair and
Adoptee David Phelps speaks out against discrimination against adoptees who deserve the inalienable right to know -- anything less is unacceptable.
A new law recently signed by Governor Cuomo extends participation in the adoption registry to include adult adoptees born in other states but adopted in New York.
At last they can obtain non-identifying information from the registry the same as adult adoptees born in the state.
Secrecy and confidentiality were one and the same and not legally defined because they were social mores and not laws.
Shame, secrecy and denial were social mores from the Victorian era that brought about the stigma of illegitimacy for both adoptees and for their mothers who were all too often manipulated into signing a surrender paper relinquishing their child for adoption.
Confidentiality was for the adoptive parents and not for the adoptee who professionals and everyone else knew would never search.
Social workers never developed programs to help women cope with the stigma of
illegitimacy because they felt these women deserved such stigma. Neither were
they informed that relinquishing their children would cause them lifelong grief
and anguish. Women were not presented with options. They were not considered
upright, competent nor deserving enough to raise their own children. Many women
signed a surrender paper stating that they would not interfere with the custody,
control and management of said child. The word confidentiality was not in any
surrender paper including mine. We were told over and over not to disrupt the
adoptive home and to get on with our lives and forget our own children.
Professor Samuel's research findings are correct: sealing adoption records was
meant to protect the adoptive parents, not birth or natural parents who were
treated without basic human dignity during this period and even today sadly
still are in many states. Adoptees fared no better. Torn from their natural families, their social and genetic histories, they had their native identities made secret by the state and were given new identities and expected to adapt as best they could.
This forced relinquishment and adoption has brought with it a host of problems for adoptees. By the 1970s, many sought to begin to address the realities of their lives by searching, but were dissuaded by the negative stereo type of the birth mother as prostitute, low-life or gutter dweller who would take the adoptee down with her.
However the truth eventually showed itself and adoptees found their mothers were, quite often, the girl next door.
-- Joyce Bahr, President
Australia's PM Julia Gilliard's Apology, March 2013
Here is the transcript:
Rosie Fuller's story of embarrassment and humiliation in her struggle to learn her identity. She ends up with two families and the answers she needs to heal her life.
your birth parent forthcoming with pertinent medical history? See our Articles page and read the Surgeon
General's Family History Initiative and Adam Pertman's article,
"Adoptees Deserve Access to Family Histories".
Adam Pertman, former Director of
The Donaldson Institute, the foremost think tank on adoption issues, is now the Director of The National Center on Adoption and Permanency (NCAP).
2007 Report by the Foremost Think Tank on Adoption Issues:
Restoring A legal Right for Adult Adoptees
Adopted Children Should Be Able to View Adoption Records,
Says Recent Survey by FindLaw:
1997 Cornell University Study Indicates Adoptive Parents
Are In Favor Of Open Records:
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Studies Finding for Adoptee Access to Original Birth Certificates
2012 - 50 pages - Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute: "Openness in Adoption: From Secrecy and Stigma to Knowledge and Connections"
2010 - 46 pages - Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute: "For the Records II: An Examination of the History and Impact of Adult Adoptee Access to Original Birth Certificates" is based on a years-long examination of relevant judicial and legislative documents; on decades of research and other scholarly writing; and on the concrete experiences of states and countries that have either changed their laws to provide these documents or never sealed them at all (Entire study published on Institute's website).
2009 - 112 pages - Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute: "Beyond Culture Camp: Promoting Healthy Identity Formation for Adoptees." The broadest, most extensive examination of adult adoptive identity to date. (Entire study published on Institute's website).
2007 - 50 pages - Professor E. Wayne Carp: "Does Opening Adoption Records Have an Adverse Social Impact? Some Lessons from the U.S., Great Britain, and Australia 1953 to 2007." (Study available from www.informaworld.com or from Unsealed Initiative).
2007 - 31 pages - Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute: "For the Record: Restoring a Legal Right for Adult Adoptees." (Entire study published on Institute's website).
2008 - 33 pages - Cleveland State Law Review: "The Only Americans Legally Prohibited from Knowing Who Their Birth Parents Are; A rejection of Privacy Rights as a Bar to Adult Adoptee Access to Birth and Adoption Records." (Online copy available from Unsealed Initiative). Cleveland State Law Review. Volume 55 issue 3.
2001 - 59 pages - Professor Elizabeth J. Samuels: "The Idea of Adoption: an Inquiry into The History of Adult Adoptee Access to Birth Records." Study concludes confidentiality was for adoptive parents. Some birth parents signed surrender papers agreeing to stay away from the custody of the adoptee and adoptive family. But no birth parent was given confidentiality or a right to privacy. This study is published in the Rutgers law review #367, 2001. (3-page conclusion available from Unsealed Initiative).
1997 - Cornell University study sponsored by the New York State Citizens Coalition Children: "Adoptive Parents Are Overwhelmingly in Favor of Opening Sealed Adoption Records." (Available at www.news. cornell.edu/release/jan97/adoption.record.ssl.ht).
1973 - New York Law Forum study concludes adults adoptees should have access to identity and birth records for psychological health reasons. (Available from Unsealed Initiative).
Survey Finding for Access
2003 - Survey conducted by FindLaw finds an overwhelming majority of Americans believe adopted children should be granted full access to their adoption records when they become adults. (Survey findings published on http://www.findlaw.com).
Convention on the Rights of the Child
1989 - UN Resolution (44/25 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 8). Section 1 states parties undertake to respect the right of the child to preserve his or her identity, including nationality, name and family relations as recognized by law without unlawful interference. Section 2 states where a child is illegally deprived of some or all of the elements of his or her identity, state parties shall provide appropriate assistance and protection, with a view of re-establishing speedily his or her identity.
1970's protest; recent David Weprin press conference; David Hancock's First NY State Legislature Lobby