Historic Adoptee Rights Legislation Passes in Albany
The Clean Bill of Adoptee Rights was voted on and passed in the legislature on Friday. Now it goes to the Governor’s Office for signature. I want to thank Assemblyman David Weprin and Senator Velmanette Montgomery for sponsoring this important piece of legislation, and to the New York Adoptee Rights Coalition for all their advocacy. The main intent of this legislation is to give adoptees the right to receive a certified copy of their original birth certificate when they reach 18, and it also allows descendants of deceased adoptees the right to receive that information as well.
Why Do Original Birth Certificates Matter?
Adoptee Search and Reunion
It is hard to know who you are if you don’t know where you come from. It is not impossible. But again and again, as I work with people who joined their families through adoption and mostly closed adoption, they have difficulty knowing who they are in the present day.
Where does this begin? An early experience of disconnection from family, family members, culture, society, language, food…the list could go on and on.
Adoptees who were relinquished in a closed adoption are forced to live with and as secrets, disconnected from their earliest beginnings.
Search angels, search registries and most recently DNA testing have changed so much of that, and being able to request your original birth certificate will help many people who are trying to search and reunite to move their process forward, and help others to begin on a solid footing.
Now it looks like New York State will finally join the ranks of other states who have made steps to open records, to provide original birth certificates, and help people find their biological families.
Adoptees and Medical Information
It is important to remember that something as basic as family medical information is something that adoptees do not often have access to, and that providing birth parents names can help adoptees even if one party or the other does not want to build a relationship.
Even adoptees who were given medical information at the time of their adoption do not always get updates, and a lot can go on with biological parents after they relinquish their children that their children, as adults, may want to know about.
Many adoptees have the experience again and again of being asked in the doctor’s office for medical histories that they just do not have. This legislation will make a difference and possibly save lives.
Adoptees Developing A Coherent Sense Of Self
For my work as a therapist, working with adopted adults as well as young adult adoptees, beyond issues of search and reunion and medical information, I work with people’s sense of themselves as having no beginning. This is actually the story that is presented to adoptees on these amended birth certificates. If the state says these are your parents that you were born to, on your birth certificate, but you know they were not your birth parents, that just adds to the confusion by giving it a legal stamp of approval.
Adoptees come into my office and say things like, I feel like I was never born, or, I think that I came from the universe somewhere. They experience themselves as ungrounded, prone to flying off into space or to wandering off in their minds, or simply hovering above the ground and the seat they are perched upon. They experience their bodies in contact with the earth and the chair as disconnection, as sites of tension or dullness.
We work on these issues and pay attention to how they are showing up in their lives outside the therapy room so that my clients can make a better adjustment to their situation that honors who they are and can understand how they are in the world.
However, again and again, people who work with me in therapy report or actually experience a grounding quality when they find more information about themselves, when they have a reunion experience, or when someone outside themselves, like a trusted therapist, validates their experience of disconnection.
In a great and important way, that is what the State of New York is doing with this legislation. It is saying, your experience matters and your amended birth certificate does not represent who you are and how you began. You were born to these people and then you were relinquished by them and adopted by these people. To have the legal records finally reflect reality for adoptees 18 and over is so important for well being and mental health.
I am so excited for this change in the laws and hope that the Governor signs and makes into law this important piece of legislation that will change so many lives, opening doors that have been closed and reorganizing on a deep structure people’s psyches towards greater acceptance and healing.
Will you be requesting your original birth certificate?
Let me know in the comments below. I am currently running a therapy group for adult adoptees that deals with current issues people are having around search, reunion and developing a sense of self; I also provide individual therapy for adult adoptees and help people find adoption competent therapists in the NYC area so if you want to reach out please contact me directly through my website or if you just want to stay in touch join my mailing list!