Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Open Access to Adoption Records

From the Chicago Sun Times on Illinois' new open access to birth records legislation:

In a room full of adoptive parents, children and birth parents, Gov. Quinn signed a law Friday designed to let adult adoptive children finally get their birth certificates.

Birth parents who don't want to be found will have 1½ years to get their names blacked out on their children's birth certificates. But backers expect four out of five birth parents will opt to let their children find them.

The law builds on the state's 1999 birth registry, which facilitates adopted children finding birth parents who don't mind being found. But the new law takes it a step further.

"Today is no doubt the most meaningful day of my life," said state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), who had already tracked down her birth mother.

Feigenholtz cried as she said, "I will be able to walk into the state's Office of Vital Records, plunk down my $15, and get a copy of my original birth certificate. On it will be the name of the woman who gave birth to me 53 years ago. To some, it may not sound like a big deal, but it is."

Feigenholtz said the law was modeled after similar laws in Maine and New Hampshire to balance the rights of adoptive children and parents. But some advocacy groups complain that Feigenholtz and other drafters compromised too much.

"It does not actually open adoption records," said Triona Guidry, whose birth mother will not let Guidry get a copy of her birth certificate. Even under the new law, the best Guidry will get is a birth certificate with her mother's name redacted. "Equal rights apply to everyone. Everyone should have the right to go into that courthouse, pay their $15 and get their birth certificate."

But stripping away all privacy rights for parents might make them less inclined to give up their children for adoption in the first place, proponents of the bill say.

A few key provisions of the law:

• Effective immediately, children and parents involved in adoptions that took place before 1946 can get birth certificates.

• For later cases, Feigenholtz and other state officials will spend the next 1½ years notifying birth parents and adoptive children that they need to contact the state and declare whether or not they wish to be found. Notices will go out on Illinois' residents' vehicle renewal stickers and other state documents. After Nov. 15, 2011, people involved in adoption can request birth certificates, and if the other parties involved have filed no objections, the birth certificates will be turned over.

• If a birth parent says no, an adoptive child can ask again in five years and the state will check to see whether the parent has changed her or his mind.

Read the full story here.

AC

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