Tag Archives: Original Birth Certificates

Original birth certificates for CT adoptees

Adoptees Deserve Original Birth Certificates

I submitted testimony in support of House Bill 5408, which would allow Connecticut adoptees adopted prior to October 1, 1983 to obtain their original birth certificates.

Up until this month, I had never done anything to advocate for open records, other than blogging about it here. By nature, I am not an activist or rabble-rouser. I always tried to please my parents, keep my editors happy, follow the rules and laws. I don’t march in marches or protest at demonstrations. It’s not that I don’t care deeply about things. I respect and support the activists who fight for the causes I believe in but I don’t join them in the trenches.

Original Birth Certificates Reveal Truths

In my heart, I’ve always believed adoptees deserve to know the truth about their roots. Knowing the truth about my natural mother and father is satisfying. It gives me peace of mind. Obtaining my original birth certificate from the state of Illinois was the first step.

That piece of paper was full of revelations. It disclosed my mother’s identity, her age, home address, place of birth and other important facts. Maybe the most surprising thing for me was learning that Lillian was 28 and married when she had me. Unlike my official birth certificate, my OBC included Lillian’s signature. Seeing it felt special, kind of personal.

Access to original birth certificates should not divide adoptees into the “haves” and the “have-not’s.” All adopted adults should be able to get their OBCs without having to jump through hoops.

My Testimony on Behalf of Open Records for Adoptees

Fellow adoptee Karen Oestreicher Caffrey pushed me to action. “Hope you can submit testimony by this Thursday in support of House Bill 5408,” Karen wrote in a Facebook message that popped up on my cell phone.

Here’s what I wrote:

On behalf of Access Connecticut, I am writing to express my support for HB5408. 

The legislature should restore the right of every adopted adult citizen in Connecticut to obtain a copy of her original, true birth certificate. All adult adoptees deserve unrestricted access to their original birth certificates. Not allowing all adoptees to obtain this important document is discrimination. People who are not adopted take this information for granted. There is no justification for treating adopted adults differently than people who are not adopted. It’s a basic human and civil right to know one’s biological origins. 

As an adoptee who was born in Illinois, I was able to obtain a copy of my original birth certificate. That piece of paper revealed important facts about my mother and helped me connect with my mother’s other daughter, my half-sister. Using DNA tests, I was able to learn my father’s identity and establish a friendly relationship with his oldest daughter, my half-sister.  Learning about my origins has brought me peace of mind. When I go to the doctor, I can answer questions about my family medical history, just like everyone else.

I urge the legislature to do the right thing and approve House Bill 5408, An Act Concerning Access to Original Birth Records by Adult Adopted Persons.

Supporting open birth records for adoptees is great. But it’s not enough. Letting the lawmakers know why openness is important can make a difference in people’s lives.

You can learn more about the movement at the Access Connecticut Adoptee Rights page on Facebook.

Search Ends: I Found My Biological Father

My search is over. A DNA test has confirmed the identity of my biological father.

I was beyond thrilled when I got the email from a woman I suspected was a close relative based on countless hours of detective work. She had taken a DNA test at my request.

“Tom, I found my father,” I told my husband, who was under the covers at 6 a.m. “Congratulations,” he murmured.

Continue reading Search Ends: I Found My Biological Father

Let’s Give Adoptees Their Original Birth Certificates

If you are not adopted, you take your birth certificate for granted. It’s a piece of paper you’ve had forever, with facts about your parents and your birth that you’ve known about all your life.

But if you’re adopted, the original birth certificate is like a piece of gold. I just got mine two years ago and feel lucky to have it. Without it, I would be completely in the dark about my birth mother Lillian’s identity, which is part of my identity, too.

me and the BC best
That’s my original birth certificate

Many adopted adults can’t get their original birth certificates because of old-fashioned state laws that keep those records sealed. That’s not fair. I think other adoptees should be able to learn about their origins without having to jump through a million hoops or spend gobs of money.

I signed Sandy Musser’s petition, which would restore original birth certificates to adult adoptees. Sandy, an adoption reform activist, wants to take her petition straight to the White House. She hopes to convince President Obama to enact an executive order, which would restore the OBCs to every adult adoptee in America “in one fell swoop because it is a civil and constitutional right.” I’m with you, Sandy.

If you’re reading this, take a moment to add your name to Sandy’s petition. The more signatures, the more likely this drive will make a difference.

Original Birth Certificates: A Basic Right for Adoptees

Maybe I hit a nerve. After posting an article on the importance of original birth certificates, I heard from many adoptees who are fed up with birth certificate laws that keep them from learning basic truths about their origins.

“At 47, doesn’t the Legislature think I am old enough to know where I come from?” one reader wrote. “It’s crazy! I was born in North Dakota. Getting information from them is worse than pulling teeth.

“Over the 30 years I’ve been searching, I have learned I have a sister who’s a year older than me who was also given up. You’d think maybe they would offer up a little information about her, but no such luck. I wasn’t even given a birth month, just a year. North Dakota is as old fashioned as they get. I doubt they will ever give up the information. At my age, medical information is almost a must.”

These restrictive laws are on the books in many states. (If you wonder whether you can get your original birth certificate, here is a state-by-state summary from the American Adoption Congress.)

As if it’s not bad enough that adoptees can’t get their hands on these documents, many have resorted to expensive alternate routes to obtain a few facts about their births. It’s not unusual at all for adoptees to shell out several hundreds of dollars for court fees and confidential intermediaries. Responsible adults who have jobs, families and homes of their own have to spend big bucks just to get a few tidbits of information about their births and birth parents. Of course, those who don’t have the money are completely out of luck. This is not right.

me and the BC bestI am one of the lucky adoptees. I was born in Illinois, which recently unsealed original birth certificates for adopted people. A couple of years ago, I sent the Illinois Department of Public Health a check for $15 or $20. Months later, I had a non-certified copy of my birth certificate.  That document revealed my birth mother’s maiden name, married name, age, address and her place of birth. With that information, I began my search for more facts about blood relatives. Thanks to that piece of paper and a wonderful search angel, I have been able to learn many important things about medical and family history.

As far as birth certificate access goes, Illinois was ahead of New York, the state where I currently live. I am glad to see the Empire State moving in the right direction. Here’s a great 20-minute video on the New York state adoptee bill of rights featuring comments from birth parents and adoptees.

Why Adoptees Need Their Birth Certificates

I take my original birth certificate for granted. I don’t give it a second thought, even though it was less than two years ago that I got my hands on this document, which revealed my birth mother’s name.

my BC and thumb #4

But as an adoptee, I am one of the lucky ones. The only reason I have my original birth certificate is because I come from Illinois, one of the states that has unsealed birth certificates for adopted people. Many adoptees are not so fortunate. They can’t get their original birth documents because of old-fashioned state laws that keep those papers locked up like cold hard cash in a bank vault.

If you are adopted, the original birth certificate is a key to your origins. It reveals the name or names of your original parents, their hometowns, their ages, where they were living at the time of your birth, even whether or not you have a twin brother or sister. These are basic facts that non-adopted people know from day one. Why should adoptees in the 21st century be kept in the dark? It’s just wrong.

Without my original birth certificate, I never would have been able to find out anything about my mother, Lillian, her children, her husbands or other details about her life and death. My quest to learn about my original family and medical history never would have gone anywhere without that piece of paper. My birth certificate unlocked doors.

Adopted people are not the only ones who want these vital documents unsealed. Lorraine Dusky, a birth mother, makes a compelling case for opening the record vault. “Adopted people are not children all their lives,” she writes. “They grow up and need not only updated family medical information, but they need and desire to be whole and integrated individuals.”

I am glad to see a number of states are starting to recognize the rights of adoptees. In Ohio, adult adoptees will be able to get their original birth certificates under a recent change in state law. Lawmakers in New York and Georgia are considering similar actions. (Here’s an overview of birth certificate access state by state, courtesy of the American Adoption Congress.)

Writing about this has brought back a memory. In 2012, it came in the mail, many weeks after I had requested my birth certificate from the state of Illinois. Until that day, I didn’t have a single document related to my adoption, a secret affair that didn’t involve an adoption agency.

My hands shook a bit as I ripped open the envelope. Inside was a non-certified birth certificate containing an honest answer to that basic question I had wondered about for years: Who is my birth mother?

me and the BC best

The birth certificate dispelled a couple of myths. Contrary to what I had thought, my birth mother was not a member of my adoptive family, nor was she a teenager who got in trouble. Lillian was a married woman of 28 with four children when she brought me into the world. Of course, my birth certificate did not fill in all the blanks, especially the one for my father, who is listed as “not legally known.”

Still, it was thrilling to see the facts for the first time. I was no longer the “undocumented” adoptee. Those kernels of truth got me going on a mission to dig up more truths about my family history.

No adoptee should be denied this experience.

On Monday: Original Birth Certificates

I take my birth certificate for granted but I shouldn’t. As an adoptee, I am fortunate to come from Illinois, one of the states that has unsealed original birth certificates for adopted adults.

Many adoptees from states that still keep the records sealed are stuck. Without that piece of paper, adoptees can’t  get very far in their search for biological family.

I’ll have more on Monday.

my BC and thumb #4