Since the 1930’s New York has made it extremely difficult for adopted children to get access to their original birth records and information regarding biological family. For certain reasons, these policies make a lot of sense, however, giving a human being the opportunity to learn about where they truly came from and the DNA that’s running through their blood seems like it should be just as much of a human right as deciding not to find out that information, and the state has recently agreed.
This past Wednesday (1/15/20) New York became the 10th state in America to grant adoptees unrestricted access to their original birth records. Before the order was passed, New York required that adopted individuals had to get a court order if they wanted access to their birth certificates, however, the court order was known as one of the hardest pieces of government documentation to obtain in the state.
“Those rules had originally been intended to protect the privacy of parents who relinquished their children. But attitudes about the rights of adopted individuals have shifted, while social media and DNA technology have made it easier for long-separated relatives to connect,” (NBC).
It’s a controversial and complex issue, which is part of the reason the policies remained the same for almost a century. Some of the opposers of the new laws that were involved in the debates were Catholic groups, adoption agency workers who have seen the results of adoptees finding their birth families, birth mothers in the same right, and adopted mothers as well. One of the major points of contention being protection over birth mothers who were the victims of rape or incest and decided to give up their child.
It’s estimated that about 600,000 New York state residents are adopted—now, all of those individuals will be given access to their original birth certificates, if they want it. Beforehand, New York was known as one of the most disciplinary states in the country in regards to any legal issues involving children, custody, adoption, parental rights, etc. According to Greg Luce, a family attorney and founder of the Adoptee Rights Law Center in Minnesota, New York was “one of the top five most restrictive states in the entire country, and it’s been that way since 1936,” Luce stated referring to when the original policies were enacted.
The National Council for Adoption is an adoption advocacy group that was founded in 1980. The goals of this group have always been clear; protect the rights and privacy of all parties involved in the adoption process, but most importantly, keep the child’s well-being at top priority. Part of that initiative actually involved supporting the previous laws that restricted an adopted individual’s access to their original birth records. However, according to the group’s president, their thoughts on the matter have since changed with the times.
“The group’s perspective has evolved as a growing body of research suggests the vast majority of women who place their children for adoption are open to reunions. As states have looked at laws to accommodate the majority, we’ve just asked folks to really take into account the wishes of the women who wish to maintain their privacy,” President Chuck Johnson said.
As Johnson stated, the main concern should be regarding the birth mothers rights to privacy and choice in regard to a reunion. What the adoptees will find when they do go out of their way to find their birth parents can go one of two ways, and it’s important for all parties involved in the process to be aware of that. More states are now pushing for policies like this one now that New York has loosened their century long restrictions, only time will tell how much the rest of the country corroborates and what the effects of that will be.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.