There is always reform legislation going on in the United States. I decided to google the definition of “reform,” so I could understand how exactly it is defined:
make changes in (something, typically a social, political, or economic institution or practice) in order to improve it: (2016, bing)
So, adoption reform legislation is aimed at making the adoption better. Yet, here is the question: Better for whom? Birth families, adoptees, adoptive families? Hmm . . . I guess there will always be someone who may not consider the reform a positive one.
One reform act in legislation regarding adoption is the following:
New York Statewide Adoption Reforms
UNSEALED INITIATIVE: This initiative is reform in the Adoption community as it relates to sealed original birth certificates in the state of New York. I understand many states are facing the same battle at this moment. I chose to briefly discuss New York because I have lived in New York for 14 years now, and I consider my home state to now be New York. I am raising my family in New York, and I have made friends with people who were adopted in New York, and I have seen the frustration in their faces, and heard it in their voices. All they want is to just know their roots. Just to have their birth name. To have that piece of history, the first piece to their unfinished puzzle.
The way this law would work, if passed, is an adult adoptee (18 and older) would be able to apply to the Surrogate Court or the New York State Supreme Court for a release of a non-certified copy of his or her birth certificates. Once an application is received, the court would provide the Department of Health with the names of the adoptee’s biological parents typed on the birth certificate. The Department of Health would then have 120 days to contact the birth parents in writing, advising them of the adoptee’s desire to have a non-certified copy of his or her birth certificate. The biological parents would be given a form of contact preference, which would be provided to the adoptee along with his or her birth certificate. If the birth parents did not fill out the contact form within 120 days, or if the biological parent(s) were found to be deceased, then the adoptee would, by default, receive a non-certified copy of their original birth certificate.
Now, from an adoptee’s perspective, I think this is a true act of reform: “Making changes in something, typically a social, political, or economic institution or practice in order to improve it.” This act of legislation, if it became law, would be an immense improvement to adoptees finally knowing where they came from! The words immense improvement I consider an understatement to the caliber of reform I see in this piece of legislation. The state of New Jersey, the state from which I was adopted, passed this law in 2014, with a buffer of 3 years before the adoptee would be given their original birth certificate if the birth parent(s) had not objected, or had passed away.
I am not a birth parent. I am going to make an assumption at the cost of probably coming across as being ignorant. I am making the assumption that there are birth parents out there who consider this legislation reform totally inappropriate, and not right in any way. They may see this act as an injustice to the privacy of birth parents. They may see this legislative act as not an act of reform at all, but rather an act of privacy violation, and an infringement on the rights of those who had a baby one minute and were empty-handed the next. On the other end, there may be birth parents out there who wish for this bill to become a law. They may want to be found, but feel they have no right to search, because that child was adopted. This could and may be seen as a true act of reform by a biological parent as well.
I am also not an adoptive parent (although my husband and I wish we could afford to adopt a child.) So, again, I am going to assume that this act of legislation may be seen by some adoptive parents as asinine, and a destruction to the rights of adoptive parents to be the parents to their children. Adoptive parents may see this possible law as the start to having to worry about their child leaving them to be with their biological family. Some adoptive parents may view this act of legislation as a threat to their family, to their wants and desires for their family and their adoptive children. On the other hand, there are probably adoptive parents out there who are hoping this legislation goes through to become a law. They have a child or children with questions about their past that need to be answered. Perhaps they have an unknown medical history. Maybe there is an illness that is hereditary that runs in the biological family, and if those records are unsealed, that medical information can be retrieved and preventative measures taken.
I am 100% in favor of New York state’s UNSEALED INITIATIVE, but all who read this, please know I do hear and empathize with all views from each person who may be affected by this bill.