This is a big deal. Advocates in New York have been working on legislation like this for decades—a law that will allow adoptees born in New York State to access their original birth certificates when they are 18 years old. Today, the bill A5494 passed in the New York State Assembly, by a vote of 126-2 (wow!). Governor Andrew Cuomo has said he will sign it.
New York is now the tenth state that allows adoptees to access their own identity. If you are not adopted, and I am not, think about what this means: In 40 US states, you still do not have the right (or the choice) to learn your own identity. You have limited access to medical history and concerns. You are in the only group to be denied the civil and human right of knowing who you are, a right that we non-adopted folks take for granted.
In many places around the globe, adoptees are locating family as well as medical information through DNA testing. That can be helpful and it can also be expensive and complicated.
Search and reunion are also very complicated. Some adoptees never search; some see no reason. Some have a desperate need to search. Reunions can go really well. Not all do. Like every other aspect of family life, there are some amazing moments, some joys, some sorrows, some hard roads, some deep love.
Birth parents were never guaranteed that their children would not look for them or find them—they may have been promised, but the people giving the promise had no way to guarantee that, especially over time. I don’t minimize the complexity. I hope everyone who searches and is found also has counseling and support—I hope no one goes through this alone. Thankfully, adoptees’ voices are being heard, and the community has a lot more resources.
I’ll post more later. I wanted to get the word out today about this landmark law. That New York State has passed this law is the result of enormous work by many adoptees and birth parents. I hope that the successful passage of the law provides a model and precedent for adoptee rights in other states. As an adoptive parent, I feel so strongly that adoptees deserve to know who they are, to have access to their medical records, and to have the choice to search and get their questions answered.