Position Statement -2017
Adoption Registry / Adoptee Rights
A. 5036-B (Weprin) / S. 4845-B (Robach)
Summary of the Bills
These proposed bills would allow an adult adoptee to apply to the Court in which the order of adoption was made to request the release of a non-certified long form birth certificate. Upon application, the Court shall provide identifying information of the adopted person’s birth parents and would direct the department of health to make a good faith effort to: 1. Notify the birth parent/parents; and 2. Advise the birth parent/parents that the adult adoptee has made an application in Court. Should the birth parent/parents choose continued confidentiality, the Court would release a redacted long form birth certificate.
Disclosure of A Birth Parent’s Identification Without Consent.
WBASNY opposes those provisions which allow for the disclosure of the birth parents’ identification where written consent is not secured. Under the proposed bills, if the birth parent/parents are unable to be notified or do not respond to notification, the Court may nevertheless direct the release of an un-redacted, non-certified copy of the long form birth certificate to the adult adoptee or if the birth certificate is unavailable, release the identifying information that would have appeared on the original long-form birth certificate. WBASNY opposes this in its entirety.
WBASNY opposes this legislation insofar as it permits the disclosure of identifying information of both birth parents were either one or both do not affirmatively consent to such disclosure. Under the bills, if both birth parents are identifiable and one gives permission to disclose and the other does not, the non-certified birth certificate “may” be provided to the adoptee with the redacted name of the birth parent who does not give permission. Similarly, if neither birth parent gives permission to disclose, the court would be authorized under these bills to make the disclosure. The standard for making disclosure under either circumstance is insufficient to support the promise made by the State to birth parents to maintain the confidentiality unless they affirmatively agreed otherwise.
Under the proposed bills, the court would be obligated to release identifying information unless “in its discretion, for good cause specified in its order,” the court “determines that the release of such birth certificate or identifying information would be clearly detrimental to the welfare of the birth parents.” First, the presumption should be in favor of nondisclosure because the State made a promise to birth parents that their identity would remain confidential unless they consented to disclosure. While our social mores may have changed, the importance that the State to adhere to promises made to its citizens is unchanged. Second, the proposed standard is infeasible because it places the court in the position of determining whether disclosure would be detrimental to individuals who would not be present before the court in order to provide evidence supporting such a determination. Third, there are numerous procedures stated in these bills where inadvertent mistakes can be made which will ultimately lead to identification of a birth parent who does not want to be identified as well as have their confidential information released.
WBASNY also opposes this legislation because the adoption information registry already permits birth parents to disclose information should they choose to do so. Recent amendments requiring birth parents receive information about the registry and have an opportunity to register at the time of giving a consent or surrender, have increased the reliability of the registry making it more successful.
Although most adoptions today have some measure of openness, those which do not, arise out of protecting the safety and identity of the birth parent. While much of the stigma surrounding out of wedlock births has dissipated, there are still many who would be greatly harmed if an out-of-wedlock pregnancy were disclosed some 18 years after the fact.
Also, at the time of adoption, the State agreed to maintain the confidentiality of the biological parents in the absence of written consent from them. To alter this scheme would be to breach a promise made to these individuals.
WBASNY suggests that any legislation which would permit the disclosure of a birth parents identification be applied prospectively, so that the State is not placed in the position of breaching its promises to biological parents. WBASNY further suggests that any legislation is also modified to include a written acknowledgment by the birth parent of such potential disclosure.
For the reasons stated above, WBASNY opposes the legislation as currently written.