Adoption Dilemma, Part 2: Changing State Law

Adoption Dilemma, Part 2: Changing State Law

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Most people have their original birth certificates, but not if they were adopted in New York. 

A state law stands in the way of adoptees having access to their birth certificates and finding out their birth parents' identities. 

In part two of her Adoption Dilemma series, 7 News reporter Amanda Corna tells us about New York's adoption law and what's being done to try to change it.

Kevin Clark of Watertown, who was placed for adoption, recently found his birth father and other family members. 

What he didn't have while he was looking was his original birth certificate, which that would have the names of his birth parents.

"When a person reaches a legal age, whatever the state can, whether it's 18 or 21 or even older than that, when they become grown adults they should be able to find out their story," Clark said.

What Clark is referring to is a state law that keeps the original birth certificates of adopted children sealed. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently vetoed a bill that would have allowed adoptees to petition a court for their original birth certificates, but also would have allowed birth parents to remove their names if they wanted to remain anonymous. 

Birth mother Bridget Gordinier of Hammond says it's the adoptee's right to have the original birth certificate.

"Why can I or you walk into the courthouse where our birth certificates are filed and receive them, but an adoptee can't?" she said.

Patty Strife of Carthage, who was placed for adoption, agrees that birth parents can remain anonymous, but thinks adoptees should have their original birth certificates.

"My birth certificate -- and I'm almost 60 years old -- says 'amended' on it, it's not an original one," Strife said.

Cuomo says it's a difficult issue and he's directing the Department of Health to study it further. 

Assemblywoman Addie Jenne says the state should come up with a way to have birth parents share their information if they want to.

"Why can't we at the state create a one-page form, check the box, do you want it given out? Or do you want it withheld?" Jenne said.

Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush says the governor's reasoning for the veto wasn't enough.

"There's got to be more to that to a veto message so that the sponsor of this bill could then say, I'll amend the bill," he said.

That sponsor has introduced a new adoption bill. It would allow adoptees to get their original birth certificates and medical histories once they turn 18 without petitioning a court. 

It also allows birth parents to say whether or not they want to be contacted.

Almost everyone we interviewed for this series says they're in favor of this new adoption bill, although Blankenbush says it doesn't give enough privacy to the birth parents. 

If the new bill becomes a law, New York would join nine other states that allow adopted children access to their original birth certificates. 

See part one.

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