Birth Certificates & Adoption Legal History: Spotlight on Connecticut

Like many adoptees in the adoptee rights movement, I have been informed on more than one occasion of various reasons why our rights to access the accurate records of our births should not be restored. I always find the rationales for treating us as less-deserving than non-adopted citizens to be rather interesting. People often make generalized statements without the benefit of being fully informed about the history of adoption law in the United States. More specifically, many people have an extreme lack of knowledge when it comes to adoption laws as they have existed in each individual state. Some are under the impression that our original birth certificates have always been sealed when the truth is that in many states, the sealing of adoptees’ birth certificates is a relatively new practice.

I was born and adopted in Connecticut. At the time of my birth and adoption, the state was treating adult adoptees equally under law to non-adopted adults. You see, I was born in 1971, four years before the original birth certificates of adoptees were sealed. And yet, the arbitrary sealing of original birth certificates in 1975 was, of course, made retroactive and applied to adoptees born in years prior. Suddenly, Connecticut had decided that adoptees were second-class citizens despite this having not been the case at all up until the bill was passed rendering our original birth certificates classified material. Respect and equality for adopted persons had been replaced with discrimination and inequity. And so it has gone for the past few decades.

Fortunately, there is currently a bill slated for hearing in Connecticut’s Public Health Committee, SB 59,  that would restore the original birth certificate access rights that Connecticut once afforded to all adult adoptees born in the state. Unfortunately, Department of Children and Families Commissioner Joette Katz has recommended that only adoptees born after the bill would become law in June of 2014 should be allowed to access their original birth certificates upon reaching adulthood. Apparently, she feels that some Connecticut-born adult adoptees should have the right to obtain their original birth certificates but not all. Which is somewhat perplexing considering the state took the exact opposite approach when it sealed the birth certificates in 1975 with a sweeping measure that encompassed all of us. Obviously, her recommendation would only serve to continue the decades-long practice of treating Connecticut-born adult adoptees differently under law from all non-adopted adults born in the state–even those of us who were born and adopted at a time when original birth certificates were not sealed.

History demonstrates that Connecticut is entirely capable of enacting laws that would ensure equal treatment for adult adoptees. As such, it is now time to right a decades-long wrong and restore the equal access that existed prior to 1975. Not just for some adoptees as Ms. Katz suggests with her marginalizing and discriminatory recommendation. Not just for those born after 2014. Not just for those born between 1975 and 2014. Not just for those born prior to 1975. We all deserve to be treated equally under to law, not only to each other but also to all non-adopted citizens born in the state. Connecticut need only glance to its neighbors Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island to see what equal access for all adult adoptees looks like. It looks fair, respectful and honest.Watercolor Tree Email Small 132 x 160You’ve probably heard about Connecticut’s “still revolutionary” campaign. I’m sure areas of Connecticut Government are living up to that moniker but when it comes to adoptees’ rights the Connecticut Department of Children and Families has been anything but revolutionary.

~Paul Schibbelhute, legislative adviser to Access Connecticut, an advocacy group for adult adoptees, in a letter to the editor published in the Hartford Courant.

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2 thoughts on “Birth Certificates & Adoption Legal History: Spotlight on Connecticut

    • Yes, Jo. This is a very important, related topic. Perhaps one to address in another post. Of course, restoring access to our original birth certificates applies to those of us who did have our names changed by our adoptive parents and birth certificates altered by the state of Connecticut. The goal with restoring access is to empower and recognize adult adoptees as individual citizens who are no longer the children they were at the times of their adoptions.

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