Friday, August 12, 2011

Gearing up for the changes

It looks as if many folks are gearing up for the revisions in the search law to take effect.  It will be a busy time with the Courts as they learn the new law and make the needed changes in their policies and procedures.  It will also be a time for adoptees to get a better idea of what the changes will and will not allow. 

There are still some major misunderstandings, I fear.  Remember we are talking about the Courts adoption file not an OBC.  Most Court files do not have an OBC in them and even then, it is a state form not part of the adoption record and most Courts will probably not include it in the info given.  This is merely my understanding based on speaking with personnel at several different Courts.  In most cases, it is a mute point as the OBC is just not there.  In actuality, the adoption file may have much more info then the OBC has anyway.  There are those unfortunate counties where the Court files literally have no birth parent info other then their name.  So when these poor adoptees request non-id, there is none to give them.  Even the Courts don't know how old the birth parent was, where they were from, etc.  It isn't that they are holding back, it just isn't there.  They can't release info that doesn't exist. 

These revisions have helped create some publicity for adoption search and the fact that it can happen successfully.  Many still do not realize there is even a search process in place and has been for a long time.  The ability to search through the Courts is not a new thing but has been around since 1986.  The "new law" folks are talking about are merely revisions to the current law.

One thing this has brought out is a greater realization that requesting information from the Courts can be a good thing.  There are many that never contacted the Court as they were always being told to avoid the Court or that the Court could not help them.  In most cases, the Court is the only source of information about the adoption, so why not go where the info is?  I do admit there are Courts that are still do not understand the current law and so will create even greater frustration for adoptees with the new revisions.  However, most Courts have an understanding staff and it is not usually the idea that they are not releasing info just to be difficult, it either isn't there to begin with or it is not something they are legally able to provide.  This is the whole reason behind many of the new revisions.  Hopefully, we can bring the resistant Courts around to providing the adoptee with a competant and compassionate response to their search request.

For most folks the process will be the same as in the past.  The adoptee will still need to make the request for information and in most cases will have to have a search conducted.  It will be at the end of the search that the changes will become evident.  If the birth parent consents, this will be the same as before with the Judge allowing the release of info and the birth parent and adoptee making a connection.  However, if the birth parent is found to be deceased, then the Court, under certain conditions, can now allow the release of the identifying information to the adoptee on the birth parent from the time of the adoption as well as any updated information found in the course of the search.  They may also be able to to be connected with any living siblings they may now find as the Court can allow for them to be confidentially contacted in the same manner as the birth parent would have if they had been alive.

The biggest process change that I forsee will be for those folks who are not the actual adoptee but the lineal descendent of a deceased adoptee.  I had to create a form for this category and anticipate that most Courts will have to do this as well.  The Courts have usually turned away anyone who was not the actual adoptee as the Courts were not allowed to release any information to anyone but the adoptee directly. 

Some feelers have also been put out to see if we can make another change next year to allow for the birth parent to make a request for a confidential search just as the adoptee can now do.  Again, no one wants to have someone knock on their door and drop in their life from out of the blue without fair warning.  But I receive at least two calls a week from birth families who would love to be able to reach out to the adoptee.  If the adoptee is willing, wonderful and if not, then they are respectful of that and would not intrude.  They just know they have to make the effort.

Remember, the process of requesting info from most Courts will be the same other then you will no longer need adoptive parent consent.  The Courts do not have the info right at their finger tips to provide to you if you were to walk in.  Most have the old files in archives and will have to request the file.  Also, there still has to be proof that the birth parent is deceased before the Court will be able to release the info on a deceased bp so a search will most likely have to be done to determine that.  If a search was done in the past and it was found that they were deceased, then a new search will not be needed as the Court should have that info already on file.

In most cases, there is no need to wait until Aug 29th to make the request of the Court.   It will take that long before the files are back from archives and the request has made it through to the point of release anyway especially if a search has to be conducted.   So don't wait.  Go ahead and send in the request to get the process started. 

Have a great day everyone!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

New statute clarification

The new statute basically modifies the current search process and the information the Court is allowed to release.  This is all as the effective date of August 28, 2011

The adoptive parent consent is no longer needed to request a full search. 

The Court will still provide the non-id info in the same manner as before.

The identifying information found in the Court file will be allowed to be released at the conclusion of a search if the birth parent is found alive and provides their consent OR is found to be deceased.  Basically it is the same statute as before with the addition of the "or if deceased" added to the language.  The same conditions are presented regarding the other birth parent having to be consenting, deceased as well, unknown or known but cannot be found.

This will not include the OBC filed with Vital Records in Jeff City. The Court has no jurisdiction over this record.   It only includes what is currently in the Court file and still requires a Judge to provide the approval for the release of any information.  I suppose if there is a copy of an OBC in the Court file, it could be released.  Usually that is not the case. 

If a search has been done in the past and you were told your birth parents are deceased, you would not need to do another search.  The info should be in the Court file already.  If you did not do a search but know that the birth parent is deceased and have some form of proof, the Court should provide the info without requiring a search.  The hope is also there that the Court will use some common sense in determining when it will release info.  If the birth parent would be over 100 years old by now but no search has been done and there is no proof of death, the fact that they would be over 100 should play into their agreeing to release the information to the requesting party.

I would be happy to answer any questions regarding the new statute and what it means.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

SB351 has been signed!

Just got the call.  The Bill has been signed by the Governor!  Congrats to all those who have worked for this.  Adoptees or their decedents will now have more access to the adoption information and adoptees will not have to ask their adoptive parents for permission.  (That has always been an odd requirement anyway.)  I have not yet seen the final copy of the Bill to see how the final wording ended up but should be helpful to many people.  Still not a total disclosure for all adoptees but that may come in time.  For now, I have a guess as to who will be the first people in line to get this newly available info. 

It will take time to get the Courts educated on the new statute but plans are in the works for that.  Still, I am very pleased.  Some progress is better then none.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Anticipation continues

There has still been no activity in the Governor's office regarding any of the new legislation articles sent to him.  We are learning a lesson in patience. 
We continue to spread the word of the new legislation so that adoptees are aware of the information that will (hopefully) soon be available to them.   Many adoptees who felt they would never know anything since their birth parents are deceased are very excited to hear about the new legislation.  This will be the information they have been wanting.  The feeling to "know" what their name was, to learn the name of their birth mother or birth father, to see it on paper, to learn "the rest of the story," will be a dream come true.  
The challenge will also be to get the notice out to the Courts in Missouri to let them know of the revision in the statute so that they will respond appropriately to adoptees when they inquire about their records.  It still amazes me when folks ask: Why do  adoptees search?  Why the information should be released at all?  Why are we not just letting it alone?  Well, adoptees have a history that goes beyond their moment of adoption.  Their existence didn't start then, it started before.  We want to know many things and it is only right that we should be allowed to ask.  Of course, no one wants to barge in and disrupt anyones life with the knowledge and intrude into the birth parents life, if being "known" would cause a problem.  We respect those birth parents, who for their own reasons, do not want to have this part of their life known to all.  But in most cases, it isn't this extreme. 
The disappointment comes when the adoptee finds out the birth parent is deceased and they are barred from knowing anything more the the non-id.  This will change when the Courts will be allowed to release the names of the birth parents even if they are deceased.  We have been working on this change for a long time.  It has been my frustration, along with the adoptee's, for all the years I have been helping adoptees search.  The right to confidentiality understandably exists while you are alive but ceases when you die.  It should include this situation as well.  With the passage of this legislation, the adoptee or their family will "win the lottery" and be able to know something as simple as a name.
Stay cool everyone!  As soon as I hear anything, you will be the first to know.

Friday, June 3, 2011

On the Governor's desk

SB 351 was delivered to the Gov. on May 26 along with the long list of other HB and SB's that were passed this session.  Looking at his web site, nothing has been done with any of these Bills to date.  So we wait.

Many of us have called the Gov.'s office to express our support of this Bill.  It is not known when he will be in the office to work on legislative things especially with the tornadoes and such that have occurred in the last few weeks.

We are keeping watch and I will post any new updates as soon as they occur.  When the Gov. does sign or after the default deadline of passage has come and gone, it will still be the end of August before the Bill is actually law.  We will also have to give the Courts a reasonable amount of time to even become aware of the new statute, to review it and then to develop the process to handle the influx of requests they will undoubtedly receive. 

Still, it is all very exciting.
Happy Summer!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Still waiting

We are still waiting for the Gov. to sign the Bill.  Looking on the Governor's web site, he has not signed anything since May 11th.  So all the other Bills sent to him in the last week of the session have not had any action either. 

Adoptees who know that their birth parents are deceased either by the results of a search or their own research are anxious for this change to be enacted.

Adoptees who do not yet know if their birth parents are alive or deceased can feel a little more comfortable requesting a search because in most cases, unless the birth parent says no to contact, the identifying information should be made available to them.  At least this was the intention of the change in statute. 

The next step on my agenda once the statute goes into play is to "educate" the Courts, juvenile officers, circuit clerks of the changes in the statute. This will hopefully help adoptees to have a better result when they request a search from counties that don't really get enough requests to have developed a procedure for effectively, competently and compassionately handling a search much less a reunion.   

We continue.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Almost there!

SB351 has now passed through all the legislative steps and is on it's way to the Governor's desk.  We hope that he has no objections and will sign it into law.  I am anxious to see how it reads in it's final form as there were several amendments added at the end that I did not have a chance to read before they were submitted but I think they were just minor adjustments to make the statute easier to read and understand.  So unless you hear differently, the changes will go into effect in August 2011.  So if you know you know your birth parents are deceased or did not want to search due to the risk of learning nothing, you are now ready to have the answers.  If you have avoided even requesting a search due to the need for adoptive parent approval, you are now able to proceed without their notification.  If you are the descendant of an adoptee who died before they were able to learn any information, you are now able to make a request for information as your adopted relative could if they were still alive. 
I am so very happy that we were able to get this through in one try.  There are folks that have been trying for the whole deal every year with no luck.  For years I have been wishing we could just go in and ask for these three very things knowing that to ask for more would never get anywhere.  Someone finally listened.  Thank you. 
If you have questions, please send me an email and I would be happy to reply.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Hearing is a success, sort of

The Hearing for SB351 was this past Wednesday.  Despite discussion by some people who still want to project the "shame and guilt" ideology on birth mothers and another amendment to when info can be released, the committee voted the Bill Do Pass.  Due to the wording of the Bill, the ability to release info has been limited again and will now require another amendment to "fix" it.  However, we have spoken with all the Rep's involved and they now understand and agree to the adjustments needed.  So when it goes to the Floor, we hope to have another amendment added to set it back to what it should say.  From what I understand, the Bill is now with the Rules committee and will then go to the House Floor.  No one knows when that will happen.  Requires negotiation at every step.

Irregardless, it continues to provide even a small victory in the process and another step closer to adoptees learning as much as possible rather then as much as allowed. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

SB 351 Hearing in the House Judiciary Committee

The hearing for SB351 in the Judiciary Committee has been scheduled for Wednesday at 12 noon.  This will be with the same committee that we spoke to about HB427 so I am not sure as to our success or not.  There are still many on the committee who are not shy about asking why adoptees should find out anything at all about their birth parents much less the changes we are asking.  We ask for much and they wittle it down to almost nothing.  Sigh.

However, we have been given assurances that we will be heard and that the committee will rule on it by days end on Wednesday.  HB427 had a hearing but has yet to be voted on in committee.  My fear was that they would give us a hearing for appearances sake but would not really take it seriously and allow for a vote.

If SB351 were to pass committee and to go to the House floor and get approved there, we have a good chance of it becoming law.  While it would not remove the current search system, it would allow for the Courts to be able to release more information at the conclusion of any searches that happen in the future as well as allow for the release of information in past searches where the birth parents were found to be deceased.   While I would not personally be able to release the info to adoptees, it will be my pleasure to contact the adoptees for whom I have done a search in the past to let them know of this new legislation and that they are now able to receive the information they were not allowed previously. 

This will help many adoptees, even those who never did a search but know from another source  that their birth parent is deceased.  They may have done a search on their own and think they have the info but would love to have verification of it and/or to just see the names in writing on a piece of paper.  This is not an unreasonable request.  My reason for being active in this cause is because I have 12 years of being frustrated at the limitations placed on what can be released at the end of a search especially in cases where the birth parent is found to be deceased.  Those searches for folks who either know their information so there is no Court involvement or their adoption was not a Missouri adoption have the luxury of learning all there is to know from the search with no limitations.  I would love to have the same freedom to release information in Missouri searches as well.

My purpose for working on this is for the benefit of Missouri adoptees and their descendants.  The argument of what "should" be allowed may be valid in the minds of many but the legislature has proven over and over that they will not go for a radical change in the records law.  We tried to get the OBC added from this point on in HB427.   That Bill stalled in committee and they won't even vote on it because of the OBC issue.  So in the SB we left that part out and concentrated on the other three issues, the adoptive parent signature requirement, the ability to release on deceased birth parents, and the ability of lineal descendants to request a search.  

On the Senate floor, an amendment had to be added before it would be approved.  Now that the SB is on the House side, it is my fear that even more modifications will have to be made in order for it to get the approval of the committee.  These are concessions that have to be made to get even a sliver of the original Bill through.  Politics does not equal common sense in many cases.  But we have to play the game or we do not get to play at all.

Please contact your Missouri Rep or the Rep for the district where your adoption records are and ask them to look into SB351 and to encourage the committee members to vote it "Do Pass."  Then ask them to vote for it's passage when it comes before them on the House floor. 

This will not provide me financial gain in any way as some have said.  The time spent contacting former clients will actually cost me money but it will be done with an eager attitude and the joy to inform them of the change in the statute. 

It will help adoptees feel like the system really can work for them as they will be able to learn the identifying information on their birth parents in almost all cases except where the birth parent is alive and refuses to release their name.  However, they will be informed that this refusal only lasts during their lifetime and will be allowed to be released after their death. 

Of course, this is only true if the SB passes into law.  I am still keeping my fingers crossed and saying a prayer for a positive outcome on Wednesday.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Another step closer

SB351 was passed on to the House today.  Yea!  We are now one step closer.  During the hearing yesterday one of the Senators brought up the issue of the married birth parents and disclosure upon death.  That was resolved with an amendment.  This was not something we were anticipating or had prior knowledge was going to happen.  It still reflects the concern folks have of someone's name being released that is still alive and has asked to stay anonymous.  While I am somewhat disappointed in it, I have to be realistic and compromise.

So now we can begin to contact our Reps to let them know of the Bill so they are familiar with it.  We hope to hear what committee it will be going to soon.  It would be helpful if it doesn't go to the Judiciary as they have stalled the HB basically stopping it. 

It will be a happy day when I can contact the adoptees and tell them the info on their deceased birth parent is now available.  Or the adoptee's grandchildren...

Some day soon, I hope.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hot off the Senate Floor!

SB351 just discussed on the Senate floor and was ordered "Perfected and Printed."  Several concerns were brought up and resolved.  One concern generated a last minute amendment which, while not great, was a reasonable compromise.  A Senator brought up the concern that in a situation where the birth parents had married each other at some point and now were being sought by the adult adoptee. If one birth is alive and declines and the other is deceased, the current Bill would have allowed the release of the identity of the deceased birth parent effectively undermining the other birth parents refusal to release their name.  The amendment was added that would prohibit the release of either birth parent's name until both (married) birth parents were deceased if one birth parent refused. 

At this point, the SB351 will be placed on the Calendar again for a Third Reading and when passed, will go to the House for consideration.  It is not known how quickly this will occur.  But we continue to make progress!!  

Friday, April 1, 2011

CLARIFICATION

I received an inquiry regarding both the SB and the HB.  It is clear there are some misunderstandings and I hope to be as helpful as possible.  For more specific info, refer to the actual copy of the Bills on the MO legislative web site.  Remember to watch for the brackets showing items being removed from the statute as well as the bold of what is being added.

The three main revisions: no adoptive parent consent requirement, release of identifying information (adoption record) if birth parent is deceased, and the ability of the lineal descendents to make a request are included in both SB351 and HB427 and would apply to adoptions completed prior to August 28, 2011.

HB247 contains a provision that would allow for the release of the original birth certificate in the same situations that would allow for the release of the adoption record described above.  SB351 contains no provision of any kind regarding the original birth certificate.   Senator Lamping would only agree to including a bc provision if it was on death of birth parent plus 20 years.  This is not very helpful so was a better strategy to leave it out and hope to do just the adoption record this time and concentrate on a birth certificate Bill after we get the adoption record release passed.  Then when we come back and can show that the information is being released anyway, it would not be too far a stretch to let the original bc's be released too.

HB427 will allow for the release of the original bc for adoptions completed after August 28, 2011 unless the birth parent has placed a "no release" form in the file at the time of the adoption.  Even if there is a "no release" form in the file, the adult adoptee can request the birth parent be contacted to see if they have changed their mind.  SB351 would allow for the release of the adoption record in the same fashion but does not include original bc's in any fashion as described above so would be the adoption record only.

The differences between the adoption record and the birth certificate.  The adoption record would/should include information about the birth parents such as their birth dates, where they were from, their parents names, the birth father's name, medical history information obtained at the time of the adoption, etc.  The birth certificate would only include the birth mother's name, her age (not a specific date), the state where she was born (not a specific city), usually no birth father name except in those adoptions in more recent times.  That is usually all there is on the birth mother on an original birth certificate.  There are also those cases where the birth mother used a false name for the official records.  The adoption record would/should have the correct names where the birth certificate would not in these cases.  Obtaining an original bc would be wonderful and is eagerly sought by many but for those who do not yet know the identity of their birth parent, they would obtain much more helpful information by obtaining the adoption record rather then just the birth certificate.

Hope this helps.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

News Update

SB351 Hearing was today.  Seemed to be well received by the Committee.  Left hopeful that they "heard" what we had to say.  Checking the web site tonight it is already listed as DO PASS!  Yea!  However, before we get too excited ( ok maybe a little) there is still the task of getting the bill placed on the Senate floor calendar and discussed there.  So now, your homework is to contact your local Senator (if you live in Missouri) to give them the heads up on this bill and to vote YES.  If you do not currently live in Missouri, then I would suggest to contact the Senator in the area where you were born.  I think it has a real chance if we can just get it on the calendar.    Smile!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

SB 351 update

The hearing for SB351 has been scheduled for this Tuesday morning at 8:15 am.  Please contact the members of the Health, Mental Health, Seniors and Families committee to let them know you are in favor of this Bill. 

What will this Bill do for adoptees? 
1.  It will remove the requirement for the adoptive parents written consent to a search. 
2.  It will allow for the release of information if the birth parent is found to be deceased.
3.  It will allow for the lineal descendant to request a search if the adopted person is deceased. 

This means that all those adopted persons or their descendants who know or have been told the birth parent is deceased and thought they would never be able to know their birth information would now be able to know.  Yea!  

HB427 is pretty much stalled in committee.  It is felt the committee chair was not real in favor of it to begin with so has a lot of control over whether it even comes to a committee vote.  Very disappointing.  Also with the opposition the committee received, it makes it very easy for the committee to just ignore it and move on to something else rather then really look into the issue and make an informed decision. 

So the hope is to now work with the Senate bill.  The word on the street is that if we can get the Senate Bill to move through the Senate committee, get approved on the Senate floor and sent to the House, we have a better shot of getting something moving.  The HB is pretty well dead, unfortunately.

So please spread the word to encourage support of SB351.  The adoptees need this.  There needs to be something moving on behalf of adoptees while we wait for the time to come when we can get somewhere with the birth certificate issue. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Legislative update

Actually, there is not much new to report.  The hearing for HB427 was held last week with mixed reviews.  Some of the legislators are clearly still in the "hide with shame" mentality and others are more open minded.  There were some objections to the Bill by members of the public, not necessarily on the open adoption record part, but more towards the idea that it included open birth certficates but still with limits.  The limits had been the compromise the legislators would want to even consider it.  After the hearing, many of us who had spoken for and against the bill met to discuss strategy.  It was agreed that we would try to see if the Senator would agree to adding the OBC portion to his Bill.  If not, then we would consider removing the OBC part from the HB as there is a better chance for something to pass if there are matching Bills in the House and Senate.  Without having something the legislators will agree to, nothing gets passed.  This will be a shame for all those who would have been helped by the open adoption record portion. You say the words "birth certificate" and their eyes glaze over and they no longer listen and since they are still receiving objections to the Bill, it is then easy for the legislators to say no and not have to deal with it.   It was hoped that there could be the realization that the legislators are obviously not going to agree to a "front door everything in one Bill" approach. While this may be the right thing in principal, they will never go for it.  The strategy this time has been to come in the back door with some changes, considered to be life changing for many, but small in the minds of legislators. Then in the future we can ask for the open birth certificates because it would seem logical to open them since adoptees are already getting the info from the adoption file anyway.  We will keep fighting to get the adoption records opened especially for those whose birth parents are deceased.  It is all a game of negotiation.  Even when the right thing seems so clear and logical, if the legislators won't vote for it, it really doesnt matter.

SB351 has been sent to the Health, Mental Health, Seniors and Families Committee.  There is no word yet on when the hearing will be.  This Bill does not include the obc clause that seemed to cause concern in the HB.  An attempt was made to add the obc bit to the SB but the Senator would agree to adding it only under certain conditions.  These stipulations were really not going to help so will be left off. The strategy is to then consider making the HB match the SB so it has a better chance of getting through both sides.  It would then only pertain to the adoption record but would allow for the release of information in most cases.  Agreed, it still does not bring a perfect resolution to some issues folks still have but it is progress. 

In the end, it is really up to the legislators and what they are willing to do.  We have to let them know we are in favor of the opening of adoption records.  If we can get this through and show that it works, this will help pave the way for open birth certificates too.  Do not kill the Bill because it doesnt do it all.   The folks who WOULD be helped by this Bill will surely thank you for your support. 

In my 12 years of practice alone it would provide over 200 people with information they are currently denied because the birth parent is deceased.  It would allow adopted adults who don't want to search the chance to search without having to ask their adoptive parents for permission.  It would allow decendants of adoptees to obtain the information even though everyone involved, including the adoptee, is deceased. 

I am still optimistic we can win the fight to open the adoption records.   Even if we don't like it, politics is a game and we have to play by their rules or we fail and no one gets anything. 

Have a great day everyone!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

SB 351 (Lamping)

        SB 351 has now been filed with the Missouri Senate.  Senator Lamping is the sponsoring legislator.  This Bill, unfortunately, does not include a provision to include the release of original birth certificates but does include most of the provisions included in the House Bill.  This shows that regardless of what we may want to happen,  we have to go with what the legislature will agree to and push that limit.  Let's get this much through and then we can go for more next year.
          If between the two Bills we can at least open the adoption record, most adoptees will be able to learn the name of their birth parents not just the adoptees whose birth parents consent.  They will learn where they lived, where they died, surviving family, etc.  The greater tragedy would be to have nothing happen.  How do I explain to all those adoptees who have been told their birth parents are deceased that this didn't go through and they cannot know?  They are very hopeful at this point. 
         We have to include the adoption record in there somewhere as the original birth certificate is not found in the adoption files and the adoption file includes information obviously not found on the birth certficate.  Also, if a search has been done in the past, this updated birth parent information will be in the adoption file at the Court and provide the information the adoptee is seeking.  It was with the hope that the information would one day be made available that so much is put into the search report. 
          As I know more about the HB and now the SB, I will post.  We are hopeful we can help the legislators understand how the adoptees need this information and it would be a start towards removing the barriers.  Exciting times!
       

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Clarification of some points

Some has asked about the "veto power" I mention in the previous blog.  The current statute allows one birth parent to have "veto power" over the other.  This means if a birth mother is anxious to have contact and signs a consent form and the birth father is found but declines to sign a consent form, this stops the connection for the birth mother as well.  This is what I mean by "veto power."   With HB 427 it would allow for the release of information on the consenting birth parent even if the other birth parent (usually the birth father) declines to consent.  There is nothing more frustrating then having a birth mother who wants to connect and an adoptee who wants to connect and being unable to connect them.  In reality, most of these folks do become connected through ISRR or some other registry especially if they are referred to the same reunion registry but taking out this restriction will help from having to use this work around to make it happen.  Efforts are made to communicate with both parties until it is confirmed they have been connected by some method. 

Again, HB 427 would release identifying information from the Court/agency file in every case except if the living birth parent declines.  This too only lasts as long as the birth parent is living.  Even if they have declined to sign a form or have put in writing that they do not want to be contacted, this information can be released once they die. 

The legislators still bring up many issues that there are no simple solutions to.  The hope is that if we can get HB 427 passed, even though it may not be as much as some would like, it would allow the Courts to release information not only to the adoptee with a consenting birth parent (which already occurs) but also those adoptees or their descendants whose birth parents are deceased.  It is very frustrating to get to the end of a search and not be able to provide the information found because the birth parent is deceased and the statute prohibits it's release.  I would love to be able to share with the adoptee the birth parent's name at death, where they lived, where they are buried, etc.  The adoptees, even knowing this is a risk when they start, are also understandably disappointed.  HB 427 would allow for them to be given that information. 

The goal in every search is a reunion between adoptee and birth parent.  With HB 427, if the bp is deceased, it would at least allow for the connection with the birth family.

Hopefully this helps to clarify.  We are anxious to help the legislators understand why we need these changes in order to allow for the release of information in so many more cases.  Already, I am thinking of all the adoptees I would be able to contact to let them know of the changes and they can now know the information they were not able to have before. 

The goal in this attempt was to get SOMETHING passed.  Asking for too much or too big a change never seems to get very far so the thought was to see how far the legislature WOULD go.  Next time we can ask for a little more....

Sunday, February 20, 2011

HB 427 to Committee

HB 427 (Barnes) has been sent to the Judiciary Committee and I would assume a hearing will be scheduled soon.  Here is the link to the main Bill page.
 http://www.house.mo.gov/billsummary.aspx?bill=HB427&year=2011&code=R


For those who may not be familiar with this, HB 427 would revise the current adoption record's statute and increase the amount of information provided at the conclusion of a search as well as release the original birth certificate to adoptees in most instances even if no official search had been conducted. 


Here are the highlights of the Bill stating the current situation or barrier and the proposed solution through the passage of this Bill.


Currently, unless you were born after 1986, all adoptees are required to obtain their adoptive parent's written permission before the request of a search will be granted by the Court.  For example, if you are 60 years old and your adoptive parents are still alive, they have to sign a form stating that you can search.  HB 427 would remove the adoptive parent consent requirement for all adoptees over the age of 18.


At the conclusion of a search, if the birth parent provides their consent, their identifying information is provided to the adoptee and first contact is arranged.  If the birth parent is found to be deceased, no identifying information can be released to the adoptee as no written consent is able to be obtained.  HB 427 would allow for the release of identifying information if the birth parent is found to be deceased, even if they previously declined to sign a consent form. 


The current statute states that identifying information can only be released regarding birth parents who are deceased if it is found to be needed for "urgent medical need."  This is very open to interpretation by the Courts and rarely is something found to be "urgent" enough.  This then is a barrier to information.  This clause is removed in an effort to remove the barrier and if the information is to be released anyway if the birth parent is found to be deceased, it is a mute point and so is removed.


HB 427 removes the veto power of one birth parent over the other at the conclusion of a search.  In current searches, if the birth mother agrees to the release of her identifying information to the adoptee but the birth father says no to releasing his information, this stops it for both of them.  HB 427 would allow for the release of information on the consenting birth parent but respect the wishes of the other birth parent and not release their name.


HB 427 adds the ability of a "lineal descendant" of the adoptee to request information or a search if the adoptee is deceased themselves.  If your great grandfather was adopted, you would be able to request and receive his identifying information. 


One big thing that is also included in HB 427 is the ability to request and receive a copy of the adoptee's original unamended birth certificate.  This is not a legal birth certificate for things such as getting your passport or drivers license but a representation of who you were before adoption.  HB 427 would allow for the release of the original birth certificate from Vital Records in the same cases as the release of information would be allowed, if the birth parent provided written consent or is found to be deceased.  This includes the "lineal descendant" of an adoptee if the adoptee is deceased.  Currently, no adoptee is allowed to have a copy of their original birth certificate even if the birth parent provides written consent.


For some, the passage of this Bill would be the equivalent to winning the lottery.  If an adoptee has been prohibited from knowing the identity of their birth parent because the birth parent is deceased, this will allow them to finally know the information.  It would allow those adoptees who have reunited with their birth parent to request and obtain a copy of their original unamended birth certificate. 


Now you ask, how can I help to make this a reality for Missouri adoptees?  Contact Rep. Jay Barnes  Jay.Barnes@house.mo.gov  to let him know you support this Bill.  Also, if you are willing, contact the persons on the Judiciary Committee to let them know of your support.  Here is the link to the list of Judiciary Committee members
http://www.house.mo.gov/committeeindividual.aspx?com=29&year=2011&code=R 


Pass the word along so the public and adoptees are aware of this Bill and how it will help them obtain information so long denied. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

HB 427 Legislative Update

Spent the afternoon in Jefferson City yesterday speaking with legislators and lobbyists regarding this Bill.  It has now been filed, read a second time and sent to the Judiciary Committee.   A hearing should be scheduled soon.

We (the cause) seem to be well received especially when it is explained how things are handled now in the search process and the current limitations.  HB 427 would resolve most of those barriers to adoptee's receiving information.  There are still many who feel it doesn't do enough and while we may agree or disagree, the current proposed revision would be like WINNING THE LOTTERY for so many.  Those adoptees who know that their birth parents are deceased, and as a result are not eligible to receive information, would be able to.  Those adoptees who, for various reasons, do not feel able to approach their adoptive parents for the required signature, would be able to request information without having to broach this subject with them. 

Hopefully the folks who feel the need to stir things up, will realize this and not mess things up for those who just want to know the information.  We have to take things a step at a time especially with the legislature.  They have proven that they will not go for big changes all at once.  We have to ask, what CAN we get passed and then go from there. 

If HB 427 passes, it would basically mean open records for adoptees unless the birth parent declines to consent.  But if they do consent (as they can now) or if they are deceased, the information will be made available including the updated information found in the search.  I think that sounds WONDERFUL. 

The Rep who is sponsoring the Bill is Rep. Jay Barnes.  His email address is Jay.Barnes@house.mo.gov   Please let him know you support this Bill. 

On the Senate side, we are still hopeful and I will provide more info as it becomes available to me.

Have a great day everyone.   

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

HB 427

Alleluia, we now have a number!  HB 427.   It was filed by Rep. Jay Barnes and will hopefully be matched with a Senate bill soon.
I am looking into contact information for this Rep so we can show our support of this proposed legislation.   It is not available online yet but should be soon.  To keep track, visit the Missouri government web site and in the Bill search box, type "adoption records" and it should pull up HB 427.  Eventually, it will have the full Bill text. 

Basically, the new law would allow for the request of a search without requiring adoptive parent permission, release of identifying information if the birth parent is deceased, removes the veto power of one birth parent over the other, and release of the original birth certificate in cases where the birth mother consents or is deceased.   It continues to offer birth parents the ability to remain anonymous, if they so choose. 

Let us lobby for this one folks!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Oprah's show

Just like millions of others, I had to watch Oprah yesterday to see what the big secret was.  Surprisingly, it was to share that she had a sister she had only recently found out about.  This again throws the idea of adoption, search, secrets and society's view of unwed motherhood so many years ago.  While we cannot change how society viewed and treated our birth mothers so many years ago, we can provide them the support and compassion they did not receive then. 

As Oprah discussed her "epiphany" I smiled.  This is the same thing I have been saying for years.  Many birth mothers are still living with the shame of being an unwed mother society placed on them so long ago.  Birth mothers who were not allowed to ever speak of it or acknowledge that they experienced the trauma of having a child were never given the opportunity to mentally work through it.  If someone experiences a trauma, they are encouraged to talk about it and receive support from those around them.  This did not happen in many cases.  So when we contact a birth mother in the course of a search, this opens up the wound as if the event happened yesterday.  They are still dealing with the trauma in the mental state of society 40, 50 or 60 years ago.  There is shame and even denial that this happened at all.  One way to deal with it is the internalize it as "an event that happened to them" many years ago.  The idea that this involves more then just themselves doesn't even occur to them.  The birth mother also often thinks in terms of a "baby" not a person all grown up.

There are many women who have never told anyone about their pregnancy or the adoptee's existence yet when contacted, they reach deep inside and, with great courage, take the step to tell those around them about the adoptee.  Their desire to know and make a connection outweigh the fear of what others will say.  In most cases, their fears are unfounded and the news does not generate the retribution they feared but empathy for the secret they have carried on their heart all alone all these years.  They are to be commended for the enormous courage it must take to let this go after so many years.  To those women  Thank You.