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!

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