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.