HARTFORD, CT — A bill that would restore the right of every adopted adult citizen in Connecticut to obtain a copy of their original birth certificate is winding its way through the legislative process.
In 2014, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed a bill into law that gives adoptees born after Oct. 1, 1983, access to their original birth records. In Connecticut and most other states, adoptees receive amended birth certificates that omit the biological parents’ names.
However, including in the bill’s language “after Oct. 1, 1983” — the date at which people who put a child up for adoption were given notice that their information might be shared — was a compromise.
Proponents of the legislation have always wanted to make all birth certificates, regardless of when an adoptee was born, available to adoptees.
Karen Caffrey, president of Access Connecticut, a grassroots organization that pushed for the legislation, has said 24,000 Connecticut adoptees born after Oct. 1, 1983, would benefit from that law, but there are about 65,000 people who have been adopted in Connecticut since 1919. That means there are about 41,000 who would benefit by opening up the records to all adoptees.
By law, a petition for an original birth certificate may be filed in the probate court or the Superior Court that finalized the adoption.
While that may sound like a solution, Kathy Flaherty, an adult adoptee and an attorney, said it’s not as easy as it sounds.
“I figured, I’m a lawyer, how hard could it possibly be to file this case? Especially since probate court is set up to handle pro se litigants,” she said.
But it was another “futile exercise,” Flaherty said in her testimony to the Planning and Development Committee.
She said they assigned her case to the children’s division of the probate court and assigned her a guardian ad litem.
Her request for her original birth certificate was denied.
“At the end of the day, this came down to the fact that my birth mother didn’t respond to multiple certified letters for which she signed,” Flaherty said. “Because she didn’t grant affirmative consent to the release of my original birth certificate, the court denied my request.”
But Flaherty, like most adoptees, believes she still deserves access to information held only by her birth family and included on the original birth certificate.
“I do not know my family history (other than the mental health and addiction issues) when it comes to any medical conditions — every box (other than those) on the non-identifying form for both parents was checked ‘not known’,” Flaherty said. “Every time someone says to me ‘I know someone who looks just like you!’ I now say, ‘well, I’m adopted, so who knows — they could be a relative.’ It’s getting old.”
Flaherty said her brother, who also was adopted but not from the same family, died at the age of 33 from a congenital heart defect that no one knew he had because no one knew his family medical history.
Barbara Montgomery, a birth mother who was reunited with the son she gave up in 1965, said people have to be aware of the circumstances these young unwed mothers faced.
“It was a time when both the unwed mother and her illegitimate child were stigmatized by society. I was totally alone without the support of anyone including my mother,” Montgomery said. “The social worker at Catholic Charities told me I was selfish when I refused to sign the relinquishment document. She told me the prospective adoptive parents could give my son a better life.”
Montgomery who has been involved in the adoption reform movement since 1991 said the adoptees she meets “have grown up feeling different, as if life began when they were adopted. They do not know what happened after they were born, why they were relinquished and more importantly, their genetic history.”
The bill is currently on the Senate calendar.