Blog

Advocating for my rights as an adoptee: CT HB 5408 testimony

The following is the testimony I submitted in support of Connecticut House Bill 5408: An Act Concerning Access to Original Birth Certificates by Adult Adopted Persons.


March 4, 2018

My name is Julie Stromberg. I am a reunited adult adoptee who was born, adopted and raised in Connecticut. I am currently a resident of Pennsylvania. The purpose of my letter today is to affirm my support HB 5408 that would restore to adult adoptees, age 21 and older, born in Connecticut prior to October 1, 1983, the legal right to access their original, factual and unaltered certificates of birth.

I was born at Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford in 1971 and adopted through Catholic Charities of Fairfield County that same year. At the time of my birth and the finalization of my adoption, original birth certificates were not sealed. As such, nobody involved in my adoption–my natural parents or my adoptive parents–had any reason to believe that I would not have access to my original birth certificate, and the information featured on it, upon reaching adulthood.

Until 1975, Connecticut treated the adoptees born within its boundaries to be worthy of the right afforded to all non-adopted citizens—access to their factual, unaltered birth certificate. And yet now, here I am, a 47-year-old married mother of two who is unable to access her own unaltered, accurate record of birth like non-adopted adults born in the state.

Non-adopted adults born in Connecticut can access their factual birth certificates by making a simple request. There are adult adoptees born in Connecticut who cannot. The message provided to those adult adoptees by the state is that we are less deserving than non-adopted adult citizens. Adoptee rights is a matter of restoring equal treatment under law for all adult citizens born in Connecticut and ending the decades-long practice of considering adoption to be something shameful and secretive.

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. Not just for those born after October 1, 1983. 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.

Adoptee rights is not about:

Search and reunion. Some individuals and organizations oppose restoring equal access to adult adotpees based on the notion that some natural parents might not wish to have contact with their relinquished sons or daughters. Contrary to what many in society have been led to believe, there is not one legal document involved in any adoption that legally guarantees a parent total anonymity form their own son or daughter. In most states, an adoptee’s file and original birth certificate can be opened at a judge’s discretion. As such, it is a legal impossibility that a natural parent could assume total anonymity from the adoptee.

What an adult adoptee may choose to do, or not do, with the information contained on his or her original birth certificate is a personal matter and not one that requires the involvement of state governments. Adult citizens manage their personal engagements with other adults on their own every day. And there are many options available to any adult citizen who does not wish to engage with another adult citizen. The personal preferences of some (natural parents who do not desire contact with their sons or daughters) should not be given priority over the legal rights of all adults who were adopted as children.

Natural parent privacy. Birth certificates are not amended until an adoption is finalized. Children who are in foster care because the parental rights of their parents have been terminated, and who have not been legally adopted, use and have access to their factual birth certificates. If the amending of birth certificates was contingent on the privacy of natural parents, the process of legal fiction would occur upon termination of parental rights. Instead, an adoptee’s birth certificate is only amended upon the finalization of adoption. One could surmise, therefore, that the amending of birth certificates is for the adoptive parents’ benefit and has nothing to do with natural parent privacy.

Abortion. Alaska and Kansas have never sealed the original birth certificates of adoptees. Both states have also been noted as having very low abortion rates according to data compiled in 2010 by the American Adoption Congress. The same data also revealed that in the states with more recent restored access, abortion rates lowered significantly following the passing of access legislation. Data shows that access legislation will not result in more abortions.

Our adoptive families. An adult adoptee who determines that it is in his or her best interest to obtain his or her original birth certificate has simply made a decision about his or her well-being as an adopted person. Desiring one’s original birth certificate is not an indication of how an adult adoptee feels toward their adoptive family. We can love, cherish and respect our adoptive families and still need our original birth certificates. Adult adoptees existed, and had an identity, prior to being adopted. For many of us, it is important to acknowledge this fact regarding our personal histories. Adoptee rights legislation empowers adult adoptees and this is something that everyone connected to adoption should support.

Adoptee rights IS about restoring to all adult adoptees the right to access their own original birth certificates and treating adult adoptees as equal to non-adopted adults under law.

With this testimony in mind, I request that you pass HB 5408 restoring original birth certificate access to adoptees born prior to October 1, 1983. Send the message to all adult adoptees born in Connecticut that they are deserving of equal treatment under law to non-adopted adults born in the state.

Sincerely,

Julie Stromberg
Greenwich Country Day School Class of 1986
Greenwich High School Class of 1989

 

Advertisements