New York Statewide Adoption Reform's

---- UPDATE! URGENT! ----

Our legislation was amended down and is no longer a Bill of Rights.

Senate amended bill S5964 reported from Health Committee to Rules Committee did not move to the floor for a vote. It is still in Rules Committee until next Albany session, which begins January 2016. This bill, which we do NOT support, has been given the green light by senate leadership to move to the floor for a vote after it passed in the Assembly on June 19, 2015 by a count of 125-19.
Because S5964 was assigned to Rules Committee, it means the next step is a floor vote.

Transcript from June 18 Assembly debate on A2901A available here, courtesy of Jennifer Sarro.

Archived Video - Thursday June 18, 2015 Part 1 - http://assembly.state.ny.us/av/session/

Join us to lobby our legislature and/or volunteer!
Email us at unsealedinitiative@nyc.rr.com

For details of the amended Assembly bill, visit the A2901A page. The amended Senate bill page is S5964. On both pages, to display the complete text, click the checkbox next to "Text" near the top.

"Law Would Permit Adoptees to Find Birth Parents"
by Eric Levitz, January 29, 2015, citylimits.org

Ohio to unseal 400,000 adoption records - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Rod Shinners

Rod Shinners is a member of our Albany lobby team and a father in search of a 49-year-old born on Long Island. The natural mother will not divulge the gender of the relinquished person. All he knows is the person was relinquished for adoption. Rod's search is difficult — if you know anyone 49 years old who resembles Rod, let us know!

Near the end of the 2014 legislative session our bill was amended and the result was horrifying. Worse than we could have ever expected. We cannot support newly-amended bill S2490B and A909A (these bills were not voted on in the 2014 session). In these times of civil and human rights when our society recognizes and respects the right to know as a healthy choice for adoptees, why can't New York State adoptees have a bill of rights passed instead of the option of going into court before judges who oppose the right to know? Judges who have a history of saying no to adoptees who have petitioned their courts. Judges who can't acknowledge that birth parents terminated parental rights and received no right to privacy. On what grounds will these judges base their decisions? Will it be fair and consistent for all adoptees? No, it will not; and putting the power in the hands of these judges is worse than having no rights. Will all adoptees have the money it costs to petition the court? Of course not. How fair is this?
Joyce Bahr, President, New York Statewide Adoption Reform's Unsealed Initiative

Joyce Bahr's letter to The Albany Times-Union:

Sunday, June 8, 2014     Section: Perspective     Page D3

'Gertie's Babies,' Sold at Birth, Use DNA to Unlock Secret Past, The New York Times (front page) Sunday, April 5, 2015

Why a Generation of Adoptees Is Returning to South Korea, The New York Times (Sunday magazine cover story) Sunday, January 18, 2015

WNYC Leonard Lopate segment: Why a Generation of Adoptees Is Returning to South Korea, January 15, 2015

New York Adoptees Fight for Access to Birth Certificates, The New York Times, June 15, 2014

Lebanese Adoptee, Searching for His Roots, Finds Islam, The New York Times, August 1, 2014

When Children Are Traded, by Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times, November 20, 2013

The Child Exchange: Inside America's underground market for adopted children, Reuters Investigates (5-part series), September 9, 2013

Mirah Riben's Adoption Reform articles in the Huffington Post

Watch testimony on YouTube for the Adoptee Bill of Rights A909 from our NY State Assembly Health Committee hearing, held in Manhattan on January 31, 2014:
Joyce Bahr, UI President and Founder, Manhattan Birth Parents Support Group
Kathleen Rice, Nassau County District Attorney & Ellen Mohr, her aunt and an adoptee
Joe Soll, Psychotherapist, Author and Adoptee
Rod Shinners, Father in Search
Nancy Horgan, Reunited Mother from Rhode Island
Michael Schoer, UI Coordinator for Brooklyn and Staten Island
Joe Pessalano, UI Lobby Team member
Lorraine Dusky, First Mother Forum website
Dana Stallard, Spence Chapin Services to Children and Adoptive Families
Leanne Jaffe, Adoption Consultant, Adapting to Adoption, Psychotherapist
Pat O'Brien, President, New York State Citizens Committee for Children
Doris Bertocci, Clinical Social Worker, Psychotherapist
Professor Elizabeth Samuels, Baltimore School of Law
Adam Pertman, President, Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute
Judy Kelly, PhD, LMHC, Manhattan Birth Parents Support Group, birth mother and facilitator
Michele Wadowski, Manhattan Birth Parents Support Group, birth mother and facilitator

Surrogate judges speaking AGAINST the Adoptee Rights bill:
John Cyzgier, Surrogate Court Judge of Suffolk County
Peter Kelly, Surrogate Court Judge of Queens County and Executive Chair of The NY State Surrogates Association

Visit http://assembly.state.ny.us/av/ and look under Archived Videos for the complete video and audio recordings of the proceedings.

David Weprin, our Assembly bill sponsor, held a press conference for A909 in Albany on Tuesday March 18, 2014.

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Philomena demonstration

Most of the world is looking down on Ireland and many U.S. states for failure to keep up with the times, to recognize badly needed human rights for adoptees and natural parents and to apologize to the victims. Scotland changed its sealed record law in 1930 and England in 1975. Kudos to the British for making the film Philomena.

Profile of Philomena Lee in The New York Times, November 11, 2013:
A Forced Adoption, a Lifetime Quest and a Longing That Never Waned

Philomena Lee Meets Claire McCaskill, U.S. Senator for Missouri to Discuss Adoption

Real-Life Woman Behind 'Philomena' Gets an Audience With Pope Francis

Sean Ross Abbey, Roscrea, Ireland

Philomena Lee and Martin Sixsmith on film portrayal

Meet the Real-Life Philomena Lee

The Real Philomena and her daughter, Jane

We are a Pro Adoption Reform Organization

Adoptees must be free from a law legalizing the falsification of permanent records. A bill signed by Governor Lehman in 1935 and enacted in 1938 which nullifies the inalienable and civil right of a person to know the actual facts of their birth and obtain a copy of their original birth certificate.

74 years old!
Governor Lehman signed the closed record law in July 1935.
We are committed and dedicated to the cause of removing this outdated, unfair and discriminatory law.

Adoptee David Phelps speaks out against discrimination against adoptees who deserve the inalienable right to know -- anything less is unacceptable.


A new law recently signed by Governor Cuomo extends participation in the adoption registry to include adult adoptees born in other states but adopted in New York.

At last they can obtain non-identifying information from the registry the same as adult adoptees born in the state.

New Study conducted by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute -
Openness in Adoption: From Secrecy and Stigma to Knowledge and Connections


Professor Elizabeth J. Samuels study, "The Idea of Adoption: An Inquiry into the History of Adult Adoptee Access to Birth Records" concludes laws were enacted to protect the confidentiality of adoptive families, not birth or natural families. She has reviewed surrender papers and finds no evidence women were given legal confidentiality.

Link to her testimony at the NY State Assembly January 31, 2014 hearing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMCAppiUsNM&feature=share

Link to her website: http://law.ubalt.edu/template.cfm?page=664

Secrecy and confidentiality were one and the same and not legally defined because they were social mores and not laws. Shame, secrecy and denial were social mores from the Victorian era that brought about the stigma of illegitimacy for both adoptees and for their mothers who were all too often manipulated into signing a surrender paper relinquishing their child for adoption. Confidentiality was for the adoptive parents and not for the adoptee who professionals and everyone else knew would never search.
Social workers never developed programs to help women cope with the stigma of illegitimacy because they felt these women deserved such stigma. Neither were they informed that relinquishing their children would cause them lifelong grief and anguish. Women were not presented with options. They were not considered upright, competent nor deserving enough to raise their own children. Many women signed a surrender paper stating that they would not interfere with the custody, control and management of said child. The word confidentiality was not in any surrender paper including mine. We were told over and over not to disrupt the adoptive home and to get on with our lives and forget our own children. Professor Samuel's research findings are correct: sealing adoption records was meant to protect the adoptive parents, not birth or natural parents who were treated without basic human dignity during this period and even today sadly still are in many states. Adoptees fared no better. Torn from their natural families, their social and genetic histories, they had their native identities made secret by the state and were given new identities and expected to adapt as best they could. This forced relinquishment and adaption has brought with it a host of problems for adoptees. By the 1970's, many sought to begin to address the realities of their lives by searching, but were dissuaded by the negative stereo type of the birth mother as prostitute, low-life or gutter dweller who would take the adoptee down with her. However the truth eventually showed itself and adoptees found their mothers were, quite often, the girl next door.
-- Joyce Bahr, President

Legislation would give adoptees access to birth records - NEWS10 ABC: Albany, New York

Australia's PM Julia Gilliard's Apology, March 2013
20-minute Video:

Here is the transcript:

Rosie Fuller's story of embarrassment and humiliation in her struggle to learn her identity. She ends up with two families and the answers she needs to heal her life.

UI Westchester Coordinator Melinda Warshaw's book A Legitimate Life can be purchased on Amazon.

ABC News Video November 27, 2012 Queensland Australia, Official Government Apology for forced adoptions of the past

Reporter Dan Rather covers the issue of mothers forced to surrender for adoption. Adopted or Abducted airs on HDNet TV May 1 at 8pm ET

Breaking News for Women's Rights: March 2012, The Australia National Post: Australia urged to compensate, apologize to unwed mothers forced to give up children for adoption.

Video and article: some women want apologies but some are demanding reparations! Report on Australian Senate Inquiry into forced adoptions expected this week 2/25/2012.

video: Assemblymembers David Weprin and Richard Gottfried Manhattan - City Hall Press Conference for the Bill of Adoptee Rights - filmed by Adoptee Jason Darnieder.

video: Adoptees Access to Records

video: New Hampshire Open Records Debate

Adoptee Larry Dell, PR Director for Unsealed Initiative offers $1000 for help in finding his birth family!

video: Annette Baran pt 1
Adoption social worker, author and pioneer in adoption reform speaks. Sadly she passed away recently but her work along with that of Reuben Pannor adoption social worker to end the harmful secrecy of the past, will be forever remembered.

video: Adoptee Thomas Brooks,
author of A Wealth of Family

video: Adoptee Jean Strauss,
The Right to Know

video: Adoptee, Singer, Songwriter Mary Gauthier performs her song "Blood is Blood." After many years and many recordings she expresses her feelings about her adoption and acknowledges the movement for open records.

video: Darryl McDaniels, Zara Phillips,
I'm Legit

video: Promo by filmmaker Jason Darnieder
All My Life

Recent video: Mothers who deal with depression for many years after giving up children for adoption speak out
I Want My Baby Back - HuffPost Live

Video: The Woman in Black 2 - woman is also haunted by child she gave up for adoption.

The 36th Annual American Adoption Congress Conference
March 25-29, 2015
Cambridge, MA

Is your birth parent forthcoming with pertinent medical history? See our Articles page and read the Surgeon General's Family History Initiative and Adam Pertman's article,
"Adoptees Deserve Access to Family Histories".
Link: Adam Pertman's Blog

2007 Report by the Foremost Think Tank
on Adoption Issues:
Restoring A legal Right
for Adult Adoptees

The New York Open Records Bill gives adoptees full rights. Our bill is similar to bills that are now laws in Alabama, New Hampshire, Oregon and Maine. Rhode Island recently passed a bill of rights: all adult adoptees will have access in 2012. Although the new law will not give adoptees direct access like laws in Alaska and Kansas, it gives birth parents the option of filing a contact preference indicating they want "direct contact", "contact through an intermediary" or "no contact".
here to read more on the Bill Summary page.

Adoptee Tales from the Sealed Record Era

Michael Potter's blog, Navigating the Present and the Future Without A Past: A collection of 12 essays published in The Kindle Edition. "The Last Invisible Continent: Essays on Adoption." http://icartographer.blogspot.com/

Queens Catholic Priest Father Tom Brosnan, a reunited adoptee, blogs on Adoption and Faith. http://adoptionandfaith.blogspot.com/

Adoptionfind blog: Rhode Island adoptees age 25 will get a new law and the right to know! http://adoptionfind.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/ri-adoptees-over-25-years-allowed-original-birth-certificates/

Family Ties Blog: Are Adult Adoptees Worthy of Respect http://nanadays.blogspot.com/2012/11/are-adult-adoptees-worthy-of-respect.html

Lost Daughters adoption blog...it's a sisterhood http://www.thelostdaughters.com/

Recently we have become part of a state wide coalition of adoption agencies and child welfare organizations throughout the state to fight for passage of a fair and nondiscriminatory bill giving all adult adoptees rights. We are now a part of NYS Open Records Legislative Collaboration.

The Child Welfare League of America is in support of Open Records for all Adoptees in the U.S. at age 18. Catholic Charities in Albany, The American Adoption Congress, Spence Chapin Adoption Agency in New York City, Holt International Children Services (a leading adoption agency), The Adoptees Liberty Movement Association, Adoption Crossroads, Manhattan Birthparents Support Group, North American Council on Adoptable Children, New York Foundling Hospital, Manhattan, Hillside Adoption Services, Rochester, Friends of Adoption, Queens, New York State Citizens Coalition for Children, Council for Families and Child Caring Agencies, Adoption Under One Roof, Episcopal Diocese of Albany and Center for Family Connections, Concerned United Birth Parents, OriginsUSA, Ethica, OpenAdoption.org, and Adoption Action Network all strongly support our bills.

The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, the foremost think tank on adoption issues in our country has researched this issue with two important studies finding for adoptee access to birth certificates.

Adopted Children Should Be Able to View Adoption Records,
Says Recent Survey by FindLaw:


1997 Cornell University Study Indicates Adoptive Parents
Are In Favor Of Open Records:


Connecticut activists advocate for long overdue rights
link to OBC for Connecticut:


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Studies Finding for Adoptee Access to Original Birth Certificates

New York Statewide Adoption Reform needs your support with letter-writing and lobbying for the "Bill of Adoptee Rights". Passage of the Bill will allow adult adoptees, age eighteen or older, the right to their original Birth Certificate. We are asking for the same right that non-adopted persons take for granted. The New York State adoption law that seals records is unfair, outdated and discriminatory. The law violates adoptees civil rights.

With recent victories for adoptees in New Hampshire, Maine, Tennessee, Oregon, Alabama, Delaware and Rhode Island, and records already open in Kansas and Alaska since the 1950s, New Yorkers want our state to be next.

Passage of the 1996 Tennessee bill was followed with two lawsuits organized by the pro-secrecy opponents hoping to repeal the law. However, the final decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and by the Tennessee Supreme Court held that the statute violates no rights of birth parents under either the Federal Constitution or the Tennessee Constitution. Passage of the 1999 Oregon Initiative, voted by citizens as a measure on the ballot, gave adoptees full rights to birth records. Again, opponents organized a lawsuit to enjoin the initiative. The lawsuit was dismissed by a court trial, and the Oregon Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed that dismissal. In its affirmance the Court of Appeals relied in part on the Sixth Circuit federal court decision. The new law in Tennessee allows birth parents the right to place a contact veto meaning that if a birth parent does not want contact and the adoptee makes contact anyway despite the contact veto, the adoptee could be up against a class "A" misdemeanor charge (if the birth parent decides to file a charge). This law bringing adoption law to a place of being criminal sets a bad precedent... Even though very few birth parents want to file a contact veto the possibility of jail time for an adoptee is outrageous. There are already harassment laws on the books. This kind of law is unacceptable. Recent passage of open records laws in Alabama and Delaware were not subjected to lawsuits by the opposition. Since the 1950s Kansas and Alaska have had laws similar to laws enacted in England, Germany, Holland, The Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, New South Wales, British Columbia & Newfoundland Canada, Scotland, Israel, and Finland, since the 1970s and 1980s. Meaning that adoptees have full rights and there is no possibility of legal ramifications resulting in a fine and/or jail time.

In the first year that records were opened in Oregon 5,318 requests were made by adoptees for records. Only 58 birth parents did not want contact. In Delaware there were 414 requests for records by adoptees and only 14 birth parents did not want contact. We are waiting for statistics from Tennessee and Alabama. Most birth parents do not want confidentiality. Those who do not want contact always have the option of saying "no". Search and reunion are accepted in American society as normal events. Yet the law that seals records is slow to catch up to that norm.

New York Statewide Adoption Reform, along with your help, can open records and give tax-paying citizens long overdue rights. Our strength is in numbers and unity. Please join us.

Weprin Press Conference
1970's protest; recent David Weprin press conference; David Hancock's First NY State Legislature Lobby

2012 - 50 pages - Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute: "Openness in Adoption: From Secrecy and Stigma to Knowledge and Connections"

2010 - 46 pages - Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute: "For the Records II: An Examination of the History and Impact of Adult Adoptee Access to Original Birth Certificates" is based on a years-long examination of relevant judicial and legislative documents; on decades of research and other scholarly writing; and on the concrete experiences of states and countries that have either changed their laws to provide these documents or never sealed them at all (Entire study published on Institute's website).

2009 - 112 pages - Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute: "Beyond Culture Camp: Promoting Healthy Identity Formation for Adoptees." The broadest, most extensive examination of adult adoptive identity to date. (Entire study published on Institute's website).

2007 - 50 pages - Professor E. Wayne Carp: "Does Opening Adoption Records Have an Adverse Social Impact? Some Lessons from the U.S., Great Britain, and Australia 1953 to 2007." (Study available from www.informaworld.com or from Unsealed Initiative).

2007 - 31 pages - Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute: "For the Record: Restoring a Legal Right for Adult Adoptees." (Entire study published on Institute's website).

2008 - 33 pages - Cleveland State Law Review: "The Only Americans Legally Prohibited from Knowing Who Their Birth Parents Are; A rejection of Privacy Rights as a Bar to Adult Adoptee Access to Birth and Adoption Records." (Online copy available from Unsealed Initiative). Cleveland State Law Review. Volume 55 issue 3.

2001 - 59 pages - Professor Elizabeth J. Samuels: "The Idea of Adoption: an Inquiry into The History of Adult Adoptee Access to Birth Records." Study concludes confidentiality was for adoptive parents. Some birth parents signed surrender papers agreeing to stay away from the custody of the adoptee and adoptive family. But no birth parent was given confidentiality or a right to privacy. This study is published in the Rutgers law review #367, 2001. (3-page conclusion available from Unsealed Initiative).

1997 - Cornell University study sponsored by the New York State Citizens Coalition Children: "Adoptive Parents Are Overwhelmingly in Favor of Opening Sealed Adoption Records." (Available at www.news. cornell.edu/release/jan97/adoption.record.ssl.ht).

1973 - New York Law Forum study concludes adults adoptees should have access to identity and birth records for psychological health reasons. (Available from Unsealed Initiative).

Survey Finding for Access
- Survey conducted by FindLaw finds an overwhelming majority of Americans believe adopted children should be granted full access to their adoption records when they become adults. (Survey findings published on http://www.findlaw.com).

Convention on the Rights of the Child
- UN Resolution (44/25 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 8). Section 1 states parties undertake to respect the right of the child to preserve his or her identity, including nationality, name and family relations as recognized by law without unlawful interference. Section 2 states where a child is illegally deprived of some or all of the elements of his or her identity, state parties shall provide appropriate assistance and protection, with a view of re-establishing speedily his or her identity.

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