People Need Access To Birth Certificates

April 19, 2017

Representative Gregg Haddad rallied with Senator Steve Cassano and advocates on Wednesday in support of legislation that would give greater access to original birth certificates to people who are adopted.

Existing state law requires the Department of Public Health to give adopted individuals age 18 or older whose adoptions were finalized on or after Oct. 1, 1983, uncertified copies of their original birth certificate upon their request.

Senate Bill 977, now on the Senate calendar after receiving an overwhelmingly bipartisan 19-2 vote last month in the Planning and Development Committee, would expand state law to require DPH to give original birth certificates to any adopted person who requests it, regardless of their adoption date.

Haddad, a co-sponsor of the bill, has a very personal reason for supporting the bill: he and his wife Donna are the adoptive parents of their daughter Natalie.

“I’m a proud supported of Senate Bill 977 because I am an affected constituency: my wife and I adopted our daughter Natalie in 2013,” he said.

“My wife and I have given a lot of thought to this issue. What would we tell Natalie about her background? What is our self-interest? What is in the best interests of the birth mother? In the end, we decided to do what is best for Natalie. It’s important to do that because of the issue of medical history, but, more fundamentally, we all want to know who we are and where we came from. And I think it’s wrong for any state to try and keep that information on a birth certificate a secret,” Haddad said.

“We received over 140 pieces of public testimony during the public hearing on this bill back in March, and there is an overwhelming public desire for everyone to have access to their original birth certificate – not just those who were adopted after 1983,” Sen. Cassano said. “Life shouldn’t be a puzzle. It should not be lived with regret. I believe we have an opportunity here to do something important, and fundamentally right, and I am hopeful that the legislature will pass this bill on a bipartisan basis this session.”

Karen Caffrey, president of the adoptee-rights group Access Connecticut, agrees.

“The older, pre-1983 adoptees in this state are gradually passing from the Earth without the right to their original birth certificates,” said Caffrey, who is herself an adoptee. “Even more so, their older birth parents and other relatives are passing. Our stories are compelling and often heartbreaking. We feel strongly that time is of the essence to pass Senate Bill 977. The advent of consumer DNA testing has also, somewhat ironically, made Senate Bill 977 a more private option for birth parents than leaving the existing law in place.”

Kathy Flaherty, an adoptee, agrees.

“What people need to understand about this issue is that pre-1983 adult adoptees are being denied a civil right that most other people have, and don’t even think about unless and until they need to get their birth certificate,” Flaherty said. “Most folks simply contact city hall and the document they will receive will be a true and accurate reflection of the facts of their birth. Adoptees receive a document, but the document is actually an amended birth certificate which lists our adoptive parents as our birth parents.”

And Eileen McQuade, a birth mother, sees value in the legislation as well – for both adoptees and birth parents.

“I have been active in the adoption community for the past 20 years, including serving as president of the American Adoption Congress and on the board of Access Connecticut. I have spoken to hundreds of adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents about the life- long process of adoption,” McQuade said. “Contrary to what I was told back in 1966, birthmothers are mothers, and continue to care about the babies they relinquished. They yearn to be able to connect even if it is years later. Our babies are babies no longer, but adults entitled to manage their relationships and have all information available about who they are. Adoptive parents have the best interests of the adoptee at heart, and most often support the adoptee in their quest for truth.”

The 2017 legislative session concludes on June 7.