Another Voice: Adoptees have a right to their official records - The Buffalo News
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Another Voice: Adoptees have a right to their official records

By Steve Barnhoorn

Over 30 years ago, one of my college political science professors once said there are two things you do not want to view: sausages being made, and the legislative process in Albany.

Another session of the New York State Legislature ended and once again, the Adoptee Bill of Rights was never taken up for a vote in either the Senate or Assembly. The bill (S2490A/A909) would have given adult adoptees an opportunity to obtain a copy of their original birth certificate when they reached the age of 18. The adoptee would have also received an updated medical history that is submitted by the birth parents to the State Health Department. It finally created a contact preference for the birth parents.

The Adoptee Bill of Rights was a clean bill until someone with a hidden agenda decided to corrupt it at the 11th hour.

Under the amended version, in order to obtain their original birth certificate, adult adoptees must make a request through a local court where the adoption took place. In turn, the court asks the Health Department to “make a reasonable and good-faith effort” to locate the birth parents. If the birth parents cannot be located or do not respond within 120 days, then the adoptee must go before a judge. Judges can still deny access for good cause, which “shall include, but is not limited to, evidence concerning the wishes of the birth parent regarding confidentiality as expressed at the time of the adoption or surrender …”

It is no longer an adoptee rights bill. It is a bureaucratic head game designed to prevent adult adoptees from ever learning the truth about their family origins and medical histories.

When it comes to adoptions, I have a personal connection. In 1937, my uncle, Paul Watkins, was born in Buffalo. Two years later, my mother Rebecca Wilcox Barnhoorn was born in Bath. They were the children of Orin and Helen Jane (Williams) Wilson, and they were surrendered for adoption shortly after their births. Both grew up in separate localities, not knowing of each other’s existence.

On December 17, 1990, after a half-century of separation, my mother and her brother were reunited as siblings due to my persistent genealogical research, which was reported in The Buffalo News Feb. 28, 1991. My grandparents had been deceased for many years, so privacy issues were moot. No thanks to New York State, bringing them together was a true labor of love.

Steve Barnhoorn, of Honeoye, is a member of the Richmond Town Board.

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