June 19, 2015

Assembly Passes Legislation Granting Adoptees Certain Rights

The New York State Assembly yesterday passed legislation to establish a procedure for adoptees over the age of 18 to obtain a copy of their original birth certificates and identifying information about their biological parents, including medical history information (A.2901-A, Weprin).

"This bill aims to support the health and well-being of adoptees in our state," said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. "This bill balances the rights of adoptees to learn information about their background while also respecting the privacy rights of biological parents who understood at the time of adoption that the record would be sealed and wish to maintain confidentiality. Additionally, the bill provides adoptees the ability to receive vital updated medical information about their biological parents."

The bill would allow an adopted person who is at least eighteen years of age to apply to the court from which the order of adoption was made, or to the Supreme Court, to request an order releasing a non-certified copy of his or her original birth certificate and a medical history form, if available.

Upon such application, the Department of Health would make reasonable and good faith efforts to notify the birth parent or parents who may choose to consent to the release of identifying information or request to maintain confidentiality.

The birth parent will also have the opportunity to complete a contact preference form that would notify the adoptee of the parent's choice to be contacted by the adoptee, be contacted only through an intermediary or to not be contacted at all. If the biological parent cannot be found or does not respond, the court would be empowered to release a copy of the birth certificate to the adoptee unless there is sufficient evidence establishing that the birth parent wishes for his or her identifying information to be kept confidential.

"Most adoptees live their entire lives without knowing basic personal information such as family medical history and heritage. This bill would provide adult adoptees with access to information that a non-adopted person has a legal right to obtain," said Assemblymember Weprin, sponsor of the bill. "After years of fighting for this legislation, I am thrilled my colleagues have extended these basic rights to adoptees and granted access to medical information that may be necessary for preventive health care and illnesses that are linked to family history and genetics."