Assemblymember Wallace: Adoptees Have the Right to Know Their Biological History

Assemblymember Monica P. Wallace (D-Lancaster) announced that she helped pass legislation to allow adoptees to access their long-form birth certificate once they turn 18 years old (A.5494).

“While adoption is a deeply personal and difficult decision for birth parents, it also has a far-reaching impact on the life of the adoptee,” Wallace said. “Without access to their original birth records, adoptees can’t learn about hereditary illnesses or reconnect with their heritage. This legislation would allow thousands of New Yorkers to have this vital information at their disposal.”

Since 1935, New York State has kept adoption records sealed, forcing adopted individuals seeking their biological history to petition the court to gain access to their original birth certificate. Even then, access to this information is not guaranteed. This legislation recognizes the archaic nature of preventing people who were adopted from accessing basic genetic information by ensuring that all adult adoptees have the right to obtain their original birth certificate, a right that is currently afforded to New Yorkers who age-out of the foster care system.

“I’ve had many conversations with adopted children and with parents who made the difficult choice of giving their child up for adoption,” continued Wallace. “I also know on a deeply personal level how important this legislation is to all of them. The debate on this bill in the Assembly was passionate and compelling, with members on both sides of the aisle sharing personal stories of how this legislation would impact residents across New York. I applaud my colleagues in the Assembly and Senate for recognizing the deep human need to know the biological details of who you are where you came from, and I am proud to have had the opportunity to help pass this legislation.”

Adoptees would retain the right to access “non-identifying” information about biological parents, including religious and ethnic heritage and medical history. This bill gives adoptees a chance to learn about their history and medical information as well as reconnect with their biological family if they so choose. The measure, which has a 26-year history in the Assembly, also passed the state Senate and now awaits the governor’s signature.