Friday, March 5, 2010

NJ BIll Adoptee Access Passes The Senate Committee

Since 1980 adoption reformers in home state of NJ have introduced access bills year after year while religious leaders, anti-abortion activists and the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union have successfully lobbied against it and killed it, year after year,

"We heard heart-wrenching stories of adoptees asking, most times in vain, the relatively simple question of where they came from," said Committee Chairwoman and bill sponsor Sen. Loretta Weinberg, (D-Bergen). "While I appreciate the concerns of biological parents who wish to remain anonymous, I believe this bill balances the needs of anonymity for birth parents wishing to remain so, and the rights of adoptees hoping to find out something about their family history.’’

The balance? The bill would give birth parents who surrendered children for adoption in New Jersey one year from the law’s passage to submit a request to the State registrar that their identity be protected.

During the initial year, adoptees would be able to contact the adoption agency they came from to get non-identifying medical information.  Big whoop - nothing has stops them from doing that now! Talk about crumbs!

But a one year limit is better than previous options.

After birth parents have had an opportunity to "opt out’’ of disclosure, an adopted adult, a direct descendant of an adopted person if that person is deceased, or the adoptive parent on a child’s behalf would be able to request a copy of the adoptee’s birth certificate from the state health department.
The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee approved the bill, a substitute for (S799) and (S1399), 8-1. It now heads to the full Senate.

UPDATE: I went to the prime mover and shaker in NJ for all these years, Pam Hasagawa to question:

"During the initial year, adoptees would be able to contact the adoption agency they came from to get non-identifying medical information."

What medical information would this allow access to?

I was informed that:

This record is taken from conversation with the parent, hopefully in the child's best interest. 

It is not "medical records" in the sense that it is only what information the parent gives the agency/intermediary at the time of relinquishment.

It is not a doctor's record, nor a hospital record, nor a pharmacist's record.  It is family medical history, the kind that could make a difference between life or death for the adopted person now completely ignorant of what genetic threat may be lurking in her genes.

I'm glad you brought this up because it's something we need to clarify about HIPPA with DCF. 

The opposition, esp. ACLU-NJ, brings up constantly, as in "I can't get MY mother's medical records. Why should adoptees be able to do so?" (Deborah Jacobs, Exec Dir.)

If the birth mother chooses to give minimal, sketchy information either about her own family medical history or that of the birth father, then her son or daughter (and the adopted person's parents during the minority of the child) loses the ability to have this information unless s/he is able to contact the birth parent.
To which I replied (slightly edited):

YES, it's information the mother gave to the AGENCY! And "they" claim to protect us and our privacy!!

It's BS and makes no difference like real medical records and also contains judgments made about us by social workers. If we cried too much they called us hysterical. If we didn't cry enough they called us uncaring. Agency records are BRUTAL and can give adoptees a very wrong impression. Soem say we didn't know the father when we did.

When a mother I know met her daughter, the daughter asked about her uncle with "mental problems"!!  She was stunned. Then she finally remembered that she had told a social worker that her brother - as a teen - had smoked some pot.

The ACLU is 100% correct on this issue and it is a sore spot for many mothers in the movement and they will not support bills that allow this type of access, and I fully agree and understand why. I hope you now see why as well. This is a real violation of our privacy. These are things WE should tell our kids and no one else should know about us. What we told the agency and their "impressions" of us should be CONFIDENTIAL. That is a violation.

The loss of that info is nothing. what could it possibly tell anyone - if their mother had chicken pox when she was 3? measles at 12?  Give me a break!

You need to think in terms of EQUALIZING things with non-adoptees. Not making them special people in special need, though it may seem that way.  No one else would - or SHOULD - have access to this kind of interview info on their mother! NO ONE!!

Adoptees need and deserve EQUALITY - nothing less and nothing more. They need the names on their original birth certificate so they can possibly speak to those people face to face like anyone else and ask them what the family medical history is. That's ll any human being can do.

It would be very hard for me to support such legislation, and that pains me greatly. I am in a no-win situation here.

The proposed bill, S799, is available here.  See also follow up post with excerpts of the bill.


maryanne said...

This bill only passed out of committee, it has NOT passed the senate yet. Anyhow, it a terrible bill as now written, and has nothing to do with adoptee rights. I am very sad that NJ gave up on a clean bill in order to try and pass something/anything. The irony is that this stands no better chance of passing than a clean bill, and all the concessions have not made the opposition back down a bit.

I hope after this one fails a clean bill will come back someday that I can actively support.

AdoptAuthor said...

Please see my update on the post. I have concerns about this legislation, but they different than yours.

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