Monday, April 14, 2014

Why I support PA House Bill 162 and open adoption records


First of all, what is HB 162? Long story short, it is a bill that, if passed, will open up original birth certificates for adoptees. This may not sound like much, but if passed, it will be a step forward in opening adoption records to adoptees over the age of 18. You can find out more here: PA Adoptee rights

In case you didn't know, I was adopted when I was 8 years old. I spent the first 8 years in and out of foster homes and with different family members. When I was adopted on Sept. 11th, 1993 I was given a new birth certificate. In fact, I have a digital copy of it only laptop. It shows that the date filed was August 23, 1984. The parents listed are my adopted parents.

Let me pause for a minute and say that I love my adopted family. Sure, we have our issues and flaws, but they are my family and I love them. They took my in and loved me as one of their own. I am extremely thankful for them every day.

Ok, back to HB 162. Obviously, my birth certificate that was filed on August 23rd of 1984 does not have my adopted parents listed. In fact, it has the names Kimberly Krezdorn and Raymond Keiser. The birth certificate with my adopted parents was, in fact, not filed until sometime in 1993.

This new birth certificate is my legal proof of identity. It lists my new name and new parents. My original birth certificate is useless as a form of legal identification. Yet, it is not so useless to me and other adoptees. It is a part of our identity. Part of who we are. It is a part of who I am. And, as it stands now, I have no legal right to have it. It still exists, mind you. It is locked away in a fire proof safe in an office in Berks County. For some, having their original birth certificate can begin to repair a broken sense of identity. It can begin to show where we have come from; who we were - leading to who we are now. Simply put, adoptees grow up with many questions. An original birth certificate can begin to answer a few of them.

I do not think that it should stop with a birth certificate. I believe that all records should be open to adoptees once we reach adult age. Think about it. I am able to freely access my criminal record, driving record, credit history, etc. Yet the ONE set of records that I want - records that are ABOUT MY LIFE - I am denied. Why? Because some government agency thinks that I do not have the rights to it. Because they believe that protecting the anonymity of birth parents is more important. I have seen some studies showing that approximately 95% of birth parents welcome a reunion with their birth children. Plus, anonymity is NOT guaranteed during the adoption process. As one US Supreme Court ruled,

"A birth is simultaneously an intimate occasion and a public event - the government has long kept records of when, where, and by whom babies are born. Such records have myriad purposes, such as furthering the interest of children in knowing the circumstances of their birth."
If a birth is a public event, then why is MINE made private?

Why are these records so important? Because they hold answers. I am very fortunate. I was reunited with much of my birth family when I was 16 years old. They've been able to give me many of the answers that I was looking for. And they, as well as my adopted family, have poured out so much love to me. Not every adoptee is this fortunate. Many grow up and never get the answers that they want. I support this bill for them, probably more so than I do for my own gain. Still, while I have a lot of answers, there are more that I want. I want to see the records. I want to see the reports that were filed. I want to see the reasons my birth parents listed for signing away their rights. I want to see these records because it is a part of who I am. And I am being shot down in accessing them. To see my records I may have to file a court order. I may have to hire an attorney. And even then, I can still be denied. If you have never been adopted - never had a large chuck of your life torn apart and gaping holes left in its place, you may not understand why this is so important. But trust me, as one who has experienced that, it is incredibly important. And it is a terrible injustice that some government agency that no longer knows me can deny me these records. These answers.

So, what does this all mean with HB 162? Well, this bill has passed through Congress and was moved to Senate. It is currently sitting in committee and awaiting a vote that may or may not happen. If the bill passes, it will pave the way to  opening more records.

If you want to help, here is a list of senators that sit on the committee. Please consider sending an email supporting this bill.  A sample email is below. (all contact info and sample email come from THIS FACEBOOK EVENT PAGE)

Email address for members of the Senate Aging & Youth Committee:
Bmensch@pasen.gov, Washington@pasenate.com, kward@pasen.gov, jscarnati@pasen.gov, dargall@pasen.giv, lbaker@pasen.giv, senatorschwank@pasenate.com, stack@pasenate.com, yudichak@pasenate.com, evogel@pasen.giv, rvulakovich@pasen.giv, swanger@pasen.gov

Dear Senators, 
I am contacting you to express MY SUPPORT for HB 162, restoring the right of adult adoptees to access their original birth certificates through the same process as all other citizens. Please support this bill and pass it to the full Senate for a vote. 
Sincerely, 
YOUR NAME
YOUR CONTACT INFO

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