Public Health Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

HB-5144

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING ACCESS TO BIRTH CERTIFICATES AND PARENTAL HEALTH INFORMATION FOR ADOPTED PERSONS.

Vote Date:

3/25/2014

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute

PH Date:

2/28/2014

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

The Public Health Committee

REASONS FOR BILL:

The bill would require The Department of Public Health to provide adopted adults (age 18 years or older), their adult children or grandchildren, uncertified copies of the adoptee's original birth certificates on request. This bill will go into effect starting July 1, 2015, and applies regardless of the date parental rights were terminated. It would allow access to original birth certificates without a probate court order and access to identifying information about a birth parent only with the parent's consent.

It would allow adult descendent of the adopted person to obtain the birth certificate only if the adopted person is deceased, and only with a court order.

It would require The Department of Children and Families (DCF) to make contact preference forms available to any birth parent on request. When receiving such a request, DCF must also provide the parent with a form to fill out health history information.

The bill would require The Department of Public Health and The Department of Consumer Protection Commissioners to report certain information to the Public Health Committee.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Dr. Jewel Mullen, Commissioner, The Department of Public Health (DPH): Supports the bill in authorizing the Department of Public Health to release a copy of the original birth certificate of a person, upon request of the person after reaching age 21, or other authorized applicant if the adoptee is deceased.

The following would be new responsibilities for DPH:

● Required to furnish, collect, maintain and issue Contact Preference forms, the form would allow a biological parent to state their preference about being contacted by the adult adoptee.

● Required to furnish, collect, maintain, and issue Healthy History forms related to the biological parents.

● Required to issue quarterly reports regarding the usage of the Contact Preference form, whether or not the biological parents are consenting to contact with their biological child, and how many original birth certificates are requested.

The Department opposes the bill for the following reasons:

● Requires DPH to have responsibilities beyond the scope of its mission. Usually the Vital Records Section is responsible for the collecting and maintaining birth, marriage, and death data. The Department has no involvement with adoption process except when someone is adopted, and the original birth certificate is removed from the active registry and replaces it with a certificate that reflects the adoption information.

● The fiscal impact would be significant. Increased cost would be associated with obtaining the off-site adoption records and the administration burdens related to the Contact Preference Form and the Health History Form. Additional staff time would be required to distribute, collect, maintain, and issue these forms. The quarterly reporting requirement would also add cost.

● HB 5144 would require that the original birth certificate be released to “authorized applicants” which has a broad definition and DPH requests further consideration on the definition

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Adam Pertman, President, The Donaldson Adoption Institute: The Donaldson Adoption Institute is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research, policy and education think tank. We conduct research and analysis on many issues in order to improve adoption-related laws, policies and practices.

Initially the rationale was to maintain the anonymity of birth/first mothers and preserving the privacy in their families but now evidence indicates that the majority of these women have a desire for some level of contact with or knowledge about the children they gave birth to and the preference is to grant the adoptee access to their birth certificates.

There are a number of states in recent years that have enacted laws granting adult adoptees access to their records and none of the anticipated negative consequences transpired. Also the unambiguous conclusion from a growing body of research is that greater knowledge about their histories (biological and personal) yields better outcomes for adopted persons and their families.

Stephen A. Karp, executive Director, National Association of Social Workers (NASW): NASW supports the right of adult adoptees to receive a copy of their original birth certificate upon reaching the age of 21 and receive their biological parent's health information.

Social workers and other health care providers who work with adult adoptees can be hindered in their treatment of the individual due to the lack of biological health information. Psychologically, it can be stressful on an adult adoptee not to have information on their biological parent's health conditions, nor to have an original birth certificate.

HB 5144 provides birth parents with protections by having the parent indicate whether they want to be contacted and if so whether that contact may be direct or through an intermediary. These protections should offset any concerns birth parents may have as to confidentiality.

Paul Schibbelhute, Legislative Committee Chairman, and Jody Foster, Mid-Atlantic Regional Director, American Adoption Congress (AAC): Provided testimony along with letters written by Catholic Charities in Atlanta, Georgia and the Catholic Conference of Ohio in support of adoptee access to their original birth certificates. HB 5144 is almost identical to legislation passed in Oregon (2000), New Hampshire (2004), Maine (2007) and Rhode Island (2011) and pending in others. The bill would restore basic rights to adult adoptees.

Since the law took effect in New Hampshire in 2004, over 1,600 birth certificates have been requested with no harm reported and in Oregon since 2000, over 11,000 adult adoptees have received their birth certificates with no harm being reported.

Jeff Hancock, Tara Peattie, Diane Lyons, Kathleen M. Flaherty, Karen Caffrey, Jessica Teta, Brian Moyer, Moses Farrow and 35 other adult adoptees: All submitted testimony in support of HB 5144. Testimony shared personal stories explaining experiences of being adopted and stating the impact this bill would have on them and other adult adoptees.

Eileen D. Burke, Mickey Bohan, Jan Fable, Kerry Bulson, Barbara J. Ruhe, Nancy Horgan, Claire Wilkes and 60 other family members and friends: Provided testimony in support of their loved ones for HB 5144.

Jane V. Coughlin, Russell Mercer, Runa Wassermann, Mary-Beth Dobmier, Margaret Doherty, Carolyn Goodridge, Noreen A. Bachteler and Jennifer Lahl: Provided testimony in support of HB 5144. These persons expressed support based on what they have experienced in their professional careers working with adoptees.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

James Maffuid, Executive Director, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Norwich and Lois Nesci, Chief Executive Officer, Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of Hartford: Provided testimony in opposition to HB 5144 as written, while acknowledging the importance of knowing one's identity, family history, and medical history.

Given the intent of the bill, Catholic Charities would support the bill with the following modifications:

● A consent form be attached to the original birth certificate indicating the biological parent(s) choice whether or not to be contacted

● If the biological parent(s) choose to be contacted, the original birth certificate would be released.

● If the biological parent(s) chooses not to be contacted, the original birth certificate would not be released.

Reported by: Lori Littmann

Date: 4/4/2014