Category Archives: Legislation

Who am I? – Bleeding Hearts Adoption Blog

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A must-read blog entry by an adoptee, and birth mother who believes in open records for all New York state adoptees.

Nicely penned! I could not agree more.

Blessings for open NY adoption records,
V.L. Brunskill

 

Why OBC (Original Birth Certificates) Matter to Reunited Adoptees

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Last night, as we discussed the editing on my debut novel Waving Backwards, my adoptive mother (an avid reader of this blog) asked me a question that made me consider the way non-adoptees view the quest of reunited adoptees for access to their OBCs (Original Birth Certificates).

Mom asked, “If they already know their birth families, why is it important for adoptees to get their original birth certificates?”

My immediate response was, “Because it belongs to them. It is a document that every other American has access to, and adoptees are denied access because of decisions that were completely out of their control.”

Pondering this further, I added, “Equality, Mom. We adoptees want the same rights as every other American. We want the paper that officiates our arrival on this earth. It may be a simple piece of paper, but for me it a document that makes my existence more solid. It connects me to the lineage that I fought so hard to discover. It is also a document of healing. It does not heal the wounds of separation, but acts as a band-aid covering at least one gaping crevice of my identity.”

As a believer in birth certificate and adoption record access for all adoptees at the age of eighteen, I continued, “We also want any rights that might be tied to our birth certificates.”  In my case, my birth mom is Canadian and as her daughter, I would be granted dual citizenship if I had the birth certificate that proved my lineage.

As a reunited adoptee, my original birth certificate is the first page of my life.

On the promotional page for the adoption search documentary A Simple Piece of Paper filmmaker Jean Strauss quotes adoptee Darryl McDaniels of the musical group RUN DMC as saying, “No one starts a book from chapter one, But adoptees’ live their lives from chapter two. All we want is to know the beginning of our own story.”  (View McDaniels adoption story on Fuse)

Explaining the significance of my OBC to a non-adoptee is difficult. It is easy to describe hunger to revelers at a feast, but few will feel the gut-wrenching pain of lack that adoptees feel everyday.

In an effort to obtain equal OBC access, the New York State Adoptee Equal Access Group has started a photo challenge.  They ask that you post/tweet/blog/share a photo of yourself  (or someone famous) holding a sign that reads- #‎SimplePieceOfPaper‬  and include the url NYAdoptionEquality.org.

NY's Prime Sponsor: Assemblyman David Weprin

NY’s Prime Sponsor: Assemblyman David Weprin

If, like me, you are a New York adoptee, this is a great way to help increase the visibility of our cause. Please post your pic on my FB community page-Adoptees who have found their biological families.

Blessings for equal access,
V.L.

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Waving Backwards, a Savannah novel (SYP Publishing)
Imagine not knowing who you are,
until you find yourself in a statue 800-miles from home.
COMING TO Amazon/Kindle/Nook and a BOOKSTORE NEAR YOU JULY 2015

Happy Equal Access Day Ohio Adoptees!

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On this cold, rainy day in Ohio, a line of colorful umbrellas line the walkway in front of the Cleveland Bureau of Vital Statistics. Under each protective canopy stands a hopeful adoptee clinging to the paperwork they have dreamed of for a lifetime. March 20, 2015 is independence day for Ohio adoptees, as they are now permitted to obtain their Original Birth Certificates (OBCs).

Photo by Adoption Network Cleveland

Photo by Adoption Network Cleveland

This photo brought me to tears. They are tears of relief for the 400,000 adoptees who now have the option of knowing who they are, and where they come from. As a reunited NY adoptee, I breath a sigh of relief for the blessed closure that is coming for these adoptees.

I also tear up for the millions of adoptees in the 40+ states where obtaining an Original Birth Certificate (without birth parent approval or court order) remains a hopeful dream.  The road to equal rights and open records is a long one, but Ohio’s success teaches us that it is a road worth traveling and that WE CAN DO IT!

Finally, I weep at the necessity of the line. That any human being should be forced to fight for information of such a personal nature is a travesty. Every American, non-adoptee has an inalienable right to obtain their original birth certificate. Yet, most adoptees are forced to accept amended certificates.  Access to OBCs should be a civil right for all!

The information is ours. Period.

Blessings & equal access for all adoptees,
V.L. Brunskill

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Waving Backwards, a Savannah novel (SYP Publishing)
Imagine not knowing who you are,
until you find yourself in a statue 800-miles from home.
COMING TO Amazon/Kindle/Nook and a BOOKSTORE NEAR YOU JULY 2015

March 20, 2015- Independence Day for Ohio Adoptees

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Spring arrives in celebratory style for Ohio adoptees adopted between 1964 and 1996. On March 20, 2015 these adoptees can request a copy of their original birth certificates. Adoptees born before 1964, and after 1996 already had access under state law. The new law extends access to ALL adoptees in Ohio.

Much of the credit for this long awaited, equal access triumph goes to Adoption Network’s Betsie Norris, who worked 24 years on a series of proposed adoption access bills, before the Ohio Senate finally passed Bill 23 on December 19, 2013. To learn more about the lady and her superstar efforts to restore rights to adoptees, check out this Cool Cleveland interview.

For Ohio adoptees wondering how the process works, there is a short explanatory film on YouTube (embedded below) by superstar adoptee rights advocate, author and filmmaker Jean Strauss. For more information on the process and forms for requesting your original birth certificate, visit the Ohio Department of Health site.

Blessings and thanks to the adoptee advocates who worked so hard to make this dream a reality!

Hugs and congrats Ohio,
V.L.

Big Win for New Jersey Adoptees- OBC Access Coming in 2017

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There are few things that make an adoptee rights advocate happier than when a state grants equal access to Original Birth Certificates (OBCs).  So I am hop, skip, and jumping in joyous reaction to the news out of New Jersey this week. A legislative agreement has been reached that will allow adoptees to begin accessing their original birth certificates on January 1, 2017.  Sweet! celebrate

While the nearly three year wait is ridiculous (and will make reunion impossible for some who will find to late) the law has lingered in legislative limbo for years. If it did not pass this time, who knows how long it would have been stalled.

The insane waiting period is meant to give birth parents time to  have their names removed from their biological child’s birth records. I wholeheartedly disagree with this option as it casts adoptees’ civil rights as less important than the civil and privacy rights of the parents who relinquished them. However, every state that grants equal access is a step in the right direction.

Read the details of this celebration worthy event below-

As soon information is released on the process for requesting NJ OBCs, I will post the details.

Blessings for equal access in every US state,

Vicki-lynn

 

 

 

NY, NJ, PA Equal Access Bills Give Adoptees Hope (Act Now)

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Spring bursts forth hopeful for thousands of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania adoptees who hope to obtain their original birth certificates.

As ancient adoption rules and perceptions get a proper lashing in mainstream movies, books and television shows, the legal landscape for adoptees is also changing. For the first time in decades, society seems to be moving away from fear, and towards understanding that it is every human’s right to know their genetic, historic and social identity.

At this very moment, there are three equal access bills proposed in influential northern U.S. states. These include:

To get these adoption bills signed into law, interested adoptees MUST take action NOW. You must write, call and be vocal about your support for equal access. In order to hasten participation by adoptees, here are the links to action sites in NJ, NY and PA.  We-Can-Do-It

These groups/links offer specific steps that you can take today to help adoptees in your state (or state of adoption) get equal access.

WE CAN DO IT Adoptionfind readers! Please act today.

Blessings for legislative action and equal access,
Vicki-lynn

34 Years Later- NJ Equal Access Bill Inches Forward

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New Jersey adoptees may finally be closer to obtaining their original birth certificates and health records.
Bill A-1259, which has been bandied about for more than three decades was recently approved by the NJ Senate Health and Human Services Committee, and the Assembly Human Services Committee. This is the same bill that was passed by both legislative houses in 2011, only to be conditionally vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie.

Check out the full story at NJSpotlight.com.
Bill Would Give Adoptees Access to Medical History, Info About Birth Parents (via NJSpotlight)At a time when the understanding and treatment of inherited disorders has grown by leaps and bounds, one group has not had access to any information about their family’s medical history – people whose biological parents’ names were sealed when…

Read the rest of this entry

Great News for Ohio Adoptees

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Get ready Ohio adoptees born between Jan. 1, 1964, and Sept. 18, 1996. An open records bill has passed in the Ohio House and is heading to Governor John Kasich, who is expected to sign it into law.

All members of the adoption traid are encouraged to contact the Governor using the contact form link here- http://www.governor.ohio.gov/Contact/ContacttheGovernor.aspx 

Let him know why this law is important to you, and be sure to thank him when he signs it into law!

Read the full story here-

Bill granting 400,000 adoptees access to birth records clears General Assembly, heads to Gov. John Kasich for signing

Blessings for a season of hope, and reunion,
Vicki-lynn

Washington State Adoptees- Original Birth Records to Open July 1, 2014

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State by state and crumb by crumb, adoptees continue to gain access to their God-given rights.  Today’s good news comes from top left side of our fabulous country. Washington State adoptees will be able to obtain their original birth records starting on July 1, 2014.washington

According to a News Tribune article published in May 2013 when the legislation was approved, “House Bill 1525 — allows those adopted before October 1993 to obtain copies of their original birth certificates identifying their birth mothers and possibly fathers, provided those parents have not filed papers to prevent the release.

Under the state’s old law, those adopted after Oct. 1, 1993, can access original birth records without court orders. Records can be requested once the adoptee turns 18.”

For more on how to request an original birth certificate, visit the Washington State Department of Health Site. There is a full  description of the law and who is allowed access here.

As usual, the new open records legislation comes with an ugly  ‘opt-out’ option for birth parents who do not wish  to be contacted.  If only adoptees could opt-out of having their heritage stolen and their lives mired in secrecy. Open records should apply to everyone!

Blessings for a country where freedom-for-all finally includes adoptees,
Vicki-lynn

SC Cherokee Adoption War: Reader Comment on Father’s Rights

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Yesterday, I blogged about the South Carolina case of  Matt and Melanie Capobianco’s custody war against birth father, Dusten Brown. The case has garnered mainstream press attention because the birth father is Native American. Brown’s attorneys used the Indian Child Welfare Act in their fight to secure custody of his daughter who was adopted by the Capobiancos.

My post resulted in 21 thought-provoking, fact laden comments that prove the case should not have been fought on the basis of Brown being Cherokee, but on the fact that he fought for his child from the start. Press accounts make it sound as if he stepped into the child’s life when she was one or two-years old. This is not the case.

So with tail between my linguistic legs, I apologize for the tone of yesterday’s post. For while it never suggests that the child is better off adopted, it does have a tone that could be taken to support the adoption of kids that do not need adopting.  I read several mainstream reports on the case, but failed to dig deeper before tip-tapping my opinion onto the screen.

I still don’t believe in a law that suggests children must be placed with their ‘own kind’. A policy like this would leave more kids in the social service system than ever before. However, in this case, it is Brown’s status as biological father and not as Cherokee that gives him the right to raise his child.

This lengthy comments spells out the father’s case. Thanks to reader ‘Smoke’  for submitting.
Smoke | August 8, 2013 at 4:43 pm | Reply | Edit

1. “He signed his rights away.”
TRUTH:
“It is undisputed that the only consent document Father ever signed was a one-page ‘Acceptance of Service’ stating he was not contesting the adoption, which was purportedly presented for Father’s signature as a prerequisite to the service of a summons and complaint. Thus, Appellants did not follow the clear procedural directives of section 1913(a) in obtaining Father’s consent. Moreover, even if this ‘consent’ was valid under the statute, then Father’s subsequent legal campaign to obtain custody of Baby Girl has rendered any such consent withdrawn. Therefore, neither Father’s signature on the ‘Acceptance of Service’ document, nor his stated intentions to relinquish his rights, were effectual forms of voluntary consent under the ICWA.” – South Carolina Supreme Court There is a legal way to “sign away rights” for good reason, Dusten never came close to any legal relinquishment of parental rights.

2. “He texted his rights away”
TRUTH:
In no state in the country can a father relinquish parental rights by text message. These text messages WERE NOT EVIDENCE at trial because the attorney for the Adoptive Couple would not produce the phone that showed Birth Mother’s messages to father, instead they attempted to introduce photocopies, even though the cell phone was allegedly in a safe at the office of the Guardian Ad Litem’s attorney. The Family Court did not consider these text messages as evidence.

3. “He abandoned his daughter”
TRUTH:
“All attempts to contact Maldonado by Brown and his family members were refused by Maldonado. Shortly after the child’s birth, Brown’s family members purchased some items for the child and attempted to deliver them to Maldonado, but these were rejected. It was clear that Maldonado wanted to have Brown completely and permanently removed from her life and placing the child for adoption without his knowledge or consent would further this goal.” – Family Court “Father testified he asked friends and family if they had seen Mother because she would not reply to his text messages. His mother testified she attempted to contact Mother on several occasions and once left Mother a voice message before Baby Girl’s birth to tell Mother she had money and some gifts for the baby, including items she hand-knitted, but Mother never returned her telephone calls. Mother testified that none of Father’s family members contacted her regarding gifts for Baby Girl.” – Family Court The Family Court repeatedly stated that it did “not find birth mother’s testimony credible.” – Family Court Bench Ruling, United States Supreme Court Brief

4. “It is in Veronica’s best interest to be adopted”
TRUTH:
The only findings based on evidence of Veronica’s best interests found that she should be with her father.

“Brown is the father of another daughter. The undisputed testimony is that he is a loving and devoted father. Even Maldonado herself testified that he was a good father. There is no evidence to suggest that he would be anything other than an excellent parent to this child. . . . Brown has convinced me of his unwavering love for this child.” – Family Court

“The family court order stated, ‘[w]hen parental rights and the best interests of the child are in conflict, the best interests of the child must prevail. However, in this case, I find no conflict between the two.’ Likewise, we cannot say that Baby Girl’s best interests are not served by the grant of custody to Father, as Appellants have not presented evidence that Baby Girl would not be safe, loved, and cared for if raised by Father and his family.” South Carolina Supreme Court

“Plainly, the family court determined that there was no conflict between Father’s best interests and Baby Girl’s best interests.” – South Carolina Supreme Court

5. “He’s not really ‘Indian’”
TRUTH:
Dusten Brown has been a registered citizen of the Cherokee Nation since he was a child. Further, the South Carolina Supreme Court found true cultural ties to the Cherokee Nation:

“The Record establishes that Father’s family has a deeply embedded relationship with the Cherokee Nation. For example, not only does the Record indicate that Father and his family are proud of their heritage and membership in the Wolf Clan, the home study performed on Father’s parents states the following:

[Father’s father] is Cherokee Indian. He grew up knowing he was Cherokee and being proud of who he was. [Father’s parents] . . . prepare the following traditional foods in their home: grape dumplings, buckskin bread, Indian cornbread, Indian tacos, wild onions, fry bread, polk salad and deer meat. [Father’s mother] state[d] she cooks these foods in her home on a regular basis and all of her children have eaten these items.

[Father’s parents] attend the Cherokee Holiday in Tahlequah, Oklahoma[,] when they can and do participate in eating traditional foods, viewing the arts and crafts and watching the traditional games. [Father’s father] participates in voting in the Cherokee elections[,] . . . . took part in learning about the Cherokee culture when his children were in high school by learning to make Indian crafts and learning to play the drum[, and] . . . . is sometimes seen at the Nowata Indian Health Clinic but receives the majority of his health care from the Veterans hospital. He claims his family is from the Wolf Clan, and he has been to, as well as participated, in stomp dances.

[H]is family had Indian land which was located in Pryor, Oklahoma and Cayuga, Oklahoma. He claims to have very traditional ties with his extended family and considers geneology [sic] a hobby by researching his Cherokee culture. [Father’s parents] have many Native American items in their home. Decorative Native American pieces are scattered throughout their home in nearly every room.

Thus, the Record demonstrates that Father and his family are well-positioned to introduce Baby Girl to her Indian heritage.”

6. “He just wants her for money.”
TRUTH:
As all Cherokee Nation citizens know, we don’t get any money for “being Cherokee” or for having “Cherokee kids.” The only people who have made money in this case are the adoption agencies and attorneys.

7. “Cherokee Nation paid Dusten’s legal expenses”
TRUTH:
Cherokee Nation has never spent a single a dime on attorney fees for Dusten Brown. He and his family used every extra dollar they had to pay for attorneys and after that was exhausted, Dusten’s amazing attorneys donated their time because they believed in him and believed that Veronica belonged with her father.

8. “We didn’t know Veronica was Cherokee.”
TRUTH:
“Mother testified that she knew “from the beginning” that Father was a registered citizen of the Cherokee Nation, and that she deemed this information “important” throughout the adoption process. Further, she testified she knew that if the Cherokee Nation were alerted to Baby Girl’s status as an Indian child, “some things were going to come into effect, but [she] wasn’t for [sic] sure what.” Mother reported Father’s Indian heritage on the Nightlight Agency’s adoption form and testified she made Father’s Indian heritage known to Appellants and every agency involved in the adoption. However, it appears that there were some efforts to conceal his Indian status. In fact, the pre-placement form reflects Mother’s reluctance to share this information:

Initially the birth mother did not wish to identify the father, said she wanted to keep things low-key as possible for the [Appellants], because he’s registered in the Cherokee tribe. It was determined that naming him would be detrimental to the adoption.”

“Adoptive Mother testified that, because they hired an attorney to specifically inquire about the baby’s Cherokee Indian status, ‘when she was born, we were under the impression that she was not Cherokee.’” But, “Adoptive Mother testified that the Nightlight Agency’s pre-placement report was ‘probably . . . something I read and didn’t think twice about it.’”

9. “The Guardian Ad Litem supports the Adoption”
TRUTH:
The Family Court appointed a guardian ad litem (“GAL”) who has filed a brief in this Court that purports to be on behalf of Baby Girl and asserts that Baby Girl’s interests would be best served by awarding custody to petitioners. In fact, the GAL is not a neutral party. Although appointed by the Family Court, that court noted that the GAL and her attorney both “were unilaterally selected by [petitioners’] counsel”; the GAL had a continuing business relationship with petitioners’ attorney, with whom she had worked frequently in cases in 2009.

In this case, although the GAL had performed a comprehensive home study of petitioners, she resisted repeated requests from Father’s attorney to conduct a home study of Father. When the GAL finally did conduct such a study, well over a year after her appointment and some five months after counsel’s request, she informed Father and his family that “she knew the adoptive couple prior to the child being placed in their home” and “had worked with them before the child had been placed”; that petitioners were a well-educated couple with a beautiful home, could afford to send Baby Girl to any private school that they chose and, when she was older, to any college she wanted; and that there was nothing that Baby Girl needed that petitioners could not buy for her.

The GAL therefore told Father’s family that they “really need[ed] to get down on [their] knees and pray to God that [they] can make the right decision for this baby” (id. at 148), and they “needed to talk to God and pray about taking the child from the only family that she has known.” At trial, Father stated that the GAL treated him and his family as “a bunch of * * * rednecks that can’t * * * afford anything, that we’re not able to provide this child with proper education, schooling * * *. Pretty much that we weren’t fit to love this child and raise her.”

The GAL’s initial report did not note Baby Girl’s Native American heritage because the GAL thought that was “not something * * * the courts need to take into consideration.” As for the GAL’s view of Native American culture, she stated that the advantages of having Native American heritage “include[ed] free lunches and free medical care and that they did have their little get togethers and their little dances.” Given the GAL’s obvious bias, respondents initially sought her removal.

But rather than delay the proceedings, respondents ultimately withdrew this motion on the understanding that the Family Court would not consider either the GAL’s conclusion regarding Baby Girl’s best interests or the GAL’s custody recommendation. See Pet. Indeed, South Carolina law precludes a guardian ad litem in a private adoption from providing a custody recommendation unless one is requested by the court; no such request was made here. – United States Supreme Court Brief by Father

Blessings for the truth to be told and the power to admit when we are mistaken,
Vicki-lynn