Illinois Adoption News

Below is extracted from an email I received from Melisha Mitchell today. Bolding (of particular interest to me) is my own.

“Dear Friends…

Yes, we have done it again. With about the same amount of fanfare as it was accompanied by while traveling through the Illinois General Assembly, House Bill 5949 will be signed by Governor Quinn sometime in the coming week, making Illinois the first state to provide a remedy for adoptees for whom no original birth certificate was ever filed (due to a home birth or a clever midwife who circumvented the law) and possibly the first (correct me if I’m wrong…) to allow an “original mother” named on an OBC to obtain a copy of their birth child’s original birth certificate upon written request.

Although there was a lot of rejoicing (in Illinois, anyway) after our OBC Access bill passed in 2010, it quickly became clear that, despite our efforts to be as all-inclusive as impossible, there were an alarming number of adoptees (an estimated 10%, or more than hundred times as many as those whose OBC was “redacted”) who were coming home empty-handed with very little to celebrate…In some cases there was simply no original birth certificate on file (for all of the reasons cited above). In others, the birth certificate on file did not include any identifying information. For example, in Peoria during the 50s and early 60s, nearly every birth certificate associated with a certain adoption agency (which shall remain nameless here) had “legally omitted” written where the birth mother’s name should have been. Of course, there was nothing legal at all about this omission. Likewise, the case of Tom M. who found the words “birth mother does not wish to provide information” scribbled where his birth mother’s name, age and place of birth should have been. Based on what little Tom knows of his adoption, the desire to hide the fact that there was a little family hanky panky going on was more likely to have been at the root of this subterfuge than what the birth mother actually wished or did not wish to disclose. In fact, it has become crystal clear over the past four years that, in cases where birth mothers did not wish to reveal their identities, they simply lied about who they were, where they were from, how old they were, what they did for a living and/or anything else they could think of to conceal who they were. They didn’t simply “refuse” to fill out the OBC.

The remedy which Illinois has come up with will probably get a few tomatoes thrown at it by the purists out there, but it provides adoptees whose original birth certificates could not be located or left them clueless with a simple way of obtaining the same information that would have been included on their original birth certificate in the first place. To achieve this task, the state will rely on other records from the birth and adoption (the agency file, legal paperwork) to ascertain what basic information (birth mother’s name, age, profession, and place of birth) should have appeared on the original birth document. The law goes into effect in January 2015. If this first-ever provision applies to you or someone in your family (the new law also gives grandchildren of adoptees access to the OBC under conditions similar to those for children of deceased adoptees), please email me and I’ll let you know where to go and what to do to get the OBC in question.

Another first (or almost first…we’re not sure) in the new law is a provision that allows any birth parent named on an original birth certificate to obtain a copy of their birth child’s OBC by written request. This provision culminates a long battle for me (and an option I’ve tried to introduce into Illinois law since 1997!!). As a birth mother, I have never understood why the person who, theoretically, completed, or at least approved and signed, the original birth certificate would be denied access to this document under any circumstances. No matter what had happened between the birth and the voluntary or involuntary termination of that birth mother’s parental rights, it did not negate the fact that she had given birth to a child). I also have never understood why birth fathers, whose names began occasionally appearing on OBC’s in the late 1970s, were never allowed to access the documents that had their names splashed across them. Many birth mothers are not in a happily-ever-after reunion with their birth son or daughter (including me as of this writing–but, always at my birth daughter’s request, we have see-sawed back and forth for most of the eighteen years since I located her). Yet, based on the letters I received, even those who’d been outright rejected by their first-born still really wanted to have some tangible record of their child’s arrival in this world. From here on in, all they need to do is ask.

Other good news in this legislation, which gives Illinois arguably some of the most progressive and thoughtful adoption laws in the world, is the fact that, henceforth, all searches through the state confidential intermediary program will be free of charge to adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents who qualify for this option under state law.

Although I was not the primary architect of the final draft of this legislation, I certainly had a lot of input into its language and provisions…and am elated that, once again, Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, the bill’s indomitable sponsor, was able to carry the ball across the finish line and score another major victory for Illinois triad members.” – Melisha Mitchell email dated Jul 1 2014

2 Thoughts.

  1. I relinquished my baby girl through the Cradle Adoption Agency in Evanston, IL in Sept., 1965. She found me in 1994 and in 1995 I petitioned the courts and was sent her OBC. What a joy for both of us! I also got her birth records from Evanston Hospital which chronicled the labor and delivery. So happy to know that mothers and children no longer have to go through contortions and weeks of wondering whether a request will be honored. Great going Illinois!

Comments are closed.