Adoption Committee Recommends Expansion
Special Report - April 23, 2008
A study committee in the State House has recommended expanding the process by which adoptees and biological family members can identify and contact each other. This proposal comes less than four months after a new state law went into affect authorizing adoption agencies and local departments of social services (DSS) to act as “confidential intermediaries” who serve to identify, locate and facilitate contact between adult adoptees, adult lineal descendents of deceased adoptees, and biological parents of adoptees. Although the law requires the “written consent of all parties to the contact or the sharing of information” before identifying information can be released, the expansions proposed by the House Select Committee on Adoptee Birth Certificates could allow the parties to an adoption to be contacted without their prior consent.
At its April 16 meeting, the House Select Committee approved several recommendations that will be introduced as bills in the 2008 Legislative Session, which begins May 13. Two recommendations would allow the biological adult siblings or adult half siblings of adult adoptees, as well as “family members” of a deceased biological parent or a deceased adult adoptee to participate in the confidential intermediary program. In the second recommendation, the term “family member” is defined as “a spouse, child, stepchild, parent, stepparent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, or half sibling.” Another recommendation would authorize the confidential intermediary to obtain and presumably provide a copy of the death certificate to an adult adoptee or biological parent if the agency’s search reveals that the party being search for is deceased.
North Carolina Family Policy Council vice president and director of government relations John Rustin testified before the committee that the proposals mentioned above could lead to the identity and/or contact of adult adoptees and biological family members without their prior consent. “Although the confidential intermediary program requires the consent of two parties before contact is made, allowing parties beyond the adult adoptee and the biological parents to use the program will likely lead to non-consenting disclosure of identifying information,” Rustin commented. “For example, a biological mother and father may object to being contacted, but if the agency obtains the consent of a biological sibling and contact is made, the sibling could easily lead to the identity of the biological parents, despite the fact that they objected to the disclosure. In addition, the biological sibling may not even be aware that the adoption ever took place,” said Rustin.
“Similarly,” Rustin continued, “providing a copy of the death certificate of a deceased biological parent to an adult adoptee would disclose the identity of the biological parent, regardless of whether or not the biological parent would have consented to the disclosure of such identifying information. Utilizing various sources, such as an obituary published in the local newspaper, the adult adoptee could easily identify and contact the surviving spouse, children, parents, other relatives and close friends of the deceased biological parent. The deceased biological parent may have never disclosed the fact to these individuals that they had given birth to a child whom they placed for adoption. The disclosure of such information could cause significant family disruption and sully the reputation of the deceased individual.”
Rustin concluded, “Many biological parents rely upon the confidentiality established when they placed children for adoption in North Carolina. Allowing non-consenting biological parents or other family members to be contacted without their prior consent would result in the significant disruption of families across North Carolina and cause great harm to the public’s perception of adoption. It would also eliminate adoption as a viable solution for a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy who desires to maintain her anonymity.”
Copyright © 2008. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.