House Committee Approves Adoption Changes
Special Report - June 13, 2008
This week, a State House committee approved a bill that could help facilitate reunions between adoptees and biological family members but also could undermine the confidentiality of many adoptions in North Carolina. On Thursday, June 12, the House Judiciary 1 Committee voted to give HB 2186Expand Access/Confid. Intermediary Services a favorable report. This bill would expand legislation passed last year that authorized adoption agencies and local departments of social services (DSS) to serve as “confidential intermediaries” (CI), a role in which the agencies serve to identify, locate and facilitate contact between adult adoptees, adult lineal descendents of deceased adoptees, and biological parents of adoptees. According to the 2007 law, the CI must first obtain the “written consent of all parties to the contact or the sharing of information” before any identifying information can be released.
HB 2186, sponsored by Rep. Margaret Dickson (D-Cumberland), would expand the parties eligible to participate in the CI program to include the adult biological siblings or half siblings of adult adoptees, as well as “family members” of a deceased biological parent or a deceased adoptee. “Family member” is defined in the bill as “a spouse, child, stepchild, parent, stepparent, grandparent, or grandchild.” In addition to these changes, if during the search, the CI determines the subject of the search is deceased, the CI may obtain a copy of the death certificate and then provide it to the person who commissioned the search.
North Carolina Family Policy Council vice president John Rustin testified before the Judiciary 1 Committee that expanding the individuals authorized to participate in the CI program and allowing for the release of a death certificate could lead to non-consenting disclosure of identifying information. “If, for example, a confidential intermediary contacts the birth mother and she declines contact with the adult adoptee, there is nothing in this bill to prohibit the CI from contacting the birth mother’s other children,” Rustin commented. “First of all, such a contact could come as a great surprise, if the children were never informed that their mother gave birth to a child whom she placed for adoption. Secondly, if one of these individuals agrees to be put into contact with the adoptee, they could easily disclose the identity of the birth mother even after she has withheld her consent to be contacted.”
As for the release of the death certificate, Rustin observed, “Providing a copy of the death certificate of a deceased biological parent obviously would disclose their identity, and an adoptee could simply obtain a copy of the person’s obituary in order to identify surviving family members and friends. This may or may not be consistent with the wishes of the deceased.”
Since 1935, adoption records in North Carolina have been sealed, and the original birth certificates of adopted children have been sealed since 1945. Until the passage of the CI legislation in 2007, the only means of opening an adoption record in North Carolina and legally disclosing identifying information was by a court order.
HB 2186 now proceeds to the House floor for consideration.
Copyright © 2008. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.