Senate Committee Rejects Closed Adoptions
Special Report - August 6, 2009
The Senate Judiciary II Committee today narrowly approved a bill that essentially does away with closed adoptions in North Carolina and wipes out the confidentiality promised by the State to thousands of mothers who placed children in closed adoptions over the past decades. HB1463Expand Access/Confidential Intermediaries spent more than three weeks in a five-member subcommittee of Judiciary II without any consensus being reached on the original bill or possible amendments.
HB 1463 seeks to amend the existing law regarding which relatives to an adoptee or biological parent may attempt to establish contact with each other through confidential intermediary services once the child is an adult. Currently, confidential intermediary services are only available to adult adoptees and their biological parents. The bill would expand that access to include siblings, half-siblings, aunts, uncles, and other extended relatives. It would also authorize the release of a biological parent’s death certificate if one of those parties seeks to initiate contact with the biological parent, and it turns out the parent is deceased, regardless of whether the parent had ever given consent to the release of his or her identity.
"This gives tremendous leverage to the adopted child to do whatever they want with that information," said Bill Brooks, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council. "Thousands of women in our state have given birth to their child and placed them for adoption because of their love and a desire to give that child life and a good home. Many of these women did so with the understanding that they would not be contacted in the future and that was a wish, whatever their reason, that they maintained all their life. Many of these situations are delicate and very personal and they reflect the wishes of the birthmother and the adoptive parents. It would be wrong for the State to come back years later and say that we're not going to honor your wishes and our promise that your identity will remain confidential."
Some members of the committee expressed a particular interest in protecting the identity of mothers who may choose a closed adoption when pregnancy results from sexual abuse or assault. In such cases, senators fear that without a guarantee of complete anonymity forever, mothers may be less likely to give their child up for adoption and more likely to choose an abortion. The automatic release of a biological parent’s death certificate, if requested by his or her adult child, worries legislators, who point out that a victimized mother may never have revealed her pregnancy to her family and friends. Because of the identifying nature of a death certificate, adult adoptees would find it much easier to contact relatives of their biological parent without consent.
Sen. Doug Berger (DFranklin), a member of the subcommittee and an adoptee himself, made a strong case for maintaining the right of mothers to choose to raise a child or give a child up through any of the existing forms of adoptions. Sen. Tom Apodaca (RHenderson), the only other adopted member of the subcommittee, told the committee that he is glad he knows his half-siblings and could not get by without knowing them. Brittany Farrell spoke to the committee on behalf of the North Carolina Family Policy Council and pointed out the existing mechanisms in place by which a person may access medical information or find siblings if there is a compelling reason. The North Carolina Family Policy Council has argued for the superior responsibility to honor and protect the interest of the minority of mothers who choose a closed adoption.
Despite the lack of a subcommittee report, the full committee voted 65 to send HB 1463 to the full Senate floor for a vote.
Copyright © 2009. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.