Tuesday, May 27, 2008

SPAIN: Twins Who Were Separated at Birth Sue for Damages, May 27, 2008

ASSOCIATED PRESS
May 27, 2008


Twins who were separated at birth sue for damages

By DANIEL WOOLLS

MADRID, Spain - Spanish twins who were separated at birth through a hospital error — then reunited as adults through a fluke — are suing for millions in damages, as is a third woman who grew up thinking, erroneously, that she was one of the twins, a lawyer said Tuesday.
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The real twins finally met each other in 2001. The case has been working its way through the courts since 2004. A decision is expected soon on whether the three women deserve damages, said Sebastian Socorro Perdomo, a lawyer for one of the twins.

He would not release the names of any of the women, who are all 35 years old.

Socorro Perdomo said in an interview that his client is seeking $4.7 million from the government of the Canary Islands, where the error occurred in 1973 in the city of Las Palmas. The other two women are also suing, he said.

He said his client was taken out of her crib as her twin sister lay in one right next to her, mistakenly replaced by another baby girl, and ultimately raised by the family of that child.

The other two girls were brought up in the mistaken belief they were twin sisters.

"It does not take a lot of effort to put yourself in the position of any of these people in order to understand the damage that has been done," Socorro Perdomo said.

Of the three, he said his client — taken away from her twin sister and real family — is the most devastated. "Since this discovery, her world has turned a bit upside down," he said.

"The first right of any child is the right to their own personal and family identity," he said. "In this case, that right has been violated."

The error emerged a generation later, through a chance encounter at a clothing store in Las Palmas.

A friend of Socorro Perdomo's client worked in the shop. When a woman who was the spitting image of that client came in and failed to recognize the employee, the clerk was dumbfounded.

When the dead ringer came by the store a second time, the clerk began to put two and two together and arranged for the women to meet.

DNA tests proved they were identical twins, the lawyer said.

Link to article

Saturday, May 24, 2008

OHIO: Surrogacy Birth Certificate, May 23, 2008


KENTUCKY POST
May 23, 2008

Surrogacy Birth Certificate
by Hagit Limor

Peter and Paula Dantzig love playing soccer, reading books and sharing meals with their dad. He's the only parent they've ever known. He recalls the day they were born with a smile on his face.

"I felt the greatest joy in the world. I saw the two most beautiful kids in the world," said Dr. Paul Dantzig, a dermatologist with a successful New York City practice, as he watches his two-and-a-half year old twins play outside their Scarsdale home. The children squeal and laugh and are oblivious that the man who's raised them, loved them, and provided for them isn't their father at all, according to Ohio law.

"If God forbid anything happened to them and they're in the hospital with a serious illness and somebody has to make a decision, they're going to say, 'Are you the father?' Prove you're the father. Where is the mother?'" says Dr. Dantzig.

The twins' surrogate mother
There are simple questions with not so simple answers. Yes, Dr. Dantzig is Peter and Paula's father. If anyone has any doubts, a court-approved DNA Paternity Test proves it beyond the shadow of a doubt. But who is their mother? According to their Ohio birth certificates, it's Jennifer Biron. But check out her DNA Test. The chance she's the mother: 0%.

"I'm not their mother. By any possibility I'm not their mother," says Biron. So how did she end up on the birth certificates? Biron served as the children's surrogate mother. She carried the babies and gave birth to them, but genetically, they're half Dr. Dantzig's and half an anonymous egg donor's, and there lies the problem: Ohio has no surrogacy law.

When the twins were born at Highland District Hospital in Highland County, Ohio, Dr. Dantzig may have rocked them in the nursery, but the hospital made a decision that's rocking the kids' world to this day. They put Jennifer Biron's name on their birth certificates and left out Dr. Dantzig altogether.

Hospital guidelines

"The hospital followed the Ohio Department of Health birth certificate guidelines," said Kathy Jones, the hospital's vice president of community outreach. Jones can't say much about the case, just that the hospital only has one set of rules from the state, which it follows in filling out birth certificates.

Biron said she should have no parental rights to the children. She can't believe her name appears as their mother on the only legal piece of identification they possess. "I feel horrible," she said. "I think it's ridiculous."

In fact, the woman Ohio calls the twins' mother hasn't seen them since their birth. As she plays with her laughing 14-month-old son, she says it's her love of her own children that set her on the path to surrogacy so that parents like Dr. Dantzig could experience the same joys.

Dr. Dantzig has only praise for Biron for making his dream of parenthood come true. "I didn't want to go through life without raising a child," he said. But in his late fifties he found himself unmarried and realized time was running out. "I'm in good health and good shape. I have the stamina and the energy," he said, "But really, it was my only option [to have children.] I tried adopting, but everybody rejected me because of my age."

So he turned to surrogacy, but the State of New York doesn't allow it. He found an egg donor through an agency in California and a surrogate to carry his children in Ohio. He thought he had all his bases covered. "The only thing I worried about was having a child and being successful at that," he said. "I never even thought of the birth certificate 'til the problem arose."

It's a problem that looms much larger than a blank spot on a piece of paper. "Theoretically, I do not have legal custody of the children. Without the birth certificate, I am not going to be able to get them into school. Without the birth certificate, I am not going to be able to get then on an airplane, take a trip or get a passport," Dr. Dantzig explained.

Science vs. law

Family law attorney Ellen Essig said any father would be correct to be deeply concerned about his name not appearing on the birth certificate. Essig said she's handled more than 100 surrogacy cases in the last five years. She wouldn't speak specifically about this case, but says our country uses birth certificates as the basis of our most fundamental rights. "The father of that child who is not on the birth certificate has no right," she said. "The children under that scenario have no legal identification to their parent."

Dr. Dantzig tried to fix the problem. He petitioned the Highland County Juvenile Court to get his name on the birth certificates and get Biron's name off, as she concurs. But to both of their surprise, Judge Kevin Greer ruled that he couldn't change the birth certificates, unless the children's "natural mother," as Ohio calls the biological donor, waives her rights to the children in court.

"First of all, I don't even know who she is," said Dr. Dantiz. "The natural mother was an anonymous egg donor. You can't notify someone that is anonymous of a child she doesn't even know exists at this point," he said.

In addition, the egg donor already waived her rights in her contract with the donor agency in California, promising to "waive any rights [...] to the donated eggs or any offspring" and that "[she] will not assert any claim of parentage." But Judge Greer said that's not enough. He wants the donor to say the same thing to the court.

Essig said in her experience, no judge has ever forced her to produce an egg donor in court. She says most judges accept the donors' waiver of rights in their agency contracts. However, "without a statute on surrogacy and with 88 different counties in Ohio, we have 88 different approaches" from judges, she said.

"Caught between rules and regulations"

As surrogacies have tripled in recent years, lawyers and judges are building new precedents. There may be no state law, but there is case law that judges can follow. Most often, the details work out. Essig calls this case extremely unsual. "Science and law don't often go hand in hand but we're getting there," she said.

Biron said Dr. Dantzig and the children are seemingly caught between rules and regulations that haven't kept up with science. "It's ridiculous because there are other surrogates all over the State of Ohio who do the same thing every day," she said, wondering why this one case didn't work out as intended.

For Dr. Dantzig, there is sadness and anger. "The children have rights and they have to be protected by society," he said. He added that as a physician, he wouldn't reveal the donor even if he knew who she was. "It's not right. She came to this program as an anonymous egg donor, and that's the way it should be kept. You've got to respect her rights."

As for the other woman involved, Jennifer Biron said she may have carried those children, but she has no relationship to them. She's bewildered that she is the only parent that Ohio recognizes to this day. "They should look at it for what it is," Biron said. "It's a father just trying to raise his two kids. I hope that they can get it taken care of so that he can move on with his life."

Dr. Dantzig appealed Judge Greer's decision all the way up to the Ohio Supreme Court but lost. He's hoping to refile the case with an attorney with more expertise in Ohio family law. To read the court decisions and see the entire interview with lawyer Ellen Essig about why parents increasingly turn to surrogacy, click on the links on the top of this page.

Have a comment on this story? Email the I-Team's Hagit Limor at hlimor@wcpo.com.

Link to article

CANADA/ONTARIO: Editorial: Adopting a New Law, May 23, 2008









THE SCUGOG STANDARD
May 23, 2008


Editorial: Adopting a new law

After 80 years of secrecy, the Province of Ontario is about to throw back the shroud of shame that it dropped on adoption in this province in the 1920s.

Adoptees and birthparents will soon be able to access the records kept on them by Children’s Aid Societies and the province’s Registrar General. For adoptees, it will mean the facts of their birth and arrival on the planet will become as available to them as they are to the rest of the population.

The ability to track relatives for health reasons or simply for the knowledge of one’s self that can be gained from such searches will become commonplace and an accepted part of our social structure.

In a column in today’s Standard local MPP John O’Toole searched for, and thinks he found, the one possible flaw in the system. He decries the fact that children taken from abusive homes could be sought out by their former parents in their new adopted homes after such children reach the age of majority.

Mr. O’Toole seems to want to continue the practice begun by his party in the 1920s of deciding for Ontario adotpees what will and won’t be good for them even into adulthood. It apparently did not occur to him that once such adoptees become of age they can get any number of legal guards put in place to stop unwanted contact and even though the relationship was abusive, the adoptee may require such contact for health information.

It is interesting to note that Mr. O’Toole turned down two requests in the 1990s to sponsor legislation to open the adoption files in Ontario even while other provinces turned out aged and morally corrupt adoption laws. The mistake that Mr. O’Toole and many of his fellow politicians have made over the last 80 years - and continue to make - is the characterization of adoptees as infants requiring protection.

The majority of adoptees in Ontario are fully grown adults with a well-formed sense of what is beneficial to them and what is not. They have the same curiosity about the good side and dark side of their families that all people have and they have the same rights to genetic history that all citizens of Ontario do.

All adult adoptees can judge the legislation on its face. All can read and write. One wrote this editorial.

Link to article

Thursday, May 22, 2008

MINNESOTA: Commentary by James Hamilton: Adoptees Should Have the Right to Know Their Origins, May 21, 2008

ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS
May 21, 2008


Commentary: Adoptees should have the right to know their origins
By James M. Hamilton


ov. Pawlenty vetoed an obscure bit of legislation on May 16, one that few Minnesotans have heard of and in which even fewer have any interest. But for tens of thousands of Minnesotans whose lives have been touched by adoption over the last 90 years, it was a significant event, one in which Gov. Pawlenty reached the right result for all the wrong reasons.

Every birth in Minnesota is memorialized by a birth certificate. A second birth certificate is issued for any minor adopted in Minnesota. Since 1917, Minnesota has sealed the original birth certificates of those born and adopted in this state. Initially, the information was locked away only from the general public. Over the years, however, the law was changed to prohibit anyone from seeing the original birth certificate, parent or offspring, adult or child. Under current law, some adult adoptees have access to their original birth certificates, some don't. It all depends upon when they were born and whether one of their biological parents has told the state not to release that information to them.

The bill in question would have changed the situation slightly, allowing any adoptee at least 19 years of age to obtain an uncertified copy of his or her original certificate upon request, provided that one of the birth parents had not already vetoed the adoptee's right to that information.

Neither the existing law, nor the bill vetoed last week by Gov. Pawlenty, makes sense to this adoptive father. Why my son should be denied the right to obtain a copy of his original birth certificate from the state, while I have the absolute right to my own, is a mystery. Both of our births were public events, like that of virtually every other person in this state. Yet, the state decided at some point in the distant past that some adults in this state should be denied access to this most fundamental personal information: who they are and where they came from.

No one should have the right to tell the state whether my son may have access to this information. Yet our current law and the failed attempt to modify it place that right in the hands of the man and woman who conceived him. Why? Because he was adopted after being born. Had he been placed in foster care, he would have the same rights I do. Whether he was born inside or outside of marriage, he would have the same rights I do. Whether he had been raised by one parent or two, he would have the same rights I do. But because he was adopted, the State of Minnesota has granted either of his biological parents the power to deny him the right enjoyed by every other non-adopted person in Minnesota: the right to know from whence he came.

The exercise of this power would not affect only my son. It would affect all those to whom he is related by blood and who may be deprived of the possibility of ever knowing him: his father, mother, grandparents, uncles, aunts, siblings, nieces, nephews, and cousins. All because he was adopted.

Gov. Pawlenty was right to veto a bill that would have perpetuated this injustice. Sadly, he did so for all the wrong reasons. His veto was based not on a recognition of the rights of adult adoptees, but on the erroneous belief that those who relinquished children for adoption were in some way promised that the fact of the adoption would be kept forever secret by the state. He also cited a report that fewer than one-quarter of biological parents contacted by a single Minnesota adoption agency preferred not to have identifying information released by the agency.

Fortunately, my son was born in a country that does not seal original birth certificates. He already has a certified copy of his. He knows his origins. But thousands of others adopted in Minnesota since 1917 (and their descendants) will never know theirs, so long as Minnesota continues to meddle in their private lives.

Ninety-one years of such meddling is more than enough. Perhaps our next Legislature and our next governor will recognize that the state has no legitimate role to play in this area of our lives. Perhaps they will recognize that adult adoptees are indeed adults, not the children they once were. But they'll need to hear from us to do so.

James M. Hamilton is a St. Paul attorney in private practice and an adoptive father. His e-mail address is jamesmhamilton@aol.com.

Link to article

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

ENGLAND: Two Mother IVF Families Enshrined in Law, May 20, 2008


Adoption Related!

LONDON TELEGRAPH
May 20, 2008

Two mother IVF families enshrined in law
By Andrew Porter Political Editor

A child will legally be able to have two mothers and no father after MPs voted to take away the need for fathers when parents undergo fertility treatment.

In a controversial move both women in a lesbian relationship will be able to have the status of legal parents when one of them gives birth.

It came as MPs prepared to vote on lowering the time limit on abortion.

Family campaigners have attacked the move which will change how families have been historically defined.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill will update previous legislation to remove the reference to a father.

Where two women are in a relationship and one has fertility treatment in order to conceive then the partner should be treated as the other “parent” even if they are not in a civil partnership.

In those circumstances no man - such as the sperm donor - can be treated as a father, the Bill says, to avoid a child having three legal parents.

Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader, led the opposition to the plans. He denied he was attempting to return to a former age where two-parent families were the norm.

He told MPs: “I am not trying to paint some incredible rosy picture. On the whole the absence of fathers generally has a detrimental effect on the child.”

On the clause requiring clinics to consider the need for a father before agreeing to IVF treatment he said: “Taking it away would be as though we are saying to those couples, particularly in the heterosexual world, that this is not an issue, that fathers are not important, they're less important than mothers and therefore you don't need to take them into consideration.”

However his bid to ensure the need for a father in fertility treatment was rejected by 292 votes to 217, a majority 75. Another Tory amendment which called for “a father figure” was also rejected by a majority of 68.

Last night Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales said it would be “wrong to pass a law” where parenthood was not recognised, “because clearly there must be a father for a child.”

Mark Simmonds, the Conservative health spokesman, earlier said there was no evidence single sex couples or single women had been disadvantaged or faced barriers to fertility treatment.

He suggested it was “odd and inconsistent, incompatible and paradoxical” that ministers promoted the importance of fathers through policies but wanted to eliminate the need for a father to be considered before IVF.

David Taylor, the Labour MP, added: “Wouldn't it be absolutely perverse at this stage to write the father out of the script?”

The change reflects the fact that in a heterosexual couple when the woman is inseminated with donor sperm the man is treated as the father even though he has no biological link to the resulting child. Male gay couples who have children via surrogate mothers or by adoption are not covered by the new legislation.

The Bill says that where there is reference to the father of a child such as on birth certificates this is to be read as reference to the female parent who did not give birth.

It will also say for the first time that babies born through fertility treatment do not need to have a father figure and parents will be banned from choosing the sex of their child.

Emily Thornberry, the Labour MP for Islington, said: “Why are we doing this in the 21st century? I always worry when people start saying they are only applying common sense, because so often common sense is a cover for discrimination, narrowness and an inability to face the 21st century.

”The important point is to give legal rights to lesbian couples and single women. Particularly when it comes to lesbian couples, at least you will then have two legally recognised parents, instead of one, and what is wrong with that.”

But Sir Patrick Cormack, who represents the Tory seat South Staffordshire, said: “Whatever may be the case in Islington, in Staffordshire it is thought normal for a child to have a mother and a father.

Most Tory MPs, including David Cameron, were against the move. He believes there should be a father figure involved with every child.

Dawn Primarolo, the Health Minister, said reinstating the need for a father would be discriminatory as it would “create an additional hurdle” for lesbian couples and single women.

It was “wholly inappropriate” to retain the “additional discriminatory burden” following the decisions to allow civil partnerships and adoption by gay couples.

Iris Robinson, the DUP, asked Miss Primarolo: “Can you envisage down the road a child going to primary school and being collected by two females or two males and the bullying and the abuse that these children will be exposed to?

”Or going into the parents' bedroom and finding two women making love or two men making love? And that's natural for a child to see?”

The abortion debate ended with MPs voting on the issue for the first time in 18 years. Mr Cameron hardened his view in the course of Tuesday.

He had originally indicated he would vote for a reduction on the time limit for abortions from 24 to 22 weeks. However, he subsequently decided to back a 20-week limit.

Gordon Brown backed the current limit of 24 weeks.

Link to article

Monday, May 19, 2008

UNITED STATES: The Anonymous Gift of Adoption, May 20, 2008

WASHINGTON TIMES
May 19, 2008


Editorial: The anonymous gift of adoption

It sounds like a dream come true for the tens of thousands of adoptees in the U.S. — the ability to find and reconnect with a birth parent or parents. That was the case for Maine Sen. Paula Benoit, whose highly publicized ordeal to find her birth parents not only led to meeting new relatives ( at least three of whom are also ironically lawmakers) but also to legislative action that changed the law in her state so that other adult adoptees could do the same. Her efforts propelled and initiated efforts in a handful of other states to move forward with similar measures. But in the state of New Jersey, the measure has failed several times — and for good reason.

What Mrs. Benoit failed to consider in her identity quest is the potentially detrimental effect that her law (and others like it) to unseal birth records could have on parents who choose to privately put their child up for adoption. It is estimated that there are about 1 million children in the U.S. who live with adoptive parents and 2 to 4 percent of American families include an adopted child. There are several kinds of adoption arrangements that include open, closed (confidential), mediated (non-identifying) and fully disclosed. While the majority of adoptions (69 percent) are open, those who choose to take such a step confidentially should have that option honored, not overturned.

Some adoptees cite medical and heredity reasons for tracking down birth parents. And while that may be a legitimate concern in some cases, it is not the norm. In a study of American adolescents, the Search Institute found that the majority of adolescents simply wanted to know what their parents "looked like" (94 percent) or "why" they were adopted (72 percent).

And, while openness can be a liberating experience for birth parent and adoptee, it's not for everyone. Some birth mothers have started new families and for personal reasons may not want their identity disclosed. It should be up to them — when and if they want to share this information. Anything else is a clear invasion of privacy. Even adoption advocates caution adoptees when seeking out a birth parent about the kind of mistakes that happen when a random search goes awry. Search site adoption.com warns: "Unfortunately, there have been cases of people contacting ... birthparents claiming to be their ... child, or sibling when this is not the case. Be aware that this can happen."

There are other not-so-obvious implications of taking away a birth mother's request for confidentiality. In USA Today, Thomas Atwood, president of the National Council for Adoption, surmised: "Birth mothers were promised privacy, and if that promise is broken, fewer women will choose adoption over abortion." Catholic groups have echoed this sentiment.

There are many famous adoptive parents — Al Roker, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Magic Johnson — who are championed for their selfless acts of love. There are also famous adoptees, including John Lennon and Victoria Rowell, who are grateful for the loving homes they were provided. But you don't often hear about the not so "famous" birth parents, who for personal (likely hardship) reasons of their own choose to place their children up for adoption in the hope that it will provide them a better life.

Adoption is often referred to as a gift. And just as charitable organizations rely on private "gifts" from anonymous donors, parents who give the gift of adoption also have a reasonable right to remain anonymous. It's not up to the recipient to find the donor.

The state of Michigan gives a confidential-adoption birth mother the opportunity to submit her identifying information to the state at any time, should she have a change of heart. Other states would do just as well to leave this choice up to the birth mother.

Link to article

Sunday, May 18, 2008

FLORIDA: Hatian Adoptee Forced to Work Wins Case, May 18, 2008

NEW YORK TIMES/SEATTLE TIMES
May 18, 2008


Haitian adoptee forced to work wins case
By CARMEN GENTILE
The New York Times

MIAMI — Amid tears, Simone Celestin recalled the repeated beatings she endured at the hands of her adoptive family while working for them as an unpaid servant for six years.

Celestin, 23, told a South Florida court in March that she was brought to the United States from Haiti at age 14 and never attended school. She recalled for jurors how she was hit with a broom or shoe, worked 15-hour days and was forced to sleep on the floor and eat table scraps.

Her recollections persuaded jurors to convict members of her adoptive family, Evelyn Theodore, 74, and Maude Paulin, her 52-year-old daughter, of conspiring to violate Celestin's civil rights and compelling her to perform forced labor. The women, who are also Haitian and adopted Celestin when she was 5, are to be sentenced Tuesday.

Celestin told jurors her situation was so dire she contemplated suicide, debating one day in March 2004 whether she should drink "motor oil or bleach" after she was beaten for not making the bed properly.

Eventually, she fled and was taken to an area hospital, and she linked up with the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center.

State Department statistics indicate 14,500 to 17,500 of the immigrants coming to the United States every year find themselves in a forced-labor situation.

According to a department study, slightly more than a fourth of the cases of unpaid servitude involve forced domestic labor, and nearly half of the victims fall prey to sex rings and prostitution.

But cases like Celestin's are rarely tried, as victims are often afraid or unable to come forward. However, since the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act was passed in 2000, prosecutions have increased from less than a handful nationwide a year to about a dozen.

Lawyers for the defendants said that they would appeal the verdict and that Celestin lied about her living conditions to remain in the United States.

"She exaggerated her case, and it suited everyone's purpose to just go along with it," said Leonard Fenn, the lawyer for Theodore, who characterized his client as a strict disciplinarian and "an old-fashioned woman from an old-fashioned country."

"But I don't think she was a slave owner or slave master, as the verdict found," Fenn said.

Even a lawyer for a defendant acquitted in another case took exception to the ruling.

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"There were numerous inconsistencies in the government's case," said the lawyer, Joe DeFabio, who represented Claire Telasco. Telasco was acquitted of conspiracy and forced-labor charges. He noted how Celestin's hospital records did not indicate any signs of bruising or other trauma.

"Her not being in school was certainly wrong, but forced labor and slavery, I don't agree with that," he said.

He said Celestin's living conditions as an adoptive child reflected a practice in Haiti known in Creole as "restavek," or "staying with," in which children from poor Haitian families are turned over to wealthier ones that care for them in exchange for domestic services. Though a common practice in Haiti, restavek is widely denounced by international rights groups as a form of modern-day slavery.

The lawyer for Celestin refused to comment.

But Grace Chung Becker, acting attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, said the "defendants used their power and affluence to coerce a vulnerable 14-year-old girl into their personal service for six years."

Celestin was given housing assistance by the immigrant-advocacy center and attends remedial-education classes and receives counseling.

Link to article

NEW YORK: Adoptees Should be Able to Get Birth Certificates, May 18, 2008

Albany Times-Union,
May 18, 2008

Letter: Adoptees Should Be Able to Get Birth Certificates

As a citizen of New Yorks state, I can serve in the armed forces, vote, drive, own property, get married and raise my own children, but I can not get my own birth certificate. The current law in New York state, which was enacted 73 years ago, denies adult adoptees this basic human right that every other citizen takes for granted.



Because of this archaic and discriminatory law, adult adoptees are legally denied their medical and psychiatric histories, as well as their identities and heritage. They are unable to pass on this information to their children and grandchildren who then also suffer from this lack of knowledge.

In states where adoption records and birth certificates are open, the data show that the vast majority of biological mothers want to know their adult children. And in cases where birth parents did not want contact, there were no instances of stalking. Adult adoptees are adults and they are not looking for new "mommies or daddies."

The proposed adoptee rights legislation strikes a balance between an adoptee's right to know and the confidentiality concerns some may have regarding the biological parents. To learn more about this issue, go to http://www.unsealedinitiative.org and http://www.adoptioninstitute.org.

Please contact your state senator urging support of bill S235 and your assemblyman of bill A2277.

CHERYL HORNING

Greenwich

Link to article

NEW YORK: Letter from Cheryl Horning--Adoptees Should be Able to Get Birth Certificates, May 18, 2008

ALBANY TIMES UNION
May 18, 2008

Letter: Adoptees Should be Able to Get Birth Certificates
Cheryl Horning


As a citizen of New Yorks state, I can serve in the armed forces, vote, drive, own property, get married and raise my own children, but I can not get my own birth certificate. The current law in New York state, which was enacted 73 years ago, denies adult adoptees this basic human right that every other citizen takes for granted.


Because of this archaic and discriminatory law, adult adoptees are legally denied their medical and psychiatric histories, as well as their identities and heritage. They are unable to pass on this information to their children and grandchildren who then also suffer from this lack of knowledge.

In states where adoption records and birth certificates are open, the data show that the vast majority of biological mothers want to know their adult children. And in cases where birth parents did not want contact, there were no instances of stalking. Adult adoptees are adults and they are not looking for new "mommies or daddies."

The proposed adoptee rights legislation strikes a balance between an adoptee's right to know and the confidentiality concerns some may have regarding the biological parents. To learn more about this issue, go to http://www.unsealedinitiative.org and http://www.adoptioninstitute.org.

Please contact your state senator urging support of bill S235 and your assemblyman of bill A2277.

CHERYL HORNING

Greenwich

Link to article

Thursday, May 15, 2008

MISSOURI: MO Legislature takes on Voter IS & Immigration, May 15, 2008


KTVI-TV, ST. LOUIS
May 15, 2008


MO Legislature Takes On Voter ID & Immigration

Charles Jaco reports:

A lot of states are passing laws on illegal immigration. And a lot are considering voter ID laws.

But Missouri is the first state to combine the two issues.

This raises questions on everything from constitutional voting rights to political opportunism. The bill's supporters say it'll prevent vote fraud and keep illegals from voting.

Critics say there has never been a case of anyone trying to vote with a phony ID in Missouri.

Since 1875, the Missouri constitution has contained the following clause:

All elections shall be free and open. And no power, civil or military, shall at any time interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage.

By Friday night Missouri lawmakers could draft a proposal asking voters to change that one simple sentence. It would not only require you to show a photo ID when voting. It would require you show proof of U.S. citizenship with a passport or birth certificate, before you could even register to vote:

The Missouri Secretary of State's Office guesstimates that there are 240 thousand Missourians who could lose the right to vote because of a lack of photo ID thousands more might never be able to register to vote because they don't have birth certificates or passports.

And the whole idea of proving citizenship rolls the debate over illegal immigration in Missouri into the debate over voting.

Link to article

MISSOURI: Missouri's Proposed Voting Reauirment Could Disenfranchise More Than 200,000 US Citizens, May 15, 2008


BILOXI (MS) SUN-HERALD
May 15, 2008


Adoption Related!

Missouri's Proposed Voting Requirement Could Disenfranchise More Than 200,000 U.S. Citizens


WASHINGTON, May 15 -- Missouri's legislature is considering a constitutional amendment permitting the state to require residents to provide documentary proof of their U.S. citizenship in order to vote. If implemented, it risks disenfranchising large numbers of Missouri residents who are U.S. citizens, according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The amendment does not specify the forms of documentation the state would accept as proof of citizenship, but it appears likely that residents would have to produce a certified birth certificate or passport. Proof of citizenship is generally established in one of two ways, either through production of a birth certificate or passport or through production of certain forms of government-issued photo ID, but these IDs themselves generally cannot be obtained without a birth certificate or passport.

Results from two national surveys show that a large number of citizens lack birth certificates or passports including disproportionately large numbers of people in potentially vulnerable groups such as low-income, African American, and elderly residents. In addition, a similar requirement recently imposed in Medicaid effectively pushed tens of thousands of eligible people off the program and demonstrated that obtaining the documents can prove difficult, time-consuming, and, in some cases, essentially impossible.

Large Numbers of Missourians Lack the Required Documents

A January 2006 survey that Opinion Research Corporation conducted for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that nearly 11 million native-born American adults, or 5.7 percent of the native-born adult population, lack the documents the Missouri proposal would require. A survey the same firm conducted for the Brennan Center for Justice found similar results.

Assuming that this 5.7 percent share is the same in Missouri as in the nation as a whole, we estimate that 238,000 Missourians lack these documents. Many would likely be unable to obtain them on a timely basis and thus would effectively be disenfranchised.

The survey also found that certain demographic groups are much less likely than others to have the required documents and thus would suffer disproportionate harm under the Missouri requirement. These groups include people without a high school diploma (9.2 percent of whom lack the documents), rural residents (9.1 percent of whom lack them), African Americans (8.9 percent of whom lack them), households with incomes below $25,000 (8.1 percent of whom lack them), and the elderly (7.4 percent of whom lack them).

One reason many African Americans lack the documents is that a substantial number of African Americans born in the South before World War II were born at home and thus never received birth certificates, largely because of racial discrimination or poverty that kept their mothers from delivering in hospitals. One study estimated that a fifth of African-Americans born in 1939-40 lacked a birth certificate.

Assuming that the above percentages are the same for Missouri as for the nation as a whole, the estimated 238,000 Missourians who lack these documents would include:

-- more than 90,000 rural residents;
-- 70,000 low-income residents;
-- 50,000 residents without a high school diploma;
-- 50,000 elderly residents; and
-- 40,000 African Americans.

Similar Requirement in Medicaid Has Harmed Tens of Thousands of U.S. Citizens

Obtaining a birth certificate or passport can take weeks or months and involve costs that can be difficult for some low-income families to absorb: it can cost $5 to $23 to get a birth certificate, depending on the state, while a passport costs $87 to $97 and now entails extended waits. Obtaining a birth certificate can be especially time consuming for people not living in the state of their birth. This is a significant problem for Missouri, since more than one-third (36 percent) of its adult residents were born in another state.

Evidence that the difficulty of obtaining these documents can cause otherwise-eligible people to lose valuable benefits comes from Medicaid, which in 2006 began requiring most U.S. citizen applicants and recipients to document their citizenship by providing an original birth certificate, passport, or similar document. This is what has happened:

-- Tens of thousands of eligible citizen children have been denied
coverage. In numerous states, thousands have been removed from, or
denied entry into, Medicaid; many apparently became (or remained)
uninsured.

-- Virtually no cases of fraud have been found. The six states that have
examined this issue in greatest detail found that the new requirement,
which had delayed or denied Medicaid coverage for tens of thousands of
people and had cost states $17 million to administer as of July 2007,
had identified a total of eight undocumented individuals seeking to
obtain Medicaid illegally. It is worth noting that some or all of these
eight people might have been caught under the previous procedures.) In
addition, in Oklahoma -- which has yet to identify a single undocumented
immigrant on its Medicaid caseload -- 13 percent of the 20,000 people
who had been dropped from Medicaid as of January 2008 under the new rule
are Native Americans (and thus are clearly not immigrants).

-- Whites and African Americans have been hit the hardest. The Medicaid
requirement was ostensibly aimed at undocumented immigrants, most of
whom are Hispanic. Yet the children who have lost coverage due to the
requirement are disproportionately non-Hispanic, according to the three
states that have reported these data. This fact demonstrates that the
requirement's main impact has been on U.S. citizens. (Hispanic
citizens might be less affected than white or African American citizens
because they are often concerned that their citizenship status may be
questioned and thus are likely to make sure that they have readily
available vital documents to prove it.)

-- Medicaid enrollment has dropped, while administrative costs have risen.
Thirty-seven states say the new requirement has caused eligible citizen
children to lose Medicaid coverage, while 45 states say it has increased
administrative costs, according to the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and
the Uninsured.

The fact that tens of thousands of American families were unable to meet this documentation requirement, even on such a high-stakes matter as obtaining health coverage for their children, speaks volumes about the likely impact on Missouri if it were to adopt a similar rule for prospective voters. Missouri's proposed voting requirement would undermine the legitimacy of elections in the state by making it difficult or impossible for many of the state's citizen residents to exercise their right to vote.

This analysis can be found at: http://www.cbpp.org/5-15-08citdoc.htm.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization and policy institute that conducts research and analysis on a range of government policies and programs.

SOURCE Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Shannon Spillane of Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, +1-202-408-1080, spillane@cbpp.org

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

CANADA: Ontario to Open Adoption Records, May 14, 2008








CNW GroupMay 14, 2008

Ontario to OPen Adopton Records:
McGuinty Government Helps Adoptees, Birth Parents Unseal Personal
    Information

TORONTO, May 14 /CNW/ -

NEWS

A new Ontario law will soon give adult adoptees and birth parents access
to information that is currently sealed in their adoption records.
For years, adoptees and birth parents have worked to get personal and
family information from their original birth certificates and adoption
records. Ontario's new law will help adoptees find out what their original
names were, as well as who their birth parents were. It could also help birth
parents learn the name their child was given after he or she was adopted.
The law includes a new disclosure veto
(http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/mcss/english/pillars/community/questions/adoption/a
bout_adopt_disclose_sys.htm) for adoptions that take place before September 1,
2008, and maintains no contact notices
(http://www.gov.on.ca/ont/portal/!ut/p/.cmd/cs/.ce/7_0_A/.s/7_0_252/_s.7_0_A/7
_0_252/_l/en?docid=STEL02_160608) for all adoptions registered in Ontario.
Adoptees and birth parents can begin to apply for disclosure vetoes in
September 2008. Adoptees and birth parents will be able to apply for
information from their adoption records starting in June 2009.

QUOTES

"For many, the bond between parent and child continues far beyond the
adoption process. So does the need to know your identity," said Minister of
Community and Social Services Madeleine Meilleur. "Now our adoption laws
finally recognize that reality."
"This act will have a profound impact on thousands of people who have
been longing for years, often decades, to know their roots or the names of
their children," said Wendy Rowney from the Coalition for Open Adoption
Records. "Finally, as adults, we can make private, responsible decisions
regarding contact."

QUICK FACTS

<< - Approximately 250,000 adoption orders have been filed (http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/mcss/english/pillars/community/questions/adoption/a
bout_adopt_disclose_sys.htm) in Ontario since 1921.

- Almost 75,000 people have registered with Ontario's voluntary
Adoption Disclosure Register
(http://www.gov.on.ca/ont/portal/!ut/p/.cmd/cs/.ce/7_0_A/.s/7_0_252/_s.7_0_A/7
_0_252/_l/en?docid=STEL02_160616) since 1979, searching for information about
their birth
relatives.

- Ontario is the fifth Canadian province to open its adoption records.
British Columbia (http://www.vs.gov.bc.ca/adoption/releas_adopt.html),
Alberta (http://child.alberta.ca/home/602.cfm), Manitoba
(http://www.gov.mb.ca/fs/childfam/registry.html) and Newfoundland and
Labrador (http://www.gs.gov.nl.ca/gs/vs/adoption-records.stm) already
have open records, as do the United Kingdom
(http://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/adoptions/adoptioncontactregister/)
and New South Wales
(http://www.community.nsw.gov.au/DOCS/STANDARD/PC_101095.htm).

LEARN MORE

- Visit ServiceOntario to learn more about services and information for
adoptees and birth relatives
(http://www.gov.on.ca/ont/portal/!ut/p/.cmd/cs/.ce/7_0_A/.s/7_0_252/_s.7_0_A/7
_0_252/_l/en?docid=STEL02_160609).

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ontario.ca/community-news
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KOREA: Adoptees Say Local Adoption System Not Free from Irregularities, May 14, 2008

YONHAP NEWS,
May 14, 2008

Adoptees say local adoption system not free from irregularities

By Kim Young-gyo

SEOUL, May 14 (Yonhap) -- Following recent allegations of irregularities in international adoptions from Vietnam, Korean adoptees said Wednesday South Korea's adoption system has also had serious problems.

"Earlier signals about trafficking from Vietnam ... has significant comparisons with those of South Korea in earlier 1970s and 1980s," said a Dutch activist, who was adopted from South Korea, in an interview with Yonhap News Agency.

Hilbrand Westra has been actively involved in international adoption, working as a chairman of the Netherlands-based United Adoptees International, the first independent and international foundation by adoptees, since 2006 with a political and social aim to address problems involving adoption.

"In the seventies and eighties, many children disappeared from streets in Seoul and Busan. Many older Koreans in these cities have been confirming that they knew or heard about this. Still, no one ever asked for a thorough investigation in South Korea," Westra said.

Last month, the U.S. embassy in Vietnam released a report, describing cases in which children had allegedly been sold and families pressured to give up their babies. The report also said adoption facilitators were engaging in fraudulent operations to conceal the identity of the birth parents.

Dismissing the accusations, the Vietnamese government said it would end an adoption agreement with the United States after July 1.

"Since adoption exists, child trafficking is a booming mechanism behind it. But since child trafficking is not called abduction and is used for adoption it is internationally not forbidden. In other words, stealing children for adoption is allowed as long as you keep the child safe and healthy afterwards," Westra said.

He argued that South Korea has not ratified international agreements on adoption, leaving possible corruption in the adoption system uncontrolled.

"It is not very surprising that South Korea still does not want to ratify the Hague Convention of Adoption if you understand that the country belongs to the 11 biggest economic societies in the world and still let children go for intercountry adoption, instead of investing in good and controlled child," he said.

Han Boon-young, a Korean adoptee who was adopted to Denmark, agreed in general with what Westra said.

"South Korea is without doubt the 'mother' of modern adoption and brings much legitimacy to the adoption practice. Therefore, when cases as in Vietnam surface, I wish people in general know that similar concerns have been raised about South Korea," said Han.

Adoptions of Koreans overseas began in the aftermath of the 1950-53 Korean War, peaking in the mid-1980s when over 8,000 children a year were sent abroad, mostly to the United States. Since the 1990s, many of the adoptees have been children of single mothers.

In recent years, South Korea, which was labeled as a "baby-exporting" country by western media around the time that it hosted the 1988 Olympics, has been making efforts to encourage domestic adoptions.

There were 1,264 children adopted overseas from South Korea last year.
However, along with China, Russia and Ethiopia, it is still one of major "sending" countries in terms of U.S. adoptions, according to the annual U.S. State Department report on "orphan" visas.

"David Smolin, an American professor of law and advocate for international adoption reform, has once argued that not only does the legal systems allow these most questionable cases to happen, it actually incentives the practices of 'child-laundering.' In the Korean context for example, it is important to understand that the country has yet to ratify the Hague Convention," said Han, who teaches at an alternative school called Jeonin Yongnam School, located near Ulsan, South Gyeongsang Province.

The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, a multilateral treaty, was approved by 66 nations in 1993 at the Hague. The convention covers adoptions among countries that become parties to it and sets out for such adoptions certain internationally agreed-upon minimum norms and procedures. The goal of the convention is to protect children, their birth parents and adoptive parents involved in intercountry adoptions and to prevent abuses.

Han also criticized the South Korean government for exempting itself from Article 21 of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child, which ensures that individuals and private organizations do not influence the adoption process extensively, but rather adoptions be handled by a central independent authority.
"The idea of adoption itself is not to blame for these cases of abuse, but rather does the current inadequate legislation allow for such a practice," she said.

"The international standards are not perfect, but South Korea must start living up to international standards and go further from there. Even if South Korea is trying to reduce the international adoption, it still needs to commit to protecting those fewer children it is sending overseas."

The South Korean government has recorded about 158,000 foreign adoptions in Korea's over 50 years of foreign adoption history. According to government statistics, 13,068 overseas adoptees made efforts to locate their biological families in 2005, but only 316 -- about 2 percent -- were reunited.
Some of the foreign adoptees claim that they found out in the process of searching for their biological parents that their adoption documents were switched.

Molly Holt, head of South Korea's largest adoption agency Holt Children's Services, admitted last week that some child placement agencies in the past used fraudulent documents in order to get children adopted overseas.

"Though people would sign their parents were dead, but they were not. We didn't know that," she said. "Some of their adoptees had their names changed."
ygkim@yna.co.kr

Link to article

Monday, May 12, 2008

MINNETOTA: Rep. Tingelstad Authors Bills on Adoption Records, Surrogate Motherhood, May 12, 2008


HOMETOWN SOURCE.COM
May 12, 2008


Rep. Tingelstad authors bills on adoption records, surrogate motherhood
by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter

Adoption records and surrogate mother bills passed the House on Monday (May 12) but not before emotional debate.

Rep. Kathy Tingelstad, R-Andover, authored both bills — Tingelstad has focused on adoption issues her entire legislative career.

Both bills had vocal opposition.

“I cannot tell you how much I oppose this bill,” said Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville, of the adoption records legislation.

gestkathy.jpg Under Tingelstad’s bill the birth records of adopted children — children born between 1945 to 1982, the bill author explained — would be available to adopted persons over the age of 19 unless an affividat of nondisclosure exists on file.

Adoptees, besides the desire to know their birth-parents, argue that a lack of family medical history can complicate their health care.

Rep. Kathy Tingelstad, R-Andover, stood on the House floor Monday (May 12) while presenting her surrogate mother legislation. The lawmaker had two bills, the other dealing with adoption records, pass the House on Monday. (Photo by T.W. Budig, ECM Capitol Reporter)

Current law provides for adoptees to seek birth record information through adoption agencies, but adoptees have argued the process is expensive, drawn out, and often inclusive.

Betrays privacy of women, says Holberg

But Holberg views the bill as betraying the privacy of women who confronted a different society than exists now when dealing with the pregnancy — having a child out of wedlock was considered shameful decades ago, she argued.

True, some of these birth-mothers have died, Holberg argued.

But what will surviving family members think to have someone show up at the door one day — when the birth-mother perhaps never told anyone about her pregnancy — and have a stranger tell them they’re related.

“What a shock,” said Holberg.

Birth-mothers across the country could receive similar shocks unless they “get with the program” and file an affividat of nondisclosure if one doesn’t already exist.

But Tingelstad countered by arguing the reason birth records of adoptees were sealed wasn’t out of concern for the birth-mother’s privacy but rather the child’s — they didn’t want children to be subject to possible humiliation because they were adopted.

“There was no confidentiality guarantee (extended to the mother),” said Tingelstad.

Perhaps it was verbal, she said. But it wasn’t in writing.

National trend

Tingelstad said her legislation — which has been criticized by some as being too restrictive, she noted — follows a national trend relating to adoption birth records.

The bill passed the House on a 78-52 vote.

Tingelstad’s other bill, dealing with gestational carriers or surrogate mothers, drew amendments dealing with abortion, surrogate mother compensation, and even prostitution — the latter was ruled out of order.

Tingelstad presented her bill by saying that for some couple, unable to have children on their own, Sunday was less Mother’s Day than Unmother’s Day.

Supporters of the legislation argue the bill merely puts into effect guidelines for gestational carrier arrangements — the practice has gone is, is going on, and will continue, they’ve argued in committee.

The bill passed on an 86-46 vote.

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Friday, May 2, 2008

MAINE: Beavers Takes 2nd tab at Lewin, April 29, 2008


SEACOAST ONLINE
April 29, 2008


Beavers Takes 2nd Stab at Lewin
By David Ramsay

news@seacoastonline.com
April 29, 2008 6:00 AM

SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — Roberta Beavers has announced her candidacy for representative to the Maine Legislature, District 148, which includes all of Eliot and part of South Berwick. She will be running against Republican incumbent Sarah Lewin.

Beavers said she has been busy since she narrowly lost her first election bid against Lewin in 2006.

"The primary thing was working on the Adoptee Human Rights Bill that passed in 2007," she said. "I was commuting often to Augusta, where I hand-selected a bipartisan team of sponsors for this bill.

"It was the right combination of people from both sides of the aisle and from the House and the Senate," she added. "The bill empowers adult adopted people to obtain a copy of their original birth certificate and pay the same fee as anybody not adopted, and also empowers the parents of origin whether of not they wish to be contacted."

In addition to the legislative work, Beavers said she has become involved with the Eliot and South Berwick historical societies, both garden clubs, both libraries as far as fund-raising, and the same for the Great Works Regional Land Trust.

For her work in adoption, Beavers received a U.S. Congressional Angel in Adoption Award and went down to Washington to receive it along with nine other members of her legislative team, including the bill's sponsors.

"I have been listening carefully to the people of Eliot and South Berwick, respecting their concerns and advocating for them in Augusta and will continue to do so," said Beavers.

She said that two of the most critical concerns are energy costs and health care.

"Since Maine consumes less power than it exports, let's run our own electricity system or join the neighboring Canadian grid and reduce the barriers to clean renewable energy resources," she said. "The Canadians are willing to talk, and we should be too."

To reduce health-care costs, she said: "Let's get rid of the near monopoly by one health insurance company. Our people and our businesses are being hurt badly. Without radical change here, there will be no change in the overall business environment."

Beavers' work experience includes 18 years in the chemical industry as a research chemist, marketing analyst and marketing manager, and seven years as a small business owner in computers. She gained her greatest career satisfaction as a career counselor and as an art gallery manager for nonprofit organizations, she said.

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

CANADA: Jones Says Revised Adoption Bill Endangers Abused Childen, May 1, 2008



ORANGEVILLE CITIZEN
May 1, 2008


Jones says revised adoption bill endangers abused children
By DAN PELTON Staff Reporter

Dufferin-Caledon MPP Sylvia Jones fears the provincial government's latest attempt to provide access to adoption records will open up the possibility of abused children being victimized again.

As the Progressive Conservative Community and Social Services critic, she introduced an amendment to the bill during a committee hearing that was aimed at ensuring that children who are abused, removed from the home and subsequently adopted, would be automatically protected from having their personal information disclosed to the abuser without the adoptee's consent.

The original intention of the Access to Adoption Records Act was to open up all adoption records in Ontario, so birth parents and adopted persons could find and contact each other.

It was challenged in court, however, and the court ruled that past adoption records could not be opened.

The revised bill states that previous records cannot be opened without the consent of all parties involved.

Records of future adoptions, on the other hand, can be disclosed once the adopted person reaches the age of 19.

Ms. Jones says she is puzzled by this apparent lack of protection for formerly abused adopted persons, noting that such a provision was in the original legislation.

"This was in the original Liberal bill. I think it's an oversight, but it's not in the bill now."

There is a provision that allows either the adopted person or the birth parents to effectively veto any contact by those applying to do so.

"In today's environment, if there is an adoptee taken as a ward of the court because of abuse, the adoptive parents will know of the abuse and can inform the child of the abuse," said Liberal MPP Liz Sandals, one of four Liberals whose votes defeated Ms. Jones' amendments at the hearing. "The adopted child can then vote for a no-contact order."

Trish Keachie, executive director of Dufferin Child and Family Services, sides with Ms. Jones on the issue. "Our concern is that, even if they are over 18 and choose not to reconnect, (the adopted person) will have their personal information disclosed. That can be disconcerting. They do have a choice, but it forces them to relive what they've gone through."

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