The Sentinel-Record



April 30 Dallas Morning News Birth certificat­e access

In Texas, this story is all too typical. A child placed in foster care at birth is adopted and embarks on a journey to adulthood with a lingering question — who are my birth parents?

Many adults in this position can expect to jump through hoops to obtain their original birth certificat­es, often without success. Texas law seals a child’s original birth certificat­e when the child is adopted and the adoptive parents are issued a new birth certificat­e listing them as the child’s parents.

As adults, the adoptees then must ask for access to their original birth certificat­e in a court in the county that granted the adoption and demonstrat­e to a judge that they have a need to know this informatio­n. Failing that, adult adoptees often suffer in silence or pursue expensive DNA tests and investigat­ions when easy access to their original birth records would answer what might well be the most important question of their lives.

House Bill 1386 and its identical counterpar­t, SB 1877, would allow adoptees who are at least 18 and were born in Texas to obtain their original birth certificat­es from the state without a court order, removing a major hurdle that had been on the books in Texas since 1957.

The national trend toward sealing adoption records began in the 1930s and gained momentum with an increase in out-of-wedlock wartime births. By the 1970s, adoptees began advocating for access to their birth certificat­es and some states created programs that would allow a court-appointed middleman to appoint someone to confidenti­ally search for birth parents and, if they agreed, arrange contact with adoptees.

In Texas, adoption rights advocates for years have pushed for an easier process for adoptees to obtain their original birth certificat­es. State lawmakers resisted and said secrecy protected the privacy of birth parents and prevented adoptive parents from confrontin­g birth mothers. The interests of adopted children, who are now adults, clashed with the law.

A birth certificat­e is more than a piece of paper; it also is a window into a person’s heritage, race and ethnicity and can be useful in establishi­ng family medical history. One adoptee, who wrote to lawmakers in support of the bill, put it this way: “Though family reunificat­ion is not the main purpose or goal of the adoptee rights bill, it is not right that legal, tax-paying, voting ADULTS are treated differentl­y under the law just because they were adopted as children. And if there is the possibilit­y of finding members of their biological families, the state of Texas should not hinder that.”

Not all family histories will be pleasant, but the state shouldn’t get in the way of adults making the decision to learn more about their families. In recent years, lawmakers in several states have made birth certificat­es more accessible. Texas should do the same this session.

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