I’m not sure what’s going on in the minds of some legislators and advocates, both in New York and now in Florida, but recent news is not encouraging. In New York, a group known as New York State Adoption Equality believes it’s a good idea for adoptive parents to be added to the original birth certificate. Not surprisingly, they literally and without irony call it “Respect for Adoption.” And in Florida, a newly filed bill requires “connecting with” a birthparent before you can even apply for a “summary” of the information on the OBC. The bill is being supported by Florida Adoption Reform and Education, which calls HB597 a “small step” in some sort of undisclosed “large scale” effort that remains “behind the scenes.” But if this is a small step, it’s a permanent one back to the 1970s. It also makes no sense.
Florida’s HB597: What It Does
Florida Representative Richard Stark, whom I’ve talked with and written about numerous times now, filed HB597 yesterday. It would do three primary things:
- Define an original certificate of birth as a “summary of an original certificate of birth, similar in form to a certified copy of an original certificate of birth, that consists of only the full names and ages of the birth parents, the date when the child was born, the county where the child was born, and the full name given to the child at birth.”
- Require an adoptee to register with the Florida Adoption Reunion Registry and “connect with” a birth parent before being able to apply for the “summary” document;
- State, without any real context, that adoptive parents do not need to consent to the release of the summary “OBC;”
If you haven’t already concluded from this description (and feel free to read the bill here yourself), please understand one thing: it is a terrible bill. And it is not, as one Florida group has already claimed, a “small step” forward. Rather, it’s equivalent to falling on your ass backwards. As the bill requires, it will force reunions on adoptees who simply want an OBC. And the bill does not define what is meant by the requirement to “connect with” a birth parent before being allowed to request an OBC. A phone call? Letter? Meeting at Arby’s?
Worse, amending Florida’s vital records law in this way acts as a final nail in the coffin of any meaningful adoptee rights reform in the state. Why? Because”connecting with” a birth parent will be necessary even to apply for the release of “information” on the OBC, something vital records law in Florida has never required. If you think this is just an extension of current law, it’s not. It’s compelling reunion with a birthparent as a necessity for your own information—forever.
Current Florida Law
This bill does not change that. Rather, it adds a new provision to vital records law that seals the deal and makes “connecting with” a birthparent the sole requirement for an adult adoptee to obtain his or her own OBC. The only substantive provision that does anything related to adoptee rights is to state that “permission of an adoptee’s parents is not required for an adoptee . . . to receive a noncertified copy of original certificate of birth.” Whoop dee doo. Why Florida already requires this now is dubious.
What do Florida adoptees think? That’s hard to say, as the bill was just filed. But this is what Florida Adoption Reform and Education said on its website immediately after HB597 was filed:
Rep. Richard Stark has filed HB 597, which would remove the requirement for adoptive parent consent found in current statute. Meanwhile, larger scale efforts continue behind the scenes!
I’m not sure what HB597 they are smoking to get to that conclusion, unless they are skipping everything else in the bill except the last provision. Sure, the bill may alter how the Florida Department of Health handles the release of an OBC when all parties agree (as is current practice), but removing adoptive parent permission is a no brainer and shouldn’t even be required already under current law. After all, why does an adoptive parent need to provide permission to release the OBC, which should not have adoptive parent or any adoption information on it at all? Worse, this provision is not the real gist of HB597. The real gist of HB597 is that it compels reunion simply to get what every adult adoptee is entitled to as a right: an unaltered copy of the original birth certificate. Nothing more, nothing less. Florida, with this bill, is yet again seeking much less.