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One Man Champions Adoption Rights On Hartford Street Corner

by Hugh McQuaid | Mar 30, 2012 2:17pm
(5) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Town News, Hartford, Health Care, Legal

Hugh McQuaid photo

Paul Schibbelhute

Paul Schibbelhute woke up at 4:30 Friday morning and drove from New Hampshire to a Hartford street corner, where he hoped to raise awareness of legislation that gives adoptees access to their original birth certificates.

Schibbelhute describes himself as a birth father. In 1977, when he was in college, he and a friend had a child in Hartford whom they gave up for adoption. Years later, he decided he wanted to make contact with his son, Josh.

However, in Connecticut and most other states, adoptees only have access to amended birth certificates that omit the names of the biological parents. Meaning, even if Josh wanted to get in touch with his father, he would not be able to do so.

In 1998, Schibbelhute hired a private investigator to help him track down his son, who was living in New Jersey. The two now keep in touch, he said.

But the reason he was waving signs Friday outside Turning Point Park was to garner support for a bill that would allow people like his son the option of learning about their biological parents. Schibbelhute, who serves as the regional legislative director for the American Adoption Congress, said he has been trying to get his message to the public and lawmakers.

“[The current law] denies a whole group of people a basic human right,” he said.

The bill has become an annual effort for Sen. Edward Meyer, D-Guilford, who proposed it. A version of it passed the legislature in 2006 only to be vetoed by former Gov. M. Jodi Rell. But this year he said he expects broad support.

To Meyer, it’s not just a question of fairness, it’s also a health concern. He said he met with a group of adoptees who have no way of knowing what illnesses may run in their families. The bill would allow them to access their original birth certificate and their biological parents’ medical records once they turn 21.

“Genetics have gotten to be so significant today. The ability to know the health of their parents is important for people who have been adopted,” Meyer said.

The bill also allows mothers to fill out a form indicating whether they are willing to be contacted by the child later in life. Either way, the child would still be able to access the birth certificate. In other states with the same process, more than 90 percent of mothers have said they wouldn’t be opposed to someday hearing from the child, Meyer said.

Meyer said he expects the Judiciary Committee to vote on the legislation when they meet on Monday, the last day the committee can pass bills.

Last year the committee voted the bill down 27-16. Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, said that was because as a whole, members of the committee just weren’t that supportive of the concept. Given that the composition of the committee has changed little since last year, he said he expects the same result this year.

That’s if the committee takes it up at all. Kissel said they have dozens of complicated bills to act upon before their 5 p.m. deadline. He said he doubted the Judiciary Committee co-chairs would raise a bill that’s sure to generate a lot of debate when it’s unlikely there’s enough support or time to pass it.

Apprehension around the bill stems from concern that it will reduce the number of parents who choose to give their kids up for adoption, he said. Currently mothers and fathers count of the anonymity the law provides when they choose adoption, Kissel said.

“I don’t want to create an environment where mothers and fathers are dissuaded from giving their children up for adoption,” he said.

Schibbelhute said, for him at least, that is not a concern.

“My son’s right to know who his birth parents are outweigh my right to any sort of privacy,” he said.

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(5) Comments

posted by: FauxClaud | March 30, 2012  5:01pm

How sad that once again the legislators who have the power over adoptees health and legal identikit have no idea about the true issues! Sen. John Kissel, R- Enfield shows his ignorance when he says “mothers and fathers are dissuaded from giving their children up for adoption” from updating the archaic laws. In reality, the OPPOSITE is true!
States have higher adoption rates when there is open records in adoption and no secrecy. In fact, the some of the openness in adoption can be traced back to a study done by the NCFA and the Family Research Council called The Missing Piece where they studied the feelings of mothers who relinquished (while blindfolded) and learned that women would be more open to adoption as a choice for an unplanned pregnancy if they could know where their child is and how they are fairing. The findings of that study were turned into the federally funded Infant Adoption Awareness Training Program. The Evan B Donaldson Adoption institute JUST released a new study saying how 95 percent of agencies now offer open adoptions.
I hope that Sen. John Kissel attends the NSLC this August where the Adoptee Rights Coalition will be happy to give him some real facts about adoptees OBC access and why it is a human right!

Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy
Birthmother Circa 1987
Organizer @ Adoptee Rights Coalition
Author @ Musings of the Lame

posted by: tweetiepye | March 30, 2012  6:13pm

Mr. Kissell is incorrect.  The law did and does not guarantee “anonymity” to birthparents giving up a child in adoption.

When a child is relinquished, there is no way to know if that child will be adopted.  Some children end up in alternate arrangements, like foster care as an example.

A child’s birth certificate is only altered IF and WHEN they get adopted.  Thus, not knowing what will happen to any relinquished child, anyone (whether social worker or lawyer) who made any promise of anonymity was working outside the law and wrong.

Mr. Kissell seems to be laboring under the assumption that birthparents want to hide or something.  He needs to recognize that there is a difference between not wanting the world to know your business and not wanting your child to have the fundamental right of knowing who they are upon adulthood.

Mr. Kissell needs also to know that in the past, to encourage relinquishment, many birthparents were told “Don’t worry, it’s not forever, your child will be able to find you when they reach 18…” and then they find out that’s not true.

The state needs to stop falsifying birth certificates, and begin allowing adults to handle their own affairs.  This bill is a step in the right direction.

posted by: Noteworthy | March 31, 2012  10:28am

As an adopted child, I come down on the side of access. After 20 years, my father contacted me. For a lot of reasons, I chose not to have a relationship. That’s my right and for the most part, aside from Christmas cards, he has respected that. Conversely, some of my adopted siblings have contacted their birth parents and had unsatisfying results. What I don’t know, is my birth mother’s name so I could look in on her and make sure she is ok if she is still alive. While I do not want a relationship, I would like to know who she is, if she is alright and if dead, who she was.

It’s my right too.

While the legislature and Malloy consume all the air in the room mostly wasting time, my money and crowing about saving me a penny a gallon while trying to figure out how to steer tens of millions if not more to their high flying friends in education, it would be nice if this august body would actually do something that matters.

posted by: Susan Perry | March 31, 2012  5:58pm

When are legislators going to start basing their decisions on adoptee rights bills on facts instead of “assumptions”?  It is infuriating that some decision makers continue to assume that adoption rates will go down if adoptees as adults have access to their birth certificates.  In fact, just the opposite is true, and we can only conclude that these legislators are either too lazy to read the studies, or they have been completely brainwashed by the opposition.  And why do these decision makers feel it is perfectly OK to treat a whole group of people like second-class citizens simply because they happen to be adopted?  I was turned down for a clinical trial because I did not have ready access to my own records.  Such blatant discrimination is just intolerable.  Refusing to be treated as if I had no worth simply because I am adopted, I eventually found my birth mother through a private investigator.  The sky did not fall in, and I received some valuable medical information and a sense of emotional closure that has brought me much peace.  Wake up, legislators!  We are living in the twenty-first century, not the Middle Ages.

posted by: Winkie | April 5, 2012  3:35pm

Dear Noteworthy,

Clear language is important.

You are not an adopted child.  You are an adult. You were born to one mother and adopted and raised by another mother.

Neither mother replaces the other.

I am a mother of four children. I surrendered my first two children to adoption. They were raised by another mother.

Those children are now adults in their forties.

I raised my second two children. All of my children know one another.