(Chicago, IL) — May 21, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn today signed a bill into law that provides adopted adults greater access to copies of their original birth certificates without having to get a court order. The new law will also help adopted adults learn more about their birth families, including medical histories.
“This new law provides adopted adults with the tools they need to obtain and review crucial personal information and background,” said Quinn. “At the same time, this law respects all the parties involved in the adoption process.”
Under the prior law, it was difficult for an adopted person to access their original birth certificate because getting a copy of the document often required a court order.
House Bill 5428, sponsored by State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) and State Senator A.J. Wilhelmi (D-Joliet), allows adopted adults to obtain copies of their birth certificates without going to court. Adopted adults born before Jan. 1, 1946, can immediately request copies of their original birth certificates, and those born after Jan. 1, 1946 can do so beginning Nov. 15, 2011.
The law is effective immediately.
In the meantime, a yearlong informational campaign will alert birth parents that their names would become available to their adopted children, 21 and older, unless they file a formal denial form. Feigenholtz expects few birth parents to exercise this option.
The seven-term lawmaker noted that a 1991 study published in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry found that a substantial majority of birth mothers (88.5 percent) supported adult adoptees’ access to identifying information regarding their birth parents
“After Governor Quinn signs this legislation, I will be able to walk into the state’s office of Vital Records, plunk down my $15 and get a copy of my original birth certificate. On it will be the name of the woman who gave birth to me 53 years ago. I can’t wait to hold it in my hand,” said Feigenholtz.
“Today, we’re opening a new chapter in adoption history in Illinois where we can finally say that all families are created equal.”
Feigenholtz, who has met her birth mother and labored for more than a decade in the legislature to advance the cause of adoptee rights, said the current system of birth certificate denial to adults, such as herself, is wrong and birth-parent anonymity was relic from generation that sought to hide out-of-wedlock births and adoptions due to stigma.
“Times change,” said Feigenholtz. “Adopted families have to close the book on the stigma.”
Said Wilhelmi, “This legislation restores the basic right of adult adoptees to know who they are and where they came from, including their family and medical history. This is a balanced and fair measure that respects all parties involved in the adoption process.”
Information within an original birth certificate can also lead to background about an adopted adult’s birth family’s medical history. Such medical history can be accessed through the Illinois Adoption Registry and Medical Information Exchange (IARMIE) provided both birth parents have registered, and agree to make that information available.
As part of the new law, the Illinois Department of Public Health, which administers the IARMIE, will launch a yearlong statewide campaign to inform and educate adopted adults and birth parents, which may prefer anonymity, about the change to birth certificate law.
A number of medical and child advocacy groups supported the legislation, including: Illinois
Psychiatric Society; American Adoption Congress; Agudath Israel of America; Child Care Association of Illinois; Chicago Bar Association; Voices for Children; Catholic Conference of Illinois; National Association of Social Workers of Illinois; Lutheran Social Services of Illinois; UCAN; Illinois Department of Public Health; Department of Children and Family Services; Jewish Child and Family Services; Illinois State Bar Association; The Cradle Adoption Agency; Adoption Advocates of America; Adoptive Families Today; Chicago Area Families for Adoption; Midwest Adoption Center; Search and Genealogy Services; Murphysboro, IL, Stars of David Adoption; and The Baby Fold, Bloomington, IL.