April 24, 2014

Adoption bill would make getting information easier (AUDIO)

The legislature is again considering a bill that would give adoptees easier access to their birth certificate and medical history. Rep. Jeanie Lauer of Blue Springs tells a House Committee many children given up for adoption have no medical history, and no way to access any kind of health records.

“Imagine you are at the doctor’s office, and they ask you to fill out a health history form, and you have no idea,” she tells the committee.

Her bill would require the State Health Department to provide birth parents with a contact preference form and a medical history form. This would make finding a birth parent easier if both parties are willing.

The House passed a similar measure last year but the bill was not taken up by the Senate. The Catholic Conference, which has opposed previous measures that would facilitate access to adoption records, says it supports this bill so long as it protects confidentiality.

A Blue Springs man tells a House Committee about finding his birth mom when he was in his forties. Jeff Quibell says his birth mother has come before legislators to testify in previous years to support bills that would make it easier for adoptees to access identifying information and get a medical history. He says she died three weeks ago.

Jeff Quebel says his birth mother came to Kansas City from Detroit in 1958 to have a child. He says she has come before the Missouri legislature to testify over the years “so that families could be reunited as we were. She died three weeks ago.”

“She cared for the baby for ten days and then was sent home to Detroit and told ‘Forget you ever had this child, you will never see him again,” he tells legislators. When he found her at age 44, “She gave me a box of Christmas ornaments. One for each year until I found her.”

Quebel says he and his mother were able to be reunited bc all four of his parents were still alive, and all four consented. However, many adoptees are not that lucky.

“You know that no one could give birth to a child and then forget it ever happened,” he says. “Yet we in Missouri deny access to adult adoptees to find their birth parents, meet them and get to know them.” 

Jefferson City resident Annette Driver says she has struggled with a decision she made in 1977 ever since … and now her options are few.

“I’m a birth mother, and a lot of things happen between the age of 19 and 55 for a person,” she says. “Over the years I’ve had to keep a very healthy attitude about my decision to give my daughter up for adoption. The birth parents — we have no rights — obviously we made the decision. And it is a life sentence.”

Driver tells the committee that for her, and for other women who have given their children up for adoption, ”All you want is to know that they are doing well.”

“I think it’s very heathy to make that connection to their past,” she says, “whether it’s to continue with that connection or just to have some closure.”

Legislators on the committee asked Laurer to look into how the bill might affect those born through vitro fertilization, donated eggs and sperm, surrogates and the like. Another concern was about how it could benefit single people who adopt, which is becoming more common.

The Missouri Catholic Conference has opposed similar legislation in the past, but says it will support this bill so long as confidentiality is protected for those who do not wish to be contacted.

The bill specifies that for all adoptions after August 28, 2013, an adopted person who is 18 or over can request a copy of their original birth certificate without the consent of their adoptive parents. The state registrar in the Department of Health and Senior Services would be required to provide the documentation unless the birth mother or birth father objected.

A renewed attempt to the birth parents would be mandated before objecting to the release of the information.

Because, like Driver says, a lot changes over the course of a person’s lifetime after making the decision to give a child up for adoption.

To read the full bill, click HERE.

AUDIO: Jessica Machetta reports (1:20)

Listen to the full committee hearing (30:15)