I don’t have a lot of time today, but wanted to get this out. More thoughts later.

Wednesday, amendments to placeholder AB 372 were introduced by sponsor Asmb. Fiona Ma. The amended version is now online. CARE has also issued a memo, dated March 26, discussing the updates. The amended bill is clean but has problems.

According to the CARE memo, CARE and the California Association of Adoption Attorneys (CAAA), which (surprise!) opposes access, met with Asmb. Ma on March 24 to hash out changes which now includes a pushback to 25, the age at which adoptees can receive their original birth certificates. It also includes a contact preference form, and an extensive medical questionnaire.

How and why this age qualification developed is a mystery. I believe, however, it is related to the 1984 “birthparent” disclosure veto as well as young adult “reunification” concerns amongst paternalistic “child welfare” professionals who feel a dubious need to monitor their former charges and to protect them from reuniting with allegedly dysfunctional families at a legal, but “too early”age. Neither issues should concern the right of adopted adults to their own birth certificates, but apparently they concern the Professional Adoption Class, California Division.

CARE says in its memo, without comment, that the age qualification was recommend by CAAA. In its statement, CARE is unclear about whether it agrees with the eligibility requirement or if it will try to lower the age to the normal 18 (or 21 tops). The sound of silence suggests agreement and should be added to the list of questions Maryanne Cohen posted here the other day, which still remain unanswered.

From the memo:.

CAAA and others present (note: not named) recommended the age be raised to 25 years and a confidential intermediary be utilized before a record is released. CARE is opposed to a confidential intermediary and explained our opposition to this concept. Ma agreed on aging the age limit but did not accept the intermediary.

CARE and Asmb. Ma rightly rejected the CI “recommendation,” which would let bureaucrats track down “birthparents” to get consent for release of obcs, gutted totally the intent of even compromised legislation, and continued to infantilize California adoptees. CARE to its credit has stated from the beginning that the CI was humiliating and unacceptable.

Amended AB 372 also includes a long section on contact preference form (cpf) language taken from Oregon, and strangely, the entire text of a medical questionnaire offered to “birthparents,” who submit a cpf, taken from New Hampshire’s questionnaire. I say strangely since in every other state with the cpf, the language was not written into legislation, but developed by state agencies after passage of the law. Putting the questionnaire in the bill seems a bit of nitpickery and is counterproductive to the message of rights restoration. But then, by its own admission, rights is an unwanted and uncomfortable concept and strategy for CARE.

Speaking only for myself, I don’t like the cpf, (originally a bargaining chip, and now SOP), and I like even less medical history requirements. They dilute adoptee rights, are bad politics, and dangerous. The cpf can be amended into a contact veto–or worse–even after a bill becomes law. No one has a right to someone’s else medical history. The medical history inclusion, especially in its current extensive and intrusive form, sends up a red flag that access could be amended out, and the bill re-written as an anonymous medical registry bill. The language, codified in law could also be more difficult than regulations to change.

Amended AB 372 also lacks a mechanism by which adoptees born in California but adopted elsewhere can obtain their obc. There is no mention of access for the descendants of deceased adoptees.

AB 372 is an improvement over its placeholder forerunner. Asmb. Ma is listening to our input and the rights argument. That’s a good thing, but it’s not over yet.


  1. Here is what I sent the Judiciary Committee. Feel free to copy/paste and send:

    [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]

    Dear Assemblymembers Feuer, Tran, Brownley, Evans, Jones, Knight, Krekorian, Lieu, Monning & Nielsen,

    RE: AB 372 (Amended March 26, 2009)

    If an 18 year old can be drafted or enlist into the military and die for his/her country, he/she should be able to have his/her original birth certificate. A person can drive a vehicle at 16, vote at 18, and drink alcohol at 21 years old, but is not considered “adult” enough until 25 years old to get his/her own birth records?

    I am over 25 years old. This age limit on this bill wont personally affect me. But, it continues to treat an adopted person, someone who is a legal adult, as a child. I find this “special” treatment is unnecessary and degrading.

    Thank you.

    I also emailed Fiona Ma. Here is her Contact Form:

  2. Totally apropos of nothing, but, though I approach this subject seriously) the picture at the top has had me singing, all weekend.

    “Oh, I’m just a bill, yes I’m only a bill, and I’m sitting here on capitol hill……tra, la, la.”

    Never mind me, Marley. I am getting on in years.

  3. Marley –

    I understand your misgivings about the cpf. Would it be better if it was tied to a Registry and not to OBC access? That would make sense to separate access rights from reunion desires. Would non-ID (including voluntary medical history) therefore be tied to a Registry?

    I agree that the NH model for medical history is invasive, especially when it comes to drug and alcohol use.

  4. I’m new here, and I’m new at this, so please bear with me if I unwittingly say something jerky or if what I’m about to ask are stupid questions.

    Why shouldn’t we (adoptees) have a right to our birthparents’ medical histories???? Those are OUR medical histories, too, and I think it’s just as important as having access to our OBCs. Or, at least, it’s just as important to ME, b/c I’ve had some health problems that would have been easier to solve had I known my history.

    Someone else brought up Registries…what’s your take on confidential, non-id medical history registries that are entirely seperate from contact registries (which I loathe)?

    I got lucky: my a-Mom found out about a loophole in PA law that was about to close when I was 2 and managed to get my OBC just in time. I’ve located my birthmother and have attempted contact, including a request for my medical history, and yet I still have nothing. If there was a registry for this info, then at least I’d have that. Does that make sense?

  5. “Why shouldn’t we (adoptees) have a right to our birthparents’ medical histories???? Those are OUR medical histories, too..”

    No, actually, they’re not. None of us who weren’t adopted have any right to our parents’ medical histories, so why should adoption give a person a special right?

    The rest of us in this world have to cultivate relationships with our (sometimes dysfunctional or abusive) parents in order to obtain this information. It takes a relationship involving honesty and trust.

    I have no right to my mother’s medical history.

    But regarding the horrible social experiment in social engineering that is/was adoption:

    To ask a natural mother to provide medical history can be insulting.

    She may already feel she was used as a “baby production unit” by the industry, that it took her baby and cast her aside. She may feel used and exploited. If her lost child comes to her and says “I don’t want a relationship with you, but give me your medical history,” she can again feel dehumanized, as only a collection of “useful body parts” and not respected as a person with feelings.

    Can you establish a family relationship with her, respecting her as a mother to you, and then ask her, as any of us would with our own parents?

  6. “”Why shouldn’t we (adoptees) have a right to our birthparents’ medical histories???? Those are OUR medical histories, too, and I think it’s just as important as having access to our OBCs.””

    Jenna…I can respect your thoughts on what you consider a ‘right’ to another’s medical history, even that of a natural ‘relative’. BUT! my personal medical history…is just that….mine.. and protected by HIPAA rules, as well as any of my blood relatives. The children I raised, now adults, do not have some born-to ‘right’ to my medical history nor any other member of their family. For an adult to demand that which is well quite frankly disturbing to me. I don’t believe any person, anywhere, should be governmentally mandated (forced) to share their medical histories, past or present. My raised adult children cannot ‘force’ me to turn over my medical records to them, nor can I be ‘forced’ to tell them anything I might consider to be confidential between me and my doc or even of my own choosing. And as adults, I have no ‘right’ to my raised adult children’s medical records either. As an example…let’s say one of my sons were being treated for ‘crabs’, should I consider it my right to have this ‘medical information’? Afterall I gave birth to him, I have always been his parent, I raised him. No…I have no rights to his medical info..because he is an adult. And so am I..

    I would be violating HIPAA rules by sharing other relatives medical information…which in many families.. is not necessarily documented info, but rather just ‘talk’ amongst family members..even moreso when family members don’t have a lot of real communication in the first place. Even in families that have never been separated by adoption, does not give automatic ‘rights’ that every family member knows of every medical nuance of another family member. Somethings…well..are simply just one’s own business.

    I 100% support the right to one’s own OBC and/or anything that is in the adoption case-file..I also believe this should be a ‘right’ for any surrendering mother as well. I am also reunited.. I searched and found my adult child without any paperwork..just my last name, hospital and date. I then immediately chose to share medical info about myself, that was pertinent to her. How many times I had a sinus infection or a yeast infection, I don’t believe is of much consequence..but the history of breast cancer, heart attack and stroke, I believe was very pertinent.

    I do not know who my father is and never will…So much like you..I am left in the dark about paternal medical history..but it doesn’t plague me, nor do I feel that I have a ‘right’ to my natural father’s medical history (or that of his relatives). If I were to have known who he was, I could ask him directly and he could choose to tell me or not…would be his ‘right’. I may not like it..but would still be his personal right.

    I would protest quite vocally if I was ‘forced’ thru government mandate via registry to give any government entity even more info about myself. They can find out so much about any one of us already, with or without our permissions.

    I would also offer this…would it not also be part of the medical equation…for the surrendering mother (at the time of adoption)be given all medical history about the adoptive parents..does the surrendering mother not have a vested medical interest into the health or ill-health of the adopters, who will be raising her child? For those surrendering mothers in closed adoptions..would they not also have an equal interest in the amended bc of their child, i.e. as an adult? If everyone is to know our names…why are we not entitled to know the current names of our adult children? Is this a ‘privacy right’ for adult adoptees and the adoptive parents? Just some thoughts.

  7. As a natural mother who fully supports open records for adoptees and mothers, let me echo the sentiments of the previous two commenters. I also have two raised children and I don’t tell them every little detail of my life. Demanding our medical histories violates our civil rights and the right that EVERY person has to privacy…not just mothers. I gave my reunited children the medical history I thought was pertinent. They need to go to their fathers’ families if they want any more. But, they didn’t demand….they asked!

    I forget who said it, but I am reminded of the adage about personal space and rights which states that “your rights end where mine begin.”

  8. I had no problem giving my surrendered son as much medical history as I know of myself and the rest of the family. No, he did not ask for it, I just sent it, and continue to update. He also updates me on his medical issues.If he wanted formal records and I could get them, I would do that. I’m not concerned about HPPA laws between myself and any of my adult kids.

    What I would not do is fill out a form and send it to an agency or the state that was supposed to be conveyed to him. Who knows how many other office workers would see that form, or where the information could end up?

    I can’t imagine a mother who would not meet her child filling out a truthful medical form to be anonymously conveyed to him via the state, or using a registry. Nobody can be forced to give medical information, and worse it was, in terms of substance abuse or mental illness or other topics that might cause shame, the more likely would the mother be to lie or not respond at all.

    Medical forms and registries are just a smokescreen; they are worse than useless.

    Jenna, I am very sorry your mother won’t communicate with you. I don’t understand mothers like that, being one who searched. But I think it is very unlikely that she would be any more likely to fill out forms or communicate with a registry. Give it time, don’t give up, and eventually, consider contacting other family members who might be more open to a relationship.

  9. Hi Jenna–

    Thanks for dropping by. I tried to reply yesterday, but had a techical problem. I think I still do, but I’m trying again.

    You didn’t ask a jerky question. This is a question that lots of people ask.

    The bottom line is that no one has a right to someone else’s medical records/history. These records are held confidential by medical best practices/ethics and the federal HIPAA. I dont like HIPAA and it’s been greatly misinterpreted, but we’re stuck with it. Many non-adopted have no medical histories either because their parents choose not to share them.

    It is a huge mistake to use the medical argument when working for records access. This is always interpreted to mean that that is the issue. That in turns puts the bright idea in leggies minds that they can amend out obc access and create a bill for an anonymous, voluntary medical registry for adoptees, which would permit “desperate” and “shamed” women who want to pass on medical information but don’t want to be exposed for the deeds of their misspent youth. And once a medical registry is in place, you can kiss your obc right goodbye.

    Janet Allen wrote a good short piece on why BN doesn’t use a medical argument. You can find it here:

    BN has tweaked it slightly and made it an official policy statement.

    BTW, I think that deform proposals which require parents who want a disclosure/contact veto to fill out a medical form to utilize their veto are constitutionally questionable. While absolutely opposed to all vetoes, this strikes me as state blackmail.

    I hope this explains things, and please do come back!

  10. Chris– I agree with you, but but HIPPA rules basically cover “professional” disclosure of medical information: medical professionals, EMTs, pharmacists. I attended a panel on this subject at Rutgers a few years ago, and if I remember correctly, the police aren’t covered by HIPPA. They can can release informaion to their heart’s conent (accidents, shootiongs, etc, and all of that iknformation is public record via police reports.) HIPPA has gotten totallly out of hand and is being used to cover all sorts of things it was never meant to cover, and of course, hides a lot of what needs to be uncovered. Sound familiar.

  11. Sound familiar? Yes it does Marley.

    I will say this as a positive in regards to was HIPAA being in place that allowed me to get my medical records from the hospital I gave birth in (44 years ago), just a few years ago. I said, ‘HIPAA’ and the Director of Medical Records went to bat for me. I sincerely doubt before HIPAA that I would have been able to receive these records. Of course, I initially heard the ole ‘those records were destroyed bit’, but I persevered and received. My daughter’s birth records (totally relating to her as a separate individual) are also there, all she has to do is ask for them, though she has shown no interest in. The Director told me I could not have a copy of these records, as they belong to her only, now that she is an adult (over the age of 18). This is in Illinois.

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