Recently, an Illinois adoptee sent me an email from Melisha Mitchell regarding HB 4623’s provision on deceased birth parents. In it Ms. Mitchell makes the astounding claim that 80-90% of Illinois adoptees already know the names of their birthparents, particularly the names of their first mothers! I am publishing this letter in full, with permission of the recepient, but am withholding the name upon request. I have highlighted the most egregious statements in yellow.
Thanks for all your (really good) questions regarding the pending Illinois legislation. I was in Springfield last week, and came home to dozens of emails on the bill…including yours…and shall do my utmost to answer your questions…
In a message dated xxx, XXX writes:
>Will birth parent “requests for anonymity” eventually expire under HB 4623?
Yes, under the proposed law, all birth parent requests for anonymity through
the Registry will expire upon the birth parent’s death.
>How will the State of Illinois know when/if the birth parent has died? I can see if a death >certificate is issued in Illinois – what about anywhere else in the world?
As you point out, if the birth parent died in Illinois (or was born in Illinois, which would require Illinois to receive notice of the birth parent’s death), there is no issue to proving that they are deceased. Many Illinois adoptees know their birth parents’ names (80 to 90% of the adoption decrees issued in Illinois list the birth mother’s full name…and adoption decrees are available to the adoptive parents upon request (as long as they’re alive, obviously). As a result, most adoptees in this state do have their birth parent’s names. One of the reasons why we added the provision that allows an adoptee who is the subject of a request for anonymity to search again, at no cost, once five or more years have elapsed since the request for anonymity was filed is that a state intermediary is authorized to obtain a death certificate from any state in the US (regardless of what that state’s rules are about the release of an obc). If the state intermediary can confirm a birth parent’s death and obtains a birth parent’s death certificate, this info (death of birth parent) will be relayed to the adoptee who would then receive their obc. This is a tricky provision, though, as some states do place limitations on who can obtain a death certificate (although they have no way of verifying, for example, if someone who says they are the daughter/son of someone is indeed that person’s daughter or son)…
Adoptees who find little or no information on their original birth certificates, as well as those who find very common names, may find it helpful to seek assistance through either the agency that handled the adoption, the state intermediary program, or a post-adoption program like that offered by the White Oak Foundation.
As I outlined (sort of) above, most Illinois adoptees will find their birth mother’s name on their adoption decree. Although this legislation does not release the adoption decree (which is freely available to adoptive parents in this state–as long as they are alive) to adult adoptees, it is likely that this issue will be addressed in future legislation. Adopted persons who have no information at all (no last name or first name for the birth parent) and were born in Chicago before 1962 can find their birth names in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin (and our organization helps adoptees born before 1962 to get this info at no charge). It is less likely that an original birth certificate issued in the 60s or 70s would be blank, but for those rare cases, the state intermediary program would probably be helpful as state intermediaries are able to obtain agency files, court files, relinquishment papers (which often include the birth mother’s full name and date of birth) and other documents which should allow them to successfully locate the birth parent or surviving birth siblings if the birth parent is deceased.
>What recourse does an adoptee have if he or she receives an original birth >certificate that is >blank or lists an alias? Will the information that SHOULD have been on the birth certificate (i.e. >identifying information) be made available to the adoptee or is this considered a de facto >”disclosure veto”?
Wow. What a great idea (releasing the info that should have been on the obc to the adult adoptee)…but not one that was included in this bill. It is likely that the issue of the release of the adoption decree (which almost always includes the birth mother’s last name, and includes her first name 80 to 90% of the time) to adult adoptees will be taken up in subsequent legislation…this bill only deals with the release of an original birth certificate to an adult adopted person and how birth parents can relay their wishes regarding contact or the release of their identity…
I am attaching to this email a chart that I’ve put together which shows how things are in Illinois under current statute and how they would be if the proposed law is signed by the Governor. If you have any additional questions after reading the chart, let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them!!
The White Oak Foundation