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Family law experts: Adoptees are people, too

Did you know that residents in more than 44 states may not have access to their own birth certificates? This may sound like a major civil rights violation, but in fact, it has more to do with family law. Individuals who have been adopted, including those in Pennsylvania, may be blocked from accessing their authentic birth certificate, leading to family legal issues that are sparking a call to action.

Representatives from the civil rights group Pennsylvania Adoptee Rights have worked with state legislators to draft a bill that would allow adoptees access to their birth certificates without having to go through a mountain of red tape. At first, they had high hopes for the legislation, but state officials have made significant modifications to the initial wording. PAR is seeking to allow any adoptee over the age of 18 to obtain his or her birth certificate without question. However, amendments to the proposed legislation would require adoptees to not only reach the age of majority, but also to demonstrate that they have earned a GED, graduated high school or legally removed themselves from secondary education. Additionally, the law would provide the birth parents the legal right to remove their names from the child's birth certificate.

Since other Pennsylvania residents are not required to provide this information, PAR and other groups are labeling the legislation as discriminatory. Not only are the new requirements onerous and unreasonable, but these family law issues also put an unfair burden on taxpayers, they say. Although the birth parents may want to remain anonymous, the rights of the adoptee should trump those of the adults who surrender their child, according to advocates. Foster children who have not been formally adopted have unrestricted access to their birth certificates.

Every Pennsylvania resident deserves to be treated equally under the state's birth certificate statutes. Family legal issues should not serve as barriers to prevent these adults from obtaining their birth certificate for a variety of legitimate needs. Adult adoptees who are struggling with birth certificate provisions may benefit from the assistance of a qualified family attorney who can help them navigate the request system.

Source: Huffington Post, "Rights of Adopted Persons at Risk in Pennsylvania," Mirah Riben, July 07, 2015

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