Should adopted children have access to birth records?

Lawmakers debate allowing access when adopted children become adults

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Children adopted in Florida have no mechanism for obtaining their original birth certificates when they become adults, and two members of the Legislature, who were each adopted at birth, are at the center of a debate over whether to change that.

State Reps. Richard Stark, D-Broward, and Jason Brodeur, R-Seminole County, have very different takes on finding their birth parents.

Stark said he found his birth parents 30 years ago and didn't need a birth certificate to do it.

He said his birth mother was 15 when she got pregnant and opted for adoption.

“I lucked out. I was raised in a great home, and I know from the birth family, even though they are very nice people, it was not a great situation,” Stark said.

Stark said he is still close to his adopted parents, who are 97 and 89 years old.

He said the greatest thrill of finding his birth parents was learning that they later married and had two more boys, whom he was able to meet.

Brodeur said he's not interested in locating his birth parents.

Stark has filed legislation that would allow Florida adoptees, after they turn 18, to request an original version of their birth certificate.

“I mean, it’s something that’s personal to you,” Stark said. “You’d like to have a copy of it. It’s your history.”

But the idea is not without controversy.

“What I don’t want to do is make it mandatory that those parents have to reveal themselves at some point,” Brodeur said.” What I think that that could result in is higher numbers of terminations of pregnancies from those who fear what could happen in 18 years.”

Stark said that women more than men tend to be interested in finding their birth parents.

“They, in more cases than the men, want to know where they came from and so, very often, they are the ones really pushing the legislation,” Stark said.

Twenty-six states have some mechanism for adoptees to get their original paperwork or medical records when they become adults. All but two of those states have some way for birth parents to opt out of being found.

New Jersey is one of the states that allows birth parents to opt out, but only 558 birth parents out of 300,000 have done so since the law went into effect.

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