Adoptees push to make birth certificates accessible – NBC Connecticut


Kathy Flaherty grew up in Newington knowing she had two parents who loved her. However, she also knew early on that there were two other people closely related to her, her biological parents.

“I’ve always wanted to watch,” Flaherty said.

Adopted in 1969, she is among Connecticut children born between 1944 and 1983 who are not allowed to see their original birth certificate. Instead, she has what’s called an “amended birth certificate,” which only names her adoptive parents.

Kathy Flaherty’s parents adopted her through Catholic Charities in 1969.

“It’s just unconstitutional, it’s wrong. It needs to be fixed,” said Senator Steve Cassano of Manchester.

In 1983, adoption forms changed, eliminating the biological parents’ right to privacy. Cassano’s bill gives all adult adoptees born before this access to the identity of their birth parents.

“I fall into this weird little donut hole of people who can only get it if their biological parents are dead, but you can’t really prove they’re dead because you don’t know who they are,” said explained Flaherty. fact that there is another document that contains specific information about who gave birth to me and it is locked away in a safe and I cannot have it unlike everyone else in the world.

For some, more important than meeting their parents is finding out important information like ancestry and medical history.

“Nothing in this bill requires anyone to have a relationship,” said Karen Caffrey, co-chair of Access Connecticut Now and an adoptee herself.

Caffrey said she was reunited with her birth parents 40 years ago.

“It’s helped my health so much to know what kinds of risks run in my family, it’s allowed me to talk to my doctors about them so they can narrow down the kinds of tests and exams to do for me,” she explained.

Of the 28 individuals and organizations who testified on House Bill 6105, Catholic Charities was the only one to oppose it.

“Obviously, people who wish to remain anonymous are doing themselves a disservice by appearing in a public hearing,” said Chris Healy, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Connecticut. unfair to biological mothers who, for personal reasons, wanted to have this privacy.”

“You don’t forget you had a child,” Caffrey replied.

Eileen McQuade knows this all too well.

“The only thing to do would be to go to the maternity ward, give the baby up for adoption, pretend nothing had happened, and I would go on with my life as if I had never had a child” , she recalls.

That’s exactly what the pregnant freshman did in 1966 at the behest of her parents and her church.

She married the biological father, Richard, two years later.

“Every year her birthday was an extremely painful time for me. I wondered what she was doing and how she was doing,” McQuade said.

In 1997, she stopped wondering. A phone call reconnected the McQuades with their daughter.

“The walls have crumbled. Life was never the same after that,” McQuade said.

Now McQuade, who testified at a recent public hearing for the bill, said she is advocating for the law to change so other families can be reunited.

Eileen and Richard with Kathleen and her adoptive parents.

“Reconnecting with my daughter has been a huge healing for me and I think it’s an opportunity I want to give to as many people as possible,” she said.

The bill has come out of committee several times since 2017 but has died on schedule every year.

New Canaan Rep. Tom O’Dea feared the bill would break a promise made to many mothers decades ago.

“I really believe that the mother has a right to her anonymity and her right to privacy,” he said.

O’Dea noted that a constituent wrote him a letter asking him to vote against the bill, which he plans to do.

“(She) was told she would remain anonymous forever. So I just believe we should honor that promise,” he said.

Cassano said DNA testing and social media make it easier for adoptees to find their birth parents, and the law needs to catch up with the technological age we live in now.

“We are very concerned about privacy, but the reality is that today you can go online,” Cassano said.

“It’s not private. It’s not confidential,” Caffrey added of the DNA tests.

O’Dea countered that a birth parent’s right to privacy trumps an adoptee’s right to their birth certificate.

“They were given the right to life by this mother who wishes to remain anonymous and they should honor that wish and they should thank this woman for not aborting them when they were babies,” he said.

Flaherty has tried just about every DNA testing and genealogy site.

“I’m going to spit in a tube and find out what my ancestry is,” she said.

She said her friends are working to create a family tree, but so far she is only related to a cousin.

She said she contacted Catholic Charities, which facilitated the adoption, and was told on her birthday that her birth mother did not want a relationship.

“I don’t want contact with anyone who doesn’t want contact with me,” Flaherty said.

What Flaherty wants are her parents’ names, hoping that might unlock her medical history, something she asks for every time she sees her doctor.

“I generally resorted to scrolling, I don’t know. I am adopted. Please don’t give me this form again,” Flaherty said.

Healy said Catholic Charities provides medical records upon request while maintaining the anonymity of parents’ identities, unless they are willing to lift the veil of secrecy.

Flaherty said the only medical records she received were those available at the time of her adoption. She said they list information from her maternal grandparents, but points out that she lacks her parents’ medical history since 1969.

“We are reaching out to these birth mothers in the best way we have with the resources we have,” Healy said.

Healy acknowledged the difficulties in finding those who abandoned their babies as teenagers in the 1950s and 60s.

“People move multiple times, they get married, they change their names, that kind of stuff happens,” he said.

So for now, the search continues.

“It’s a feeling of loss that you really can’t get over,” Flaherty said.


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