Adoptees can now order original birth certificates

NYS kept original records sealed since the 1930s

Mike Baggerman
January 15, 2020 - 12:12 pm
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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - Wednesday is the first day that adoptees can apply for their original birth certificates.

For decades, records were sealed until Albany lawmakers voted to pass a bill last year that was later signed by Governor Cuomo.

In order to obtain the original birth certification, adoptees must be at least 18 years of age or older. A direct descendent like a child, grandchild, can also apply for the birth certificate or any lawful representative of the adopted person. Adoptees can order the original birth certificates by clicking here and paying a $45 fee. 

Zachary Fried, the Compliance Director at Adoption STAR, a Buffalo-based adoption agency, said it's a huge day for adoptees.

"This does open the gate to be able to find more information about one's birth history and birth family and potentially reunite with people within their birth family," Fried said. "This is monumental for adoptees."

Prior to Wednesday, adoptees could search for their parents by visiting the adopting agency or attorney or through a form on the New York State Department of Health and hope that their parents also, at some point, registered with the state.

"In some cases, that other person hadn't registered and there wasn't any information shared," Fried said.

Fried said there is concerns about a breach in confidentiality, specifically with birth parents who may have not wanted to meet their children.

"We need to be sensitive about the desires of those who made adoption plans," Fried said. "In some scenarios it will be that...now they are in a place where they are okay for that reunion but haven't taken any formal steps. But there will certainly be others where it won't be a comfortable feeling. It won't be something they're excited about. They may already be very nervous that that day will come because this law has gone into effect. It's important when obtaining these original birth certificates and any records thereafter to be sensitive to the birth parents. Think about what it may be like for them and to approach it lightly."

WBEN's Allan Harris is among those who were thrilled by the ability to receive his original adoption certificate.

"Most adoptees have a question mark on their minds: Who am I?" Harris said. "How do I find out who I actually am? I'm a member of this adopted family and they're wonderful people in many cases and it's a great life, but there's more to it than that."

Beyond curiosity, Harris said knowing your family history can have help with your health records, like when a doctor asks about a history of heart and kidney disease.

Harris said he'll never be able to meet his birth parents because they died, but he is developing a relationship with many half-brothers and sisters.

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