People who were born and adopted in Connecticut prior to 1983 can now legally and easily obtain their own birth records for the first time in decades.
The passage of Public Act 21-21 gives town and city clerks the authority to provide adult adoptees access to their original birth documents, a right that was barred in 1974.
As chairman of the CT Town Clerks Association (CTCA) Legislative & Elections Committee, New Britain City Clerk Mark Bernacki worked alongside Access Connecticut, Inc. and other advocacy groups to testify in support of this legislation.
“It’s enriching and rewarding to know we all had a small part to play in this,” Bernacki told the Herald Monday. “It’s something everyone should take solace with and know going forward that this information will be available to people who really don’t know their genetic ancestry. This is another avenue for people to get closer to their family tree and maybe rekindle some long outstanding kinship, as well as important health information.”
The Hospital of Central CT (formerly New Britain General) is one about 12 birthing hospitals across the state. Individuals born there can download an application to receive their birth records within 30 days at newbritainct.gov/services/town_clerk/vital_records.htm
While Bernacki said there is no way to count exactly how many birth records are newly available in New Britain, it was estimated this new provision will impact about 38,000 adoptees currently living in the state.
“Since it became effective July 1 we’ve already had seven or eight people come in for their records,” he said.
Online genealogy databases like ancestry.com and 23andMe have broadened the general interest in family history in recent years. While consumer DNA testing has made it increasingly easy to find birth relatives, advocates fought to have the same rights as non-adoptees.
Access Connecticut, Inc. Co-President Karen Caffrey started working on adoption reform about 20 years ago and there were people working on the issue long before that.
“I am just thrilled on behalf of all of Connecticut’s adoptees that they have had equality restored,” Caffrey told the Herald. “They have the same civil rights to know their biological identities as the non-adopted. I’m grateful to the Connecticut legislators for listening to us and taking this step.”
The road to adoption reform has been a long one, with small victories over the last few decades.
In the mid-eighties, a provision was added allowing adoptees to get a copy of their birth certificate with a court order or upon the death of a biological parent.
Then in 2014 the law was amended to allow adoptees born after Oct. 1, 1983 to obtain their birth information. This latest change opens access to all adoptees.
“The law restores a right that existed in Connecticut before 1974,” Caffrey said. “It is a basic fundamental right to walk into your government center and be treated the same as any other citizen.”
Connecticut was the 10th state to enact this type of legislation.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at email@example.com.