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Children’s best interests: Two bills would make our adoptions fairer

2019-08-19

Everyone should be able to get it.

Amid the frenzy in Albany in late June, lawmakers passed two bills with great potential to positively affect the lives of New Yorkers.

One bill allows adoptees over age 18 to obtain their long-form birth certificates, with the full names and addresses of their parents. Whether out of understandable curiosity about your origins or to learn family medical history, people want to know where they came from. The days when mothers who gave children up for adoption could remain anonymous are long past. DNA tracking or private detectives already allow adoptees with money to trace their lineage. Cuomo should sign the bill and bring the law in line with adoptees’ current reality.

Cuomo should also sign the Preserving Family Bonds Act, for cases when parental rights were severed by court order and a child permanently removed from the parents’ care. The new law would grant Family Court judges a power they currently lack: the ability to decide whether or not a child can contact the birth parents in such instances.

Sometimes contact with birth parents is harmful for children. But for others, studies show that allowing adopted kids contact with biological parents, known as “open adoption,” is mostly good for children. It can keep them from blaming themselves, and give them access to family medical history.

Importantly, the law grants judges the discretion to decide, based on whether that kind of contact would be “in the child’s best interest.”

That principle — doing what is in a child’s “best interest” — is what matters.