January Session, 1999
Substitute Senate Bill No. 1274
Senate, April 22, 1999
The Committee on Judiciary reported through SEN. WILLIAMS of the 29th Dist., Chairperson of the Committee on the part of the Senate, that the substitute bill ought to pass.
An Act Concerning Release of Adoption Records.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:
Section 1. (NEW) (a) Notwithstanding the provisions of chapter 803 of the general statutes, if the parental rights of biological parents of an individual have been terminated in this state before October 1, 1977, or on or after the effective date of this act, such individual, on attaining eighteen years of age or any time thereafter, (1) may examine the individual's original birth certificate or birth record and receive a copy of such certificate or record pursuant to section 7-51 of the general statutes, and (2) may access information in possession of a child-placing agency or the Department of Children and Families that identifies the individual's biological parents. Any information provided in this section shall not be released unless the registrar of vital statistics, the Department of Public Health, any child-placing agency or the Department of Children and Families, as the case may be, is satisfied as to the identity of the person requesting the information.
(b) An individual requesting information under this section who is of the opinion that an item of information is being withheld may petition the Probate Court for an order for release of the information.
Sec. 2. (NEW) (a) Notwithstanding the provisions of chapter 803 of the general statutes, if the parental rights of the biological parents of an individual were terminated in this state on or after October 1, 1977, and before the effective date of this act, that individual may, on attaining eighteen years of age or any time thereafter, petition the Probate Court (1) for permission to examine the individual's original birth certificate or birth record and to receive a copy of that certificate or record, and (2) for an order for a child-placing agency or the Department of Children and Families to release information in its possession that identifies the individual's biological parents. The Probate Court shall not accept any such petition unless the court is satisfied as to the identity of the petitioning individual.
(b) The petition may be filed in the probate court in the probate district (1) where the child-placing agency or the Department of Children and Families has an office, or (2) where the individual resides, or (3) if the individual was adopted, where the adoption was finalized.
(c) The court shall give notice of the petition to each biological parent who was party to the order terminating parental rights. The notice shall be sent, no later than ten days after the filing of the petition, by registered mail, return receipt requested, to such biological parent at the most recent address of record, including any address registered pursuant to section 45a-755 of the general statutes, as amended by this act.
(d) The notice shall state that (1) a petition has been filed in the Probate Court requesting information that will identify the biological parent of the petitioner, and (2) such information will be released to the petitioner unless the biological parent, within twenty days of the filing of the petition, files an objection with the Probate Court to the release of such information.
(e) If service by mail on such parent cannot be made, the Probate Court shall promptly cause notice to the parent to be published in a newspaper having a substantial general circulation in the probate district in which the petition was filed. The notice shall identify the individual sought to be given notice and state that a matter is pending in the Probate Court concerning the release of information that may be of interest to the individual and that the individual has ten days to file with the Probate Court a statement of the individual's interest in the matter together with a current address. If the biological parent files a statement of interest in the matter, the Probate Court shall give notice to such parent by such reasonable means as it may determine of the petition requesting release of information concerning the parent's identity and of the parent's right, within twenty days, to file an objection with the Probate Court to the release of such information.
(f) The court shall immediately grant the petition (1) if twenty days after giving notice of the petition requesting release of identifying information, no objection to the release of the information has been filed, or (2) if ten days after publication of the newspaper notice, the parents have not filed a statement of interest.
(g) If a biological parent objects in a timely manner to release of the information, the court shall set the matter for a hearing no later than seven days after the objection is filed. The court shall allow parties to present evidence of their interests in the release or nondisclosure of the identity of the biological parent, but shall conduct the hearing in a manner that protects the identity of the objecting biological parent. After the hearing, the court shall grant the petition for release of identifying information unless, after weighing the respective interests, the court finds, for good cause, that the identity of the biological parent should not be released. The court shall render a decision within twenty days after the last hearing on the merits as to whether the requested information should be released. If a decision is not rendered within twenty days, the petition shall be deemed to be granted.
(h) Court fees and expenses shall be waived.
Sec. 3. Section 7-53 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:
Upon receipt of the record of adoption referred to in subsection (e) of section 45a-745 or of other evidence satisfactory to the Department of Public Health that a person born in this state has been adopted, said department shall prepare a new birth certificate of such adopted person. Such new birth certificate shall include all the information required to be set forth in a certificate of birth of this state as of the date of birth, except that the adopting parents shall be named as the parents instead of the genetic parents and, when a certified copy of the birth of such person is requested by an authorized person, a copy of the new certificate of birth as prepared by the department shall be provided, except that the registrar of vital statistics of any town in which the birth of such person was recorded or the Department of Public Health [may] shall, except for individuals subject to section 2 of this act, issue a certified copy of the original certificate of birth on file, marked with a notation by the issuer that such original certificate of birth has been superseded by a new certificate of birth as on file, [or may] and shall, permit the examination of such record upon a written order, in accordance with the provisions of section 2 of this act or section 45a-751, signed by the judge of the probate court for the district in which the adopted person was adopted or born or upon written order of the Probate Court in accordance with the provisions of section 45a-752, stating that the court is of the opinion that the examination of the birth record of the adopted person by the adopting parents or the adopted person, if over eighteen years of age, or by the person wishing to examine the same or that the issuance of a copy of such birth certificate to the adopting parents, adopted person, if over eighteen years of age or to the person applying therefor will not be detrimental to the public interest or to the welfare of the adopted person or to the welfare of the genetic or adoptive parent or parents. Immediately after a new certificate of birth has been prepared, an exact copy of such certificate, together with a written notice of the evidence of adoption, shall be transmitted by the department to the registrar of vital statistics of each town in this state in which the birth of the adopted person is recorded. The new birth certificate, the original certificate of birth on file and the evidence of adoption shall be filed and indexed, under such regulations as the Department of Public Health makes to carry out the provisions of this section and to prevent access to the records of birth and adoption and the information therein contained without due cause, except as herein provided. Any person, except such parents or adopted person, who discloses any information contained in such records, except as herein provided, shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars or imprisoned not more than six months or both. Whenever a certified copy of an adoption decree from a court of a foreign country, having jurisdiction of the adopted person, is filed with the Department of Public Health under the provisions of this section, such decree, when written in a language other than English, shall be accompanied by an English translation, which shall be subscribed and sworn to as a true translation by an American consulate officer stationed in such foreign country.
Sec. 4. Section 45a-755 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:
(a) Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 45a-746 to 45a-754, inclusive, the department and each child-placing agency which was party to, or participated in, either applications for approval of adoption agreements or termination of parental rights shall maintain registries. Such registries shall contain registrations of voluntary consents, refusals of consent and revocations of consent to the release of information which would identify the registrant. In the case where no child-placing agency was party to or involved in either proceeding, the Department of Children and Families shall establish and maintain such registry. At any time following the termination of parental rights, the registration may be filed by: (1) A biological parent who was a party to the proceeding for the termination of parental rights; (2) an adult adopted person, an adult adoptable person, an adult adopted biological sibling of an adoptable or adopted person, or an adult nonadopted biological sibling of an adoptable or adopted person; (3) lineal ascendants and descendants of a deceased biological parent; (4) an adoptive parent for the purpose of obtaining medical information which affects an adopted person; or (5) a person claiming to be the father who was not a party to the proceeding for the termination of parental rights. No registrations shall be accepted unless the child-placing agency or department is satisfied as to the identity of the registrants.
(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 45a-746 to 45a-754, inclusive, the department and each child-placing agency which was a party to, or participated in, either applications for approval of adoption agreements or termination of parental rights shall maintain registries for medical information. The department and each such child-placing agency shall receive medical information concerning an adopted person provided by a biological parent or blood relative of such adopted person. Upon receipt of such information, the department or child-placing agency shall notify such adopted person or, if such person is a minor, the adoptive parent of such adopted person of the availability of such information, provided the department or child-placing agency has the address or telephone number of such adopted person or adoptive parent. No information that would tend to identify the biological parent or blood relative providing the medical information shall be disclosed without the consents required by subsection (a) of this section.
(c) Any biological parent may register such parent's name and address in a registry maintained pursuant to subsection (a) of this section for the purpose of receiving notice of a petition to release the identity of such biological parent pursuant to section 2 of this act.
Sec. 5. Section 45a-744 of the general statutes is repealed.
Statement of Legislative Commissioners: Technical changes were made for accuracy.
The following fiscal impact statement and bill analysis are prepared for the benefit of members of the General Assembly, solely for the purpose of information, summarization, and explanation, and do not represent the intent of the General Assembly or either House thereof for any purpose:
OFA Fiscal Note
Cost, Minimal Revenue Gain
Department of Public Health, Children and Families, Judicial Department, Probate Court
Potential Cost, Minimal Revenue Gain
The Department of Children and Families (DCF) will incur a workload increase to respond to additional requests for information from adult adoptees. This will encompass identifying whether the DCF was the placing agency for a given individual as well as verifying that the person's parental rights were terminated prior to October 1, 1977 or after September 30, 1999. The agency currently employs two staff who perform record searches for adoptees.
It should be noted that the DCF is the sole repository for records of persons adopted in Connecticut prior to 1958. Since that time it has only maintained information on persons placed in adoption by the state. This represents a minority of the persons adopted each year as the predominant number of persons placed in adoption since 1958 have been processed by private agencies. Over the last decade the DCF has placed an average of 250 children in adoption each year, while private agencies have processed an average of approximately 4, 000 children annually.
A further workload increase will result from the inclusion of data on biological parent in the DCF's adoption registry. It is assumed that this will be accommodated within the agency's anticipated budgetary resources.
The Department of Public Health will incur an FY 00 cost of $49, 750 to respond to an estimated additional 300 inquiries from adopted individuals annually. Included in this sum is $24, 000 to support the three-quarter year costs of a Health Program Assistant needed to verify that an inquiring party's parental rights have been terminated prior to October 1, 1977 or after September 30, 1999. Presumably this validation would require contact with the Department of Children and Families or the Probate Court. Additional costs of $21, 750 would be incurred to provide three-quarter year support for an Office Assistant needed to locate the applicable pre-adoption birth certificate. It should be noted that the DPH maintains 65, 000 adoption records dating back to 1936 in an off-site storage facility. Associated other expenses and equipment costs of $4, 000 would be required in FY 00. In subsequent fiscal years a total cost of $62, 000 would be incurred to support the annualized cost of this initiative.
As a charge of $15 is collected for each certified copy of a birth certificate, an estimated $4, 500 in revenues will be collected on an annualized basis.
A further potential indeterminate cost may result should the DPH commissioner determine that regulatory changes are needed to modify the agency's existing adoption registry. Any additional expenses would be associated with consultant services required to update information in the registry to facilitate the release of information in compliance with the intent of the bill, and cannot be quantified at this time.
Passage of the bill would result in a redistribution of current resources of the Probate Court in order to accommodate its new responsibilities. A minimal cost will result to the extent that the court provides written notice to biological parents. Postage costs of $2.98 per each letter of certified mail, return receipt requested, and an increased administrative workload will be incurred. In cases in which service by mail cannot be made a cost will be incurred to publish notice in a newspaper. Since the bill requires court fees and expenses to be waived, no offsetting revenue is anticipated.
The Superior Court will experience a workload increase to the extent that it responds to inquiries concerning the termination of parental rights of persons who were not subsequently adopted but deemed adoptable. The court would be the sole custodian of these records. It is anticipated that any resulting additional administrative work will be accommodated by clerks of the court within their anticipated budgetary resources.
Provisions in this bill will result in an indeterminate number of additional requests for copies of original birth certificates. The greatest demand would be anticipated in urban areas having large resident populations and maternity hospitals. Actual workload increases for local registrars in each community and their ability to respond to the same cannot be determined at this time. As a charge of $5 is received for each certified copy of a birth certificate, a minimal revenue gain will result.
OLR Bill Analysis
An Act Concerning Release of Adoption Records
SUMMARY: This bill makes it easier for adopted adults, and other adults whose parents have had their parental rights terminated (adoptable adults) , to obtain information on the identities of their biological parents and to receive a copy of their original birth certificate. It gives people adopted before October 1, 1977 and after September 30, 1999 an absolute right to this information. People adopted between the two dates can petition the probate court for the information. If the parent consents, the information can be released; if not, the probate court must hold a hearing. The court may still release the information for good cause.
The bill allows biological parents to register their names in order to receive notice of a request to release their identity. It also repeals a statement of state policy on the release of information to adopted people and those eligible for adoption.
EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 1999
Access Without Court Involvement
The bill gives someone age 18 or older whose biological parents had their parental rights terminated before October 1, 1977 or after September 30, 1999 an absolute right to (1) examine and receive a copy of his original birth certificate and (2) have access to information that identifies his biological parents. A person can request the birth certificate from the local registrar of vital statistics and the State Health Department and the identifying information from the Department of Children and Families (DCF) or the licensed child-placing agency. The registrar, department, or agency must not release the information without satisfactory proof of the requestor's identity. If the requestor believes information is being withheld, he may petition the probate court for an order directing release.
Access With Probate Court Involvement
Individuals whose biological parents' parental rights were terminated from October 1, 1977 through September 30, 1999 can, on attaining the age of 18, petition the probate court for (1) access to their original birth certificates and (2) an order directing DCF or the child placing agency to release information identifying their biological parents. The probate court cannot accept the petition unless it is satisfied at to the petitioner's identity. The petition may be filed in the probate court (1) where the child placing agency or DCF has an office, (2) where the individual lives, or (3) where the adoption was finalized.
Notice to Biological Parents
The probate court must give each biological parent who was a party to the termination registered-mail notice at his last known address within 10 days of the petition being filed. The notice must inform the biological parent that a petition requesting his identity has been filed and that the information will be released unless he files an objection within 20 days of the filing of the petition.
If service cannot be made by mail, the court must publish notice in a newspaper with substantial circulation in the probate district. It must (1) identify the people being sought, (2) state that a petition has been filed in probate court concerning the release of information that may be of interest to them, and (3) inform them that they have 10 days to file a "statement of interest" with the court. If they file such a statement, the court must give them notice, by reasonable means, of the petition requesting identifying information and that they have 20 days to object.
Hearing on Objection
If a biological parent files a timely objection, the probate court must set a hearing date within seven days of the objection being filed. The court must allow both sides to present evidence concerning release or nondisclosure, but it must do so in a way that protects the identity of the biological parent. The court must render its decision within 20 days of the last hearing. It must weigh the interests of both sides and must release the information unless it finds, for good cause, that the biological parent's identity should not be released.
Order for Release of Identifying Information
The court must immediately grant the petition and order release of the information or access to the birth certificate if:
1. no objection has been filed within 20 days after it gives notice of the petition,
2. no statement of interest has been filed within 10 days of newspaper notice,
3. it does not find good cause to deny the release, or
4. it has not made a decision within 20 days of the hearing's conclusion.
The bill requires the court to waive all court fees and expenses for such proceedings.
Birth Certificate Access
Currently, the local registrar of vital statistics in the town where a birth is recorded or the state Department of Public Health can grant access to, or a certified copy of, an original birth certificate in adoption situations only if the probate court issues a written order authorizing it. Access must be based on the court's finding that it is not detrimental to the public interest or the welfare of the adopted person, biological parents, or adoptive parents. The bill grants an absolute right to such access for those age 18 or older except for those persons whose parental rights were terminated from October 1, 1977 through September 30, 1999 whose access is subject to the procedures outlined above.
State Policy Repeal
The bill repeals a statement of state policy concerning access to adoption information first adopted in 1977 as part of the current system regulating identifying and nonidentifying adoption information. It states that it is state policy to make available to adopted and adoptable adults:
1. background and status information and to give this information to their adult descendants and adoptive parents and
2. identifying information for their adult relatives and biological parents, if its release is consensual and in their best interest.
It is also state policy under this provision to protect the privacy rights of all parties to a termination of parental rights or adoption proceeding, except information can be made available concerning the identity of adult adopted or adoptable people to biological parents and adult biological siblings.
Joint Favorable Report