Making it easier for adoptees to find birth parents

Kathy Uek

Some adopted children will have an easier time tracking down their birth parents under a new state law that took effect Jan. 1.

"There has been a lot of interest and a lot of individuals and advocates who fought hard and wanted to get this through," said Sen. Karen E. Spilka, D-Ashland, who co-sponsored the bill. "Some wanted full access but understood the constraints, so what we did was a nice balance."

Those constraints included protecting parents who were given a promise of privacy when they put their children up for adoption, said Rep. John Lepper, R-Attleboro, who filed the bill.

The measure is referred to as the "ABC Law" because the ABC Group (Access to Uncertified Original Birth Certificates) began the movement for change.

"ABC is made up of adoptees or people who have given children up for adoption who have been active in getting adoption records open because adoptees wanted to know their family background to say who they were," said Lepper. "Am I Italian, an Irishman, what's my background? That's a strong feeling among many adopted people."

The adoption community has been trying to pass a bill like this for about 20 years, said Janice G. Halpern, spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange, Inc.

The new law makes it possible to obtain birth records without a court order for adopted persons born before July 14, 1974, and after Jan. 1, 2008.

Before 1974, adoptees could find out the identity of their parents because they had access to their original birth certificates. In 1974, the Legislature changed the law making it necessary for adoptees to go to court. After 1974, birth certificates for adopted children were sealed.

"The gap in the years after 1974 protects those people who were given a promise of privacy when they put their children up for adoption," said Lepper, who added getting the measure passed took 10 years because of those privacy concerns.

Gov. Deval Patrick signed the new law Sept. 6, 2007.

"Those born after 1974 still have to go to a judge to obtain their records or they can put their name on the Adoption Contact Information Registry," said Spilka. That registry allows birth parents and adoptees to track each other down.

Once funding has been provided, hopefully in the next budget, the registry will be set up, according to Spilka's office.

Rep. Stephen P. LeDuc, D-Marlborough, a co-sponsor of the bill, shepherded it through the House.

For more information, contact Sen. Spilka's office at 617-722-1640, the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics at 617-740-2600, or visit

Kathy Uek can be reached at 508-626-4419 or

MetroWest Daily News