Wednesday, July 02, 2008

MICHIGAN HB 4896 – BAIT & SWITCH



BAIT & SWITCH – MICHIGAN STYLE



The original Michigan HB 4896, filed in March, 2008, was such a good bill. It would have allowed adopted adults to access their original birth certificates, unconditionally and without falsifications. It contained a non-binding contact preference form. The bill had no strings attached. It was heard in the House Children & Family Services Committee on March 5, 2008 and passed by a vote of 5-3.

However, on the way to the House Floor, HB 4896 was amended. The original intent was gutted.
Here is how HB4896 looks now:

1) Adoptees may request their original birth certificate from the Department of Human Services. Their request must be accompanied by a copy of clearance from a central adoption registry.[note: see HB 6287]

2) A Confidential Intermediary may request the original birth record of a client. The birth record will be marked “sealed record only.”

3) This amendatory act (HB 4897) does not take effect unless House Bill No.6287 is enacted into law.


See complete text at http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2007-2008/billengrossed/House/htm/2007-HEBH-4896.htm

House Bill 4896 passed on the floor of the House on June 27, 2008.

And the original supporters of HB 4896 cheered.



A brand new companion bill to HB 4896, HB 6287, has been filed and is now making its way very quickly through the halls of the House.

The strings are all attached in this bill. And remember, the amended HB 4896 (HB 4897) cannot go into effect unless House Bill No.6287 is enacted into law.


HB 6287 will establish a central adoption registry to control the release of identifying information.

Forms will be developed for “former parents” to use to consent to, deny, or revoke a consent to or denial of, the release of identifying information.

The sponsors of this bill have the audacity to continue to use the term contact preference form. A true contact preference form does not legally bind the filing of any form with the issuance of an original birth certificate. This is not the case in HB 6287. What the lawmakers are calling a contact preference form in this particular bill is in reality a disclosure veto or an Affadavit of Nondisclosure.

HB 6827 even provides a form for “adult former siblings” to use to provide notice of the death of a former parent and to consent to the release of the ”adult former sibling's” name and address to an adult adoptee.

Complete textofHB6827
http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/20072008/billintroduced/House/pdf/2008-HIB-6287.pdf


And the original supporters of HB 4896 are also cheering on HB 6827.






How much better it would have been if Representative Lisa Wojna, sponsor of the original bill, and her supporters, had pulled their original HB 4896 when the talk of amendments began. The bill should have been killed right then and there!

True, there would be no adoptee rights bill this year in Michigan but there would be the opportunity to try again next year with a clean slate!

Instead, the Michigan people who worked so very hard on the original HB 4896 have given up the fight to have a true adoptee rights law in their state. They have become “Deformers.”

The term “Adoption Deformers” is a phrase coined by Bastard Nation Founder and Executive Chair Marley Greiner. Deformers are adoptees who want us to proceed in baby steps. They ask us to accept compromise bills which contain parental restrictions, disclosure vetoes, contact vetoes, redactions, or confidential intermediary systems in place of unsealing birth records to all adopted individuals in the same way as all non-adopted citizens get their birth certificate.

Deformers claim that these conditional access bills have a better chance of being passed and that is reason enough to grab them. Deformers say that legislation which gives some adoptees access to their original birth certificate is “better than nothing.” They tell us,”It’s the best we could do. It’s all we could get.” They hope that conditional access legislation will serve as an intermediate step to someday getting true adoptee rights legislation. And in the meantime, they tell us, some adoptees will receive their original birth records.

History knows better! Once laws are passed, legislators are very reluctant to revisit the same issue again any time soon. They believe they’ve “fixed the problem” and they want to move on to other issues – not go backwards. Even if some lawmakers do revisit the original issue in the future, there is no indication that they would be more inclined to openness than before the conditional access legislation passed.

Bottom Line: The MICHIGAN BAIT & SWITCH BILLS do not treat all adopted adults equally because “former parents” will be able to block the issuance of an original birth certificate to the adoptee. Some adoptees will be more equal than others in Michigan.




19 comments:

Pennagal said...

Alas, I fear you are quite right. Some supporters of the original bill are mourning its amendment while others are patting themselves on the back for doing such a good job.

Of course, Michigan is apparently the only state in the union that actually had written a guarantee of confidentiality into the law for some natural parents.

It's sad that in such an advanced country that we still do not accord all our citizens civil rights equality.

Mary Lynn Fuller said...

I will never understand why sponsors don't pull original bills when it becomes evident that amendments have led to disaster and not equality for all adult adoptees. As the saying goes, "go for the gold". It is just pathetic that this has happened in MI and sadly it could take years to change this mess.

Marley Greiner said...

Thanks, Anita! More divide an conquer. Don't they realize that no matter how much they rollover that the opposition will continue to kick them? Ask for what you want and stick with it. Respect yourself and bastards. If you don't' nobody else will.

Gaye Sherman said...

A question - I've read both bills and I'm wondering if I have this correct.

It seems like the adoptees must make their request to either the court or the agency - and the agency or court will then make the request to the Central Adoption Registry. So you would need to know what agency and/or court handled your adoption.

And that's just to get clearance. Then you first have to apply for your birth certificate.

Also - Choice "D" for the former parent says "I PREFER NOT TO BE CONTACTED AT THIS TIME AND REQUEST THAT A CERTIFIED COPY OF THE ORIGINAL CERTIFICATE OF LIVE BIRTH NOT BE RELEASED TO THE ADOPTED INDIVIDUAL."

Note the language - "prefer", "request" SEE, it really is a Preference Form. Pffft.

The non-disclosure "request" states that the OBC "not be released" - not that a redacted version can be released. Doesn't anyone read these things? Things were so simple in Oregon.

Anita said...

Yes, there are "preferences" but I don't like to see them using the term "Contact Preference Form." This form grew out of Oregon & Measure 58 and was NEVER meant to be legally binding on adoptees not getting their obcs.

The Central Adoption Registry they want to establish reminds me so much of Illinois. I ties everyone up in knows with forms, forms, and more forms. Can you just imagine how much time and effort it will take for an adoptee to make a request?!

Illinois's current proposed bill is something like 72 pages filled with complicated language and I say, "the more pages there are, the better to hide things."

Grannie Annie

jim said...

I don't think many supporters of the original bill 4896 are cheering for HB6827.
Regardless of the outcome this time, we need to introduce, re-introduce, and re-introduce CLEAN records bills until equality is achieved.
MY "representatives" should be ashamed of themselves. Piss-poor performance at best.

jim
adoptee from the Discriminatory State of Michigan

Anita said...

Jim, I hope that the original supporters of 4826 will be in the trenches in the Senate fighting against 6287 so that you all can come back next year with a clean bill. If these "double-trouble" bill should become law in Michigan, it's going to be extremely difficult if not impossible to get the lawmakers to revisit the birth certificate issue any time soon. They will believe that they have "fixed" all the problems with 6287.

Anita

MI Adoptee said...

I agree that ALL adoptees, everywhere, should be granted access to their original birth certificates; however, Michigan law differs from most states with regard to their adoption law history. Between May, 1945 and September, 1980, adoption records were sealed by law. People whose parental rights were terminated before and after the dates above enjoy open records - and access to their OBCs, unless a birth parent has filed a denial (statistically, less than 3% do so).

Please NOTE: These bills do NOT create a Central Adoption Registry; Michigan has had one for over 10 years. It doesn't add a Confidential Intermediary Program, either; we've had that, too. It simply employs them in the process of obtaining our OBCs and identifying information from our adoption files.

House Bills 4896 and 6287, if they are enacted, would bring closed records adoptees on par with their open records counterparts, giving thousands of people access to not only their OBCs, but some identifying information from their adoption files. As you can see from the dates I outlined above, many closed record era adoptees - not to mention their older birth parents - are aging (and dying), and the longer we take to help the 97+% of those adoptees who would benefit from this legislation, the more answers will be lost for these people - probably forever. There is no getting back time lost for these adoptees, and helping the largest number of people in the quickest way possible is what 4896 and 6287 are engineered to do.

The reason that 4896 was amended and 6287 was introduced is that two different departments of Michigan government are affected by this legislation - the Department of Community Health holds ALL OBCs, while the Department of Human Services holds our adoption files. The two bills are tie-barred because of the process (which 6287 outlines) needed to implement the law, should it take effect. Yes, there is currently a contact veto employed in this legislation, and that is NEVER a good thing.

I understand your enthusiasm and admire your commitment to getting clean bills introduced and passed for everyone. Michigan legislators (and by that, I mean the Senate Committee Chair and his crones) should be ashamed of themselves for bending to the will of the conservative PACs who opposed the original version of 4896 and killing it by refusing to advance it through committee, or even to hear testimony on it.

Michigan needs this legislation, NOW. In a perfect world, HB 4896 and Senate Bill 0592 would have passed without discussion. However, as long as there are people VOTED into office who accept money from these conservative PACs, change will never come to the extent that we would like. That being said, this legislation would at least advance some of the people affected by the archaic practice of keeping us from our original birth records.

Anonymous said...

My, my, my. No, MI Adoptee, Michigan does not need this bill now. Michigan doesn't need this compromise bill ever. How many times have we heard folks tell us that, "Their state is different. Their state is special." Nope, not buying it. How can anyone believe that a civil right is only a civil right for some people & not for others? Look, there are four states that have all proven that a clean bill can pass (whether by initiative or legislatively) and those are Oregon, Alabama, New Hampshire & Maine. It CAN be done. So why, oh why, would you settle for less? Would you prefer to be like NJ and spend the next twenty years trying to undo the compromises? Don't tell me that this Michigan bill is needed in order to help most of the MI adoptees. Let them all be equal and let all of them be equal to the non-adopted. It's the right thing to do.
Janet Allen - New Hampshire

MI Adoptee said...

Janet, while I appreciate your comments and agree with you that equal access for everyone is the right thing to do, Michigan IS different. Can you name one other state that EVER guaranteed a birth parent's anonymity if they requested it...in writing? Michigan did when they amended adoption law in 1980.

Are you telling me that you would rather DIE waiting for unfettered access for everyone rather than to be able to gain access for those who have NO recourse under current law? That it is okay for SOME Michigan adoptees to be treated differently from the rest, simply because of the date that their parents' rights were terminated? Are you saying that it is acceptable to you that my 5-year-old nephew, who is also adopted, will be able to get his original birth certificate when he turns 18, but his aunt (who will be 58 at that time) will not? Are you going to tell the thousands of adult adoptees whose records are closed that you're sorry, but it is all or nothing, and they have no right to know where they came from because their civil rights have been violated (even though the ACLU does not believe this is a civil rights issue)?

Janet, Michigan adoptees have been fighting compromise for over six decades. This legislation, at the very least, puts ALL Michigan adoptees on the same, level playing field, so that we will be better able to organize for the interests of EVERYONE. I agree that it is wrong to deny us our OBCs, just because someone who gave up all rights to us decides we aren't to be trusted with the truth of who we are. However, you are in favor of further punishing people whose time for answers grows more and more limited every day. Helping THOSE people is the right thing to do.

Anita said...

To MI Adoptee

Could you please elaborate a bit on how Michigan is totally different from all other states because it has written promises to birth mothers.When and how did this come about? Is it in a law (if yes, what law?) or did original bmothers receive written promises?
Thanks,
Anita

Than

MI Adoptee said...

Thank you for asking, Anita!

Sections 710.27a and 710.27b of the Michigan Probate Code of 1939 (Act 288 of 1939), in addition to establishing the Central Adoption Registry, paragraph 3 of 710.27a states:
"(4) At the time of termination of parental rights pursuant to this chapter or chapter XIIA, the court shall inform each parent of the provisions described in this section and sections 27b, 68, 68a, and 68b. The court shall inform each parent that the parent's consent to the release of identifying information about that parent specified in section 27(3)(b) and (c) shall be presumed unless the parent files a statement with the central adoption registry denying the release of the information about that parent. The court shall explain the parent's right to file, update, or revoke the denial at any time, and shall provide each parent with the forms prescribed under section 27b."

This amendment to the adoption code went into effect on January 1, 1995, and the consent is "presumed" (ONLY to all open adoptions in Michigan) - birth parents are now given the consent/denial form at the time they relinquish their children, and it is considered binding unless a revocation is submitted. The opposite is the case with closed adoptions. The LACK of a consent form is considered a DENIAL. Therefore, you have two groups of people in the same situation, only they are treated exactly the opposite in the eyes of the law.

Anita said...

Anita says:
Illinois has a similar provision – we call it ab "18.3" – and it went into affect on Jan. 1, 2006. It is like yours I think, in that the information goes through our state Adoption Registry.

The proposed bill in IL is taking into consideration the “18.3s” and last I heard, wants to honor these b.parents’ requests for denial.

Are the birth mothers in Michigan given this consent/denial option at birth, or is it like ours –the option comes at the time that they register with the MI
Adoption Registry.

I’m confused about something else too. What exactly do you mean by an “open adoption?” It has always been my understanding that while many potential adoptive parents and birth mothers enter into a variety of “open adoptions,” none of them is legally binding. Open adoptions are ways in which both sets of parents have worked out an adoption plan to suit their special needs. Nothing is enforceable in the law. How do you define open adoptions?
Thanks,
Anita

MI Adoptee said...

Birth parents in Michigan are given the consent/denial option at the time of the child's birth, though they have the alternative of filing a revised consent/denial with the Central Adoption Registry at any time after that.

By "open adoption", I meant that, under Michigan law, an adoptee whose parents' rights were terminated BEFORE May 28, 1945 or AFTER September 12, 1980 can rquest a copy of their OBC and identifying information from their adoption files at the time they turn 18 years of age. The only thing that would stop them is if their birth parents filed a denial (statistically which, I'm sure you know, less than 2% do). In direct answer to your question: Yes, an adoption plan is worked out between the birth and adoptive parents and no, it is not enforceable under current law.

Please understand, Anita. I am NOT condoning the fact that the Michigan government as it now stands has decided that a birth parent can stand in the way of an adoptee gaining access to their original birth record; that piece of paper is rightfully ours - as it is every other person born in this country. What I am saying is that the clock is ticking for many, many adoptees in this state, and parity with the people born both before and after us is a big deal for those aging adoptees. Since it is going to be impossible for us to gain unfettered access to our OBCs in the forseeable future (the control of Michigan's Senate is not expected to change for at least the next two terms), isn't it our duty to help as many people who can benefit from this legislation as we can, given the current environment?

Anita said...

MI adoptee

I have a feeling that when you began this journey, you wanted to see a true adoptee rights bill passed and that you worked your butt off to get it passed.

But no, I don't think it is our "duty" to help as many people as we can when that number will most definitely not be ALL.

It is the STATE'S duty to give access to 100% of the adoptees in its state. It should always be a state's duty to treat all of its citizens equally.

I think it is our duty to do everything possible to keep the state on the straight and narrow. Think about it. How dare any state pass a law where one group of its citizens are going to be treated unequally among their own group.

Granted, your state has an already complicated adoption law. You're a sandwich state - I didn't realize that before. The sandwich was the compromise last time around. Once a state starts making compromises, it makes it a hundred times harder to revisit the issue and try and get a clean bill passed, as evidenced this year.

Anita

MI Adoptee said...

While I would agree that it is the individual states' responsibility to give all of its citizens equal rights under the law, it is the duty of the citizens to vote into office those who will see their wishes carried out. Michigan has several died-in-the-wool conservative areas that consistently elect conservative leadership; it is these leaders who oppose equal access legislation, mainly because they reside in areas where conservative agencies (i.e. RTL, NCFA and Bethany Christian Services) are very vocal about protecting "birth parents' rights". As I stated in an earlier post, this is not expected to change for at least the next two upcoming terms.

You are right, Anita. I did work my tail off to get a clean bill introduced - and I did (with a lot of help). The original 4896 would have passed in the House of Representatives, but that does no good when the Senate majority was determined to kill it. I will not be the one to keep closed records adoptees from the same access as all other adoptees in Michigan, and if this new (albeit less than we wanted) legislation passes, then so be it. I will not come out in opposition to something that rights a 63 year old wrong. Unfettered access for everyone is something that will come, in time. I understand your concern about compromise, and I agree with you; however, standing on a soapbox for something that, at this point in time, is not going to happen is futile and does not progress the plight of the adoptees in question here.

I will not stop fighting once this legislation has passed, believe me. There MUST be access for everyone, regardless of how their birth parents want it.

I just think that having all adoptees in Michigan fighting the SAME fight is the most productive thing we can do in this political environment. It is very difficult to fight a fight when your core group itself is fractured; House Bills 4896 and 6287 unite that core group, so that we will be a united front, without the need to compromise, in the fight that is ahead of us.

Anita said...

To MI Adoptee,

>>You are right, Anita. I did work my tail off to get a clean bill introduced - and I did (with a lot of help). The original 4896 would have passed in the House of Representatives, but that does no good when the Senate majority was determined to kill it.>>

What a great accomplishment that would have been if the original 4896 had passed the full House. Not too many pure bills do.

>>I will not be the one to keep closed records adoptees from the same access as all other adoptees in Michigan, and if this new (albeit less than we wanted) legislation passes, then so be it. I will not come out in opposition to something that rights a 63 year old wrong. Unfettered access for everyone is something that will come, in time.

I have a feeling that these were almost the very same words spoken by adoptee rights advocates when your tiered situation was first voted into law. Some adoptees would get their obcs, right? - those born between the arbitrary dates of 1945 and 1980. And I’ll bet that those reformers said the same thing - we can come back later and fix up the problem so that all adoptees will get their rights in time.

But it doesn’t work that way as you can see. Here you all are, a new generation of dedicated advocates, starting out with such a good bill - 4826– a bill which passed the House Committee. You should be very proud of that accomplishment!

>> I understand your concern about compromise, and I agree with you; however, standing on a soapbox for something that, at this point in time, is not going to happen is futile and does not progress the plight of the adoptees in question here.>>

You’re right, I am standing on a soapbox, but I am not holding a crystal ball and neither are you. I do NOT know what will or will not happen in the days to come and I would hate to give up my good bill because of the gloom & doom that the opponents predict.

>>I will not stop fighting once this legislation has passed, believe me. There MUST be access for everyone, regardless of how their birth parents want it.>>

I agree wholeheartedly, except that birth parents are NOT the ones who want the records sealed. Other groups and individuals are hiding behind birth mother’s skirts because it sounds so much more altruistic. The states have actually rewritten history in order to make birth parents the main characters of this myth, but it isn’t true.

>>I just think that having all adoptees in Michigan fighting the SAME fight is the most productive thing we can do in this political environment. >>

I think what you’re saying here is that every adoptee, even ones like me who don’t like the amended bill, should get behind it anyway and support it. I think what you’re saying is that all adoptees should stick together, no matter what. This is nothing new and obviously I don’t agree.

I will be happy to stand side by side with you and all other adoptees to support a bill that would give 100% unconditional access to all adoptees. You know it has been done in other states.

>>It is very difficult to fight a fight when your core group itself is fractured; ...>>

I have gone through this exact experience in IL and I understand. The opposition loves to see us fighting with other. We lose our power that way.

>>House Bills 4896 and 6287 unite that core group, so that we will be a united front, without the need to compromise, in the fight that is ahead of us.??

But 6287 is a compromise of the original 4896, isn’t it?

Anita

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to have been distracted from this conversation for so long. I am just catching up now. MI adoptee, I could not disagree with you more. You give so many reasons to accept a compromised bill and I have the premonition that I could argue with you all night to no avail. Please, do not blame your compromised bill on "conservative" legislators. When it passed here in NH, the Republicans were in the majority. When it passed in Maine, the Democrats were in the majority. It isn't a party bill so please throw that argument right out the window.

And you are right, I don't care how many adoptees are dying. This isn't about search and reunion. This is about treating all adults equally. Your wish to get everyone reunited can (in most cases) be accomplished without access to OBCs.


Anita & I both understand about fractured groups, about groups that want to go in one direction while you want to go in another. That isn't an excuse for a compromised bill. If we went with the first bill that we had that got compromised, we wouldn't have an equal access law today. Maine went through two bills before they got their equal access bill, too. And I am positive that some in that group wanted to accept the compromised bill the first time around.

There is not one thing that you could write that would convince me that your state is different or that you should accept a compromised bill.

And finally, no - helping some of the people some of the time is NOT the right thing to do. Again, I think that you are mixing up equal access with search & reunion.

Janet Allen - NH

Anonymous said...

Lets try again in this new year 2013. I need the original BILL ("clean one") does anyone have a copy.

I will forward it by Hand to my Local Sen and Rep. and ask they introduce it, then we can start again. We need to realize persistence is the needed trait here -- as mentioned, time is short.

Finally, those Who say BMom was promised this or that is not based on actual knowledge, many Mothers were young, scared and not able to make informed decisions.

If they are contacted by their Son or Daughter, and do not want further contact they can say so and I think 99.9% of adoptees would comply.

If they do not want any contact, the laws on the books now (no need for a new one or some consent crap) are available to stop someone from contacting them --

Others are involved here. Children, GChildren, ect... and the main reason for these should be information - medical included -- as will I get cancer, Alzheimer's, or anything -Further, the BMom's other or later children/Siblings, ect... might not feel the same way.

This is about fairness to the Adoptee-remember it is supposed to be about the adoptee or adopted child. We (should) have the same right to our OBC as every other Human, its a matter of fairness and Due process (as I consented to none of this but my Happiness is at stake).

PLEASE POST THE BILL ORIGINALLY INTRODUCED !!

M