Former Norwalk Woman Fights For Change In Adoption Law

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Penny Palmer, left, reconnected with her son, David, who she gave up for adoption in 1968. David's adoptive mother, Joyce, and his young daughter (with Palmer) are also in the photo. Photo Credit: Contributed
Penny Palmer's son, David Weaver (center) has reconnected with his mother and his half-brothers, Bryan Cockerham, left, and Ross Cockerham. Photo Credit: Contributed

SOUTHPORT, Conn. – Penny Palmer thinks it is important for the son she put up for adoption 46 years ago to have access to his original birth certificate. Now, the Southport businesswoman is leading the fight to enable all children adopted in Connecticut to have that advantage.

Palmer is working with Access Connecticut, a grassroots campaign working to restore the rights of every adult adoptee to access their original birth certificate. Palmer reconnected with her son, David, and the experience has been positive for both. The only missing piece is the official documentation that she is his birth mother.

“The original birth certificate is part of his identity,’’ said Palmer, who formerly lived in Norwalk and now lives in Bethel. “His amended birth certificate is also part of his identity. For people who grow up and don’t find their birth parent, there is information on the original birth certificate that may be helpful. Most reunions are positive. Many of them blossom, like ours has. To have someone say they can’t have it, who are they protecting?”

Palmer became pregnant at age 20 while attending the University of Connecticut. She waited five months until she told her parents. “My mother walked out and came back five minutes later," she said. “She said, 'Now go tell your father.' I didn’t find out for 22 years that he was filled with rage. I never knew. He was too busy being my father. I had unconditional love from both of my parents.”

She later married, had two boys and reconnected with David in 1990. “Back in those days we didn’t have computers,’’ she said. “They found him through Social Security. It took about 2 ½ months. I learned that he had been looking for me a few years before that but gave up.”

Before 1975, adult adoptees in Connecticut could get their original birth certificates. The law changed, and now, many want it reversed. The Access Connecticut website lists several important reasons for access, including biological heritage, possible discrimination and medical information.

“I’ve always felt it’s important for him to have his original birth certificate,’’ Palmer said. “The one that he had isn’t real.”

Her son also wants the law changed. The Access Connecticut website said research shows 90 percent to 95 percent of birth mothers want some contact with their adult offspring.

Access Connecticut is mobilizing for the next legislative session, which begins in February, to work on changing the law. The bill Access Connecticut is seeking to have passed bill will have a Contact Preference Form, which allows birth mothers who prefer not to be contacted to state their preference. 

Palmer also said for 26 years under Connecticut law, adoptees have been provided with identifying information regarding their birth mother, once she is deceased.  “This allows them to contact birth siblings or other relatives after her death, if they so choose, and some do,’’ she said. “Who are we really protecting here?”

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Comments (9)

jeanmarie.wiesen:

In this instance, as in most, Greenbeanie doesn't follow the logic link. Open adoptions makes perfect sense for a whole host of reasons that you two have mentioned, plus a few more: If the child has medical issues, such as transplants needs and has to reach out, how else are they supposed to do so w/o the pertinent records? This is a crucial piece that's always made me wonder why it's not open. If it's a matter of life and death, where else are they going to turn other than immediate family of origin? I've seen it happen w/ individuals I've personally known.

An original document is necessary in this day and age for a variety of reasons in obtaining passports and other forms of ID. Copies are not necessarily acceptable with the world we live in.

Abortion doesn't enter in as a topic; it simply isn't pertinent to this discussion. This is about paperwork. Even if the relationship doesn't work out, the paperwork is crucial to obtain so the individual can move forward as an average citizen with normal rights.

BabyGirl:

I was born several years after 1973 and placed for adoption - not aborted. Your statement has nothing to do with the point of this article, Greenbeanie, which is that he WAS born, was adopted, and deserves the right to his original birth certificate just like every other American citizen.

If you truly want people to choose adoption and avoid abortion, YOU should be supporting open records for adoptees also. States who have maintained or reopened birth records to adult adoptees have higher adoption rates and lower abortion rates.

Greenbeanie:

I'm glad you were born, BabyGirl. I do wonder, however, whether a confused, traumatized, pregnant young woman, who is on the fence between abortion and adoption, might tend toward the easy choice of abortion, if she knew that after carrying and delivering the baby,he or she--a total unknown-- might show up in her life 20 or 30 years later. Open records, I'm afraid, would most likely lead to the killing of more babies, rather than their adoption.

denise.schnelle.3:

Greenbeanie, In 1988 I was that confused, traumatized, pregnant young woman on the fence between abortion and adoption. I loved the little life growing inside of me and didn't want to abort it. However the thought of giving my baby up, never seeing him again, never knowing if he was alive and well was horrifying. I just couldn't bear the thought of that. When I found out that the adoption could be open, that I could write to him and he would know that I didn't just give him away and never look back, he could know that I loved him and thought about him, I chose life/adoption.

You see Greenbeanie, you have it backwards. Gone are the days where having a child "out-of-wedlock" is the most shameful thing and should be kept a shameful secret no matter what. After Roe V Wade, abortion did become the preferred way of dealing with a crisis pregnancy. Babies available for adoption became fewer and fewer and the adoption industry needed to find a way to encourage women to relinquish. Adoption professionals learned that birthmothers hated the closed adoption system, didn't just forget and move on, yearned for their children their whole lives, and that's why they started promoting open adoption, and it worked just like they knew it would.

The problem is with open adoption as it is today is that they can be snapped closed at the whim of the adoptive parents as soon as the ink on the relinquishment papers is dry. Women considering adoption can't be sure that open adoption is going to guarantee that their relinquished children will have access to them. Opening the records would at least mean that those adoptees who had their adoptions closed by their parents could contact their birth parents once they're adults and see if their parents would like a relationship or not, and continue to get the updated medical information that we know effects them and their own genetic children.

The article is correct. The majority of birthmothers are in favor of open records. I relinquished my rights, my son did not. I don't need extra rights to privacy that other mothers don't get, my son should have the exact same rights to his original birth certificate that non-adoptive persons have. Equal rights for all.
Do you see now why opening records is a good thing?

BabyGirl:

Sorry to disappoint, Greenbeanie. The actual statistics show the opposite of what you are guessing. States with open records have LESS abortion and MORE adoption. States who have opened their records show a DROP in abortion rates. It's a simple numbers FACT, not a "guess" at how I think things might be.

Additionally, 90-95% of first mothers welcome contact with their relinquished children, and today's first mothers are the driving force behind the fact that open adoption is rapidly becoming the norm - they will not relinquish if they are unable to have some sort of contact with/knowledge about the children they are giving up.

If you speak with mothers who relinquished children in the 50s, 60s, 70s when abortion was not available and unwed pregnancy was cause for shame, even THEY do not support sealed records, nor were they ever promised confidentiality. No state ever had a relinquishment form which promised anonymity or confidentiality. In fact, if the child wasn't adopted after being relinquished, their original birth certificate was never even sealed and they would be 100% able to know their unwed parents' names.

Sealing birth records is NOT a way to encourage less abortion or more adoption. If abortion reduction is an important issue to you, you should be doing some research instead of "guessing" what might or might not drive women to an abortion provider's door.

Greenbeanie:

BabyGirl: the fact that states who have open records have fewer abortions than those that do not does not prove anything. There are other factors that come in to play, eg. demographics. Black women have enormously high abortion rates; the rates for white women is much lower. States with very high black populations will have high abortion rates; states such as Nebraska or Utah will have much lower ones. Open records may be a factor, but you have no proof that it is the most important one.

BabyGirl:

So basically you would like to LINK abortion rates with access to records if you think it supports sealing them, but UNLINK the two if the data supports opening access to records.

*shakes head in disbelief*

Out of curiosity, do you hold a position in the adoption triad?

http://www.obcforga.org/GEAR/Adoptee_Rights_files/Consequences%2520Handout.pdf

Greenbeanie:

David is lucky that he was born before the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. A few years later and he probably would have been laid to rest in a dumpster outside an abortion clinic.

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