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Pennsylvania is not an open records State.   Adults who were adopted don’t have the same rights as everyone else in obtaining a copy of their original birth certificate.  Even in today’s world, there are still “secrets”.  It’s time for adoption to not be treated as a secret that needs to be hidden.  It should be every person’s right to know their origins.

HB 963, sponsored by Representative Kerry Benninghoff, is an unrestricted access bill that would allow Pennsylvania-born adopted adults to obtain a copy of their original birth certificate. The bill, introduced in March 2011, was assigned to the Committee on Children and Youth. Grassroots groups are lobbying for a public hearing.

HB 963 information –

INTRODUCED BY BENNINGHOFF, BOBACK, CALTAGIRONE, CLYMER, D. COSTA, DAVIS, DENLINGER, EVERETT, FARRY, FLECK, FRANKEL, GILLEN, GINGRICH, GROVE, HARHART, HARRIS, JOSEPHS, KAVULICH, KNOWLES, MILLARD, D. O’BRIEN, PICKETT, RAPP, K. SMITH, SONNEY, SWANGER AND VULAKOVICH, MARCH 7, 2011

House Bill 963, introduced by Rep. Benninghoff, authorizes the Pennsylvania Bureau of Vital Statistics to disclose the original or amended copy of a birth certificate upon the written request of an adoptee age 18 or older.

It has been referred to the Committee on Children and Youth in March, 2011.  Here is a link to the Committee Members and their contact information:  http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/cteeInfo/cteeInfo.cfm?body=H&cde=48  This Bill needs to move out of Committee and back to the House.

Please contact the Committee on Children and Youth and request a Public Hearing. 

Hon. Dan Moul – Vice Chair
G32 Irvis Office Building
PO Box 202091
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2091
(717) 783-5217

Hon. Louise Williams Bishop – Democratic Chair
326 Main Capitol Building
PO Box 202192
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2192
(717) 783-2192

I am happy to see that my own Representative, Ken Smith is a co-sponsor of this Bill.

Anyone with an adoption connection to Pennsylvania, or are a resident of Pennsylvania who supports this legislation, please contact Carolyn Hoard, choard@comcast.net.  Carolyn is a Pennsylvania representative of the American Adoption Congress.

Here is a link to American Adoption Congress http://www.americanadoptioncongress.org/

For information for other State’s statutes go to http://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/state/

To find out who your Pennsylvania State Representative is go here:  http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/#address

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We came back from Michigan, and now we would discover what our “settling in” period would be like. There is a “honeymoon” phase that you read about with adoption reunions, and I think Jeanne’s trip to Scranton and our trip to Michigan were a part of that phase. There’s so much excitement in the beginning, and uncertainty, and emotions – it’s all sort of a whirlwind.

We lived far away, and this was before the internet really took off. So, we talked on the phone. We exchanged gifts for holidays, birthdays, etc.

I came back from Michigan armed with (finally) what my family medical history was. I wanted to become pregnant, and I knew now that I (and my then-husband) would have to get genetic testing. I won’t say why – maybe I will in future postings, (I’d have to find out if it is okay) – but not now.

Luckily, everything turned out okay, and I was able to go ahead and try to become pregnant. It was a long road – so it seemed at the time, and after 10 months of trying, I was thrilled to find out I was finally pregnant.

I don’t recall a lot of phone conversations with Jeanne at this time. I was, of course wrapped up in my life, and being pregnant.

I think it was then that I noticed that Jeanne was a little – “off”? For lack of a better word. She seemed very self-absorbed in this phase of our relationship, and that seemingly self-absorption would only increase as time went on. Things were very superficial, and I didn’t understand why. I was learning a bit more of her own family dynamics, and I remember at the time, being grateful for being in the family that I was in.

My birth mother didn’t seem “connected” – with me, or my pregnancy. This seemed surprising to me. And, as time went on and my delivery date drew near, this surprise would only deepen.

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It was time to meet Charlie – my birth father.  I had no clue what to expect.

We were to meet at a restaurant – my (then) husband, myself, Charlie and his wife. 

It was – awkward. 

I didn’t really know what to expect, so I expected nothing.  My birth mother, I could sympathize with – my birth father – well, was just that.  Someone who I shared genes with.  I knew nothing of him, except that he was tall.  And that he had disappointed Jeanne. 

I couldn’t exactly fault him for that.  Unexpected pregnancies happen.  It’s the women (or teenager) left to deal with the consequences.  Which Jean did to the best of her ability.  They were both young.  Stuff happens.

He was nice, and he was pleasant – he seemed to feel awkward as well (as I believe the picture shows!)  We made small-talk.  I apparently had a half-sister and a half-brother who knew nothing about me.  Charlie wanted to keep it that way.  He told me about them – where they were at in their lives, and that was about it. 

He also shared medical information with me – and that was important.  I realized that I would need to get genetic testing done if I wanted to have a baby myself one day (which I did).  What he told me that day stayed with me, and played in the back of my mind for years.

So, we spent about an hour together.  We took a few uncomfortable looking pictures, and we said our goodbyes.

I wouldn’t speak to Charlie again for 18 years.

Charlie & Me - Hmm - Awkward?!

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re·linquish·ment n.

    Synonyms: relinquish, yield, resign, abandon, surrender, cede, waive, renounce
    These verbs mean letting something go or giving something up. Relinquish, the least specific, may connote regret: can’t relinquish the idea.
    Yield implies giving way, as to pressure, often in the hope that such action will be temporary: had to yield ground.
    Resign suggests formal relinquishing, or acquiescence arising from hopelessness. Abandon and surrender both imply no expectation of recovering what is given up; surrender also implies the operation of compulsion or force: abandoned all hope for a resolution.

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Two weeks after giving birth, Jeanne had no choice but to surrender all hope, and it was decided that I would be relinquished to St. Joseph’s.

She went back to Michigan with her mother, and life went on. I don’t know, nor can I imagine her heartache.

I was in St. Joseph’s from October, until December 22nd. Which is where my story began. I was adopted by my wonderful parents. Merry Christmas Mary Christine! They had applied for adoption in August, and surprisingly, they got their baby four months later.

I have pictures of the day I was adopted – red-haired baby bundled up in my grandmother’s laundry basket, where we were visiting. I will look for them, and post them here. I will also post pictures that pertain to individual parts of this story:)

Jeanne and I parted ways in early October of that year, and we wouldn’t meet again until 31 years later….

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Jeanne had avoided going back to St. Joseph’s. She gave birth to me at a hospital in Scranton. After a few days, she and her mother and I went back to their apartment in Clarks Summit. It was still her hope that somehow, she’d be able to keep me.

She had me baptized at a beautiful church in Clarks Summit – “Our Lady of Snows”. The gown I was christened in is the gown she would keep for 31 years. The gown she gave me when we met. It was the gown I had my beautiful daughter, Nicole christened in.

She had named me too – Veronica! (I will say, I’m happy my name didn’t stay Veronica! lol)

Jeanne kept me for two weeks – all the while hoping that she’d somehow be saved. Hoping that my birth father would come through. She knew her time was up and decisions would have to be made.

One day, Jeanne was holding me and was going downstairs. I guess an argument with her mother ensued, and her mother pushed her on the steps while she was holding me. I can’t imagine what she must have been going through all these months, feeling trapped, hoping she wasn’t in this alone.

But she realized she was. She was a 19 year old girl, with a baby and no support system. Her mother apparently wasn’t the answer. My birth father wasn’t going to come through.

With that push on the stairs, Jeanne knew it was over.

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We got all settled in at the house. We talked a lot that first night, and she brought a photo album for me – of Jeanne as a child and growing up, her parents, her family, and her son and daughter – my half-brother and sister. Our plan for the next day was to take a ride around Scranton, and talk some more.

We drove to St. Joseph’s and sat outside awhile. I could tell it was hard for Jeanne to relive this. Her story was an incredibly difficult one.

Jeanne was raised in a very strict Catholic family. Very disciplined. She was happy to go off to college and start living her life. She dated someone who would be the first person she would sleep with – my birth father. It was Christmas night (there’s that Christmas thing again!), and they went on a date and had a few drinks.

What happened that night changed everything – forever.

When she realized she was pregnant, her fear must have been unbearable. HOW would she ever approach her super-religious mother with this news? She told her older brother her dilemma, and they decided the best approach would be to tell their father – he would likely be the more understanding of the two, and would help her break the news to her mother.

Then, the unthinkable happened. Just as she was going to tell him – he died a sudden death – heart attack.

Oh. My. God.

She was left with terrible grief, and a terrifying secret and only one person to turn to – her mother.

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Today was the day I was to meet my birth mother. I was almost 31 years old.

We drove to the airport in Allentown to pick her up. She had gotten the picture of me that I mailed to her, so she knew what I looked like. I didn’t get the picture she’d sent – so I had NO idea who I would be looking for in the crowded airport. We nervously waited.

The plane landed. People started getting off – and I was sort of expecting she’d be one of the first off the plane for some reason. But nobody looked like they were looking for me lol. More and more people got off the plane, until it was just the last few stragglers getting off. At this point, I started joking around – saying under my breath to ANY woman who got off the plane – old or young, black or white – “are you my mother”? lol

Well the plane emptied. No Jeanne. Now what?!

I phoned her house and learned she had missed her flight! Wow – more waiting!

So, we sat and waited and finally her plane landed. When people started getting off – I saw her. She was petite – just like me (lol -not!) and she was cute. And we hugged. We laughed about her missing her flight. We looked at each other and smiled a lot.

She had something in her arms that she had carried all the way from Michigan on her lap on the plane – My christening gown. My 31-year-old christening gown. She had saved it all these years. Waiting for this moment.

How sweet is that?

I couldn’t wait to get home, get settled, and TALK.

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