74 Year-Old Adoptee Advocates for Open Records

From my oldest memory I always knew that I was adopted and never hid that fact. I grew up Brooklyn, graduated from Bernard M Baruch College, got married, and had two children. I was never very interested in finding out more about my adoption, but my wife and children asked me from time to time. Then about 5 years ago I was going through some old papers and came across the legal adoption papers as filed with the court. That triggered my search. The agency I was adopted through was Louise Wise, which no longer exists, and I was referred to Spence-Chapin.  I contacted Spence-Chapin and after filling out the necessary paperwork I was contacted by one of their social workers. Needless to say, I was extremely anxious to get the info. She gave me much information that I had never known and I found it very interesting. But when pressed for additional information I was told that she could not reveal anything more as she was bound by law. I told her that was archaic and ridiculous considering the current state of adoption. She agreed and told me that was it. Subsequently I tried to coordinate the information that she had given me with the US Census for 1940, but that became a huge project.

I have shared my current journey with my family – wife, daughters, and 7 grandchildren.  They are all interested in finding out about this part of my life… their lives.

As suggested by Spence-Chapin, I sent an email to the New York State senate, asking them to oppose Bill A2901a that prevents adoptees from receiving their original birth certificates:

Dear Senator, 
I have also written to you via the senate general email.

The essence of my email is that I am asking that this proposed law be changed to the original.  As presented currently A2901A will forever close the Door on my search for complete information on my adoption.  

I am 74 years old and recently (5+ years ago) came upon my formal legal adoption papers while going through my mother’s papers.

This triggered my search and with the help of Spence-Chapin learned as much about my family history as was permitted under the current law.  I was hoping that before long that the law would be changed so that I could complete the search, not only for myself but for my wife, daughters, and seven grandchildren.

I do not understand the logic behind this amendment.  Having a Judge decide with all of the pre-conditions is a sure way of preventing many people who are in search of information. 

I have never written about any piece of legislation till now.

If I could make one statement to the Legislator it would be, “walk in my shoes as well as let the sunlight in.”

Paul Pruzan (Birth Name: David Cohen, born August 29, 1940)

Background Search Guidelines for New York State Adoptees

Beginning the search for information on birth parents and background information is a serious, emotional decision. We encourage anyone who thinks they want to start this journey, or those who already have, to talk to a Spence-Chapin counselor. Our staff can help you prepare for the information and feelings you may find on your search.

While adoption records remain sealed by law in NY State, an adoptee who was born and adopted in NYS and is 18 years old or over, the birth parent of that adoptee, or the biological sibling of that adoptee can register with the New York State Adoption Information Registry to obtain the following information:

  • Non-identifying information
  • Identifying information if both parties have registered – If adoptees , their birth parents and /or birth siblings have registered with NYSAIR and give consent NYS will share their current names and addresses. If only one parent signed the surrender agreement, then registration by the other parents is not needed for the exchange of identifying information between the adoptee and the registered birth parent.
  • Medical Information – Birth parents can give medical and psychological information to the registry any time after the adoption. The information will be shared with the adoptee at any time that he or she registers.

Unfortunately under current NYS law an adoption agency such as Spence- Chapin cannot construct its own registry.

However adults who are adopted often contact the agency looking for information about their history. State law permits the agency to provide adult adoptees with all of the non-identifying information available in the case record. Spence-Chapin provides a profile that may include information about the birth family and the making of the adoption plan.

Birth Parents also contact the agency to update their medical and other details, and to inquire about additional information.

In addition to providing a narrative of non-identifying information, Spence-Chapin’s social workers assist adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents with short-term counseling related to search and reunion.

Spence-Chapin also provides similar information for those whose adoptions were facilitated by Louise Wise Services and Talbot Perkins Children’s Services.