Recent Change to New York State’s Adoption Laws Explained

In November 2019, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill into law which allows individuals who were adopted to obtain their birth certificate when they turn 18-years-old. The law represents a significant shift in New York State policy, overturning 84 years of sealing birth certificates of children who were adopted.

In instances where a person who was adopted is no longer living, their direct-line descendants (their child, grandchild, or great-grandchild, etc.) or their lawful guardians can obtain the birth certificate on their behalf by presenting verification of their identity and relationship to the person who was adopted, along with the person who was adopted’s death certificate.

The legislation directed the New York State Department of Health (DOH) to create a process by which people who were adopted and their descendants or guardians can request their birth certificates. That process, related forms, and other information relevant to the new law can be found on NYS DOH’s website.

Many in support of the law, which went into effect as of January 15, 2020, have emphasized the value of health-related information, in particular, which could be gained through learning the identities of a person’s birth parents.

After signing the bill, Governor Cuomo stated, “Where you came from informs who you are, and every New Yorker deserves access to the same birth records — it’s a basic human right.”

The bill was introduced and championed by two-term Democratic State Assembly Member Pamela Hunter of Syracuse. Hunter, who grew up in Lake Luzerne, NY, was adopted as an infant and is passionate about ensuring she and others like her are able to access important medical records, including their birth certificates.

Assembly Member Hunter had hoped to learn her birth parents’ names in order to delve deeper into her genetic history, in the interest of passing any key findings along to her own children. Because participation in the New York State Health Department’s Adoption Information Registry is voluntary, Hunter was unable to find information about her birth parents there. She then turned her efforts toward obtaining her birth certificate. Assembly Member Hunter was inspired to develop the legislation after she was unable to secure a copy of her birth certificate because it was considered a sealed document under previous adoption law.

Friends in Adoption (FIA) promotes compassionate adoption practices, inclusive of open adoption. Openness in adoption can provide people who were adopted with valuable knowledge about their biological background, as well as with some level of relationship with one or both of their birth parents. Under the new law, those whose adoptions were not open can determine for themselves if they would like to procure their birth certificate once they reach adulthood.

We recognize the new legislation may raise questions or concerns for members of the adoption triad and others impacted by adoption. FIA is a lifelong resource for birth parents, adoptive parents, and children who were adopted through our agency, and we’re happy to answer any questions they may have regarding the unsealing of pre-adoption birth certificates.

For more information about this topic or to learn more about our services, contact us at 1-800-982-3678 or

Related Topic In The News:

Matt Hunter, of Spectrum News interviewed Patty Smith, FIA’s Case Manager and Community Outreach Provider, on this issue. Watch the video (below), courtesy of Matt Hunter/Spectrum News:

Source of original news story:

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