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?”