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Helping adopted adults learn about their past

Posted: 6:12 PM, Jun 25, 2019
Updated: 2019-06-25 18:12:20-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — A new law, passed last week by the New York State Assembly will allow adult adoptees to unseal their original birth certificate.

63-year-old Doris Sippel lived six decades under a name given to her by her adopted parents, Joan Wheeler.

"That was my identity growing up, and for most of my adult life," she said. "The idea that my identity had been stolen from me never sat well with me."

Sippel is talking about her birth name and her adopted name. She was adopted when she was just a couple months old. It wasn’t until she was 18 her adoptive parents shared her original birth certificate. Even though her adopted parents named her Joan Wheeler, she changed it back in 2016.

"This does feel right. I have known I was Doris since 1974," she said.

Doris has access to her original documents, like her birth certificate, which are usually sealed. Many adoptees have never had the luxury to unseal them, until now.

"As a non adoptee, it's my right to get a certified copy of my birth certificate, why shouldn't an adoptee get a copy of their certificate," said Michele Fried, CEO of Adoption Star.

New York is the 10th state to make this a law. Advocates like Sippel and Fried have been fighting for this for years.

Critics of the bill say it invades privacy, and brings up hurtful wounds. But many say it’s the adoptees right to know.

Governor Andrew Cuomo still has to sign this bill into law. It will become law on January 15th.