More than a decade has passed since Patty Smith and her husband adopted their son. A few years later, adoption also allowed them to welcome their daughter into their family.
“I don’t know if we can put into words how grateful we are,” Smith said, who lives in Burnt Hills. “We were chosen to different times by two amazing birth moms."
Smith now works as a caseworker for the agency Friends in Adoption. She says her family went through an open adoption with her daughter and maintains a close relationship with her birth mother.
A few years after their son was born, his biological mother opted to switch to closed adoption and the Smiths currently have no contact with her.
"As much as we would love to have a relationship with her still, we respect she is just not ready for that," Smith said.
Historically, birth parents and, later, their children, have had the option of filling out forms with the New York State Department of Health and indicate they're willing to meet once the child reaches adulthood.
As a result of New York's new Adoptee Rights Law that took effect Wednesday, all adopted children can acquire their birth certificate and learn the identity of their birth mothers once they turn 18.
“It is significant,” Smith said. “It will, for some, answer a lot of questions, answer a lot of unknowns they may have had."
In a written statement, Governor Cuomo said, "every person has the right to know where they came from," but Smith cautions many birth mothers who chose closed adoptions years ago may still be less than willing to welcome their children into their lives.
"Now that door is going to open and maybe they are not ready to have a relationship with the child they placed for adoption,” Smith said.
Regardless of the route families choose, Smith recommends families seek the counseling of adoption professionals to prepare for the emotional road ahead.
“On one side of it, it is really exciting for adoptees to be able to do that,” Smith said, who added Friends in Adoption supports the new law. “On the other side of that, there could be some grief and loss."