Saturday, November 8, 1997

CONGRESSIONAL RECORD Saturday, November 8, 1997 105th Congress, 1st Session

Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, once again the Senate has gone on record in support of a measure aimed at humanizing the process through which adult biological relatives separated by adoption, who are looking for each other, can make contact. The passage of this CraigLevin bill would not have been possible without the steadfast leadership of Senator Larry Craig. His sensitivity, his commitment, his compassion and his clear understanding of this issue has been enlightening to all of the Members of this body. Let me also thank Senator McCain and Senator Landrieu for their commitment and bipartisan spirit throughout our discussions on this issue.

Mr. President, we are deeply touched by the difficulties experienced by adult adopted persons, birth parents, and separated siblings who, often for many years and at great expense, have been seeking one another. Aside from the natural human desire to know one's roots and genetic heritage, there are other important reasons why many birth relatives seek to make contact with each other. Some are seeking a deeper sense of identity, some need vital information which may affect their own mental and physical health and some are facing momentous family decisions that require more knowledge about their heritage; and a substantial percentage of birth parents say they want to be available to the adult children many relinquished at birth, during a time of stress, should they also desire to make contact.

We believe that S. 1487, the National Voluntary Mutual Reunion Registry, deals with these needs and emotions in a careful and sensitive way. The legislation permits the HHS Secretary, at no net expense to the Federal Government, to facilitate the voluntary, mutually requested exchange of identifying information that has been mutually consented to in a signed notarized statement of identifying information by the birth parent, adult adoptee 21 years or older or adult siblings.

This legislation does not call for the unsealing of adoption records. Currently, over half the States provide for voluntary and mutual reunion facilitation. However, Statebased systems are restricted, by nature, to the geographic boundaries of the State. Since we are a mobile society, that limitation reduces the utility of Statebased systems. Adoptions are often started in one State but finalized in another. Additionally, the adoptee, birth parent or siblings may be a resident of several different States during their lifetimes.

Finally, Mr. President, this legislation does not mandate, but simply gives the Secretary the discretion to facilitate voluntary, mutual reunions, if she so chooses.

I commend my colleagues in the Senate on the passage of this humane and muchneeded legislation. I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be included in the Record again at this point.

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