Truth in Adoption: How I Petitioned for My Adoption Files

I was reunited with my natural family in 1974. By 1981, I had petitioned Surrogate’s Court for my Final Order of Adoption, even though I already had a copy (see yesterday’s post).

In 1985, I petitioned Surrogate’s Court of Erie County, New York for all of my sealed adoption files. I wanted every piece of paper they had on my adoption: the signed relinquishment papers, petition to adopt, and any other paperwork. I wanted permission to seek my birth certificate, too, but was told that petitioning for the birth record was a separate process.

Being politically correct for the time period, I used the terms “birthparents” and “birth mother” and “birth father”. Today, I would use the terms “natural parents” and “natural mother” and “natural father” because those words accurately describe the relationship. Also, these are legal terms used to designate between the natural parents, foster parents, and adoptive parents of an adoptee, although, as you will see tomorrow, the term used in legal documents to describe my natural father is “father”. That’s because he is my father and was my legal father until after he signed relinquishment papers.

So, I began with the simple petition to the court:

With the help of a law student who gave me specific statements to use and a form to follow, I typed up the following (reproduced here minus specific identifiers and other information not releveant to the general public):








My request for sealed reports and documents from Vital Statistics Office, Catholic Charities of Buffalo, and Millard Fillmore Hospital were denied. With my natural father’s permission, I obtained my medical records and my mother’s medical records from her admittance to the hospital while pregnant with me until her death three months after my birth. Because the records that were released to me from Surrogate’s Court contained most of the information I sought, I did not pursue further petitioning to Catholic Charities. Dialogue between my natural father and I filled in the blanks of where I was from birth until placed in the custody of my pre-adoptive parents, a four month period not covered by documents held by Surrogate’s Court.

Tomorrow I will present the papers I received from Surrogate’s Court.

~ ~ ~ Joan M Wheeler, BA, BSW, born Doris M Sippel, author of Forbidden Family: A Half Orphan’s Account of Her Adoption, Reunion and Social Activism, Trafford Publishing, Nov 2009.