Under New Illinois Law, Governor Pat Quinn Gives a 73-year Old Illlinois Adoptee His Name

08/12/2010 11:15 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Thanks to Governor Pat Quinn, an Illinois adoptee -- age 73 -- this week finally got his name.
Quinn on Monday presented Joel Chrastka of Berwyn with the first non-certified copy of an original birth certificate made possible under a new law which governor signed in late May.

"When I was born in 1937, adoptees' birth records were never sealed," said Chrastka. "But, by the time I was an adult and had learned about my adoption, my original birth certificate had already been retroactively sealed for 100 years."

Chrastka learned that he began life as William James Ferry, the first born child of Mary Ferry, 25, and he was born at Chicago's Mercy Hospital.

"I feel like today is a part of history," Quinn said. "And a very special part of history. This new law is making a difference for families everywhere."

Quinn presented the birth record to Chrastka at his Chicago office in a private ceremony.

The legislation, House Bill 5428, Sponsored by State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), an adult adoptee, and State Senator A.J. Wilhelmi (D-Crest Hill), won widespread, bipartisan support in both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly. The new law makes Illinois the seventh--and most populous--state in the U.S. to reverse mid-20th century laws mandating the automatic sealing of adoptees' original birth certificates.

Quinn's GOP general election opponent, State Senator Bill Brady (R-Bloomington), skipped the final vote on the bill.

"Today is the dawning of a new era in adoption in Illinois where we can say that all families, no matter how they were formed, are created equal," said Feignholtz, a 16-year legislative veteran representing Chicago's north lakefront. "Today marks the end of the secrecy in which our lives were shrouded for 63 years...and the beginning of greater openness and truth."

And "openness" in adoption is backed by some key data.

A 1991 study published in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry found that a substantial majority of birth mothers (88.5 percent) supported adult adoptees' access to identifying information regarding their birth parents.

Additionally, a voluntary study conducted in 1989, the Maine Department of Human Resources Task Force on Adoption found that out of 130 birth parents surveyed, all 130 wished to be located by the child they had relinquished for adoption once he or she became an adult.

Openness is also being backed more and more by adoptive parents, too. They are now supporting and assisting their adult children with their searches in growing numbers, according to an Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute Report published in November 2007.

According to Feigenholtz, adopted persons born in Illinois prior to January 1, 1946, may now obtain an unaltered, non-certified copy of their original birth certificate by sending a special request form to the Illinois Adoption Registry and Medical Information Exchange accompanied by a $15 fee.

Feigenholtz and other adopted adults over the age of 21, who were born in Illinois after January 1, 1946, will be able to begin requesting copies of their original birth certificates on November 15, 2011, unless the parents who gave them up contact the state and request privacy.

Chrastka, who was placed with his adoptive parents at birth, learned of his adoption at the age of 43.

"It will mean the end of all the mystery," Chrastka said. "Where it goes from here, I don't know, but at least I will have the answers to all the big questions I've been wondering about for most of my adult life."

"To be able to say, 'Yeah, I got a name," he said. "Yeah, I got a name."

Yes, Joel, you do.

Good job, Governor Quinn.