Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter
The Kingston and St Andrew Foster Parents Association (KSFPA) has launched an online petition in a bid to end what it describes as an insensitive and discriminatory practice of the Registrar General's Department (RGD).
The KSFPA wants the RGD to end the practice of labelling the birth certificates of children who have been adopted.
The KSFPA claims that the RGD stamps the word 'ADOPTED' in bold across the birth certificates of these children, and the association wants this to end.
"(The practice) reinforces the stigma and related discrimination faced by children who are adopted, and continues to place them in a mentally and physically uncomfortable position," argues the KSFPA in its online petition that has already attracted hundreds of signatures.
The association says the RGD needs to find more sensitive and private ways of recording information of that nature to ensure that such information is revealed only when absolutely necessary.
"Help us to continue to protect our children from discrimination," read a section of the online petition which was launched in June.
"The RGD responded to us and said that they have seen the petition and that it has been a concern to them, and they are working to have it removed," Shari Tomlinson, president of the KSFPA, told The Sunday Gleaner.
"But we don't have any timeline. We are asking for a timeline and where in the process they are. That is really our concern," added Tomlinson.
She argued that it is important to remove the discriminatory label being placed on adopted children as this can cause unnecessary emotional trauma.
"If you have ever dealt with children who have had to deal with the trauma of displacement, then you will understand how sensitive they are to anything that makes them different. They don't want to be different," Tomlinson pleaded.
"If you have adopted the child, the child is yours; your heir. The child gets your name and would be entitled to inheritance just as a biological child would be. It is a form of discrimination."
Tomlinson said the KSFPA is still stumped as to why the RGD saw the need to splash the word 'adopted' across the top of the child's birth paper in the first place.
"We have been trying to find out why this was ever done. In First World countries, as far as I know, it is not on the birth certificate. If it is placed there it is in a very inconspicuous place," she said.
In response, the RGD said it was not aware of the concern being raised by the Corporate Area foster parents association.
"The Registrar General's Department has never been advised by the KSFPA of the concerns detailed in its online petition.
"Had the KSFPA notified the RGD, it would have been advised that the RGD's operations are governed by over 30 statutes, and in this case, the Children (Adoption of) Act. Section 25 (6) of that act is relevant to KSFPA's online petition," said a written response issued by Kimberlyn Williams, marketing and planning manager at the RGD.
The section of the act referenced by the RGD states that "any person, upon making application and upon payment of the prescribed fee, shall be entitled to obtain from the Registrar General a certificate in the form set out as Form B in the Fourth Schedule".
According to the RGD, Form B is used as a guide in determining the contents and headings to be placed on certificates when an application is made for an adopted person.
"Further, customers applying for a birth certificate have the option of either applying for a 'short form' which does not contain the word 'adopted' or any wording that indicates that the child was adopted, or a 'long form' which represents a copy of the entry in the Adopted Children Register.
"It is this long form that provides relevant information regarding the adoption of a child, such as the name and surname of the adopter(s)," the RGD revealed.
It labelled as misleading the KSFPA's statement that the birth certificates of children who have been adopted are labelled 'ADOPTED' in bold.
"The RGD remains committed to the protection of all children from discrimination and, as such, one of its officers sits on the Adoption Technical Advisory Committee.
"This committee is now working assiduously to amend the Children (Adoption of) Act, 1958 to make it more relevant to the 21st century."
"Thus, the KSFPA should have raised their concerns with the RGD and/or the legislators before initiating the aforementioned petition.
"Please note the agency is mandated to operate within the ambit of the law, and while the KSFPA has every right to raise its concerns it should take care that it does not mislead the public," the RGD added.