JEFFERSON COUNTY - Family reunions are about reconnecting. For Matthew Abdulla this day means much more.
Abdulla is adopted, he loves his family, the mom and dad who raised him, but he had to know where he came from. For the past 26 years he's been looking for his birth mother.
"I was curious as to where I came from and why my mom gave me up," Abdulla said. "I tried looking but because the law was sealed, you'd have to be on your death bed before they'd open up that file."
Abdulla tried social media and still nothing.
"It hurts not knowing," he said. "I spent a lot of nights crying on my birthday, did my mom think of me?"
A friend recently told Abdulla about a new Colorado law.
"She said the law changed, go to their web site, look at Senate bill 14-051," Abdulla said. "I'll never forget that."
The new Colorado Senate Bill 14-051, effective July 1 gave Abdulla and other adoptees access to their records.
Rich Uhrlaub, coordinator for Adoptees in Search, The Colorado Triad Connection ( http://www.aisctc.org/ ) said until not too long ago, the adoption records for people like Abdulla were sealed. Adult adoptees had to hire a lawyer and go to court to open them up, or hire an intermediary for a hefty price.
"There is a growing nation-wide movement to restore access to records for adult adoptees," Uhrlaub said. "Here in Colorado we've worked on this for almost 40 years, there were incremental changes. People forgot adoptees grow up. We need to know that we're not about to marry our sister or cousin. We need to know who to call if we need like a bone marrow donor or a kidney."
According to Uhrlaub, Kansas and Alaska never sealed original birth certificates from adult adoptees. Colorado's first adoption law in 1879 stated that adoption "deeds" were to be 'executed, documented and recorded as in the manner of real estate." Adoption records and proceedings were open to the public until 1943, when OBCs were sealed, and 1949, when other adoption records were sealed. http://www.aisctc.org/index.php/laws/co-history
Uhrlaub said, SB 51 "Is about restoring a lost right that adult adoptees originally had."
As soon as Abdulla found out about the law, he paid $20 to the clerk, got his documents and found his mom's name. An internet search just this past week connected him to the family he'd been looking for, including his "baby" sister Barb Montoya.
"I love her to death," Abdulla said. "I love him so much too," Montoya replied as they're hugging. "He completes us."
Abdulla learned his mom had to give him up when she was really young. She and her kids looked for him as well, but couldn't find him because the documents on their side were not accessible either.
For over half a century in Colorado, most women who relinquished their infants for adoption were not given copies of the documents they signed. That's now different in Colorado too. House Bill 1042 effective August 7, gives birth parents access to records they signed in the process of relinquishing their children. Uhrlaub said Colorado is the second state after Oregon, which only passed its law a year ago, to grant such access to birth parents.
"It's a very, very powerful healing thing for both adoptees and for birth parents to be recognized as equal citizens with equal rights to our origin," Uhrlaub said. "Equal rights to documents that pertain to our lives."
Abdulla's mom passed away in 2012, missing finding her son by less than two years. But Abdulla's siblings tell him, she never stopped thinking about him.
"There was never a day mom never thought of you, never looked for you," Abdulla said his brother told him. "I was just like wow. You gotta be kidding me and I felt so alive at that point, there was no missing element."
Family reunions are about reconnecting with the family. Matthew Abdulla is starting with the basics, their names and how they're related.
"This is still new right? My mom and my aunt Barb," he said counting on his hands, "Then I have four aunts, 2 uncles, I think. I can't remember names yet. So it's going take a minute. Now I don't feel empty, I feel complete. The minute we all hugged, we're happy."
(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)