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Published Saturday July 25th, 2009 at 6:58pm

Original Article by Lona O'Connor

Adoption resources

Florida adoption records must be maintained for 99 years and the adopted child does have the option of petitioning the court for those records.

For information about adoption issues, visit Florida's Adoption Information Center at

From that site, you can register at Florida's Adoption Reunion Registry for a $35 fee. However, your birth mother is not required to contact you. For more information about the registry, call Josette Marquess, director, at (850) 922-6234.

Contact the agency or attorney that handled the adoption.

Visit the county clerk's office where you were born and file a court petition to unseal the records.

Maura Lieberman marked her 23rd birthday this week by placing an ad in the newspaper:

"I am an adopted girl born in West Palm Beach, Florida on July 22, 1986. I want to thank my birth mother for giving me a wonderful life and would welcome contact at"

Lieberman and her adoptive parents, who live in Pennsylvania, registered four years ago with the Florida Adoption Reunion Registry, with no result. They have contacted lawyers, investigators and others who specialize in reunions between birth parents and their children, with no luck.

So she placed the ad, which ran Wednesday in the Palm Beach Post.

The next step is to petition Palm Beach County Circuit Court to unseal her adoption records, which in Florida remain sealed unless there is a vital reason to open them.

The vital reason is health.

When Lieberman was a toddler, she had open-heart surgery to repair a hole in her heart. She also wore a brace to correct severe scoliosis.

Now, as she considers marriage and a family, Lieberman wonders what else about her health history she needs to know.

"When I was a junior in college, three or four years ago, that's when it hit me," she said. "I started thinking into the future."

Lieberman has only small bits of information. She knows her mother's age, height, hair color and interests. She has some information about her birth father and siblings, information the birth mother gave her adoptive parents.

"I have a loving family and I'm not trying to replace them," said Lieberman. "But I'd like to talk to her."

The Liebermans spoke to Bennett Cohn, who was the attorney for the Chosen Children agency, now closed, that handled Lieberman's adoption. He was one of the first attorneys in Florida to specialize in adoptions.

Certain reasons make it imperative to find hard facts, said Cohn. One young woman needed to know if her birth mother was Jewish, since she was engaged to an Orthodox rabbi's son.

Other reasons are complex and deep-seated.

"I see a lot of emotions," said Josette Marquess, director of the Florida Adoption Reunion Registry, which maintains records of adoptions that occurred in this state. She has spent 25 years working in adoption searches.

"If somebody has had an unhappy adoption, they think their birth families are going to make it all right," said Marquess.

But the birth mother may not want contact.

"When I come knocking on their door, they say, 'Oh, my God, this is the day I have dreaded all my life'," said Marquess, who contacts birth mothers when a judge orders her to do so.

The law allows the adopted child to have "non-identifying information" about the birth parents, if it exists, but no hard facts like date of birth.

Sondi Hill of Greenacres is a birth mother who found her son when he was an adult. As the leader of a support group, she says that most mothers, at the very minimum, want to know that their children turned out all right.

At this point in her search, Lieberman wants closure.

"My rights need to be put into play also," said Lieberman. "It's frustrating."

As of week's end, no one had answered Lieberman's ad.