On Friday, March 20, 2015 a new state law will go into effect in Ohio, allowing the 400,000 native residents to unlock their past. All the persons from the state who have been adopted between 1964 and 1996 can now request the Department of Health to release them a copy of their original birth certificate.
For 51 years before this law passed, the only way you could access these documents was by court order. The only birth certificates for adoptions that could be released on demand were those to 1964 and after 1996. Ohio’s new law follows 17 other states that have adopted varying levels of access to original birth certificates.
Nine other states have pending laws on the same issue, which is rather important for adoptees that are either wondering about or searching for answers about their origins. The law also applies to birth parents who wonder what happened to the babies they have given up for adoption.
The new law allows adoptees over 18 to request an adoption decree and the original birth certificate for a $20 fee. According to the regulation, people born in Ohio and later adopted in other states are also covered and can apply for their information.
How does that work? There are online applications available at the Ohio Department of Health, odh.ohio.gov. Adoptees can opt for extra details, such as family medical history and whether or not their birth parents provided any contact preference form.
There are several options that a birth parent might have chosen, and the form shows if they want to be contacted, and if yes, whether they’d prefer a third party to be involved or not. They might prefer to be personally contacted if the adoptee wishes to, or they’d opt for no contact at all.
This last year brought a new option for birth parents who did not want their names on the original birth certificate in the case it is released to the adoptee, but they must agree to provide an up-to-date family medical history.
Reunions happen with or without legislative help
Kim Paglino is the legislative head of the American Adoption Congress, a non-governmental organization that fights for laws that allow access to family heritage records. She commented that even if the government hasn’t adopted new laws regarding adoption, the truth is that doesn’t stop adoptees and birth parents alike to search each other and reunite.
Paglino added that gaining access to documents of adoption is rather cumbersome in the states where laws are against open access. Where laws are on the open side, however, very few parents have requested that their names remain unknown, amounting to less than one percent.
There are several researches that point to the same conclusion: open access to original birth certificates almost always has a positive result, because more and more people realized that adopted adults should be allowed to know about their past.
Cindy McGuigan presides over the American Adoption Congress from the position of a mother who had to give up a son for adoption. She said there are several misconceptions about why adoption records should remain closed.
Some think that birth parents who were counting on confidentiality would experience sever psychological distress if adoptees were to find out their identities and tried to reunite.
Others believe that open access to adoption documents would negatively influence abortion rates, which would shoot through the roof. They say that parents would start fearing adoption as a healthy option for unwanted pregnancies if their identities were up for disclosure.
Misconceptions about open adoption records debunked
McGuigan had debunked such misconceptions, explained that many studies of adoption records revealed that few birth parents are promised confidentiality in adoption cases.
Where psychological damage is concerned, it was already done when most birth parents were asked to forget they babies, something that just isn’t possible. There are a lot of documented cases of birth parents who are indeed supporting the opening of these sealed adoption records. As for the abortion rates, research has shown that states which allow open access to birth certificates are also those where abortion rate has decreased, not increased.
Most of the time, adoptees are looking for specific answers, like why they were given up for adoption, who is their birth family, and the story of their birth. Not all the answers to these questions will paint a happy picture, but most adoptees start searching for them when they feel ready and strong enough to handle whatever the truth is.
After a lot of adoptees have finally found the truth and shared their story with the world, one way or another, people started realizing that closed records are not helping or protecting anybody; they’re just an obstacle for people who wish to find out more about themselves.
Birth and adoptive parents alike are on the supportive side of the new law. Both groups understand that adoptees just need to know the truth and find the information about how they came in the world. Most adoptive parents do not feel threatened in their current role and usually support this search.
Image Source: ChurnMag
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