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Ohio Rolls Out New Adoptee Access to Records Law on March 20

Ohio is Latest in National Trend: Adoptees Watching in Other States

4/9/2014, 8:48 a.m.

Cleveland, OH – On March 20, 2014, Ohio will implement the first part of a two-phase roll out of legislation related to adult adoptees’ access to their original birth certificates. On that date, birthparents can file a form to express their preferences about contact with the child they placed for adoption. In addition to the Contact Preference Form, birthparents will be encouraged to fill out an updated medical history. If their child was adopted between 1964 and 1996, birthparents will have a one-year period to request their names be redacted from the version of the original birth certificate that would be released to the adult adoptee.

The second phase of the legislation will be rolled out one year later on March 20, 2015, when 400,000 Ohio adoptees born between 1964 and 1996* will be able to receive copies of their original birth certificates.

Ohio becomes the 11th state in the national trend to allow adoptee access to original birth certificates. Kansas and Alaska never closed their records. Tennessee, Oregon, Alabama, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Illinois have implemented laws in recent years that restored access. There are similar active attempts in many states across the country. On February 27, the New Jersey legislature approved a bill that is currently awaiting Governor Christie’s signature.

Ohio is unique in that the new legislation opens records from a “sandwich” period (1964-1996) that had not been opened by earlier legislation in 1996. “The new law will have a ripple effect, not only in Ohio, but across the country. Adoptees in every state are paying attention,” said Betsie Norris, Executive Director and Founder of Adoption Network Cleveland, a support, education and advocacy non-profit organization for anyone with a connection to adoption or foster care. The organization has been working on this issue for over two decades on behalf of Ohio adoptees. The new law in Ohio has a broad reach outside of the state to those who were born and adopted in Ohio but might now be living elsewhere.

“I am delighted that Ohio has joined the growing number of states that has approved access to original birth certificates for all adult adoptees,” commented Adam Pertman, President of the Donaldson Adoption Institute, an independent and nonpartisan national organization that is the leading think tank in the field of adoption. “There is no significant legal, experiential or factual rationale for denying adopted adults the right to access their original birth certificates – a right that is enjoyed by all non-adopted Americans. Every state needs to follow suit.”

Equal access to original birth certificates has been a public policy goal of Adoption Network Cleveland since its founding in 1988. The Cleveland Foundation provided financial support for this public policy initiative.

*Ohio adoptees before 1964 and after 1996 already have access.