Movement to Open Adoption Records Boosted in Ohio
A movement to open adoption records that began in the 1990s recently got a major boost. On December 19, 2013, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed a bill that is set to open adoption records for hundreds of thousands of adopted Ohioans.
The law gives the birth parents of adopted children one year to file a “contact preference” form that indicates whether and in what manner they wish to be contacted by the child they gave up for adoption. They also have the opportunity to have their names redacted from their children’s birth certificates.
Then, beginning in March 2015, Ohio adoptees born between January 1, 1964 and September 18, 1996 will be able to obtain their adoption files, including their original birth certificates, upon reaching the age of 18.
Prevailing national attitudes about adoption have changed drastically in the last 50 years. In the 1960s, adoption was a very sensitive and secretive issue. Not everyone was accepting toward adopted children or toward the mothers who gave them up. In response, many states sealed adoption records, making it all but impossible for an adoptee to identify his or her birth parents without a court order — a very high barrier. But in the 1990s, these attitudes began to change rapidly. Adoption was no longer treated as secretive. At that time, states began to reverse their laws, making all future adoptions open unless the biological parents requested otherwise.
Now, Ohioans adopted during the time when sealed records were the norm will be given the chance to access their adoption files. And reform activists are hoping that the new law will inspire other states to follow in Ohio’s footsteps.
Currently, Florida has no such law. The Sun Sentinel recently featured a Boca Raton woman named Kimberly Remy, 31, who has sought to find her birth parents since she was 13. She has registered on and searched adoption registries where birth parents and adoptees can reunite, but she has had no luck. With a court order, she could see her original birth certificate, but she has no guarantee a judge would grant it. In effect, the requisite court and attorney fees are a gamble she cannot afford.
Present Florida law is similar to Ohio’s in that it does allow for both closed and open adoptions. As adoption becomes more and more a celebrated social institution, birth parents nationwide are increasingly opting for some level of openness in adoptions. These arrangements can vary from simply allowing the records to remain available for their biological child to taking an active part in the child’s life after the adoption.
As prevailing attitudes change, it is likely that more states, including Florida, will implement some manner of opening older adoption records.