House Bill 61: Access To Adoption Records
By Rep. Dorothy Pelanda (R-Marysville)

House Bill 61, which I sponsored with Rep. Nicki Antonio (D-Lakewood), creates equal rights for all Ohio adoptees regarding access to their original birth records.

As an adoption attorney and adoptive parent, I am keenly aware of a certain disparity in Ohio’s adoption laws. Rep. Antonio’s personal family history led her to join me in attempting to create parity for all Ohio adoptees.

When a child is adopted, a new birth certificate is created, whereby the adoptive parents are listed as the birth parents. The original birth certificate is sealed.

Ohio adoptees born prior to 1964 and after 1996 may, upon reaching the age of 18, obtain a copy of their original birth certificate from the Bureau of Vital Statistics. Legislation enacted in 1964 repealed the right of adoptees to obtain an original birth certificate, and subsequent legislation in 1996 restored this right, creating a “doughnut hole” of adoptees who do not have the right to obtain their original birth records.

Children adopted between 1964 and 1996 must petition the Probate Court that finalized their adoption for permission to obtain the records. It is within the Court’s discretion to release the records. Not only does “discretion” vary from Court to Court, but current law denies these adoptees the rights of all other adoptees, who can obtain their original birth certificates without going through this process.

Research revealed that the affected population (birth parents and adoptees) exceeds 250,000 Ohioans.

The House Judiciary Committee passed House Bill 61 unanimously, after the Committee heard emotional testimony from birth parents and adoptees who came to testify about their own adoption journeys. Those testifying made it abundantly clear that the legislation was very important to them.

On April 10, 2013, the House voted 96-1 in favor of the bill. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration. If the Bill is not amended in the Senate, it will go directly to the Governor for his consideration.

The effective date of House Bill 61 will be one year after its enactment, so that birth parents may complete a “contact preference form” to submit to the Bureau of Vital Statistics indicating if, and how, they would wish to be contacted by the adoptee.

I am proud to be part of this historic legislation and pleased to have worked in a bipartisan fashion with my fellow legislators to effectuate this change.

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