Adoptees will be able to soon access original birth records

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COLUMBIA - Adoptees born after 1941 will soon be able to request their original birth certificates, per the Missouri Adoptee Rights Act. Applications were initially going to start being accepted after January 1, 2018. The certificates won't be available until January 2, 2018, but in an effort to expedite the process the Bureau of Vital Records is now accepting early applications for adoptees to request their original birth records.

"It can take several weeks to process these requests," said Sara O'Connor, a public relations representative for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. "The department is anticipating several hundred applicants within the first few days of the law taking effect. Applications early will allow DHSS to better serve customers."

Dewey Crepeau, the executive director of A Gift of Hope Adoptions, who used to work as an adoption lawyer, said these developments are highly important for Missouri adoptees. 

"It fundamentally changes the rights or the statutory procedures for an adult adoptee to get a copy of their original birth certificate. Before that it was practically impossible to get a copy of a Missouri adoptee's original birth certificate. Now the default has kind of shifted."

Crepeau said that through his long experience working with adoptees, he believes having this option will mean a lot. 

"A lot of adoptees, at some point in their life will ask 'what is my story?' and a big part of their story would be to see their original birth certificate," Crepeau said. 

The Missouri Adoptee Rights Act, signed into law in 2016 by former Gov. Jay Nixon, allows an adult adoptee or adoptee's attorney to request an uncertified copy of an adoptee's birth certificate. Non-certified copies of the birth certificates will only be able to be used for genealogical purposes, and not for identification. 

Crepeau said prior to the law being passed, there were a number of legal barriers for adoptees to receive similar information. 

"You had to go to court, you needed birth parents' consent. Now the stature just says you can get a copy of your original birth certificate, unless both birth parents object."

Although adoptees may start applying in order to get this information, birth parents do have a right to determine whether or not they'd like their information to be released. O'Connor also said birth parents can also determine a contact preference and medical history report for adoptees looking for information.

According to Crepeau, even if only one birth parent signs off on the request, an adult adoptee could still get some partial information. He said many adoptees believe 

"A lot of people who are adopted say 'it is should be our right to see our original birth certificate,'" Crepeau said.

Crepeau says it's difficult to say whether the lowered barriers to adoptee information would help adoption agencies like A Gift of Hope.

"We still may have birth parents, even though contact between a biological parent and an adopted child is much more open than it was even ten, fifteen years ago, we may still have a situation where birth parents say 'I don't ever want to contacted.' Now they may change their minds down the road," Crepeau said. "But at the time they're making that decision to place a child for adoption, that might be their thought."

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said although any interested adoptees can begin sending in their applications, it will take at least six weeks or longer to locate the documents.