Legislation introduced in Oklahoma has the potential to open up previously closed communication channels for birthparents and adopted children, says a March 4 article in The Norman Transcript. If approved, the bill (House Bill 1118) would introduce the “Truth in Adoption Act,” opening up information that’s been previously been difficult to access.
“The measure would allow a biological parent to file a contact preference form accompanied by an updated medical and social history with the Registrar of Vital Statistics to be made available to the adult adoptee,” says the story.
This openness is critical for many reasons, says 36-year-old Kevin Lewis, an adoptee profiled in the story. Lewis says the “Truth in Adoption Act,” which was introduced by Rep. Wade Rousselot, D-Wagoner, could have far-reaching impacts.
“First off, it’s long overdue,” he said. “I think it’s important not just for reasons of medical history, but for the identity of those kids, a healthy identity that they understand who they are.”
The lack of transparency in domestic adoption and the pervasive laws that keep adoption birth records closed and original birth certificates hidden date back over 50 years in many states. According to the Adoptee Rights Coalition, only one out of every nine adoptees has the right to access his or her original birth certificate.
According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, nearly all states have laws that allow for the release of identifying information if the birthparent has consented to the release of that information. If such a release is not on file, the adopted individual must petition the court and prove that a “clear and compelling reason” exists that warrants the release of identifying information on the original birth certificate. Medical necessity, such as the need to track down family history that may alter the treatment plan for a serious disease, is often the most compelling and most successful argument in cases where a release is not on file.
Thirty-one states have implemented a tactic known as a "mutual consent registry," which allows individuals to indicate their preferences around sharing identifiable information. Both birth parents and adopted children can participate in these registries. While not a perfect solution, these registries have begun to open channels for communication and sharing that were previously impenetrable.
The proposed Oklahoma legislation would give birthparents new and different options related to the sharing of information with the child for whom they made an adoption plan. Direct contact is certainly a possibility, but not a mandate. Contact through an intermediary or no contact at all would also be options for birthparents in Oklahoma.
“There is no reason why anyone shouldn’t be able to obtain their birth certificate,” said Lewis. “I think it’s another example of an archaic law that needs to be revisited as society has changed.”
The interest in this proposed legislation goes beyond the Oklahoma borders. Advocates for increased transparency in adoption and for both birthparent rights and adoptee rights are watching the Oklahoma legislation with interest.