Frequently Asked Questions
- Q: I hear about how hard it is for adoptees or birthparents to conduct a successful search, is that true?
- Q: Will my search be easy once I get my original birth certificate?
- Q: Why does Adoption Network Cleveland recommend that I attend meetings as I start my search?
- Q: I don't live in Ohio and there are no such discussion meetings near where I live. How do I get support?
- Q: How long does a search take?
- Q: I'm a birthparent or birth sibling, can I initiate a search for the adoptee?
- Q: Can't I just hire a private investigator?
- Q: My parent was adopted, can I do a search?
- Q: What does the law referring to "open records" (effective March 20, 2015) do?
- Q: Why does the 2015 law only affect records in adoptions from 1964 to 1996?
- Q: What adoption records does the 2015 law effect?
- Q: Tell me more about the Contact Preference Form (CPF) and how that works.
- Q: What is the process to request my original birth certificate?
- Q. Does this law impact adoptees born in Ohio, but adopted in other states? What about adoptees born in other states, but adopted in Ohio?
- Q: What other records can adoptees get?
- Q: Tell me more about the birthparent redaction provision. Why is this in the 2015 law?
- Q: Can birthparents/families file to receive the adoptee's amended birth certificate?
- Q: Is there a cost to receive my original birth certificate?
- Q. I'm interested in finding post-adoption support in Ohio. Where can I find help?
- Q: I have heard that DNA can be helpful in searching for birth relatives. How is that done?
- Q: How do I get started?
Q: I hear about how hard it is for adoptees or birthparents to conduct a successful search, is that true?
A: Adoption Network Cleveland has been helping people for over 30 years reunite. The vast majority of adoptees and birthparents who start a search will succeed in finding the person/people they seek. When working with Adoption Network Cleveland, you maintain control over your search. Working with experienced people can make all the difference.
Q: Will my search be easy once I get my original birth certificate?
A: Having your original birth certificate is helpful in that you will have your birthmother's, and possibly your birthfather's name. Challenges can arise, however, such as having only a maiden name from decades earlier or dealing with a common name. Regardless of the information you have available to you, we provide technical expertise and emotional support along the way. This is often one of the most important components of a search process. We are here for that.
A: There is much more involved in searching and reuniting than simply conducting the necessary research. To be sure that you are prepared and supported, we suggest that you come to at least two of our General Discussion Meetings because they will be helpful during the process and long after. As you consider reaching out to birth relatives, it can be very powerful and enlightening to hear the viewpoints of other members of the adoption triad.
Q: I don't live in Ohio and there are no such discussion meetings near where I live. How do I get support?
A: If you are out of the area, we even have one monthly discussion meeting that happens online through Google Hangouts to provide a virtual face-to-face discussion opportunity. Using the format is easy and the meeting leader will walk you through any technical issues to help you access the meeting. You can also get support by calling our office.
Q: How long does a search take?
A: It depends on the information received. Some proceed quickly and some move more slowly. You own the process of your search and you determine the pace that makes you comfortable.
Q: I'm a birthparent or birth sibling, can I initiate a search for the adoptee?
A: Yes, Adoption Network Cleveland helps birthparents and birth siblings along the way, as well, as long as the adoptee is an adult (18+ years old). We also host a Birthmother's Support Group every other month. Birthmothers, birthfathers, and siblings also attend our General Discussions meetings.
Q: Can't I just hire a private investigator?
A: Adoption Network Cleveland offers an alternative to hiring a private investigator. Many of us have found from experience that the process of searching is, in itself, personally satisfying. Through this process you often find parts of yourself that you are looking for (maybe unknowingly), as well as the people/person that you are seeking. We assist you in doing your own search through sharing our expertise, resources and ongoing support along the way.
Q: My parent was adopted, can I do a search?
A: Ohio-born adult adoptees and lineal descendants of the adoptee may access the adoption file at the Ohio Department of Health with proof of identity and genetic linkage.
A: Ohio-born adoptees adopted from January 1, 1964 to September 18, 1996* and their lineal descendants can access their original (pre-adoption) birth certificate as of March 20, 2015. The law also repealed the old Ohio Adoption Registry, popularly known as the mutual consent registry. This law is the culmination of 25 year's worth of legislative advocacy by Adoption Network Cleveland in our efforts to promote ethical practices in adoption and foster care. Click the link above this paragraph to see a historical overview of the process.
Q: Why does the 2015 law only affect records in adoptions from 1964 to 1996?
A: The Vital Statistics file is already available under Ohio law to adoptees adopted before January 1, 1964. In adoptions after September 18, 1996, the file is also available to the adoptee (at age 21, and to the adoptive parents of an adoptee age 18-20). The records opened after September 18, 1996 represent one of the initial legislative victories initiated by Adoption Network Cleveland. The 2015 law completed this process and effectively made original birth records available to all Ohio adoptees and their lineal descendants and to the degree possible eliminated the previous illogical system of three separate tiers of limited and differing access.
Q: What adoption records does the 2015 law effect?
A: The law pertains only to the records held at the Ohio Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics in Columbus. Upon request, the adoptee (age 18 or older), will receive their original birth certificate and adoption decree. If the birthparent has filed a Contact Preference Form and updated medical history, those will be released along with the record. In addition, if there are any old Ohio Adoption Registry release forms in the file, those will also be released. The law does not apply to records at adoption agencies, which are only allowed by law to release "non-identifying information". For more information visit the Ohio Department of Health website (http://www.odh.ohio.gov/vitalstatistics/legalinfo/adoption.aspx).
Q: Tell me more about the Contact Preference Form (CPF) and how that works.
A: The CPF created in the 2015 law offers a mechanism for birthparents to express their wishes about contact. It is a voluntary form that has three options for birthparents to choose from: 1) A birthparent can express a desire for contact and provide personal contact information; 2) A birthparent can express desire for contact and provide contact information for a third party of their choosing. The adoptee can contact the birthparent through the third party; 3) A birthparent can express their desire not to be contacted. The form also has an area for the birthparent to write a narrative comment. The form encourages a birthparent to file an updated medical history form, and indicates to the adoptee if this has been done. If a CPF is on file at Vital Statistics, it will be released to the adoptee with the contents of their adoption file. Birthparents can only submit this form for themselves, they cannot submit it on behalf of the other birthparent. A birthparent can file a CPF at any time. Click here to access the CPF.
Q: What is the process to request my original birth certificate?
A: The adoptee records request form is available at the office of Vital Statistics in Columbus and on the Ohio Department of Health website (http://www.odh.ohio.gov/vitalstatistics/legalinfo/adoption.aspx). The request form must be notarized and be accompanied by copies of two forms of acceptable identification. Items of identification include, but are not limited to, a motor vehicle operator's license or chauffeur's license, marriage record (to provide linkage between the maiden name and married name), social security card, military identification card, or employee's identification card. Requests can be filed at Vital Statistics in Columbus in person at the window or through the mail. All requests will be fulfilled through the mail. Adoptees will not be handed their records at the Vital Statistics window. From our experience, adoptees typically receive their original birth certificate 2-3 weeks after requesting it, although the Ohio Department of Health website does specify to allow one month.
Q. Does this law impact adoptees born in Ohio, but adopted in other states? What about adoptees born in other states, but adopted in Ohio?
A: Adoptees with multi-state adoptions often "fall through the cracks" regarding which state's laws apply. The 2015 does specify that it applies to adoptees born in Ohio but adopted in other states—those adoptees are able to get their original Ohio birth certificate. However because Ohio would not have the original birth certificate of adoptees born elsewhere, those could not be included in this law.
Q: What other records can adoptees get?
A: Ohio adoptees can usually get their "non-identifying" information from the agency or attorney that handled their adoption. Under Ohio law adoptees can request this information through the agency or attorney that handled their adoption. Click here (https://ancorg.presencehost.net/file_download/5e989207-a9a3-464e-ad98-8e6b58f2c1be) for information about the pertinent Ohio Revised Code, ORC 3107.66 and associated Ohio Administrative Code (OAC).
Q: Tell me more about the birthparent redaction provision. Why is this in the 2015 law?
A: Senate Bill 23 was originally crafted with only the birthparent Contact Preference Form. This original version of the bill was the subject of the hearings in the House and the Senate through the spring of 2013. The bill then stalled and looked like it would not pass the Senate unless further provisions were added. At that point, a birthparent redaction provision was added by the Ohio Senate.
The birthparent redaction provision gave a one-year period, ending March 19, 2015, in which a birthparent could voluntarily come forward to file a form requesting that their name be removed from the version of the original birth certificate that is released to the adoptee. For the redaction form to be accepted by Vital Statistics it had to have been notarized and a current medical history form must have been submitted by the birthparent.
A birthparent who had filed a redaction form can come back at any time to remove it. If a redaction form is present and the adoptee requests their birth certificate, the full birth certificate will be released, minus the birthparent's name. The medical history form provided by the birthparent will also be released to the adoptee. Of the 400,000 records impacted by the redaction clause, only 259 redaction requests were filed, representing .06% of the total.
Q: Can birthparents/families file to receive the adoptee's amended birth certificate?
A: At this time no. Only adoptees and their lineal descendants can file for access to their original birth records. There is a form from the Ohio Department of Health that an adoptee can file to allow release of their amended birth certificate (http://www.odh.ohio.gov/en/vitalstatistics/legalinfo/adoptfnl.aspx). If that form is on file, then Vital Statistics can release the amended certificate if requested by the birthparent.
Q: Is there a cost to receive my original birth certificate?
A: The cost is $20, which is comparable to the fee the state charges for any birth certificate request.
A: Adoption Network Cleveland offers monthly discussion groups for birthparents, adoptees, adoptive parents and others that want to access support and learn more about the lifelong experience of adoption. These meetings are open to spouses, partners, siblings, extended family members and friends. These groups provide resources, community and support to people involved in adoption. Adoption Network Cleveland has eight monthly General Support and Discussion meetings throughout the state of Ohio and online virtually. Additionally, we have a private Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/march20adoptionnetworkcleveland/) designed to provide a private forum for open discussion, idea sharing, and community building.
Q: I have heard that DNA can be helpful in searching for birth relatives. How is that done?
A: Genetic genealogy is helping provide answers where searching has been difficult or impossible and can help solve unknown parentage. This method is most useful for an adoptee searching for birth relatives, especially if the maternal side is known from the original birth certificate. DNA can also be useful to help provide focus if dealing with a very common name in a maternal search. Common reliable tests that are recommended are Ancestry, 23 and Me, My Heritage and FTDNA. If only choosing to start with one test, we recommend Ancestry because it has the largest database of user results and the ability to possibly view family trees of DNA relative matches. DNA testing provides an ethnicity breakdown and will match you with any DNA relative matches that are in the database of the chosen site. Close DNA matches combined with information from your original birth certificate and non-identifying information from your adoption agency can help you determine possible matches for birth family.