Update 5: Feb. 21, 2013
ROAR! 2013 – Restore Ohio Adoptee Rights in 2013
Sponsor testimony was held for House Bill 61 in the House Judiciary Committee yesterday. Bill Sponsors Representatives Pelanda and Antonio did a fantastic job testifying and answering questions from the committee. The next hearing will be testimony from all of US – please get ready to come and testify or to come and show your support. We had about 25 supporters in the room yesterday — thank you to all who came — and need that many AT EACH HEARING. Hearings will always be Wednesday afternoons, although not necessarily every week – we will let you know as they get scheduled – usually the Thursday before. For those of you out of state that want to come in for a hearing, we have been assured that there will be at least one that we can schedule far enough in advance to accommodate travel planning. We are happy to help you prepare your testimony — if you want our help, please let me know. Don’t be daunted if you’ve never testified before — this is the time to get involved and have a voice!
At future hearings we will have stickers for all supporters to wear – there was a glitch yesterday, so they were unavailable — but they are ready and waiting for you at all future hearings.
Documents from the hearing on March 21, 2013 can be found by clicking here.
As expected, legislators on the committee asked questions after the testimony was given. These questions were answered by Reps Pelanda and Antonio. Where 2 answers are listed, they both answered separately. These questions help to guide us in knowing what points to be sure we cover in future testimony. Questions/answers included (paraphrased here from notes taken):
Q: What is the number of adoptees that this legislation will impact?
A: Betsie Norris will provide those numbers at a future hearing.
Q: To clarify, can only the adoptee get the birth certificate or can the birthparent get it too under this legislation? (Rep Antonio had told the story of her sister, a birthmother who searched)
A: No, the bill only allows the adoptee access to the original birth certificate.
Q: If there are medical reasons, can this information be gotten before the adoptee turns 18?
A: Much more medical history is given in current adoptions. Birthparents can update their medical history in more recent adoptions.
Q: Wouldn’t women (birthmothers) have the expectation of anonymity? Then suddenly a new low goes into effect that changes their “contract” with Probate Court — wouldn’t that be unconstitutional?
A: There was no contract. Birthmothers signed a “surrender” — nowhere did that include a statement that they would not be identified. It was limited to them surrendering their parental rights. The judge asks, “were there any ‘side deals’”? And let’s the birthparent know that if there were, they are totally unenforceable. Nothing said the birth certificate would be closed.
A: In states with this system, there is a very small percentage of birthparents that ask not to be contacted. Getting their birth certificate is the right of the adoptee who is now an adult.
Q: I just heard a radio show about a same sex couple that used a sperm donor to conceive a child. After the couple split up, the mother was suing the sperm donor for child support. If there was a sperm donor involved in any of these situations and the adoptee finds out, could they be sued for support?
A: This is only about making the birth certificate available to the adoptee.
A: An unmarried parent cannot put a father on the birth certificate. The father has to put himself on, so the sperm donor would have to have put himself on the birth certificate.
Q: How do birthparents get access to the Contact Preference Form?
A: Looking at other states, some like RI put it online for the birthparent to access and fill out anytime. Other states have the birthparent return to the probate court of the adoption. I think having it online and going directly to Vital Statistics is easiest.
A: Organizations that serve people touched by adoption will be helpful in getting the word out and directing people to fill out the form.
Q: How would birthparents know they need to do this? What is the percent in other states of total birthparents who have filled out the form?
A: We will bring you that data at a future hearing.
Things you can do to help:
• Prepare your testimony! From the above questions it is evident that the committee needs especially to hear from birthparents. They also need to hear from adult adoptees, adoptive parents and long-term adoption professionals. I will be organizing people to testify, so please let me know if you are planning to.
• Call and write letters to the House committee members (listed below below). If you are a constituent in their district, please tell them.
• Encourage any organization you can to endorse the bill by downloading the form here. Organizations that might be interested and supportive include adoption agencies, state and national child welfare organizations, civic, religious, legal, health related organizations, and more. (If you are with an organization that has verbally told me you support the bill, please complete and send me this form.)
• Make a financial contribution to help fund our efforts – you can do so by going to www.adoptionnetwork.org/roar2013.aspx or by mailing a check made out to Adoption Network Cleveland, specifying ROAR! 2013 in the memo line, to Adoption Network Cleveland at 4614 Prospect Avenue, Suite 550, Cleveland, OH 44103.
About the legislation:
Ohio Senate Bill 23, sponsored by Senators Beagle and Burke, and House Bill 61, sponsored by Representatives Pelanda and Antonio, were introduced February 12, 2013. Senate Bill 23 was assigned to the Senate Medicaid, Health and Human Services Committee and House Bill 61 was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.
The bills will allow:
• Ohio adoptees adopted 1964 to 1996* access to their Original Birth Certificate upon request at age 18, starting one year from bill passage date.
• Ohio birthparents to file a Contact Preference Form specifying if and how they would like contact.
• Ohio birthparents to complete and put on file an updated medical history for the adoptee.
(*Adult adoptees from before 1964 in Ohio already have this right, as do the vast majority of adoptees after 1996.)