Indiana HEAR News

Indiana adoptees demand their birth records through new Indiana Senate Bill, and new advocacy group, HEAR

Contact:
Laura McCaffrey, Bose Public Affairs Group
(m) 317-684-5486/ (e) lmccaffrey@bosepublicaffairs.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind., January 12, 2015—Imagine finding out you have a sister you never knew, who might have found you 20 years ago, if only she had the money to pay the $200 search fee to the agency that handled your adoption.

Imagine finding out through a long private search that you have a brother just two years your senior who died from Colon Cancer—a disease risk you had no idea you had.

Imagine searching and finding that you had been working with your biological mother in the same plant for 13 years, and neither of you knew.

These are the real stories of adult adoptees from Indiana’s “closed records” adoption era—an era a new adoption access advocacy group, Hoosiers for Equal Access to Records (HEAR) hopes to bring to a close for good. This new non-profit is working to advance a bill in the 2015 legislative session that will make it possible for adult Indiana adoptees to request their original birth certificates and all their adoption file information—and, in most cases, get them.

“In 1993, Indiana made a very progressive decision to let all adult adoptees adopted in 1994 or later have access to their records, if they request them any time after they reach 21. They did it because research and best practices showed this was the best path to healing and healthy development for adoptees, biological parents and adoptive families,” said Pam Kroskie, President of HEAR. “But Indiana adoptees from 1941 to 1993 were left out of that law. We are the only Indiana citizens denied access to our birth certificates—and any information, really, about who we are and the circumstances of our birth. It’s like trying to live the story of your life without a chapter one. And after all this time, all we are asking for is the same rights younger adoptees in Indiana have,” she added.

Authored by State Senator Brent Steele (R), this bill, if passed, would make Indiana the 14th state to make its sealed adoption records open to adult adoptees, making the law currently used for those adopted after 1993 apply for Indiana adoptees from all time periods. HEAR estimates that there are 350,000 people alive today adopted during the closed records period. When birth/first parents and adoptive parents are factored in, approximately 1.4 million people could be directly affected by the bill.

Under current law, adoptees during this time period must contact the agency that handled their adoption and request contact with their biological parents. They are then referred to a very small, loose network of confidential intermediaries in the state who search for the birth/first parents in a process that is confusing, often very expensive and completely hidden from the adoptee. Confidential intermediaries are currently unlicensed and very often untrained. If the birth parents can’t be found, move out of state, or say no, the adoptees are still denied their records, and with it the hope of ever getting a family medical history or finding other relatives. And worst of all, Kroskie said, they will never know why.

“This bill will put the control back into the adoptee’s hands,” Kroskie said. “If they request their records, and there is no form filed by the birth/first parents requesting no contact, they will get them. Then adoptees can use a confidential intermediary or search for their biological families on their own terms. It is time the state stopped enforcing secrecy and shame where there should be none,” Kroskie said.

Changing attitudes of birth/first parents have played a big part in the success of the nationwide movement to open access to birth records for adult adoptees, Kroskie said. In a study of the 13 states that have made records available to adoptees by the Donaldson Adoption Institute, an average of only .10 percent of biological parents signed forms asking for no contact.

HEAR has established a website to help gather the entire adoption community together around the issue of records access, giving all members of the adoption constellation the chance to donate to the cause, sign up for the HEAR newsletter, write their legislators and upload their own adoption experiences. Its website can be found at http://www.indianahear.org.

About HEAR
Hoosiers for Equal Access to Records, Inc. (HEAR) is a non-profit organization dedicated to removing the shame and secrecy surrounding Indiana’s closed adoptions period. It calls on adoptees, birth/first mothers, adoptive parents and adoption placement professionals to band together to improve adoption education, and promote adult adoptees’ access to their original birth certificates. Find out more at http://www.indianahear.org.