COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Thousands of Ohio adoptees are hoping to learn more about their history, including family medical information, thanks to a new law granting them access to their adoption files and birth certificates.
Individuals adopted between January 1, 1964, and September 18, 1996, began requesting the information Friday from the Ohio Department of Health. The law is expected to give about 400,000 people access to records that had been largely blocked without a court order.
About 400 people braved cold temperatures and rain to line up outside the state vital statistics bureau first thing Friday to apply in person. Results come in about a month.
"I have been waiting for so long to find out my history, who I originated from," said Dorothy Johnson, 48, a Youngstown police officer, as she shuffled along in line. She is hoping to learn the identity of her mother, who she has been told was 13 when she had Johnson in 1966.
Concerned that adoption records were open to anyone, lawmakers put them off limits in 1964, including to adult adoptees.
Following lobbying from adoptees and their advocates, lawmakers made the records public again in 1996. People adopted in all other years already had access to the records.
But the law was not made retroactive for those caught in between because of pressure from groups, including abortion opponents who feared it would discourage people considering adoption, said Betsie Norris, executive director and founder of Adoption Network Cleveland, and an adoptee who led the fight to change the law.
The law that took effect Friday finally opens the records for those 1964-1996 adoptees. It also gives birth parents the ability to say whether they want to be contacted and allows birth parents to update their medical information through the state.
"It's about adoptees having the civil right to information that all other Americans can have about themselves," Norris said. "It's a social justice issue."
Ohio is the ninth state to make all its records available to adoptees, she said.
Under the law, birth parents who placed a child for adoption between 1964 and 1996 had a one-year period to request that their names be redacted from the birth-certificate information that would be released to the adult adoptee.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.