Expanded access to Ohio adoption records

The Toledo Blade and Cleveland Plain Dealer last week were among those carrying news about a pair of Ohio adoption  bills emerging from  their respective legislatures and making their way toward the governor’s desk.

Prior to 1964 birth certificates in Ohio were considered public record, but in that year the law was changed and they became part of the court’s sealed record with respect to adoptions, openable only for good cause. (See 130 OL 848). That stance was reversed in 1996 with respect to the  rights of an adoptee  and access to original records & adoption files (ORC 3107.38 and 3705.12, both pursuant to  Ohio HB 419, which became effective in September of that year). House Bill 419, however, did not make the law retroactive. [The Ohio Department of Health has an overview of this Here]

Now we’re taking that final big step with Senate Bill 23 and companion House Bill 61, both introduced on Feb, 12th. by Senators Bill Beagle & David Burke, and Representatives Dorothy Pelanda & Nickie Antonio, respectively, which the Blade article says will enable an estimated 400,000 Ohioans adopted between 1964 and 1996 to have access to those original records. SB 23 has passed both Senate and House scrutiny and is headed to the Governor’s office, but wouldn’t take effect until one year and 90 days after he signs it into law..... 455 days.

“Biological parents will have the opportunity to place a form in the adoption file indicating whether they want to be contacted by those they put up for adoption,” the article says, “but it would also allow them to have their names redacted from the birth certificate, if they wish --  it also provides for a medical history form to be placed in the file and requires the state to develop a system in which the adoptee can ask a medical history question of his biological parent through the Ohio Department of Health.”

The Plain Dealer article notes HB 61 passed the House back in April and was referred to Senate’s  Medicaid, Health and Human Services Committee.

Related to the adoption theme here are are HB 307 and its companion  SB 250, also pending in the Ohio legislature, addressing pre-birth adoption notifications being sent to putative fathers, introduced back in October and earlier this month, respectively

Those interested or practicing in Ohio adoption law can access an extensive history & analysis of Ohio adoption law in a 1997Cleveland. State Law Review article by Wendy Weiss centering around the passage of HB 419 and its impact. [“Ohio House Bill 419: Increased Openness in Adoption Records Law,” by Wendy L. Weiss, 45 Clev. St. L. Rev. 101 (1997) – HeinOnline ]