Birth Records Open for Indiana Adoptees

By: - July 2, 2018 12:00 am

Adoptees wait outside the state Office of Vital Statistics to apply in person for their birth certificates and adoption records in Columbus, Ohio. A number of states have enacted laws giving adult adoptees access to their original, sealed birth certificates. Andrew Welsh-Huggins/AP

Starting this week, Indiana adoptees 21 and over will have access to birth certificates that were once sealed.

Indiana joins a growing number of states that have been granting adult adoptees the right to request the documents. Many adoptees who wanted to find out who their birth parents were have been frustrated because they had no legal right to get a copy of their original birth certificate.

Records were sealed in most states decades ago to help protect the confidentiality of birth mothers, especially those who were unwed and faced the stigma of having a child out of wedlock.

But as adoption has changed and adoptee rights groups have become more vocal, the mood has shifted. Today about half the states grant adult adoptees some access to their original birth certificate without going to court.

The new Indiana law applies to those adopted from 1941, the year the state started sealing adoption records, through 1993. Beginning in 1994, adoptees were permitted access to their original birth certificates, but those adopted in the intervening years were not grandfathered in.

In 2016, then-Republican Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed the adoptee rights bill into law, but it didn’t go into effect until July 1, 2018. That was to give birth parents time to sign a preference form that would withhold the release of their identifying information from adoptees.

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Jenni Bergal

Jenni Bergal covers transportation, infrastructure and cybersecurity for Stateline. She has been a reporter at Kaiser and the Center for Public Integrity.