Friday, August 12, 2011

Gearing up for the changes

It looks as if many folks are gearing up for the revisions in the search law to take effect.  It will be a busy time with the Courts as they learn the new law and make the needed changes in their policies and procedures.  It will also be a time for adoptees to get a better idea of what the changes will and will not allow. 

There are still some major misunderstandings, I fear.  Remember we are talking about the Courts adoption file not an OBC.  Most Court files do not have an OBC in them and even then, it is a state form not part of the adoption record and most Courts will probably not include it in the info given.  This is merely my understanding based on speaking with personnel at several different Courts.  In most cases, it is a mute point as the OBC is just not there.  In actuality, the adoption file may have much more info then the OBC has anyway.  There are those unfortunate counties where the Court files literally have no birth parent info other then their name.  So when these poor adoptees request non-id, there is none to give them.  Even the Courts don't know how old the birth parent was, where they were from, etc.  It isn't that they are holding back, it just isn't there.  They can't release info that doesn't exist. 

These revisions have helped create some publicity for adoption search and the fact that it can happen successfully.  Many still do not realize there is even a search process in place and has been for a long time.  The ability to search through the Courts is not a new thing but has been around since 1986.  The "new law" folks are talking about are merely revisions to the current law.

One thing this has brought out is a greater realization that requesting information from the Courts can be a good thing.  There are many that never contacted the Court as they were always being told to avoid the Court or that the Court could not help them.  In most cases, the Court is the only source of information about the adoption, so why not go where the info is?  I do admit there are Courts that are still do not understand the current law and so will create even greater frustration for adoptees with the new revisions.  However, most Courts have an understanding staff and it is not usually the idea that they are not releasing info just to be difficult, it either isn't there to begin with or it is not something they are legally able to provide.  This is the whole reason behind many of the new revisions.  Hopefully, we can bring the resistant Courts around to providing the adoptee with a competant and compassionate response to their search request.

For most folks the process will be the same as in the past.  The adoptee will still need to make the request for information and in most cases will have to have a search conducted.  It will be at the end of the search that the changes will become evident.  If the birth parent consents, this will be the same as before with the Judge allowing the release of info and the birth parent and adoptee making a connection.  However, if the birth parent is found to be deceased, then the Court, under certain conditions, can now allow the release of the identifying information to the adoptee on the birth parent from the time of the adoption as well as any updated information found in the course of the search.  They may also be able to to be connected with any living siblings they may now find as the Court can allow for them to be confidentially contacted in the same manner as the birth parent would have if they had been alive.

The biggest process change that I forsee will be for those folks who are not the actual adoptee but the lineal descendent of a deceased adoptee.  I had to create a form for this category and anticipate that most Courts will have to do this as well.  The Courts have usually turned away anyone who was not the actual adoptee as the Courts were not allowed to release any information to anyone but the adoptee directly. 

Some feelers have also been put out to see if we can make another change next year to allow for the birth parent to make a request for a confidential search just as the adoptee can now do.  Again, no one wants to have someone knock on their door and drop in their life from out of the blue without fair warning.  But I receive at least two calls a week from birth families who would love to be able to reach out to the adoptee.  If the adoptee is willing, wonderful and if not, then they are respectful of that and would not intrude.  They just know they have to make the effort.

Remember, the process of requesting info from most Courts will be the same other then you will no longer need adoptive parent consent.  The Courts do not have the info right at their finger tips to provide to you if you were to walk in.  Most have the old files in archives and will have to request the file.  Also, there still has to be proof that the birth parent is deceased before the Court will be able to release the info on a deceased bp so a search will most likely have to be done to determine that.  If a search was done in the past and it was found that they were deceased, then a new search will not be needed as the Court should have that info already on file.

In most cases, there is no need to wait until Aug 29th to make the request of the Court.   It will take that long before the files are back from archives and the request has made it through to the point of release anyway especially if a search has to be conducted.   So don't wait.  Go ahead and send in the request to get the process started. 

Have a great day everyone!