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!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

New statute clarification

The new statute basically modifies the current search process and the information the Court is allowed to release.  This is all as the effective date of August 28, 2011

The adoptive parent consent is no longer needed to request a full search. 

The Court will still provide the non-id info in the same manner as before.

The identifying information found in the Court file will be allowed to be released at the conclusion of a search if the birth parent is found alive and provides their consent OR is found to be deceased.  Basically it is the same statute as before with the addition of the "or if deceased" added to the language.  The same conditions are presented regarding the other birth parent having to be consenting, deceased as well, unknown or known but cannot be found.

This will not include the OBC filed with Vital Records in Jeff City. The Court has no jurisdiction over this record.   It only includes what is currently in the Court file and still requires a Judge to provide the approval for the release of any information.  I suppose if there is a copy of an OBC in the Court file, it could be released.  Usually that is not the case. 

If a search has been done in the past and you were told your birth parents are deceased, you would not need to do another search.  The info should be in the Court file already.  If you did not do a search but know that the birth parent is deceased and have some form of proof, the Court should provide the info without requiring a search.  The hope is also there that the Court will use some common sense in determining when it will release info.  If the birth parent would be over 100 years old by now but no search has been done and there is no proof of death, the fact that they would be over 100 should play into their agreeing to release the information to the requesting party.

I would be happy to answer any questions regarding the new statute and what it means.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

SB351 has been signed!

Just got the call.  The Bill has been signed by the Governor!  Congrats to all those who have worked for this.  Adoptees or their decedents will now have more access to the adoption information and adoptees will not have to ask their adoptive parents for permission.  (That has always been an odd requirement anyway.)  I have not yet seen the final copy of the Bill to see how the final wording ended up but should be helpful to many people.  Still not a total disclosure for all adoptees but that may come in time.  For now, I have a guess as to who will be the first people in line to get this newly available info. 

It will take time to get the Courts educated on the new statute but plans are in the works for that.  Still, I am very pleased.  Some progress is better then none.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Anticipation continues

There has still been no activity in the Governor's office regarding any of the new legislation articles sent to him.  We are learning a lesson in patience. 
We continue to spread the word of the new legislation so that adoptees are aware of the information that will (hopefully) soon be available to them.   Many adoptees who felt they would never know anything since their birth parents are deceased are very excited to hear about the new legislation.  This will be the information they have been wanting.  The feeling to "know" what their name was, to learn the name of their birth mother or birth father, to see it on paper, to learn "the rest of the story," will be a dream come true.  
The challenge will also be to get the notice out to the Courts in Missouri to let them know of the revision in the statute so that they will respond appropriately to adoptees when they inquire about their records.  It still amazes me when folks ask: Why do  adoptees search?  Why the information should be released at all?  Why are we not just letting it alone?  Well, adoptees have a history that goes beyond their moment of adoption.  Their existence didn't start then, it started before.  We want to know many things and it is only right that we should be allowed to ask.  Of course, no one wants to barge in and disrupt anyones life with the knowledge and intrude into the birth parents life, if being "known" would cause a problem.  We respect those birth parents, who for their own reasons, do not want to have this part of their life known to all.  But in most cases, it isn't this extreme. 
The disappointment comes when the adoptee finds out the birth parent is deceased and they are barred from knowing anything more the the non-id.  This will change when the Courts will be allowed to release the names of the birth parents even if they are deceased.  We have been working on this change for a long time.  It has been my frustration, along with the adoptee's, for all the years I have been helping adoptees search.  The right to confidentiality understandably exists while you are alive but ceases when you die.  It should include this situation as well.  With the passage of this legislation, the adoptee or their family will "win the lottery" and be able to know something as simple as a name.
Stay cool everyone!  As soon as I hear anything, you will be the first to know.

Friday, June 3, 2011

On the Governor's desk

SB 351 was delivered to the Gov. on May 26 along with the long list of other HB and SB's that were passed this session.  Looking at his web site, nothing has been done with any of these Bills to date.  So we wait.

Many of us have called the Gov.'s office to express our support of this Bill.  It is not known when he will be in the office to work on legislative things especially with the tornadoes and such that have occurred in the last few weeks.

We are keeping watch and I will post any new updates as soon as they occur.  When the Gov. does sign or after the default deadline of passage has come and gone, it will still be the end of August before the Bill is actually law.  We will also have to give the Courts a reasonable amount of time to even become aware of the new statute, to review it and then to develop the process to handle the influx of requests they will undoubtedly receive. 

Still, it is all very exciting.
Happy Summer!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Still waiting

We are still waiting for the Gov. to sign the Bill.  Looking on the Governor's web site, he has not signed anything since May 11th.  So all the other Bills sent to him in the last week of the session have not had any action either. 

Adoptees who know that their birth parents are deceased either by the results of a search or their own research are anxious for this change to be enacted.

Adoptees who do not yet know if their birth parents are alive or deceased can feel a little more comfortable requesting a search because in most cases, unless the birth parent says no to contact, the identifying information should be made available to them.  At least this was the intention of the change in statute. 

The next step on my agenda once the statute goes into play is to "educate" the Courts, juvenile officers, circuit clerks of the changes in the statute. This will hopefully help adoptees to have a better result when they request a search from counties that don't really get enough requests to have developed a procedure for effectively, competently and compassionately handling a search much less a reunion.   

We continue.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Almost there!

SB351 has now passed through all the legislative steps and is on it's way to the Governor's desk.  We hope that he has no objections and will sign it into law.  I am anxious to see how it reads in it's final form as there were several amendments added at the end that I did not have a chance to read before they were submitted but I think they were just minor adjustments to make the statute easier to read and understand.  So unless you hear differently, the changes will go into effect in August 2011.  So if you know you know your birth parents are deceased or did not want to search due to the risk of learning nothing, you are now ready to have the answers.  If you have avoided even requesting a search due to the need for adoptive parent approval, you are now able to proceed without their notification.  If you are the descendant of an adoptee who died before they were able to learn any information, you are now able to make a request for information as your adopted relative could if they were still alive. 
I am so very happy that we were able to get this through in one try.  There are folks that have been trying for the whole deal every year with no luck.  For years I have been wishing we could just go in and ask for these three very things knowing that to ask for more would never get anywhere.  Someone finally listened.  Thank you. 
If you have questions, please send me an email and I would be happy to reply.