By Jasmine Otam
Lawmakers are working on legislation that would change the lives of adoptees and their parents.
Senate Bill 91, authored by Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, would open up adoption records, including their biological parents’ health records and the adoptee’s sealed birth certificates, from 1941 to 1994.
A contact preference form filled out by the birth parents would allow them to determine in what way and how much of their information is made available to the adoptee.
Pam Kroskie, president of Hoosiers for Equal Access to Records, spoke Monday to discuss adoption records and why they are sealed.
“The original reason to seal those documents was to protect the child from the public shame of being labeled illegitimate,” said Kroskie.
Under this bill, once the adoption records are unsealed, birth parents have the option to contact their birth children face-to-face or they can bring in an intermediary system. But Melissa Shelton, an adoptee, adoptive mother, and adoptive social worker doesn’t see that current system working.
“The confidential intermediary system in Indiana is broken,” said Shelton, who has in the past volunteered as a confidential intermediary for Indiana. “It is very expensive, and it is not the solution nor is it a functional compromise.”
President and Founder of the National Center on Adoption and Permanency, Adam Pertman, assured the committee that in passing this bill to the House, they are not going into unknown territory. He said more than 10 states have successfully passed similar legislation, but one lawmaker still had lingering concerns.
“I just can’t get past this expectation of privacy that these people had about this very private thing,” said Rep. Thomas Washburne, R-Inglefield.
“Every mother has a right to privacy, that is to say, ‘Please respect my privacy. I do not desire a relationship,’” said Marcie Keithley-Roth, who gave her child up for adoption in 1978. “What she does not have and has never had is a right to anonymity from her own son or daughter.”
Washburne’s concerns sparked further discussion from the rest of the House Judiciary Committee and those who testified, but did not stop the bill from passing with a vote of 11-2. The bill now goes to the full House. In January, the bill passed the Senate 43-5.
Jasmine Otam is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.