Recently, an adoptive parent was incredibly rude and dismissive about adoptees online, repeating the old trope that happy adoptees were too busy living their lives to be online in adoption groups, and the adoptees online had an agenda. I took the exception to what she was saying about adoptees, but then had to remove myself because it stressed me out too much. I don’t do stress.
But she is right. I did come online because I had an agenda.
I needed to search for a company who could find my mother for me. My agenda was to find out if knowing my family health history could have prevented what happened to me, to prevent anything else from happening, and to offer my FHH to my family of birth. I found a company to do the search for me after mom petitioned the court for me (one page form of questions and place to fill in the reason to unseal), the judge unsealed the records and the court sent mom the court order. I wasn’t happy with the way the search was handled, I did get one clue from them that allowed me to make contact with a relative. All in all – it was well over a year before I had any family health history.
I’ve since found out I was lucky to have been born in that state, the judge unsealed my records for good cause, no hoops to go through, just here’s a court order to get all the adoption records and your original birth certificate. I had no idea others states operated differently, I was clueless about adoption laws in general. What I’ve learned is how onerous some of the current state laws are that adoptees face, even if they can show “good cause”. To give you an idea of what I mean by onerous, I did a google search and Iowa came up first and I’ve included New York as well.
An adoptee from Iowa can petition the court to unseal their adoption records for “good cause”. Here’s the text under (2) of 600.16A:
(2) d. The juvenile court or court may, upon competent medical evidence, open termination or adoption records if opening is shown to be necessary to save the life of or prevent irreparable physical or mental harm to an adopted person or the person’s offspring. The juvenile court or court shall make every reasonable effort to prevent the identity of the biological parents from becoming revealed under this paragraph to the adopted person. The juvenile court or court may, however, permit revelation of the identity of the biological parents to medical personnel attending the adopted person or the person’s offspring. These medical personnel shall make every reasonable effort to prevent the identity of the biological parents from becoming revealed to the adopted person.”
It is unlikely for there to be any relevant medical information in the file, if there is any info at all, it would be out of date and useless. Iowa will allow medical personnel to view the many decades old file, and I guess the medical personnel could do the leg work necessary for their patient’s health, which I doubt would ever happen…
An adoptee from New York, living in New York also has to provide competent medical evidence to petition for “good cause”, but it must be from a licensed New York physician that certifies the need. If the adoptee doesn’t live in New York the requirement still exists, so they would have to travel, find a doctor in New York to certify a serious physical or mental illness that would qualify as “good cause”. All of that would be a cost borne by the adoptee, providing they are well enough to travel if they don’t live in New York. (source)
“To petition the Court to gain access to the sealed adoption file on medical grounds, you must attach to the petition a medical certification from a physician licensed to practice medicine in the State of New York addressing a serious physical or mental illness. Such certification needs to identify the information required to address said illness.”
If you do that, this is what happens:
“If such request to open a sealed file is granted, the Court will appoint a non-interested party (an attorney) to review the file.”
There is another way if it is an emergency, the court will appoint a GAL to review the file, and if needed, contact the biological parent and ask for permission to give the information requested. If it isn’t granted they will advise the court. You can read #4 of § 114. Order of adoption here.
Once again, it seems far more complicated than my experience. In New York they also have Adoption Information Registry. But again, they have some requirements that place a burden on the parents by birth, if they want to file updated medical information, they can only do so if a doctor provides the info on his letterhead.
“Medical Information: Birth parents can give medical and psychological information to the Registry any time after the adoption. If the adoptee is already registered, the information will be shared with him or her. If the adoptee is not registered, the information will be kept until the adoptee registers. The information is important to adoptees because it can indicate if they have a higher risk of some diseases. Medical information updates must be certified by a licensed health care provider.”
So, that could be done at a cost by the parent by birth to provide health information about themselves, but what about pertinent info about other close relatives, other parent, grandparents, siblings etc. Makes no sense that you can’t give the standard family health history form you fill out at the doctors.
Just seems silly…
I’ll leave you with this gem from Iowa that has nothing to do with family health history and everything to do with the adoptee experience…
“The Legislature amended the Code of Iowa to make access to sealed adoption records easier for adult adoptees that were adopted prior to the July 1, 1941 sealing of adoption records. When you complete the Affidavit Requesting Opening of Sealed Adoption Records, indicate the date of adoption. If you were adopted prior to July 1, 1941, indicate on the affidavit that Iowa Law does not require you to provide “good cause”. This amendment of Chapter 600, Termination of Parental Rights and Adoption, should expedite the process for you.”
So, when Iowa sealed adoption records in 1941, they retroactively sealed all adoption records before that date as well. Those adoptees whose adoption was finalized before July 1, 1941 still have to petition the court, wait for that to process through, and then be granted the right to see their adoption records. That is, if they are still alive and found out that the retroactive sealing of their records back in 1941 has been undone.