“Everybody has a right to know where they came from”: Law unseals adoption records

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Friday was “Opening Day” for adoptees born in Ohio: thousands of adoption records sealed for 51 years are now accessible.

Ohio law was changed in 2013 naming March 20, 2015 as the first day that adoptees and their lineal descendants may request their adoption files between Jan. 1, 1964 and Sept. 19, 1996.

Among the hundreds who lined the block of the Ohio Department of Health Vital Statistics Office, Grand Rapids resident Erica Curry Van Ee stood proudly Friday morning.

Van Ee marched in Columbus, Ohio and applied for her original birth certificate; something she has the legal right to do for the first time in her life.

“Not everybody will walk the path to do their search, but it’s important that everybody has that choice,” said Van Ee. “I never thought this day would come, and it’s just extraordinary.”

In a few weeks, she will take her first look at her medical records; vital information she could have never known.

“My husband gave me the most wonderful metaphor that our lives are like a book, and the first chapter for me is missing,” said Van Ee. “So what this legislation means to me is that I’m going to be able to read that first chapter of my life, for better or for worse, whatever I find, I want to be able to read that chapter.”

According to American Adoption Congress, currently 17 states have full or partial access to adoption records. Michigan is not an access state, and a bill to gain access fell through in 2010.

"The reality is, everybody has a right to know where they came from," said Van Ee. "This is an incredible day of celebration for all Ohioans, and I really hope it’s going to be the tipping point for the rest of the country around adoption reform.”

It’s a celebration for many in Ohio. But for Van Ee, it’s a day of truth she said belongs to everyone, and, a day of thanks.

“To my mom, Nancy, I just want to tell her I love her and thank her for choosing me and for adopting me, and for giving me a life,” said Van Ee. “I feel the same way about my birth parents, because they could have made a different choice, and I’m so glad they didn’t.”

If a person was born in Ohio, but adopted in another state, they may also apply for their adoption records through this process. To learn how to apply for your adoption record, see the Ohio Department of Health’s process on their website.

For more resources related to adoption advocacy, see the American Adoption Congress.

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  • Michelle

    Thanks for reporting on this, I’m just sorry I didn’t see it sooner. Michigan is a tiered access state, meaning there are different laws for adoptees based on their date of birth. I Look forward to the day when legislation is passed in Michigan, granting adopted citizens the same rights as our non-
    adopted peers. Adoptin should not disqualify one from from essential knowledge of self, or from access to accurate government records pertaining to one’s birth. Adoptees don’t want special rights; we simplynwant the same rights other citizens enjoy.

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