INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Supporters of a bill that would open up Indiana’s records to people adopted between 1941 and 1993 say it could help many thousands of people find their biological parents.
Under the measure, women who placed a child for adoption during that time period could file a no-contact form to keep those records sealed. If a woman does not file such a request, the records would then be opened up to their child.
State Sen. Brent Steele is co-sponsoring the bill, which is now before the House after passing the Indiana Senate 46-3.
He said records of adoptions before 1941 had long been open when lawmakers in 1993 set up a process of giving the mother a choice at the time of the adoption. But he said there remains a gap for thousands of Hoosiers adopted during the 52-year period between those years.
Steele, R-Bedford, said 14 states have moved away from sealing the records, and some courts have ruled there is no right to privacy for birth parents.
“You as legislators have to adopt public policy that works for the vast majority of the people,” Steele told The Journal Gazette.
Pam Kroskie, president of the Indiana Adoption Network and Hoosiers for Equal Access to Records Inc., said Indiana’s current law prohibiting access to adoptee birth records is outdated.
She estimates the law change would open the records for about 350,000 people who can’t access them without going to court and using a confidential intermediary between them and their birth parents — often at considerable cost and with no guarantee of success.
Among the bill’s supporters is Jon Casebere, a 41-year-old Auburn man who paid $500 to an intermediary between himself and his birth mother after 18 years of trying to find his birth parents. His biological mother agreed to release information to him and they eventually met and now have a relationship.
Casebere, who had chosen not to have children because he didn’t know his family’s medical history, learned that his father died young at age 28 from cancer. He also learned that his father had seven siblings and they died at an average age of 45.
“Having my original birth certificate opened many doors for me. I have medical info, a better sense of self, where I come from. Honestly, it made me feel whole,” he said.
But Indianapolis adoption attorney Steve Kirsh said some feel that mothers were implicitly promised privacy at the time they gave up their children during “the most difficult decision” of their lives and lawmakers shouldn’t change the game in the middle.