Upcoming change in law offers access to birth records for adopted Missourians

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - A change in state law will make it easier for adopted Missourians to get their birth records, starting next year.

Currently, when a child is adopted in Missouri, a new birth certificate is issued in the name of the adoptive parents and the original birth certificate is sealed. A person can only request a copy of his or her original birth certificate through a court order, and only if his or her biological parents' information is known.

Gov. Jay Nixon last year signed a law that changes all that. The Missouri Adoptee Rights Act allowed adopted Missourians to access their birth certificates as easily as everyone else.

As of last August, those born before 1941 had access to their original birth certificates. As of Jan. 2, 2018, those born after 1941 will have access to them as well.

State Rep. Don Phillips, R - Kimberling City, sponsored the bill, which he says faced some resistance from groups who felt as if it took away a birth mother's rights to not be contacted by a child whom she placed for adoption. However, Phillips says, the legislation doesn't require a birth mother to have a relationship with her adopted child. It only allows the adoptee to have access to his or her birth certificate.

As adoptees grow older, it starts to become necessary for them to know their medical history, which can only be known if they identify their birth families.

As an adoptee himself, Phillips feels many amazing stories will come as a result of this legislation. Getting this piece of legislation signed into law is what he names his biggest accomplishment.

"It's more than worth it. It absolutely is," he said. "It's the most remarkable thing that I'll ever accomplish, as far as legislation goes. I don't care how good or how big it gets, there won't be anything any better than this."

A local group called the Adoption Triad of the Ozarks is working to make sure all adopted Missourians know their records will soon be much easier to retrieve. The support group offers help to all three parts of an adoption -- the birth parents, the adopted parents and the adoptee.

Judy Mills, an adoptee and the co-founder of the Adoption Triad of the Ozarks, found her biological family in 2002, but only after several years of searching through an adoption agency and the Internet.

The Missouri Adoptee Rights Act will make searches much easier than her search was.

"You can't get anywhere because the records were closed," Mills said. "For adoptees who really need to know, to get that information, they can just go down to the Vital Records and get it now. So that's going to be amazing for them."

Sharon Cummins is on the other side of the adoption experience. She's a birth mother who placed her daughter for adoption. She hopes others in her situation realize how important it is for adopted adults to have access to their information.

"If the birth parents will put the child first and realize that they do need this medical history, and they don't have to have a relationship if they don't want one, but if they want what's best for their child, they will want this for their child," Cummins said.

The Adoption Triad of the Ozarks is planning a big event in Jefferson City to celebrate the legislation going into effect. They also meet on the third Monday of each month, except November and December, to provide counseling and support to those involved with adoption. The group meets at Mercy Hospital in private dining room two at 6:30 p.m.

For more information on the group or the upcoming event, call Sharon Cummins at (417) 840-8492 or Judy Mills at (417) 425-7501.