Adoptees push for more access to birth records

Lisa Floyd

Cat Andersen/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - In the search for their identities, adoptees are pushing lawmakers to give them equal access to their birth records. The opposition says the sanctity of a birth mother's privacy is at stake. It's an issue that could affect thousands of Hoosier families.

"It's like you're hatched, that you don't have any clue what your history is. I just want to know my identity, where I come from. It's very important. Other people take it for granted. It's very important to me," said Lisa Floyd.

Floyd calls it primal: the need to know who she is and where she came from.

"I know my birth mother was born in Georgia and that's about all I know. I don't even know where I was born," she said. "It was a closed adoption. That was all sealed."

Lisa was one week old when she was adopted and since then her records, including her birth mother's name and her medical records, have been sealed.

"I've heard of adoptees dying because they didn't have information. They didn't know they had a genetic disorder like blood diseases, cancer. I don't want that to happen to me," she said.

Right now, in Indiana, those who were born in 1994 or later have that access, as long as their birth mother hasn't put a block on their file.

That's because of a law that was passed in the 1990s.

"The theory was that you can change the law going forward because you can inform the mother at the time the consent is signed," said Steve Kirsh, adoption attorney.

Senate Bill 469 is designed to give people like Lisa Floyd, who were born before 1994, that same access without having to hire a court intermediary which is costing her almost $700.

"There might be siblings. That's another thing I'd like to find," said Floyd.

Those who testified against the bill say it's good in theory but it's not practical. It would be impossible to get in touch with every birth mother to find out if she wouldn't mind being contacted or not.

"The fear is a woman who made this adoption plan years ago has kept this private, has not told her husband, her children, her other family about her decision. If she were to receive an unexpected knock at the door, that may have serious consequences for her," said Kirsh.

Those who are both for and against the bill agree with the statistics that show 99 percent of adoptees' birthmothers want to be contacted by their children. The opposition says it might be a small number, but you can't just ignore that one percent who want to stay anonymous.

"Is it okay to ruin one life? Is it okay to ruin ten lives?" wondered Kirsh.

"Very rarely does a knock at the door happen. It's either a phone call or a letter. It's very respectful. The birth mother has the right to say, 'I'm not comfortable with this' and the adoptee says, 'okay,'" said Pam Kroskie, American Adoption Congress.

The bill is still waiting for a vote.

In the meantime, for those who cannot afford to hire a court intermediary to search their birth records, Adoption Attorneys Kirsh and Kirsh say they are willing to do that legal work for free so the adoptee will only have to pay the court costs, which amount to about $140.

Adoption attorneys who are offering pro-bono work for those in financial need wanting to hire a court intermediary:

Kirsh & Kirsh
Phone: 317-575-5555
2930 East 96th Street
Indianapolis, IN 46240