Adoptees to have greater access to birth records on July 1st

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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - Flipping through photo albums bring back great memories for Barbara Allen.

"As you can see, I've changed quite a bit. My eyes were green," said Allen.

But the albums are missing something. Her biological parents.

"Being adopted, you live your whole life not knowing. You have a connection to nobody.

You have a parent that raised you your whole life. Until you have children, you never have a connection," said Allen.

For most of her life, 45-year-old Barbara Allen has wondered about where she came from.

"I would like to know my heritage. What descent I am. Why do I have dark skin? Why are my eyes so green and my hair is so dark," said Allen.

On July 1st, Allen will get some of those answers. That's the date adoptees can access their birth records.

"This is just an adoptee bill. So the adoptee can access their record and their record only," said Pam Kroskie with the Indiana Adoptee Network. "I think this is going to be the most amazing day for this record to open."

That information has been sealed since 1941 and adoptees never had access to that information. That changes on July 1, 2018.

"They sealed our information from us. So it's ours. And, it's now time for us to have our information back," said Kroskie.

Kroskie worked with state lawmakers to get the "Equal Access to Records" law passed into law in 2016.

"We never wanted anyone else to feel lost and not be able to know who they are," said Kroskie.

Barbara Allen shows Scott Swan her childhood photos and explains how she has always wondered about her birth parents.

For Kroskie, it was personal mission that grew into a passion. She grew up not knowing anything about her biological parents.

"When you don't know anything about yourself, you don't know who you look like, you don't know who you sound like, and I wanted to know," said Kroskie.

Kroskie said she didn't want to ask her parents because she didn't want to hurt their feelings. When Kroskie turned 21, she went to the library and started digging. She eventually found her biological mom. And their reunion was a good one.

"As soon as she came in the door, we hugged. But as soon as she saw my son, then she started to cry," said Kroskie.

Kroskie learned her biological mom married her birth father. Kroskie has two sisters. Her relationship with her biological mom continued until her mom died of breast cancer in 2012.

Her organization, "Indiana Adoptee Network" helps Hoosier adoptees get their birth records. Kroskie suggests that adoptees begin the paperwork process in mid-June.

"There's two forms, the 47896 and 47897. One is identifying information and one is not identifying. You need to send in both of those. When the state receives those, they're going to look in the forms because there is the possibility that a birth parent will file a no-contact form," said Kroskie. "We give adoptees books to read. We give them documentaries to watch. We give them counselors to talk to because we're trying to build this base for them."

Barbara Allen was adopted as a baby and is curious about where her dark skin and hair and green eyes came from.

The information sent back to adoptees could vary depending on Indiana counties.

"They will go through their files and they will give you information because if you're adopted from an agency, you're now allowed to have your file, which that can include a myriad of anything. And each county makes the decision of what they send you," said Kroskie. "It's a photocopy of your original birth certificate. You're not going to receive your original birth certificate. After that, you'll receive what the court had for you which is now going to show your birth mother's name, and other documents, whatever they've decided to send you."

"Adoptees then have the decision to do what after that. Do they want to do a search for the birth parent? A lot of us have decided to do DNA because there is the other side. There's a paternal side. Now, we have to decide what to do," said Kroskie.

The information coming to adoptees could pave the way for reunions.

"Adoptees don't want to jump out and say 'hi I'm here.' They try and do a very respectful contact," said Kroskie. "Most of the reunions I've been involved with have been successful. But it's not without work."

Pam Kroskie spent years fighting for adoptees to have access to information about their birth and adoption.

Barbara Allen wants answers to lingering questions she has had most of her life.

She asked, "What happened? Why did this happen to me? Why did you not need me? Why did you give me up?"

Allen knows she was born in 1972 at Riverview Hospital in Noblesville.

"Growing up, I don't ever remembering somebody saying you are adopted. I always remember knowing," said Allen.

Nancy Mendell adopted Allen as a baby and never hid the fact that her daughter was adopted. Mendell often wondered if the biological mother would resurface.

"What if she comes back and wants her. I didn't dwell on it, but I thought of it," said Nancy Mendell.

Allen's 18-year-old son also wants his mom to learn the family's history.

"I think it can give my mom some closure about who her real parents are," said Keenan Mattingly. "I think it would just mean for both of us to have that closure. I think everybody needs to know who their parents are related to."

Barbara Allen has the memories. What she now wants are answers.

"I believe my father was Greek. We believe my mother was a nurse," said Allen.

"I would like to know if I have siblings. If I have a mother and father that is alive. Even if they didn't want to have anything to do with me, I'd love to see pictures. The perfect day would be to reunite with my biological mother or father or brothers or sisters to fill that void," said Allen.

On July 1st, Allen may be able to solve the mystery.

"This means that I can finally have some kind of information to maybe start a search," said Allen.

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