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Missouri adoptees view birth certificates

Supporters and family members gather to shoot a group picture of adoptees who requested copies of their birth certificates at the Missouri Vital Records office in Jefferson City on Monday, Aug. 29, 2016. A new law that took effect Monday enables adoptees who were born before Jan. 1, 1941 to obtain copies of their original birth certificates which sometimes include the true identities of their birth mothers and fathers. Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-disptach.com

JEFFERSON CITY •  Adoptees from Missouri are a step closer to having access to their birth records.

In an announcement Thursday, the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services said it is accepting requests for the records, which can be released after Jan. 1 under a change in state law.

Under current law, when a child is adopted in Missouri, a new birth certificate is issued in the name of the adoptive parents. A person must have a court order to request the original birth certificate.

But Gov. Jay Nixon last year signed the Missouri Adoptee Rights Act, which allows adopted Missourians over the age of 18 to have access their birth certificates.

The law came in two phases.

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

According to the agency, the Bureau of Vital Records is now accepting applications in advance of the Jan. 2 implementation date.

“Early submittal will allow BVR to research and process the request in advance,” the agency said. 

To make a request, an adoptee must complete an application, pay a $15 fee and have the paperwork notarized unless if it submitted in person to the vital records office in Jefferson City.

“Although BVR will begin accepting applications to expedite processing, it may take six weeks or longer to locate requested records,” the agency added.

While the measure, sponsored by Rep. Don Phillips, a Kimberling City lawmaker who was adopted, was praised by adoptee rights groups. They view it as a way for adoptees to determine if they face any health issues due to their parents.

Opponents argued that women who put their children up for adoption were made a promise of confidentiality at the time.

The new law permits birth mothers and fathers to notify the Bureau of Vital Records of their objection to the release of their identifying information. A birth mother or a birth father can sign a form indicating that they wish to maintain confidentiality.

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Kurt Erickson is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch