With Minnesota law change in effect, adoptees can access original birth records

Published 5:48 am Tuesday, July 2, 2024

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By Melissa Olson, Minnesota Public Radio News

Adoptees born in Minnesota will be able to access their birth records starting Monday. Last year, the state passed legislation allowing adopted adults access to those records held by the state. Until now, those records have not been available to adoptees.

For the past couple of months, attorney Gregory Luce has been helping to prepare adoptees for the change in the law.

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While the change in the law is about accessing paperwork, Luce’s work is also about prepping adoptees emotionally for what they might learn by accessing those records.

Luce is also an adopted person. He leads the Adoptee Rights Law Center and is the executive director of Adoptees United Inc., a national advocacy organization for adopted people.

On a Saturday in early June, Luce stood in front of a small group of people inside Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis, walking them through what birth records they can access.

Luce told the audience the law has helped simplify the process for adoptees who choose to apply.

“The adopted person applies to the department of health and then within a few weeks, maybe it will take a little bit longer at first, they get the original birth certificate, and they may get some other stuff,” Luce said. “The birth parent can file a contact preference form that is then attached and goes with the records back to the adopted person. It’s simple.”

‘Part of this presentation is to prepare adopted people’

Luce approached the information session by centering on the experiences of adopted people and went step by step through a series of documents adoptees and family members could receive.

“Birth records, that’s it,” said Luce. “We’re not talking about court records; you still have to have a court order to obtain those. It also doesn’t include the ‘holy grail’ of records themselves, the adoption agency records, which by far has the most information.”

Luce moved on to explain adopted people will receive a non-certified copy of the original birth certificates and any evidence of the adoption filed with the state. Those records will include the names of birth parents.

He also mentioned that adoptees might request personal effects from the department of health.

“The personal effects could be anything from a letter left to be given to the adoptee or an item or an object.”

“I think that’s immensely valuable for all adopted people.” said Luce. “Anyone who is an adoptee knows these personal effects are really valuable and meaningful.”

Luce was careful to explain that while adoptees will receive records that include a birth parent’s name, they might also receive copies of legal document a birth parent would have filed previously indicating whether they wanted their name and other identifying information given to the adopted child. In some instances, birth parents may have indicated they didn’t want their information disclosed.

“That’s gonna’ be tough for some adoptees — information that your biological parent didn’t want you to have … but I think it’s important information for the adopted person to have.”

Those older legal forms were invalidated as of June 30.

“Part of this presentation is to prepare adopted people,” said Luce.

Luce also took care to tell his audience that adoptees might also receive information about whether a birth parent prefers to be contacted. Over the past year, the department of health and human services made contact preference form available to birth parents. Those documents now take effect.