|Bill Summary||9 April, 2015|
|Back to MT Adoption Reform 2015|
feel free to read the Actual Bill or check out the cool bill history at: http://1.usa.gov/1ahgxsu
Here is the quick view:
This law goes into effect 10/1/2015. At that time adoptees whose adoptions were finalized on or before 9/30/97 can access clean original birth certificates at the same price as everyone else, but the request for the OBC must be 30 years after birth. Those whose adoptions were finalized on or after 10/1/97 can access their OBC at the age of 18 as long as the unmarried birthmother did not sign a form that permanently sealed the OBC. Starting 10/1/2015 any birthmother who ever signed such a form can send in a letter removing the seal from the file. No notifications will be sent upon receipt of such a letter.
To understand this bill...
you need to understand the law as it was prior to OCT 1, 2015.
When an adoption in MT is finalized, an amended birth certificate is issued and the original birth certificate is "sealed." Even the woman who gave birth to the baby/child cannot access the document. When the baby/child grows into adulthood the original birth certificate remains sealed for some but not all people.
The department may release a copy of the adoptee's original birth certificate if release of this document is required to assist an adoptee to become enrolled in or a member of an Indian Tribe. BUT the specifics of the law haven't been challeneged (as far as I know) and this provision might not work for people adopted between 7/1/1967 and 1976 when the Indian Child Welfare Act went into affect.
For those adopted before 7/1/1967:
Adoptees can access their orginal birth certificates just like everybody else.
For those adopted between 7/1/1967 and 9/30/1997:
A court order is needed. There is no appeals process if rejected so that stinks. For $400, someone can hire a confidential intermediary who can petition the courts. But again, the answer may be no. The confidential intemediary system was designed to assist in reunion/communication with birth parents. Not all adoptees want this. Some just want thier birth certificate for personal reasons. The confidential intermediary doesn't always get the original birth certificate. And the main confidential intermediary in MT never returns my calls or emails so I can't say anything nice, yet.
For those adopted after 9/30/1997:
At the age of 18 an adoptee can access thier original birth certificate just like everybody else UNLESS the "unmarried birthmother" signed a document at the time of relinquishment that forever sealed the birth record. Birthmothers may or may not be able to change their minds about this under the current law. A court order may override this documentation, but so far nobody has been able to do this. The statistics are unavailable, but in other states this tends to be less than 1% of birthparents sign this kind of stupid document.
In MT Code Annotated Title 50 - birth records are supposed to become public after 30 years. However, the law has been interpreted as 7/1/1967 all records are sealed. So people who were adopted more than 30 years ago have been denied access even though they shouldn't have been denied 30 years after birth.
This is a great step forward, a small step for some, but a great step nontheless. It offically enables the birthparent to change their mind on the disclosure veto starting 10/1/2015. Any disclosure signed can be "un-signed" by sending a written request to the vital statistics office. Very importantly, this bill clarifies the 30 year rule. Birth records do not remain sealed forever, just for 30 years. This stinks for people adopted on or just before 9/30/1997. Those folks have to wait 30 years. So yes that takes us to the year 2027. (We'll be working on the courts and hoping they'll simply start granting access upon request. That is an education effort worth supporting! We might be able to re-visit this in the 2017 or more likely 2019 Session or perhaps in off-year committee action. It will be hard. Nobody likes the change laws or contracts retroactively. )
The good news for people adopted anytime prior to 10/1/1985: they will have access starting 10/1/2015 if they want it. And really, the best news for anyone adopted before 9/30/1997 is that they don't have to worry about the disclosure veto.
Starting 10/1/1997 adoptees can access their birth record at the age of 18 unless the birthparent signed the dreaded and odious disclosure veto. So anyone adopted after 10/1/1997 may not be able to access their records due to the birthparent disclosure veto, but truthfully this affects a very small number of people. Statistically it is most likely less than 1%. And the great big step forward is that if this bill passes starting 10/1/2015 any birthparent that signed the disclosure veto can change their mind and remove that veto from the files. Yeah! Birthparents can remove some of the regret they feel by giving their children their civil rights back. So go on birthparents... give them their rights! You don't have to explain or be bestest buddies forevermore - you simply need to acknowledge that all adults deserve fair treatment under the law.
This bill wouldn't be possible without the support and fantastic work of some wonderful adoptive parents, concerned volunteers, birthparents, and of course adoptees.
Thank you all!
If you want lots on why we needed this bill, please read this: