OKLAHOMA CITY-More than 5 million adult adoptees are denied rights to their original birth records, leaving them vulnerable to health risks and prompting state Rep. Jeannie McDaniel to begin seeking solutions to the issue.
McDaniel conducted an interim study to offer an opportunity for individuals and legislatures to study and share concerns about today's sealed records in Oklahoma and how this has impacted many adoptees lives.
"I have been meeting with adoptive parents, birth mothers and adult adoptees through the past few months in an effort to gain understanding of their perspective related to birth records," said Mc Daniel, D-Tulsa.
"Other states have begun to open records (in some cases to varying
degrees) to adult adoptees. Legislators in some states where records were sealed have recognized the complications of processes put in place for privacy and confidentiality have become hurdles - hard to overcome - for those that need access. Oklahoma needs to follow in line and do something."
McDaniel said several states including Oklahoma closed adoptee birth records in the late 1930s. It was the belief at that time that sealed birth records could save "embarrassment" for families that adopted children. In 1997, Oklahoma changed that to provide open records to adoptees after that 1997 when they reached adulthood; however, still leaves those adopted prior to that date to deal with court orders and intermediaries with few options.
According to Heredity and Your Family's Health by Aubrey Milunsky, M.D., over 4,000 diseases are caused by single defective genes: meaning missing and sketchy health histories put adopted persons at risk, particularly as they age and need to know the risk factors for common killers such as cancer and heart diseases.
Guests in the study included adult adoptees, parents that chose to both adopt and who surrendered a child for adoption, and Samantha Franklin, Oklahoma representative to the American Adoption Congress, who has successfully worked with dozens of adoptees.
They stressed the preponderance of evidence that show access to family history - genealogy and medical records, as well as the importance of removing a veil of secrecy regarding one's birth, is an issue of rising importance.
"This study was an effort to give legislators a snapshot of where we are in Oklahoma. Our motive was to inform and open a dialogue for review of this very poignant issue that impacts many lives in Oklahoma," stated McDaniel. "Hopefully now with all the insight and knowledge, we as legislators can change the laws to allow adoptees to know their family medical history before it is too late and they are suffering from a genetic affliction unknown to them."
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