JEFFERSON CITY, MO – Until recently, people who were adopted in Missouri were unable to access their original birth certificates, making information about birth parents and family medical history difficult, if not impossible, to obtain. This has all changed thanks to the efforts of several adoptee advocacy groups and State Representative Don Phillips, who sponsored the Missouri Adoptee Rights Act, which became law in 2016. As of January 2, 2018, Missouri adoptees no longer need a court order to request their original birth certificates. Yesterday morning, several of those requests were filled as staff from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services’ (DHSS) Bureau of Vital Records gave out certificates at an event in Jefferson City.
Known as “Breaking the Seal,” the event was attended by adoptees, members of the public and adoption advocates including First Lady Dr. Sheena Greitens. Of the event, Greitens said, “I joined a group of adoptees from across the state, and watched as they held their birth certificates for the first time in their lives. Some of the people receiving certificates were in their seventies and eighties. It was a moving and humbling experience to watch them claim part of their history, and to see how much it meant to them.”
Also in attendance was Representative Phillips, whose successful legislation is not only a professional success but a personal one as well: he received his own birth certificate for the first time at the event. Phillips recognized DHSS for the hard work that has gone into fulfilling the birth certificate requests by presenting the department with a Resolution from the Missouri House of Representatives. He also praised the DHSS Bureau of Vital Records staff and acting director of the Division of Community and Public Health, Kerri Tesreau for their remarkable efforts in helping people access their original birth certificates.
DHSS director Dr. Randall Williams was also at the event. “As an obstetrician, I have very strong memories of children that I delivered being adopted at birth,” Williams said. “For 30 years, it was my privilege to be part of adoption processes and I’m so appreciative of our staff for helping all involved in any way they can. Mothers, adoptive parents, social workers, our staff and anyone who makes that process work, I’m thankful for.”
DHSS staff were able to provide birth certificates to attendees of yesterday’s event by accepting requests beginning in October. Each request can take several weeks to process and the department has received an average of 50 to 100 requests per week since the process was opened.
To make a request, an adoptee or their attorney must complete the Application for Non-Certified Copy of an Original Birth Certificate and pay a non-refundable $15 fee. Applications may be submitted in person or by mail.
Non-certified copies of the original birth certificates issued by DHSS cannot be used for establishing identity, and will be stamped “For genealogical purposes only—not to be used for establishing identity.” In addition, no records will be released without first checking for receipt of a parental preference form. Another provision of the Missouri Adoptee Rights Act, the parental preference form allows birth parents to designate whether they want their information released. Birth parents may also establish a contact preference and complete a medical history form.
The Application for Non-Certified Copy of an Original Birth Certificate, Birth Parent Contact Preference and Medical History forms can be obtained at the BVR office in Jefferson City, requested via phone or found on the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services website at http://health.mo.gov/data/vitalrecords/adopteerightsact.php.
About the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services: The department seeks to be the leader in promoting, protecting and partnering for health. More information about DHSS can be found at health.mo.gov.