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Arkansas adoptees get access to birth records

August 2, 2018

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas adoptees now have the opportunity to access their once-sealed birth files.

Adoptees age 21 and older were allowed to request their birth records starting Wednesday, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported . Nearly two dozen petitions have already been filed.

A 2017 law gave the state Health Department a year to prepare more than 65,000 birth records. Some files dated back as far as 1914.

Birth parents had until Wednesday to file a redaction request in order to keep their identities secret. They were asked to submit forms stating if they preferred direct contact, intermediary contact or no contact at all. Parents were also given the option of providing social, cultural and medical histories.

Only about 45 out of the thousands of birth parents chose to remain anonymous, said Democratic Rep. Deborah Ferguson, who helped craft the legislation.

“Nationally, very few birth parents choose to redact,” Ferguson said. “I think we did a good job in the legislation of balancing the privacy rights of the birth parents with the needs of the adoptee.”

Shane Carter was the first person in the state to receive his adoption file following the law change. He was adopted by Johnny Carter and Kay Carter of Paragould through the state foster system when he was 6 months old.

Shane Carter began seeking a way to obtain his birth records after encountering health problems five years ago and being unable to provide his family’s medical history.

“It was difficult to comprehend that I would actually get the birth certificate today,” he said. “Up on those steps, I was excited, grateful, but I was a little overwhelmed in that moment.”

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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