“A Night of Film and Discussion” Highlights Ohio’s Adoption Records Law, Opening Celebrations

On February 5, the Schubert Center continued the 2014-2015 Conversation Series, “Exploring Equity and Resilience in Childhood,” with “A Night of Film and Discussion with Adoption Network Cleveland.” The event was co-sponsored by Adoption Network Cleveland and the CWRU Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, and the Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services was a community partner.

Two films were screened at the event: An Adoptee ROARed in Ohio—The Betsie Norris Story and A Simple Piece of Paper. Both films were featured at the 38th Cleveland International Film Festival.

Betsie Norris and filmmaker Jean Straus. by Laura Watilo Blake, CIFF

Betsie Norris and filmmaker Jean Straus. by Laura Watilo Blake, CIFF

An Adoptee ROARed in Ohio follows the journey of Betsie Norris, executive director of Adoption Network Cleveland and an adoptee herself, who spent 24 years working to overturn Ohio’s closed records law to provide adult adoptees access to their birth certificates. Norris’ work led to the 2013 passage of Ohio Bill SB 23; as a result, adoptees can begin requesting their birth documents starting March 20, 2015.

A Simple Piece of Paper explores the impact on adoptees in Illinois when they first received their birth records after passage of the state’s recent open records law. Each person shares their powerful stories, which speak to the core meanings of identity, family and resilience.

A panel discussion followed the films, and was moderated by Gabriella Celeste, the Schubert Center’s director of child policy. Zoe Breen Wood, PhD, assistant professor at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences and an adoptive parent, and Denise Barone, a birthmother, joined Norris for the discussion.

Panel PhotoNorris described access to birth documents as an equity issue: while all people should have a “right to know” their own birth and personal information, children adopted between 1964 and 1996, as a result of closed-records laws, do not have access to the same, critical information as non-adopted people or those adopted before or after that time period. Laws are also different depending on where you were born and adopted. Breen Wood emphasized the importance of maintaining open communication with adopted children, and allowing them to take the lead in choices regarding their lives. Barone shared how having the choice to find her birth son, which she did through the help of Adoption Network, has helped both she and her son be more resilient and self-accepting.

When the new birth record access law in Ohio goes into effect in March, 400,000 adult adoptees will have access to their original birth certificates. Visit Adoption Network Cleveland’s information page for more on how the law will impact birthparents and adoptees, and action items for those impacted: http://www.adoptionnetwork.org/birth-record-access-for-ohio-adoptees.aspx.

Learn more about this event.

View photos from the event on our Facebook page.