Earlier this month KUOW introduced you to Lynne Hogan, 48, one of hundreds of Washington adoptees seeking information about their birth parents. A new law that took effect July 1 gave adoptees access to their birth records through the Washington State Department of Health.
KUOW’s Ruby de Luna recently caught up with Hogan when she received her birth records from the state health department.
Lynne Hogan filed her request for her birth records before July. A couple of weeks later, an envelope from the department of health came in the mail. She’s about to open it. She chuckles, “OK, this is like the 'Luke, I’m your father' moment.”
The first sheet she pulls out is her birth certificate.
“Wow, it doesn’t say the father,” she says. She scans the document for information about her birth mother. “She was 20 when she had me, and she was born in Minnesota,” she says. “That’s just crazy. That’s it.”
Hogan was thrilled to finally have a copy of her birth certificate. She then searched through the letter from the department to see if her birth mother is open to a meeting. “From this I can’t really tell if she was contacted or not because it doesn’t really tell me.”
It’s not clear whether Hogan has permission to get in touch with her birth mother. I put that question to State Registrar Christie Spice. Her office is responsible for collecting and maintaining vital records, including birth certificates.
The state tried to get the word out about the new law to give birth parents the option to maintain their privacy. But, Spice explains, there was no way for her office to individually contact all birth parents, especially with adoptions that took place decades ago.
She says since July of last year, birth parents have been able to file a contact preference form. It lets the office know whether to release birth certificates and whether they’re open to meeting their children. And if an adoptee receives a copy of the birth record, she says, it means the office didn’t hear from the birth parent, one way or the other.
“So the law says in that situation the default position is we release the record,” she says, “and I think it’s up to the adoptee to choose at this point whether or not to seek out contact.”
Spice says her office has received more than 1,400 requests from adoptees. Only 212 birth parents have filed forms; most have requested to keep their records sealed.
Hogan says she was hoping for more information, like learning that her birth mother would be open to meeting. “I really feel like I want to move forward, I would really like to contact her," she says.
“Now I have no plan except I know I’m going to contact her and it’s probably going to be a letter; a phone call is too jarring.”
Hogan says at least she has more information to work with — she has her birth mother’s full name and last known address.