Washington adoptees use new law to fill in family history

Some hoped to reunite with their birth parents. Others only wanted their family medical history.

For adoptees who applied for their original birth certificates this year after a change in state law, the outcomes have varied.

But many seem to have gotten as least some of the answers they sought.

Genel Tucker of Bremerton got her original birth certificate at the age of 45, about 10 days after the law took effect July 1, she said.

Her adoption was finalized in Tacoma in 1970, which means before the change to the law, she could not get the document.

Those adopted after 1993 are able to get their certificates when they turn 18, if the birth parents don’t file a form to prevent it. Until the new law took effect this year, older adoptees did not have that option.

More than 2,700 have requested their certificates since the law changed, according to the state Department of Health.

Within an hour after getting her certificate, Tucker had found her birth mother by searching public records.

She wrote the woman a letter, and three weeks later hadn’t gotten a response.

That’s when she reached out to the woman’s siblings, who she also found.

“I got responses from all of them,” she said. “They were all really excited.”

They hadn’t known about her, she said, and she learned through them that her birth mother did not want to be contacted.

“I know that she’s a little angry, but I actually have the answers that I was looking for,” Tucker said. “Even if my birth mother never comes around, I’m OK with that, if that’s what she wants.”

The new law gives birth parents the option to file a “contact preference form,” on which they can choose to prevent the release of the certificate. They also are given the option of releasing the certificate but requesting not to be contacted.

Whatever they choose, they’re required to complete a medical history form in order to submit a contact preference, so that adoptees have information about potential health concerns, even if a parent doesn’t want to be identified.

More than 250 parents filed some sort of contact preference, the state said. About 180 said they did not want the certificate to be released.

Because of how surprised her mother was to hear Tucker had contacted her relatives, Tucker thinks she probably wasn’t aware that she needed to file an affidavit to prevent the birth certificate from being released.

The relatives got her the family medical history she had been looking for, and she’s stayed in contact with one aunt and uncle in particular. She was able to visit the aunt recently, she said.

“She welcomed me with open arms,” Tucker said.

Her birth mother declined to provide her father’s name, which wasn’t on the birth certificate, and Tucker says she’s still searching for him.

“You have to be willing to take the good with the bad,” Tucker said. “I still feel like I have a happy ending, but I’m holding out hope that my birth mom will come around.”

Cindy Ryan, 47, said she’d been trying to find her birth parents since she was in her 20s.

She was adopted in Seattle in 1967 and now lives in Ferndale with her family.

Getting her birth certificate helped her find her birth mother, with whom she has communicated through email since October.

The woman is battling cancer, and they’ve been getting to know each other by talking on the phone and emailing as she undergoes treatment.

“I think all of it has been a little overwhelming,” Ryan said. “I’m going at her pace. She said that it’s a good thing. That it’s definitely a positive thing and that we’ll continue to progress to one day possibly meeting.”

Her birth mom has provided a family medical history and helped her find her birth father’s obituary.

Ryan doesn’t think the woman knew the state law had changed but did not think she was surprised to be contacted by her.

“It’s almost like she said she was waiting for that day to happen,” Ryan said.