Oregon adoptees closer to getting records

Thursday, May 25th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SALEM, Ore. (AP) -- Geena Stonum, who was adopted, has been trying to track down her birth parents for half of her life. She has combed through four-decade-old newspaper clippings and birth announcements, hoping to come up with some clues.

Stonum, 41, has two children. One reason she wants to learn her own parents' identities is to discover whether they have any medical problems that her own children might inherit.

Now, finally, it looks as if Stonum's search might be over. The same goes for thousands more adopted Oregonians.

Next week, a 1998 state law that has been on hold because of legal challenges is scheduled to take effect, allowing adopted Oregonians age 21 and older access to their original birth
certificates, which identify one or both parents.

The court challenges were filed by an anonymous group of birth mothers who say the law would break an implied promise that their identities would be kept secret when they put their children up for adoption.

In December, the state Court of Appeals turned aside challenges to the law, and the Oregon Supreme twice refused to review the

Unless the birth mothers can persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to delay the law -- and that is considered unlikely, since the high
court in 1997 refused to review a similar measure from Tennessee -- it will go into effect at 5:01 p.m. Tuesday.

Only four other states allow adoptees access to original birth certificates, which often have birth parents' names -- Alaska, Kansas, Delaware and Tennesee; Alabama has passed such bills and each is awaiting the governor's signature. But Oregon's law is the only one that entered the books because it was passed by the voters, rather than legislators.

Stonum is among about 2,230 adoptees who have already paid $15 and filed applications with the state Health Division to get their
original birth certificates. Thousands more may file applications.

In the past decade alone, more than 22,000 children were adopted in Oregon.

The Health Division said it is ready to begin mailing birth documents as soon as Wednesday.

"I feel more encouraged now than in a long time that's it's finally going to happen," said Stonum, a Portland native.

Under current law, the state releases only nonidentifying information about birth parents. Stonum, for example, knows only that her mother "had a 4-year-old son when I was born and that she was working as a waitress."

"My adopted father told me he thought he might have seen the name Evans on one record," she said. "I think there are a billion

Not all adoptees are ardent about getting their records.

"I really don't even care that much any more," said Brad Loehr, a 36-year-old Portland sandwich shop manager who was adopted
as a baby.

He has not always felt that way. "I loved my family but always had this wonder," Loehr said. For me there was always sort of an empty place, because in my life I never knew anyone who I could look in their eyes and say
this person was my blood."

But he said the feeling went away when his own son was born five years ago.