1997 Regular Session
To: Judiciary A; Appropriations
By: Representative Formby
House Bill 443
AN ACT TO ESTABLISH WITHIN THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES A VOLUNTARY REGISTRY FOR THE MATCHING OF ADOPTED PERSONS AND BIOLOGICAL PARENTS; TO SPECIFY WHO MAY USE THE REGISTRY AND THE INFORMATION THAT IS TO BE PROVIDED TO THE REGISTRY BY ANY PERSON WISHING TO REGISTER; TO AUTHORIZE THE DEPARTMENT TO CHARGE A REGISTRATION FEE; TO PROVIDE THAT THE DEPARTMENT SHALL CONTACT REGISTERED PARTIES IF THERE APPEARS TO BE A MATCH BETWEEN AN ADOPTED PERSON AND A BIOLOGICAL PARENT; TO PROVIDE THAT THE DEPARTMENT SHALL MAKE COUNSELING AVAILABLE FOR A REASONABLE FEE FOR PERSONS WHO HAVE REGISTERED WITH THE REGISTRY; TO PROVIDE THAT DOCUMENTS AND INFORMATION FILED WITH THE DEPARTMENT PURSUANT TO THIS ACT SHALL BE CONFIDENTIAL AND SHALL NOT BE AVAILABLE FOR INSPECTION EXCEPT AS PROVIDED UNDER THE ACT; TO PROVIDE CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR PERSONS WHO IMPROPERLY DISCLOSE IDENTIFYING INFORMATION FROM THE REGISTRY; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. (1) The Legislature recognizes that some adults who were adopted as children have a strong interest in identifying information about their birth parents, while other such adult adoptees have no such interest. The Legislature further recognizes that some birth parents have a strong interest in identifying information about their biological children who were surrendered for adoption, while other birth parents have no such interest. The Legislature fully recognizes the right to privacy and confidentiality of birth parents whose children were adopted and of the adoptees, as well as that of the adoptive family.
(2) There is established within the Department of Human Services a voluntary registry for the matching of adopted persons and biological parents. The purpose of this registry is to facilitate voluntary contact between the adopted person and the biological parents. The registry will be open with respect to all adoptions that took place in Mississippi, regardless of when they took place.
(3) The use of the registry is entirely voluntary, and no person is required to provide information to the registry. The use of the registry shall be limited to the adopted person, the biological mother, and the biological father, if the biological father has legitimated or formally acknowledged the child as provided by law or has executed a voluntary surrender or consent to the child's adoption, regardless of whether the parent's rights were terminated or relinquished in accordance with Sections 93-15-101 through 93-15-111 or Section 93-17-9.
(4) No registration by any party shall be permitted until eighteen (18) years after the birth of the adopted person. No registration by any adult adoptee who is age eighteen (18) years or older shall be permitted until any biological sibling who has been adopted by the same adoptive parents has reached the age of eighteen (18) years.
SECTION 2. (1) Registration with the voluntary registry shall be by affidavit filed with the Department of Human Services. The affidavit shall be typewritten and shall contain as many of the following items that are known, together with any other identifying information that the affiant wants to include:
(a) Full name of adopted person.
(b) Full name of biological father.
(c) Maiden name of biological mother.
(d) Sex of adopted person.
(e) Date of birth, including year, month, day and hour.
(f) Place of birth, including name of hospital and, if at home, the street and house number.
(g) Whether plural birth, and if so, the sex of each child in order of birth.
(h) Race of biological parents.
(i) Birthplace of biological parents.
(2) Registration will remain effective indefinitely after filing, unless withdrawn by the affiant by written request to the department.
(3) The department may establish a registration fee not to exceed Twenty-five Dollars ($25.00), which shall be used by the department for the administration of the registry.
SECTION 3. (1) The department shall regularly monitor registrant affidavits, utilizing computer services if necessary, to determine whether or not affidavits have been filed by an adopted person and his biological parents.
(2) If there appears to be a match between an adopted person and a biological parent, the department shall have a social worker from the nearest county department of human services contact the registered and matched parties in a careful and confidential manner and give them the information necessary to contact each other.
(3) If doubt exists that the adopted person registered and the biological parents registered are indeed biologically related, the department shall advise the parties to petition the court having jurisdiction to open the sealed adoption record for verification. This verification shall be good cause, within the meaning of Section 93-17-25, to open the adoption records for the limited purpose of verification.
(4) The department shall make counseling available for a reasonable fee for persons who have registered with the registry, and shall inform all registrants of the availability of the counseling.
SECTION 4. Documents and information filed with the department pursuant to this act shall be confidential, shall be exempt from the Mississippi Public Records Act of 1983, and shall not be available for inspection, except under the procedures set forth in this act.
SECTION 5. Any employee or former employee of the department, or any employee or appointee or former employee or appointee of a court, who discloses identifying information from the registry other than pursuant to judicial order or through the registry, as provided in this act, is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be fined not less than Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00) and not more than Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00), or imprisoned in the county jail for not more than six (6) months, or both.
SECTION 6. In any case where one (1) or both of the birth parents are deceased, and when this fact is known by the voluntary registry or by the licensed adoption agency that originally placed the adult adoptee for adoption, this information shall be disclosed to the adult adoptee who has registered with the department under the provisions of this act.
SECTION 7. Nothing contained in this act limits a person's right to proceed under the Mississippi Adoption Confidentiality Act (Sections 93-17-201 et seq.) to obtain confidential adoption information.
SECTION 8. The department shall adopt such reasonable rules and regulations as are necessary to implement the provisions of this act.
SECTION 9. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 1997.