Susie Taylor was deeply disappointed, though not surprised, when she was denied a copy of her birth certificate.
Taylor was born in Akron in 1966 to an 18-year-old girl who had given her up for adoption. By Ohio law, Taylor had no right to the document.
But she will very soon.
This month, Gov. John Kasich signed Substitute Senate Bill 23 into law, giving 400,000 adoptees access to their original birth certificates starting in March 2015.
The law is aimed at people born between 1964 and 1996 — a population that has fallen between the cracks of previous efforts to open records.
Those born prior to 1964 already have access to their original birth certificates. When they reach adulthood, they have full access to their adoption file via request to the Ohio Department of Health for a $20 fee.
And in September 1996, Ohio started allowing adoptees born after that date to receive the document upon reaching the age of 21, unless the biological parents asked that the file be sealed.
Taylor, who lives in Ashland, is among those who will benefit from the new law, which passed the Ohio Senate unanimously on Dec. 4, and the Ohio House by a vote of 91-2 on Dec. 11.
The law has a 90-day enactment period and then a one-year waiting period. That gives birth parents the opportunity to ask that their names be redacted from the document.
If birth parents choose not to be contacted, they must at least provide a detailed medical history.
Based on experience in other states, Betsie Norris expects few, if any, birth parents will seek to remove their names.
As the founder of Adoption Network Cleveland, Norris has been among those working for this issue since her organization launched in 1988.
“We are grateful [Kasich] has decided to act quickly to sign this bill into law. With the stroke of his pen, he is positively impacting the lives of hundreds of thousands of Ohio adoptees,” she said.
Taylor said she’s happy that she will get to see her birth certificate one day. But she might not have to wait that long to solve the mystery of her birth.
In October, after being refused her birth certificate, Taylor enlisted the Facebook community in her search.
She posed with a sign that simply read: “I am looking for my mother/father. I was born August 20, 1966 in Akron, Ohio. My mother was 18 at my birth. My father was 19.”
In two months, the post was shared nearly 60,000 times.
“My goal was 500 shares. I’m just flabbergasted,” she said.
Among the well-wishers who responded to her directly was an Akron woman who offered to do some research at no charge. Very quickly, she found an index of Ohio births that listed only one girl born in Akron on Taylor’s birth date. “Baby girl Burgess.”
“My heart went into my stomach when she said that,” Taylor said. That’s because Taylor already had seen the name “Burgess” scribbled a couple of times by her mom in a file on her adoption.
Further work by Taylor’s “search angel” turned up a pretty good candidate for her birth mom, a woman now living in Tennessee.
On Christmas Eve, Taylor mailed her a letter.
“I wanted her to get it after Christmas but before New Year’s,” Taylor said. “So I’m praying it’s her and I’m praying she’ll answer, but we’ll see.”
Taylor said she was raised by a loving mother, Ruth Taylor. Her adoptive father, Jim Taylor, died when she was 8, but she remembers him fondly.
She also remembers the day they told her she was adopted. She was 5 and getting ready to start school when they laid out five candy bars and asked her to pick her favorite. She chose the Reese’s peanut butter cup.
“You chose your very favorite, and that’s what we did when we chose you. We chose our favorite,” Taylor recalled her mom saying. From that year on, Taylor received a Reese’s for her birthday.
Taylor once asked her mom how she would feel if she searched for her birth parents.
“She said, ‘I’d want to know, too,’ ” Taylor said.
Taylor didn’t really begin her search until her mom died two years ago. That’s when she tried to get her birth certificate.
“When I got that rejection, it upset me. I was thinking, ‘This is my birth certificate. This is my life.’ I’m not out to destroy anyone,” Taylor said.
Then Taylor noticed other adoptees using Facebook to ask for help. So she got her daughter, Jenn, to take the snapshot that might have changed her life.
On a practical level, Taylor would really love to know her family’s medical history.
“I have high blood pressure, and my daughter had been sick a few years ago, and my son had a heart murmur,” she said. “It’s been discouraging because doctors always want to know your medical history and I could never give it.”
But there’s no denying that she also would love to develop a relationship.
“I don’t want to stir up bad memories for her. I don’t want to hurt her,” Taylor said.
During the adoption, an agency had written down that Taylor’s birth mom was young, unmarried and wanted to go to school to become a nurse.
“They said it was a tough decision for her, but at the time she couldn’t provide for me and it was in my best interest for her to give me up,” Taylor said. “I’ve always wanted to ask why she gave me up, but I respect that she did, that she thought enough of me to want to give me a better home.”
And having been raised a single child, she would love to know if she has any half-brothers or half-sisters.
“I’ve never had an extended family,” Taylor said. “That would be really emotional, to learn I have one.”