Changes to Adoption Laws

In nearly every state, adoption records are sealed and withheld from public inspection after an adoption is finalized. However, at least nine states have opened adoption records.

In Pennsylvania, this legislation was the result of PA House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff’s tireless efforts.
It was signed into law on November 3, 2016.

We thank PA House Majority Leader, Rep. Kerry A. Benninghoff for his tireless efforts to change adoption records laws in Pennsylvania.

Starting in 2009, Kerry Benninghoff, Pennsylvania House Majority Leader, crafted legislation to allow  adoptees access to original birth certificates. Mr. Benninghoff was himself an adoptee. He was inspired to discover his origin and his medical history.

On Nov. 3, 2016, Governor Wolf signed Act 127 of 2016. This Act outlines the process and requirements for adopted individuals to receive a noncertified copy of their original birth  record.

This Act went into effect on Nov. 3, 2016. 

Read Rep. Benninghoff’s Foreword to Reaching Beyond the Secrets 

Adoption News in Pennsylvania

ISO mother: Unsealed adoption records take brothers down twisting path

By Laurie Mason Schroeder Of The Morning Call

May 13, 2018

Like many brothers, Marcus and Scott Lingenfelter spent their childhood locked in battle. Maybe it was because they were so different.

Scott, two years older, was an Eagle Scout. Marcus ditched Boy Scouts when he was 15, after realizing that “girls didn’t dig the uniform.”

Scott was a straight A student. Marcus spent a lot of time in detention. Scott decided by age 16 he wanted to be a pastor, thrilling his devoutly Christian parents. Marcus had to be dragged to church each week.

While their constant bickering tested their parents’ patience, the brothers say they never felt less loved because they were adopted.

“We kind of just knew that some children join families through adoption, and some children join families by being born into them,” Scott said. “That didn’t make us any less brothers.”

Still, they were curious about their birth parents [read more]

Son reunited with birth mother after 50 years

By Harry Zimbler – July 13, 2018; Centre County Gazette

Until November of last year, individuals adopted as children in Pennsylvania had little to no access to verifiable information about their birth mothers or families.

“I spent years searching off and on,” said adoptee Daniel Frank, of Phillipsburg, “It felt like a roller coaster. I’d make some progress, then I’d hit a low point and quit searching.”

Born in Erie in 1967 and adopted at 6 months of age, Frank exhausted every avenue in his quest to discover his personal origin.
“My adoptive family was great,” he said, “but that wasn’t even the point. Something inside was not fulfilled.”

Frank realized he was adopted when, as a 12-year-old, he had a conversation with a classmate. “She said I was ‘special’ like her,” he said, and his adoptive mother confirmed what “special” meant.

A few years later, he began to search. He bought a search manual, scoured courthouse records and repeatedly questioned his birth location, St. Vincent’s Hospital, as well as Catholic Charities. But, none of his inquiries led to any concrete information.

Then, in 2017, state Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, created legislation that would unseal the state’s adoption records, kept totally confidential since 1984.  In November 2017, Gov. Tom Wolf signed Act 127, which makes birth certificates available to any person born within the state. The State Department of Health began releasing the certificates a year later. [read more]