Was your adoption finalized by the Probate Court in Akron, Summit County, Ohio?
Did your birth parent go to an adoption agency or attorney in Summit County to arrange your adoption?
This article looks at how to get information and records to which you are entitled under Ohio laws.
What Kind Of Adoption Records Are Held In Summit County?
You probably know that the main adoption files for Ohio are held at the Department Of Health in Columbus.
These files contain original birth certificates (with names of one or both birth parents) as well as court records. We have a separate article on getting your adoption file in Ohio.
However, there are likely to be other documents held at:
- the adoption agency or attorney in Summit County that handled your adoption
- the Probate Court in Akron that finalized the adoption
Let’s look at these in turn.
Adoption Agencies And Attorneys
The circumstances of adoption usually start with a woman approaching an adoption agency or a private attorney.
Adoption agencies and attorneys must retain historic records for as long as they continue to process new adoptions. Only some of this can be accessed by adoptees, which I’ll explain later.
Let’s take an example of a birth mother who went to an adoption agency in Munroe Falls that arranged the initial placement of her baby in a foster home. The adoption was finalized months later at the Probate Court in Akron.
If that agency is still handling adoptions, then you have two sources to look for your records.
However, you may find that all roads lead to the Probate Court of Summit County. This is because the adoption agency (or attorney) may no longer be functioning.
What happens when adoption agencies and attorneys are defunct
AS the number of adoptions has dropped in the past decades, some agencies have gone out of business. Aside from agencies, attorneys who handled adoptions in prior decades may have retired.
When agencies or lawyers no longer provide adoption services, they are obliged by Ohio law to transfer to the probate court that finalized the adoption.
The exception here is if the attorney has a joint practice with another attorney who continues to handle adoptions. The records can be transferred to the second attorney.
Probate Court In Summit County
Adoptions in Ohio were usually finalized at the Probate Court in the county of the agency or attorney dealing with the placement.
The Summit County courthouse has accumulated many adoption records from defunct agencies and retired attorneys.
The Probate Court also has the legal papers that transferred parental rights and obligations from birth parents and adoptive parents.
Aside from vital documents such as consent forms, there could be many other incidental details recorded about the birth parents in these papers.
Now, let’s look at the information that you can’t get from these sources.
Courts, Agencies, And Attorneys Cannot Release Identifying Information
The Ohio laws prevent the courts from providing “identifying information” about your birth parents.
That includes their names, and your name prior to adoption.
Your original surname is withheld as it reveals the surname of your birth mother. Traditionally, we adoptees have been given our first name as it reveals so little – but that doesn’t always happen.
Types of identifying information
You can expect these details to be deemed identifying information:
- first, middle, and last names
- social security numbers
- physical addresses
- telephone numbers (and email in more recent times)
- employers and places of employment
It would be a mistake to think that non-identifying information isn’t important. Read on…
What Non-Identifying Information Could Be Available?
When women engaged with adoption agencies and the courts, they were usually presented with forms for background information about themselves and the father.
The information requested changed through decades and across different agencies. It’s also fair to say that some personnel collected more information than others.
So, I can’t advise you on what you will get. But the information is usually some of the below about the birth mother:
- age at the time of recording (a round number, not a date of birth)
- physical description e.g., height, eye color, hair color
- ethnic background
- occupation (but not employer details)
- educational level (e.g., high school or college)
- medical history (less likely in earlier adoptions)
- age and gender of older birth siblings
The records may also have some description of the circumstances that led to the adoption.
There also may be similar details about the birth father. However, there is usually less detail than about the mother. You should also bear in mind that the information about the father may be solely provided by the mother.
You may also find that some of the information is from a grandparent or other relatives in your birth family.
A note of caution
My adoption was in another country, but there was a similar process for applying for non-identifying information.
It took me quite a while to disentangle what was true and what was:
- wrong information mistakenly recorded by careless officials
- conflicting information from different sources
- deliberate misinformation provided by my birth parent (for good reasons)
However, I couldn’t have gone as far as I did in my research without this collection of information.
How To Find Out If The Probate Court In Akron Processed Your Adoption
If you’re reading this article, you’re probably fairly sure that your adoption was finalized in Summit County.
Perhaps you have documentation saying so, or perhaps your adoptive parents mentioned the county.
But how can you be sure? Well, you don’t need to be. You can send in a request anyway. (we’ll show how in the next section). They’ll let you know if they think they don’t hold your records.
But you may want to have more certainty than that.
In our article on adoption records in Ohio, we describe how to get your main file from the Department Of Health.
This file should include the name of the Probate Court that processed your adoption.
How To Get Non-Identifying Information In Summit County
There is a specific code in the Ohio statute books that allows you to request non-identifying information about your birth parents (and possible birth siblings).
This applies to the probate courts, adoption agencies, or attorneys that dealt with your adoption.
I’m generally assuming that you’re the adoptee. But you may be the child or grandchild of a deceased adoptee. Adjust the wording below accordingly.
You make your request in writing to the Probate Court. You are essentially asking the staff to search for your records, so here is the information you should include to help them:
- your full adoptive name
- your date of birth
- the names of your adoptive parents
- the year the adoption was finalized (don’t worry if you’re not sure)
Although your letter doesn’t need to be notarized, you will need to provide two pieces of identification:
- driving license or other state-issued photo identification
- birth certificate (the version with your adopted name)
The Ohio laws allow the courts and agencies to charge a “reasonable” fee but some Probate Courts in Ohio have no charge.
What if your request isn’t dealt with?
There are reports of adoption agencies, attorneys, and probate courts being less than helpful with requests for non-identifying information.
If you are told to send your requests to the Department of Health, don’t be fobbed off. I’ve already explained that the Department holds the adoption file that is covered by different legislation.
You are entitled to request two different types of information: your vital statistics file from the Department of Health and your non-identifying information from other agencies involved in your adoption.
It’s true that the agencies can refuse to provide information on the grounds that it would reveal the identity of a birth parent. However, they should provide a clear explanation to this effect.
Where Is The Probate Court In Summit County?
The Probate Court is located at the Summit County Courthouse in Akron.
This is the address to send your request:
Summit County Courthouse
205 S High St
Akron, OH 44308
The request must be sent in writing, but you can phone if you have any queries about applying.
Do you need to visit the courthouse in Akron?
There are some circumstances in which the adoptee needs to appear in person at the court.
The Probate Court is in the same building as the juvenile court, the domestic court, and other legal functions.
The nearest parking is at the Morley Parking Deck at 177 S Broadway.
If you are researching different aspects of your birth family, you may find a visit to the nearby Akron-Summit County Library to be useful. I’ve marked both locations in the map below.
There are plenty of cafes and restaurants on Broadway if you need a bite to eat before or after your appointment.