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Officials say number of requests for original birth certificates was 'higher than the anticipated'

Officials say number of requests for original birth certificates was higher than the anticipated

Officials with the Department of Health and Senior Services said Monday its Bureau of Vital Records has received 2,172 requests for original birth certificates since last July.

More than half of those requests were made after Jan. 2.

"The bureau was prepared for a large number of requests, but the number of requests received to date was higher than anticipated," the department responded in an email.

In 2016, former Gov. Jay Nixon signed a bill that would allow adoptees born before 1941 to request a copy of their original birth certificate. In January, anyone over 18 could request the information.

Many adoptees have noticed they have still not received the birth certificate, even if they requested it the first week of January. On one page of its website, the department promised the information at least six weeks from the time it receives the paperwork. But if you click on a link on that page, the website redirects to a page that offers three to six months.

Officials also said the process of tracking down the information for adoptees is "time-consuming and difficult." 

Some records are easier to process than others, the department said. Because officials were under the impression that the records would remain sealed, the way they were entered into the system has changed over the years.

The department also has to vet the information to make sure it is as accurate as possible, which can take some time. The records also must be requested weekly by the bureau, then researched and identified. If the record is correct, it has to go through a validation process, compared to all contact preference forms received, redacted and then mailed out.

"It is important that we ensure the record we are providing is for the correct individual," the department said in a response to ABC 17's inquiry. "We don't want to state we don't have a record if we really do."

The department said the bureau was not given additional staff to work on the requests, so it has limited the time staff can work on the project while also focusing on its original workload.

Republican Representative Don Phillips sponsored the bill. He said no one expected the bill to pass, and that could be part of why the department is understaffed. The other part is that the legislature has not appropriated more staff for the project through the budget process.

ABC 17 News followed up with Rob Smith, an adoptee who has been waiting on his birth certificate since January. He said if the state was not prepared to deliver on the timeline promised, a public apology should be issued "to the ones that have been waiting."

He said he's been given the runaround for the past few months as he tries to figure out what happened. He said he'd been lied to and misled.

Phillips said he understands the frustration, but asked for people to have patience.

"For those that are waiting, they've waited their entire lives for this. It's going to happen," he said. "It may not happen on a quick timetable as they would wish and I know it's frustrating, but I would strongly encourage people to be as patient and understanding as possible."

ABC 17 News has asked the Department of Health and Senior Services if it plans to issue a statement to those waiting to address the delay due to time and workforce constraints.

 


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