“Jewish Family Service is committed to keeping these family histories alive,” said Amanda Huecker. Huecker is a Post-Adoption Social Worker at Jewish Family Service and works with families who are part of what she calls the adoption triad.
“The adoption triad is made up of adoptive parents, birth parents, and the adoptees,” she explained. “The services we offer are varied, depending upon the level of privacy that triad has set up. For example, we could be facilitating correspondence between the parties, or we could have an adoptee contact us and want to find their birth parents. In addition, a birth parent may contact us and want to update their medical information because it's been 20 years, and they have new health issues that they want to pass on.”
Huecker said having access to your family's medical records is something that can easily be taken for granted but is not always a given for someone who has been adopted. “We are the link to these clients' histories. We have the hospital records that they don't have access to, so they can request that type of information. We can provide them access to the information in those files, but we cannot provide identifying information unless they already have access to that.”
“We're helping people become whole because they found a piece of something that they didn't have before.”
—Linda Kean, Jewish Family Service Vice President of Operations and Youth & Family Programs
Privacy laws around adoption are changing, and Huecker said it is much more common now for birth parents to be in contact with their children and adopted families. “Adoption used to be a secretive thing that people didn't really talk about. But now, it's not uncommon for the birth parents to be an extension of the adopted family, and that really does make things easier—not only on the medical side of things but because children can see where they may get some of their traits or interests from.”
Jewish Family Service began offering full adoption services in the 1940s, but in February of 2018, the agency stopped accepting new families or birth parents. “This was a difficult but necessary decision that involved a number of considerations,” then-board president Larry Juran said at the time.
“More and more families that might have chosen adoption are forming families in other ways,” explained JFS CEO Liz Vogel. “Because of that, demand for adoption placements began to drop. We now refer to other agencies, including the Cleveland-based, Jewish-founded Bellefaire JCB.”
Despite no longer offering full adoption services, JFS continues its post-adoption services for families who finalized adoptions with the agency. “We are committed to offering the services for the families,” said Linda Kean, Vice President of Operations and Youth & Family Programs at JFS. “We have access to their vital records, and it's essential for us to help them access the information. We made a pledge to them, and we are happy to help them in any way that we can.”
Huecker said she recently received a records request from someone adopted in the 1930s. “JFS wasn't around back then, but the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati was, and I was able to connect that person to where they needed to go to access those records. It shows how much the agency really is committed to keeping these histories alive.”
JFS recently overhauled its website and now includes more self-service functions for post-adoption services. “If you go to our website now,” Kean said, “you can find a section called Facilitating Your Access to Adoption Records, and clients can submit their information to help us find their records more easily.”
Huecker said JFS is also working on digitizing its records. “We have records going back to the '40s, and we're digitizing everything so we can easily access them. It's a huge job, but it's so important to make sure these files don't deteriorate or get lost to time.”
JFS' Post-Adoption Services department goes beyond just providing people access to their medical records or helping them connect with their birth families, said Kean. “This is about meaningful, personal connections for people. We're providing crucial links that help them become whole as they discover a piece about their history that they didn't have before.”
“I really feel like I'm doing something important and providing a really vital service to our clients,” Huecker said. “I really appreciate Jewish Family Service for seeing the importance of it as well.”