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Change in adoption law hits home for local fire chief

Steve Kelly
(from left) Jennifer Kelly, Steve Kelly holding daughter Caitlen, birth mother Marjean.

Friday is a special day for Miami Township (Clermont County) Fire Chief Steve Kelly and the other 400,000 people adopted in Ohio between 1964 and 1996.

Until now their adoption records have been sealed, and even such drastic measures as petitioning the court couldn't get them opened.  March 20 is the first day adoptees can officially request their adoption records from the Ohio Department of Health, thanks to a change in Ohio law.

Kelly will be in Columbus for the Friday ceremony. For years he was always curious about his birth parents, but the pivotal moment was in 2008 when his daughter was stillborn from a genetic condition.

Kelly went to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center for genetic counseling with his wife. He said, "My wife was able to fill out the family tree and talk about different maladies that her family had over the years... and I remember the lady drew a box next to my name and she just put a giant question mark."

He petitioned the Montgomery County court for his adoption records citing medical necessity, but the court said no. The birth of a second child with a genetic condition led to more questions. Then he learned about a proposal to change Ohio law. Testifying about his hardship, volunteers led him to find his birth mother in 2013 and father in 2014.

"I think the changes in the law are huge. At least, if nothing else, it opens the door and provides an opportunity for people who traditionally have not had that opportunity. Whether or not they want to do anything with it is completely up to them," says Kelly.

With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.