Adoptees Call for Opening Records

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After hearing pleas from people who were adopted as children, Nevada lawmakers will again consider giving adults access to their adoption records.

A 1953 law closed adoption and birth records to adoptees in Nevada. A bill in the 2003 Legislature that would have opened the records to adults who were adopted died in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

That bill should have been passed, the daughter of the late Sen. Howard Cannon and several other adoptees told a legislative study committee Tuesday.

Nancy Cannon Downey urged the Legislative Committee on Children, Youth and Families to again study whether adults should have the right to see their birth and adoption papers.

Downey said Cannon, D-Nev., adopted her in 1952 and her brother in 1954 but the adoptions were kept secret for political and other reasons. After Cannon died she was going through his papers and learned she was adopted.

Through an Internet search, she was able to find her birth mother in Las Vegas and they have been united.

Downey said that through her birth records she learned about important health information, adding that those who don't have information from their birth records are in a "state of limbo."

"Nevadans have a right to their own information," Downey said.

Sen. Ray Rawson, R-Las Vegas, chairman of the committee, and other panel members said they tended to agree with those statements. Rawson will appoint a subcommittee to study the issue of adoptions, including giving adults access to their birth and adoption records.

Committee members also told child care providers seeking more money for subsidies for working parents that Gov. Kenny Guinn is trying to find a way to ease the crisis.

Willa Chaney, who runs Smart Start in West Las Vegas, and Connie Harris, who runs Kids Turf in Spring Valley, both asked lawmakers to find money to help resolve what they call a "crisis in chid care assistance."

Assemblywoman Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, told the women that Guinn and his staff are looking for funding alternatives so child care subsidies can be provided to low-income working parents. A proposal on how that can be accomplished is expected from Guinn at the January meeting of the Legislature's Interim Finance Committee, which must approve any budget changes before they can go into effect, she said.

"It's a true crisis," Buckley said. "There are a lot of families suffering right now."

The child care budget problem emerged when an error was discovered in the proposed 2003-05 executive budget showing $9 million for child care that was no longer available. The money had been spent in the 2001-03 budget when welfare cases climbed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Rawson's committee also was told that putting all family services under the roof of one Clark County agency instead of splitting them between the county and state is proceeding with only minor technical and personnel obstacles.

Joining the agencies will mean foster care, adoptions and related programs will be transferred from the state to the county by October. About 154 state workers will also move to the county, or be hired if needed, by that time.

Susan Klein-Rothschild, director of the newly formed county Division of Family Services, said that changes already completed for the merger include bringing county workers onto the same computer program used by the state, a move also required for federal funding.