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Access Policy for State Orphans' Home Records

In 2013, individual client or case records for children and youths placed at the Soldiers and Sailors Orphans Home at Atchison (later the State Orphans’ Home, eventually becoming the Youth Center at Atchison and then the Atchison Juvenile Correctional Facility before its closure in 2008) were transferred to the Kansas Historical Society.  These records may contain information regarding the child’s legal custody and guardianship, parents’ and other immediate family members’ circumstances, child’s temporary placement or indenture with a family or adoption out of the orphanage, medical and mental health records, and correspondence regarding the child.  These records generally date from 1887 to 1976 and may extend up to 1981.

According to a letter provided at the time of transfer by the Department for Children and Families’ assistant director for legal services, these records are available for public inspection pursuant to the Kansas Open Records Act, K.S.A. 45-221(f), which states

Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a), any public record which has been in existence more than 70 years shall be open for inspection by any person unless disclosure of the record is specifically prohibited or restricted by federal law, state statute or rule of the Kansas supreme court or by a policy adopted pursuant to K.S.A. 72-6214, and amendments thereto.

Due to the sensitive nature of these records regarding children, entire case files shall be kept closed until they are 70 years old, according to K.S.A. 45-221(a)(3)(14)(30).  These exemptions cover medical information about identifiable patients, communication between a public agency and private individual, and information in public documents of a personal nature about individuals.

Once a 70 year time period has expired from the date of last record in a case file, that case file shall be open to public inspection EXCEPT

·        Adoption records:  According to K.S.A. 65-2423, K.S.A. 59-2122, and K.S.A. 59-2135, records related to adoption of minors are not open except to the adoptee if of legal age or by an order of court.

·        Social Security Numbers: According to K.S.A. 75-3520 and 42 U.S.C. 408(a)(8), access to Social Security Numbers for living individuals is prohibited.  Any record in this series containing such number will be redacted at time of request unless named individual is known or can be proved to be deceased.

An index to the case files available at the Kansas Historical Society’s reading room is online; check this index before making an appointment with reference staff to ensure a record for a specific child exists.  Please note the index may indicate a child has more than one file—in some instances one of the files may be completely empty, in other instances it may be two different children.  Please be aware that record-keeping at the orphanage could be incomplete or inconsistent.

To determine whether or not information in a given child’s record is available for review, please contact reference staff at KSHS.reference@ks.gov or call 785-272-8681 ext. 117.