Birth certificates Obtain birth certificates for client, siblings, parents, children, spouse, significant others. Available from Department of Vital Statistics in each state or in county of birth. Ohio Vital Statistics has a specific form to complete when requesting a birth certificate, and a $21.50 fee is charged for a certified copy: http://www.odh.ohio.gov/vitalstatistics/vitalmisc/vitalstats.aspx.
In Ohio, birth certificates are public record. In some states, birth certificates are not considered public record, and only the parents and child can obtain the certificate.
Client and their parents’ marriage certificates Obtain marriage licenses for all marriages of client and their parents. (County Clerk of Court) (Public record in Ohio)
Client and their parents’ divorce records Obtain complete divorce records for all divorces of client and their parents. Complete file should include financial statements, initial filing, final decree, child support orders, custody decrees, peace bonds, and temporary restraining orders. (County Clerk of Court) (Public record in Ohio) Also suggest obtaining attorney files for these divorces. (Requires release from client and/or parent(s).)
Death certificates and death records
Obtain death certificate for any family member who died. Death certificates are public record and can be obtained from the county where the individual died or State Vital Statistics Department in state where individual died.
A $21.50 fee is required to obtain a certified copy in Ohio: http://www.odh.ohio.gov/vitalstatistics/vitalmisc/vitalstats.aspx
. In some instances, you may want to obtain the autopsy and hospital records for family members who died. The hospital records will require a HIPPA release from next of kin. Also obtain copy of obituary for family members and close friends of client who are deceased.
If a will or probate court documents exist on estate of parents or grandparents
, obtain those as well.
Birth records Obtain client’s birth records from hospital and physicians, including mother’s prenatal care for client and siblings. Obtain your client’s birth records by requesting your client’s records and his/her mother’s records of the birth as well. (Requires HIPPA release.) Suggest obtaining birth records of client’s siblings.
Early childhood medical records, including family physician records, should be obtained. If there is no family physician, check public clinics in communities where family lived for all family medical records. Check every hospital in areas where family lived; look especially for emergency room records for client, client’s mother (battering incidents), and client’s siblings. Look for head trauma and signs of abuse and/or neglect. (Requires HIPPA release.)
Medical records Obtain medical records for any in-patient or out-patient hospitalization or hospital emergency room treatment regarding the client. Always check emergency rooms, hospitals, and medical clinics in every geographic area where client lived. Ask specifically for films of any x-rays, CT scans, or MRIs, as well as narrative reports. Obtain records from family doctor, clinics and/or treatment by other medical specialists. It is important to look for head trauma, especially loss of consciousness. (Requires HIPPA release.) In certain instances, such as the client’s parent or sibling being seriously ill, chronically ill, or handicapped, medical records regarding that individual should be collected.
School records Obtain records from each school (elementary, middle, high school, private and public) attended and pre-schools/head start, as well as records the school boards may have. Most of the time, all of the records will be housed at the last school the client attended, but to be safe, request from all schools attended. Ask school board or schools if outside private or public agencies conducted psychological evaluations or special testing. If so, contact those agencies and obtain their records. Some schools maintain psychological, learning disability, and testing information separate from the rest of the records, so ask if certain records are located elsewhere. Review school yearbooks and publications for information on the client and their siblings. Contact school advisers, coaches, etc. for any extra-curricular activities in which your client was a participant.
Adult education Obtain records from Job Corps, Urban League, private agencies, technological and community colleges, and GED programs, plus public and private colleges.
Police response calls and incident reports Obtain records of police calls and reports to residences where client and his/her family lived.
Family and juvenile court records Obtain from the juvenile/family clerk of court and probation department the criminal charges, dispositions, probation, pre-sentence investigations, programming referrals, counseling, placements, and recommendations for the client and, if available, for client’s siblings and parents. Some counties maintain a “family file” containing family history information on your client and their family. (Will require a judicial order from juvenile judge on old juvenile cases or court order from current judge.)
Department of Youth Services Obtain Ohio Department of Youth Services records of institutional placement and parole/aftercare, including education records, reports, evaluations, testing, counseling, intervention, placement and treatment for client and all siblings. ODYS maintains records for three years past the individual’s last contact. Education records might still be available beyond the three years. Contact the main records department and each institution; a counselor at the institution might still have their file. You may need a court order to obtain these records.
Juvenile facilities Obtain records from each juvenile facility and central agency for county and state facilities, for all medical, intake, evaluation, disciplinary, schooling records. A court order will likely be necessary.
Prior jail records Obtain local jail records for each arrest and incarceration for client, siblings, and parents. Include medical and psychological records, as well as conduct records and visitation.
Prior prison records Send request to each prison where client was housed, as well as central office of Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. Ask for Master File, Unit File, medical, psychological, education, discipline, work, kites, visitation, pre-sentence investigation, and parole board reviews, and include a general request for all institutional records. A court order is required to obtain these records in Ohio.
Current jail records Periodically obtain from jail the institutional records on client, including but not limited to medical records, psychological, counseling, medication charts, disciplinary reports, cell changes, visitors, etc. Make a final request for current jail records just prior to mitigation presentation. If client is referred to outside health care facility, obtain those medical or psychological records as well. Some facilities require court order, other facilities will accept release from client.
Prior criminal records Obtain criminal history on client and immediate family including arrests, charges, dispositions, convictions. Obtain all records from prior counsel (including attorney work product), complete court file, prosecution file, and incarceration records for client, and news clips about offense and client. Obtain court files and incarceration records for any co-defendants in priors. Also obtain criminal history on client’s family members and co-defendant. (Clerk of Court documents are public record. Attorney files will require release, and prosecutor files will require court order.)
Probation and parole Try to obtain all probation and parole records on client by contacting local parole office, as well as regional and central office. Try to obtain available pre-sentence reports. (These records are extremely difficult to obtain and will require a court order.)
FBI Obtain all FBI records, including rap sheets and previous investigations.
Co-defendants Obtain all prior criminal records including arrest records, court files, incarceration records, state law enforcement rap sheets, and FBI rap sheets on any co-defendants.
Employment records For each place of employment (as juvenile and adult, full-time and part-time), request information on employment dates, work position description, initial employment paperwork, salary, work accidents, attendance, performance evaluations, job training programs, name of supervisor/owner, and reason for leaving/firing.
Social Security Records Obtain a record of social security payments from the various jobs your client has worked. (Remember that some employers in areas such as construction and seasonal work may not take out social security or taxes, so there will not be a record of that employment with this office.) This record will assist in tracking client’s work history. A specific form must be completed and the cost depends upon the number of years to be searched. Forms available on Social Security website: www.ssa.gov.
As applicable, also obtain records if your client received social security benefits due to a disability (i.e. mental retardation), applied for social security, or received social security death benefits if their parent died before the client turned 18. A specific form must be used to obtain these records.
Religious institutions Contact churches and church groups with whom your client and their family had contact to obtain information about the client and their family. Obtain name of clergy, volunteer staff, and/or youth group leaders currently and at the time the family had contact. Interview church members, volunteers, and clergy who had contact with your client and their family.
Obtain client’s military records (complete file) and military records of family members, including parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, or any family member who served in armed forces.
Obtain information on branch of military,
date and place of enlistment, rank achieved, places stationed, commanding officer names, honors, medals, discipline, counseling, psychological, hospitalization and medical.
The signature of the person whose record you are requesting is required on a specific form to request these records. Medical records on family members of military personnel can be obtained as well. A separate release form is required for this request.
Forms can be obtain at U.S. National Archives and Records Administration website: www.archives.gov
Guardianship, Adoption and Foster Care
Try to obtain any of these records if they pertain to your client.
Foster care records, adoption, and guardianship information should all be in the Children Services file, unless the adoption was private. (Children Services records require a court order to obtain.) Guardianship information may be in the county family and juvenile court files. (A court order is required to obtain court records.)
The procedure to obtain adoption records varies depending upon the date of the adoption.
See Ohio Department of Health website for details: www.odh.ohio.gov
Miscellaneous Groups Obtain information about your client’s involvement in any organized activity such as fraternal organizations, charity organizations, sports teams, political organizations, AA, and NA. Contact these groups directly to obtain records and names of people who had contact with your client for interviews. To obtain any information about your client’s involvement with AA or NA, a release from your client may be necessary, since NA and AA often maintain confidentiality.