Adoptees, birthparents, and adoptive parents often have a lot to say about adoption privacy laws. Some believe one side or the other deserves complete privacy, while others argue that adoptees deserve to know who their birth family is. Adoption laws are currently undergoing quite a few changes, which can make it difficult for those involved to know what their options are. Below are some of the current conditions to keep in mind.
Most states adoption laws allow the adopting parents — and adoptees, upon request — to receive non-identifying information about the birthparents. This information may include things like the birth parents’ age, basic physical description, eye color, hair color, race, ethnicity, religion, medical history, educational level, and occupations. This sometimes also includes the reason for placing the child for adoption, and if the child has any biological siblings. This same level of information is available to the birthparents in only 26 states, and to birth siblings in 15 states.
It is important to note that some states require a little more work in order to obtain this non-identifying information. For example, New York, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island all require those seeking this information to register in a statewide adoption registry.
When it comes to identifying information — in other words, information that would allow the person in question to be found — things tighten up a bit. Some states, such as New Jersey, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, and Guam, require a court order for this information to be released, but in most cases it can be done as long as the person about whom information is sought has given permission.
Other limitations do exist, however. Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas all have adoption laws requiring any adoptee seeking identifying information about their birth parents to complete counseling about how the process and contact might affect them. In Connecticut, the release of identifying information can be blocked by the department or agency that facilitated the adoption if they determine that the information might hurt or disrupt the life of the person being sought out.
Original BIrth Certificate
Once an adoption is finalized, in most situations a new birth certificate with the names of the adoptive parents is issued. The original copy of the birth certificate is kept confidential, which is a big deal to a lot of adoptees. This is where a lot of those adoption privacy laws are changing. In past years, nearly every state required a court order for the release of the original birth certificate, but that is slowly changing. That is still the case in 25 states, but in many states the original birth certificate can be obtained through mutual consent, at the request of an adult adoptee, when eligible according to the state’s adoption registry, or if the birthparents put their assent on file.
Because these laws are changing relatively quickly, search here to find the current legal status of the state where your adoption took place to determine what steps you might need to take.