Information by State

In the United States, the records of adoptees are closed in most states.

Information relating to adoptions is classified into two groups of data:

  • Nonidentifying
  • Identifying

There are processes in many states where parties to an adoption can get both nonidentifying and identifying information contained in the adoption record.   Everyone’s interests are protected when releasing this information.

Nonidentifying –

Typically  limited to descriptive details about an adopted person and the adopted person’s birth relatives. This type of information is generally provided to the adopting parents at the time of the adoption.

Examples include:

  • Date and place of the adopted person’s birth
  • Age of the birth parents and general physical description, such as eye and hair color
  • Race, ethnicity, religion, and medical history of the birth parents
  • Educational level of the birth parents and their occupations at the time of the adoption
  • Reason for placing the child for adoption
  • Existence of other children born to each birth parent

All States and American Samoa have provisions in statute that allow access to nonidentifying information by an adoptive parent or a guardian of an adopted person who is still a minor. Nearly all States allow the adopted person to access nonidentifying information about birth relatives, generally upon written request.

Approximately 27 States allow birth parents access to nonidentifying  information, generally to the health and social history of the child.  In addition, 15 States give such access to adult birth siblings.3 Policies on what information is collected and how that information is maintained and disclosed vary from State to State.

Identifying

Identifying information is information from the disclosure of adoption records or elsewhere that may lead to the positive identification of birth parents, the adopted person, or other birth relatives.

Examples include:

  • Current or past names of the person,
  • Addresses
  • Employment

Statutes in nearly all States permit the release of identifying information when the person whose information is sought has consented to the release.   If consent is not on file with the appropriate entity, the information may not be released without a court order documenting good cause to release the information. A person seeking a court order must be able to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that there is a compelling reason for disclosure that outweighs maintaining the confidentiality of a party to an adoption.

 


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