When people talk of birth certificates, usually they
speak in the singular when referring to one’s form of identification. In the
case of adoption
The genesis of sealed adoption records hearkens back to
reform efforts of the 1940s and was perpetuated by perceived benefits to all
parties. For birth parents, at least, a closed adoption record was seen as a
form of protection from the stigma of giving birth to a child out of wedlock.
By a “guilt by association” extension, a sealed adoption record has
since been construed as a method of shielding children from the same societal
condescension toward illegitimacy.
Depending on the State, adoptees may not always have the right to view
their birth records. The intent of some policymakers on adoption records,
though, is not to prevent adoptees from seeing their identifying information.
Even so, a number of states require a court order for adoptees to access a
sealed adoption record.
As part of any adoption records search, it is useful to
first consider who might have access to these records to know where to begin.
Exact policies on the organizations and types of people authorized to collect
data on a child’s birth parents differ from State to State, but
most of the time, this information is compiled by a coordinating adoption agency
When seeking specific identifying information about birth
parents or adoptive parents, the adoption records search may also involve a
formal request made to the court that presided over finalization of the
adoption to release them. Once again, standards vary depending on the State in which the adoption process was completed. While a
few states allow adoptees in particular to access this information freely upon
reaching a certain age, finding adoption records in a majority of states will
necessitate the individual providing a “good cause” (i.e. some
health-related emergency) to view original medical histories and birth
In states where mutual consent registries are allowed,
coordinating agencies may be facilitators for gaining approval of both parties
to encourage an unrestricted flow of information. Applicants are still
encouraged to review State statutes on what types of things may or
may not be freely accessible beforehand, though, as all of the above is subject
to their (the laws’) discretion.