What States Have Open Adoption Records?

Adoption may be a sensitive subject for some, and states have varying laws about how open adoption records may be. It’s important to understand the rules surrounding adoption privacy in your state if you are considering adoption or if you are an adoptee. Understanding these regulations helps you learn what information you may be able to access.

Our article gives you further information on states that have open adoption records.

What Information Is Held in Adoption Records?

“Adoption records” is a rather general term, but this phrase refers to the original birth certificate of an adoptee and any identifying information about their birth parents. Other identifying information that might be a part of adoption records includes current or past names of the adoptee and their birth parents, addresses, and places of employment.

For some adoptees, accessing this information is very important, but others may be perfectly fine with not knowing it. Because adoption is a very personal matter, the importance of the information held in adoption records is typically subjective.

Non-Identifying Information Versus Identifying Information

As we mentioned above, identifying information includes details about birth parents, like their names, addresses, and places of employment. On the other hand, non-identifying information is available to adoptees and their adoptive parents in almost every state, regardless of whether the state has limited or open access to adoption records and original birth certificates.

Non-identifying information adoptees and their adoptive parents may be able to access includes:

  • The location and date of the adoptee’s birth
  • A physical description and age of the birth parents, including their ethnicity and religion
  • Medical history of the birth parents
  • If the birth parents have siblings or not
  • Education levels and the occupation of the birth parents at the time of the adoption

Check with your state’s adoptive agency or the court system handling your adoption for more information on how to obtain these details.

Adoption Record Access by State

Adoption record access does vary by state, and you will need to check with the regulations of the state where the adoption occurred for more detailed information on specific adoption record access. Below, we list general adoption record access by state and what states have open adoption records.

  • Open Adoption Records: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina
  • Partial Access: Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington
  • Limited or Restricted Access: Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

Can an Adoptee Access Their Original Birth Certificate?

State rules do vary, but an adoptee can access their original birth certificate in several different ways. It’s essential that you check with the state agency of your specific jurisdiction to understand the specific rules and regulations for accessing original birth certificates and other adoption record information.

Typically, an adoptee can access their original birth certification due to one of these reasons, depending on specific state laws:

  • A court order when all parties have consented to the release of records
  • At the request of an adult adoptee
  • At the request of an adoptee of any age, unless the birth parent has filed in court to keep the original birth certificate and other identifying information private
  • If the adoptee meets state requirements for eligibility to receive identifying information such as the original birth certificate
  • If consent for the release of the original birth certificate or other identifying information is on file with the court

If you are confused about this process and the information you can access, you may need to consult a state agency or lawyer for guidance.

Where Can I Access Adoption Information?

Most adoption record information is handled through the state court system where the adoption took place. Depending on your state, you may be able to access adoption information or file for access to adoption information online through state agencies, by filing the appropriate documents in court, or via county records offices. Check with your specific state for more details, and don’t hesitate to contact legal assistance as needed.

You can also perform a public records search, like this one, to find more information about your adoption records and family history.

Obtaining Vital Adoption Records

Adoption records may be a sensitive subject, but understanding how to obtain this information in the state where an adoption occurred is essential. Both adoptive parents and adoptees may have questions that can only be answered by the original birth certification and other identifying information surrounding an adoptee’s birth parents, so it’s important to understand how to access this information in your state to obtain the vital adoption record information you need.

Related reading: Legal Guardianship vs. Adoption: What’s Right for Your Child?


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