State Adoption Laws
|State(s) / Date(s) Edited||State(s) / Date(s) Edited||State(s) / Date(s) Edited||State(s) / Date(s) Edited||State(s) / Date(s) Edited|
|Pennsylvania & Wisconsin|
2.19.2019 & 1.15.2020
3.13.2019 & 7.30.2020
|South Carolina |
11.29.2018 & 8.2.2019
11.2.2020 and 1.21.2021
|Connecticut 7.5.2021||Rhode Island |
7.30.2020 & 8.7.2021 & 11.29.2021
|Idaho and Tennessee |
The following AAC legislative policy statement was updated on 5/29/2018:
It is the formal policy of The American Adoption Congress to support state-by-state legislative efforts to restore unrestricted access to original birth certificates (OBC) for all adult adoptees. This is also known as “clean” adoption reform, which is in accordance with widely accepted best practices in adoption. As an umbrella organization, the AAC will also support efforts to gain access to all adoption agency and court records if planned within legislation or government actions.
Sample resolution and information to present to legislators.
ADULT ADOPTEES’ ORIGINAL BIRTH CERTIFICATE (OBC) ACCESS
U.S. STATES OVERVIEW
OBC ACCESS CATEGORIES
(See below for details pertaining to each state and D.C.)
|Unrestricted Access||Access for adult adoptees|
|Access with Restrictions||Access for adult adoptees with limits|
|Partial Access||Access for adult adoptees born during certain years|
|Partial with Restrictions||Access for adult adoptees born during certain years, and with limits|
|Sealed||Very limited or no access without, for example, a court order|
|Alabama||Unrestricted Access||Montana||Partial with Restrictions|
|Alaska||Unrestricted Access||Nebraska||Partial with Restrictions|
|Arkansas||Access with Restrictions||New Hampshire||Unrestricted Access|
|California||Sealed||New Jersey||Access with Restrictions|
|Colorado||Unrestricted Access||New Mexico||Sealed|
|Connecticut||Unrestricted Access||New York||Unrestricted Access|
|Delaware||Access with Restrictions||North Carolina||Sealed|
|District of Columbia (D.C.)||Sealed||North Dakota||Sealed|
|Florida||Sealed||Ohio||Access with Restrictions|
|Georgia||Sealed||Oklahoma||Partial with Restrictions|
(adoptions in HI) + Sealed
(births in HI with adoptions
outside of HI)
|Idaho||Access with Restrictions||Pennsylvania||Access with Restrictions|
|Illinois||Access with Restrictions||Rhode Island||Unrestricted Access|
|Indiana||Access with Restrictions||South Carolina||Partial with Restrictions|
|Iowa||Access with Restrictions||South Dakota||Sealed|
|Kansas||Unrestricted Access||Tennessee||Access with Restrictions|
|Louisiana||Unrestricted Access||Utah||Access with Restrictions|
|Maine||Unrestricted Access||Vermont||Partial with Restrictions|
|Maryland||Partial with Restrictions||Virginia||Sealed|
|Massachusetts||Unrestricted Access||Washington||Access with Restrictions|
|Michigan||Partial with Restrictions||West Virginia||Sealed|
|Minnesota||Partial with Restrictions||Wisconsin||Access with Restrictions|
|Missouri||Access with Restrictions|
ALABAMA - UNRESTRICTED ACCESS
In Alabama, the original birth certificate (OBC) is made available to the adoptee, age 18 or older, upon request. Birth parents may file a non-binding Contact Preference Form, requesting direct contact with an adopted adult, contact through an intermediary, or no contact at all.
Citation: Ala. Code § 22-9A-12(c)-(d).
HB-690 reopens birth and adoption records to Alabama adult adoptees and ends a 9-year roadblock enacted in 1990 as part of a sweeping overhaul of the Alabama Adoption Code. Prior to January 1, 1991, adult adoptees in Alabama had been able to view all of their adoption records upon request. In addition to the original birth certificate, HB-690 also provides for release of the court documents pertaining to the adoption which are contained in the sealed file at the Department of Vital Statistics. In contrast to the pre-1991 situation, adult adoptees are now able to receive and retain copies of some of their adoption-related documents. Documents held by private adoption agencies or the Department of Human Resources, however, were not impacted by the bill.
ALASKA - UNRESTRICTED ACCESS
The original birth certificate (OBC) is available to adult adoptees at age 18. Birth parents(s) can submit the name and/or address changes to the State Registrar to be attached to the OBC.
ARIZONA - PARTIAL ACCESS
A change to Arizona law went into effect on January 1, 2022.
The law allows adult adoptees born in Arizona before June 20, 1968 and (prospectively) after September 28, 2021 to apply for a copy of their original birth certificate.
For the vast majority of Arizona born adoptees, those born between June 20, 1968 and September 28, 2021, original birth certificate access remains by court order.
The American Adoption Congress submitted detailed opposition to the bill, advocating for unrestricted access for all Arizona adult adopted persons. This opposition was also expressed in a joint letter.
Arizona Department of Health Services (DHS) information and application form:
Other information, with thanks to Adoptee Rights Law Center:
Arizona law FAQ and information:
ARKANSAS - ACCESS WITH RESTRICTIONS
A new law went into effect on August 1st, 2018. The Arkansas Department of Health information and forms can be found here:
Per the Department of Health:
"Act 519 of 2017 provides individuals who were adopted, and are at least 21 years of age, the ability to request their adoption file from the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH). An ADH adoption file usually includes an original birth certificate and adoption decree, although what is included in a file can vary depending on the adoption. The law also allows for birth parents to redact their name from an adoption file and update family history and contact preference by submitting that information to ADH."
Upon the death of an adoptee, requests may also be made by surviving spouses or guardians of their child.
Fee for adoption files: $100
CALIFORNIA - SEALED
There have been two access legislative efforts in California during the last decade, the most recent one mounted by the California Adoption Reform Effort (C.A.R.E.) in early 2009. While the bill (AB372 sponsored by then-Majority Whip Assemblywoman Fiona Ma) passed unanimously through the Assembly Judiciary Committee, it stalled in the Appropriations when a staggering $16 million price tag was attached. Even with a much smaller assessment, any legislation with a fiscal attachment will prove difficult to move forward in light of the current economic situation in the state.
Other hurdles existing statutes which created a disclosure veto and a confidential intermediary process for sibling reunification (http://www.cdss.ca.gov/cdssweb/entres/forms/English/AD904A.PDF). Amending these retroactively requires a costly mechanism.
California is on a two-year cycle, with the next one beginning in 2013. Any new legislative effort would not be mounted until at least that time.
COLORADO - UNRESTRICTED ACCESS
SB 51 (Tochtrop/Saine) was signed into law on May 22, 2014. The bill repeals and reenacts portions of existing law (see Section 19-5-305, C.R.S.). Creates a uniform standard of access to adoption records held in court and state agency files effective 7/1/14. Starting 1/1/16, it makes original birth certificates in the possession of the Colorado State Registrar available to adult adoptees, and certain other eligible family members, upon request with proof of identification and payment of a fee. Allows an eligible party to request that the State Registrar perform a search for the death certificate of a sought party and provide a copy of the death certificate. Eliminates the option on current 2005 version of the Contact Preference Form for birth parents to authorize or not authorize the release of the OBC effective 1/1/16. Preserves current access to records (see below) and OBCs during the transition period from 7/1/14 to 1/1/16. Preserves confidentiality of records from the general public. Preserves option for a searching party to utilize the services of a Confidential Intermediary if they so choose. Full text of measure as signed by Governor John Hickenlooper. Visit the Colorado State Judicial Branch website for updated court forms and instructions on how to request records.
HB 1042 (Saine/Tochtrop) was signed into law on May 22, 2014. The bill adds Section 19-5-109 to the Colorado Revised Statutes, effective 8/7/14. Provides birth/first parents whose parental rights were not terminated as a result of a Dependency and Neglect action with copies of documents they signed, including the original birth certificate, during the relinquishment process upon proof of identification. Full text of measure as signed by Governor John Hickenlooper.
On April 16, 2009, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that adult adoptees (18+) can get their original birth certificates (OBC) and adoption records for adoptions finalized between 7/1/51 and 6/30/67. As of May 2014, over 1800 requests for original birth certificates have been processed by the State Registrar's Office. The court also held that for adoptions finalized prior to July 1, 1949, legislative history contains no indication that the new law sealing adoption records, which took effect on that date, was intended to be applied retroactively. To read the opinion, go to In re J.N.H., 209 P.3d 1221 (Colo. App. 2009) . HB 99-1188 had amended Section 19-5-305, C.R.S. to provide adult adoptee (18) access to adoption records for most adoptions finalized on or after 9/1/99, by mutual consent of the parties, or if the sought party is deceased. After the CCOA ruling, those whose adoptions were finalized between 7/1/67 and 8/30/99, or between 5/20/49 and 6/30/51 were still required to meet one of these criteria or petition the court to obtain a copy of the OBC. The intent of SB 14-051 is to eliminate different standards of access based on the date the adoption was finalized and provide direct access to certain adoption records for eligible parties.
For more information, go to www.aisctc.org and click on the COAccess 2014 icon and browse FAQs found on the toolbar.
As of July 1, 2021 Public Act 21-21 goes into effect. This makes Connecticut is the 10th state with a policy of Unrestricted Access to original birth certificates for all adult adoptees (adult adoptees, born on or before 10/1/83, regained access as of 7/1/21).
This follows HB6105 (AAC supported) having been signed into law on June 7, 2021 (Governor Ned Lamont). Previously, Connecticut was a Partial Access state (adult adoptees born after 10/1/83 via Act 14-133 in 2014).
State of Connecticut - Department of Health / Vital Records (as shared by lead advocates from Access Connecticut)
"REQUEST FORM FOR COPY OF ORIGINAL BIRTH CERTIFICATE OF ADOPTED PERSON..."
Additional information to assist with the application process can be found here (with added thanks to Access Connecticut):
DELAWARE - ACCESS WITH RESTRICTIONS
Effective January 18, 1999, adoptees age (21) born in Delaware can apply for a copy of their original birth certificate (OBC). Go to www.dhss.delaware.gov/dph/ss/vitalstats.html to apply by mail or telephone. Click on the link to VitalChek Network for more information or click on Adoptee’s Birth Certificate PDF version to print out the form.
Birth parents wishing to block the release of identifying information must file a written notarized statement to that effect with the Office of Vital Statistics. Such statements must be renewed every three years.
Vital Statistics will make a reasonable effort to notify a birth parent when an adoptee applies for birth records. If no disclosure veto statement is filed, the original birth certificate will be released to the adoptee approximately 65 days after the initial request.
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DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA (D.C.) - SEALED
Adoptees in the District of Columbia do not have access to their original birth certificates, except by court order. The D.C. superior court controls all aspects of releasing an OBC or any identifying information, whether from court records or from vital records. D.C. Superior courts are not in precise agreement about the scope of access an adoptee may have to court adoption records. At least one court decision required the release of information if the “welfare of
the child will thereby be promoted or protected.” Relevant D.C. Law: Original Birth Certificates
D.C. Code § 16-314. Birth certificates
(a) Upon the issuance of a final decree of adoption, an adoption form shall be sent to the Registrar pursuant to the Vital Records Act of 1981. Unless otherwise requested in the petition by the adopters, the Registrar shall cause to be made a new record of the birth in the new name with the names of the adopters and shall then cause the original birth certificate and the order of the Court to be sealed and filed. The sealed package may be opened only by order of the Court or by the Registrar to properly administer the Vital Records Act of 1981.
(b) If the adoption occurred outside of the District either before or after August 25, 1937, a new certificate of birth shall be made pursuant to section 11 of the Vital Records Act of 1981. The Registrar shall seal the original birth certificate. The sealed original birth certificate may be opened only by order of a court of competent jurisdiction or by the Registrar to properly administer the Vital Records Act of 1981.
(c) If the birth of the adoptee occurred outside of the District the clerk of the court shall upon petition by the
adopter, furnish him with a certified copy of the final decree of adoption.
(c-1) If the birth of the adoptee occurred outside of the United States, a new certificate of birth shall be made pursuant to section 11 of the Vital Records Act of 1981.
(d) When an adoption in the District occurred prior to August 25, 1937, the court shall, upon presentation of a motion by a party to the proceedings, order the clerk of the court to seal the records in the proceeding. Upon presentation of a certified copy of the order, the Mayor shall cause to be made a new record of the birth in the new name and with the names of the adopters and shall then cause to be sealed and filed the original birth certificate with the order of the court. The sealed package may be opened only by order of the court.
Relevant D.C. Law: Adoption Court Records
D.C. Code § 16–311. Sealing and inspection of records and papers
From and after the filing of the petition, records and papers in adoption proceedings shall be sealed. They may not be inspected by any person, including the parties to the proceeding, except upon order of the court, and only then when the court is satisfied that the welfare of the child will thereby be promoted or protected. Such records and papers shall, upon written application to the court, be unsealed and provided to the Child Fatality Review Committee for inspection if the adoptee is deceased and inspection of the records and papers is necessary for the discharge of the Committee’s official duties. The clerk of the court shall keep a separate docket for adoption proceedings.
FLORIDA - SEALED
The Department of Children& Families shall maintain a passive registry with the last known names and addresses of an adoptee (18), the birth parents, and the adoptive parents and any other identifying information that the parties wish to include in the registry. Identifying information about a birth parent, an adoptive parent, or an adoptee may not be disclosed unless the respective party has authorized in writing the release of such information. If the adoptee is younger than age 18, written consent must be obtained from an adoptive parent.
The original birth certificate is available only upon order of the court.
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CURRENT LAW: Upon written request of an adult adoptee (21), the name of the birth parents shall be released if the birth parent has submitted an unrevoked written consent. If a birth parent has not filed an unrevoked written consent, the Georgia Adoption Reunion Registry shall make a diligent effort to notify each birth parent that a request for information has been made. The birth parent may then file an affidavit consenting or objecting to disclosure. Birth parents and adult birth siblings also may access information about an adoptee using the same procedure. If the adoptee is deceased and leaves a child, such child, upon reaching age 21, may seek the name and other identifying information concerning his or her grandparents in the same manner as the deceased adoptee and subject to the same procedures.
Contact Jeff Costello of Georgians for Equal Access to Records, firstname.lastname@example.org, for more information.
*11/1/20--Special advisory from AAC.
Contact AAC National Legislative Chair Tim Monti-Wohlpart with questions
All applications pertaining to adoptions, where the adopted person was born and adopted in Hawaii, retain unrestricted access, as previously reported. However, we have learned that the Family Courts in Hawaii are currently not able to fulfill requests for adoptions in which the adoptee was born in Hawaii, but legally adopted elsewhere. The AAC is in touch with Adoption Circle of Hawaii and action may be forthcoming to address this item through further advocacy.
Please stay tuned for further details
On June 21, 2016 Hawaii's Governor Ige signed into law the broadest, progressive adoption records access bill anywhere. It gives not only adult adoptees (age 18 or older) access to their entire adoption file, un-redacted, upon request, but also gives access to that same file to birth parents and adoptive parents of the adult adoptee
From June 23, 2016, all members of the triad may request access to sealed adoption records held by Family Court when the person who was adopted in Hawaii is at least 18 years old. These records contain information about the parties to the adoption and include court documents, and the adoptees original birth certificate.
You can request your records from Family Court, using their form found at http://www.courts.state.hi.us/docs/1FP/1FP770.pdf or at their office. Make your request to the Family Court in the district that the adoption took place.
You must have your form notarized if you are mailing it in. If you deliver the request form in person, you must have a picture ID to verify your identity. You will have to pay a copying fee for your copy of the records.
You can see the legislative bill HB 2082 as well as the codified HRS (578-§15) that matches the Act
Here are the Family Court addresses:
Adoption Records -- Oahu
First Circuit Court, Family Court
Kapolei Judiciary Complex
4675 Kapolei Pkwy, Kapolei HI 96707-3272
Phone: (808) 954-8145
Adoption Records -- Maui
Family Court, 2nd District
2145 Main Street, Suite 206
Wailuku, Maui, HI 96793-1679
Phone: (808) 553-3397
Adoption Records -- Hawaii
Family Court, 3rd District
345 Kekuanaoa Street, Room 40
Hilo, HI 96720-4388
Phone: (808) 961-7670
Adoption Records -- Kauai
Family Court, 5th District
3970 Kaana Street, Suite 305
Lihue, Kauai, HI 96766-1283
Phone: (808) 482-2350
Adoption Circle of Hawaii can be contacted to provide support.
IDAHO- ACCESS WITH RESTRICTIONS
A change to Idaho law went into effect on July 1, 2022.
The prospective law applies only to adoptions finalized after July 1, 2022. It will employ the state’s existing Voluntary Adoption Registry. The law employs discriminatory waiting periods, allowance for birth parent redactions and parentage notations on vital records. It also perpetuates confusion for internationally born adopted persons.
For the vast majority of Idaho born adoptees, those whose adoptions were finalized before July 1, 2022, original birth certificate access remains by court order.
The American Adoption Congress submitted detailed opposition to the bill, advocating for unrestricted access for all Idaho adult adopted persons.
Volunteer Adoption Registry:
The Volunteer Adoption Registry is available to adult adoptees (18), birth parents, birth siblings of adult adoptees, and relatives of deceased adoptees or birth parents. Registrants may file a consent with the registry indicating a person’s desired method of contact if a match is made.
A birth parent shall not be matched with an adult adoptee without the consent of the other birth parent unless (a) there is only one birth parent listed on the birth certificate; (b) the other birth parent is deceased; or (c) the birth parent is unable to be located after a search.
The original birth certificate is available upon a court order or when all parties have consented through the State adoption registry.
HB5428 passed in May 2010, allows Illinois-born adoptees born prior to January 1, 1946, to obtain a copy of their original birth certificate (OBC). If the adoptee is deceased, surviving children of the adoptee may obtain a copy of the deceased parent's OBC. As of September 2011, 811 OBCs have been released to this group.
The second phase of the law, covering post -1945 adoptions, becomes effective in November 2011. Adoptees, age 21 and older, may request a non-certified copy of the OBC through the Illinois Department of Public Health. If the adoptee is deceased, surviving children of the adoptee may obtain a copy of the deceased parents OBC. As of April 223, 2012, 2,445 OBCs had been released.
A birth parent of an adoptee born after 1945 may file a form to veto disclosure of the birth parent's identity for as long as the birth parent is alive. If a birth parent has vetoed disclosure, all identifying information about that birth parent will be deleted from the OBC provided to the adoptee. A veto by one birth parent does not prevent disclosure of the identity of the other birth parent. Disclosure vetoes are ineffective after the vetoing birth parent dies.
The Illinois Birth Parent Preference Form provides a means for birth parents who do not veto disclosure to express a preference for direct contact, contact through a friend or relative, contact via a state intermediary, or no contact.
Post-1946 adoptees must apply for their OBC by U.S. mail only; no requests will be handled in person or via the Internet. Although there has been a wait of up to six months for adoptees to receive their OBC, The Illinois Department of Vital Statistics is catching up with the initial backlog of requests. It is expected that future wait times will be shorter.
For general instructions, go to the "Request an Original Birth Certificate (OBC)" section of:
The OBC request form can be found here:
INDIANA - ACCESS WITH RESTRICTIONS
Indiana’s latest law relating to adult adoptee access to information has been in effect since July 1, 2018. The byzantine newer provisions do not provide equal rights to adoptees.
Main features of Indiana law:
- Expanded access to “identifying information” of birth parents
- However, birth parents may block the release of information to adoptees (as such this is not a “contact preference” but rather a disclosure veto that can keep information sealed)
- Prior (before July 1, 2018) forms to “restrict release” of information remain in effect
- Adoptees may begin the process of application for identifying or non-identifying information if age 18 or over
- Adoptees become eligible to receive information if age 21 or over (unless adoptive parents make request)
Indiana Adoption Matching Registry: https://www.in.gov/isdh/27862.htm
With thanks to the Adoptee Rights Law Center, below find a flowchart which illustrates the legal process:
Changes to Iowa law were enacted on May 19, 2021. The law, which allows for birth parent redactions of identifying information, pertains to the following three groups:
1. Adoptees born in Iowa before January 1, 1971 (eligible to apply for original birth record as of May 19, 2021)
2. Adoptees born in Iowa after January 1, 1971 (eligible to apply for original birth record as of January 1, 2022)
3. If the adopted person is deceased, another "entitled person"
Iowa Department of Public Health link / application information:
Other helpful information, with thanks to Adoptee Rights Law Center:
Iowa law FAQ and information:
Iowa law details:
KANSAS - UNRESTRICTED ACCESS
Adoption Records Were Never Sealed
Kansas adoption records have NEVER been closed. The records have always been accessible to adult adoptees (in KS that is age 18); the original birth certificate (OBC) comes from KS Vital Statistics and the adoption record comes from KS Social and Rehabilitative Services (SRS) Children and Family Policy. The often stated confusion arises from the fact that this was not clearly spelled out in the law and, in the early 1950s when many states were closing their records, the KS legislature passed a 1953 law that clearly spelled out that the records belong to adult adoptees.
The OBC is available only to the adult adoptee. The adoptee's descendants cannot get the OBC (which many want when the adoptee is deceased). The OBC is stamped, in red, VOID so that the document cannot be used for fraud. It has only been in the past 15 years or so that this has been done. The same form and fee, is used for ALL people from Kansas whether adopted or not adopted. This form may be accessed at: www.kdheks.gov/vital/birth.html
If an adoptee is born in KS but the adoption was completed in another state, they still get the OBC. If the adoptee was born elsewhere but the adoption was completed in KS, the adoptee can still obtain the state adoption record but the OBC stays with the state (and their laws) where the adoptee was born.
Birth parents/siblings can request a search, though SRS, and forward their identifying information to the adult adoptee. It then is the decision of the adoptee whether or not to directly contact that particular birth family member. Identifying information about the adult adoptee cannot be released to any birth family member without the written, notarized consent of the adoptee. For a Kansas state adoption record form for all adoptions completed in Kansas, click here. At the present time there is no fee for the Kansas adoption record or for requesting a search for a birth family member or adoptee.
59-2122 Files and records of adoption
(a) The files and records of the court in adoption proceedings shall not be open to inspection or copy by persons other than the parties in interest and their attorneys, and representatives of the state department of social and rehabilitation services, except upon an order of the court expressly permitting the same. As used in this section, 'parties in interest' shall not include genetic parents once a decree of adoption is entered.
(b) The department of social and rehabilitation services may contact the adoptive parents of the minor child or the adopted adult at the request of the genetic parents in the event of a health or medical need. The department of social and rehabilitation services may contact the adopted adult at the request of the genetic parents for any reason. Identifying information shall not be shared with the genetic parents without the permission of the adopted adult. The department of social and rehabilitation services may contact the genetic parents at the request of the adoptive parents of the minor child or the adopted adult in the event of a health or medical need. The department of social and rehabilitation services may contact the genetic parents at the request of the adopted adult for any reason.
KENTUCKY - SEALED
If the birth parents have given consent, the adult adoptee (21) may inspect the records pertaining to his or her adoption proceedings upon written request. If the birth parents have not given consent, the State has six months to make reasonable efforts to locate birth parents and notify them that the adult adopted has made a request for information. The notification shall be by personal and confidential contact, without disclosing the identity of the adult adoptee. If birth parents cannot be located or if they are deceased, the adoptee can petition the court to open the record for inspection.
The original birth certificate is available by court order only.
As of August 1, 2022, Act 470 goes into effect. This makes Louisiana the 12th state to announce a policy of unrestricted access to original birth certificates for adult adoptees (in Louisiana, for adult adoptees age 24 and above).
Summary of provisions:
o Restore unrestricted access to original birth certificates (OBC) for all adult adoptees who have reached the age 24 and above (uncertified copy)
o Provide for procedure to secure an uncertified copy of the original birth certificate consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act “for a certified copy of a
vital record in the custody of the vital records registry”
o Allow non-binding contact preferences to be filed
For complete information on detailed steps regarding application (mail in process), including the application form itself, please go to:
Original Birth Certificates have been released to adoptees. Of the limited number of birth parents completing Contact Preference Forms, only eight have requested no contact.OBCs Access legislation was enacted on January 1, 2009, allowing adults, age 18 and older, to get their original birth certificates.
Adult adoptees in Maine have unrestricted access to their own original birth certificates. Adoptees must be 18 years of age before requesting their OBCs. Maine allows a birth parent to file a contact preference and medical history form, which is attached to the original birth certificate.
To apply for a copy of a non-certified original birth certificate in Maine, go here:
There was no action on an access bill in 2014.
CURRENT LAW: For those adopted from 1947 through 2000, the State maintains a Mutual Consent Voluntary Adoption Registry for adult adoptees, birth parents, siblings and other birth relatives. Individuals may provide identifying information and authorize its release to birth parents and/or birth siblings. If a match occurs, the identities of the parties are confirmed through the agency that was involved in the adoption finalization. Once confirmed, the information is released to the interested parties.
On October 1, 1999, adoption services were expanded to provide search, contact and reunion services to adult adoptees (21) and birth parents. Individuals may authorize the Department of Human Resources to initiate a search for birth parents or adult children they placed for adoption. A referral will be made to a confidential intermediary who will attempt to locate the person being sought. The person being sought may grant or deny the request for contact. If contact is denied in the case of an adoptee search, an attempt is made to have birth parents complete medical information.
For adoptions finalized on or after January 1, 2000, an adult adoptee (21) may apply for a copy of his or her OBC. A birth parent may file a disclosure veto to bar disclosure of information. A birth parent may apply for a copy of the adoptee’s OBC. An adult adoptee may file a disclosure veto to bar disclosure of information.
For additional information, please contact Linda Clausen, MSW, or go http://dhr.maryland.gov/adoption/search-contract-and-reunion/#5.
MASSACHUSETTS - UNRESTRICTED ACCESS
On August 5th 2022, Massachusetts became the 13th state to announce a policy of unrestricted access to original birth certificates for all adult adoptees.
The new law went into effect on November 3, 2022.
The form to apply for a non-certified original birth certificate in Massachusetts:
Provision that took effect on 11/3/22:
- Restoration of unrestricted access to original birth certificates (OBC) for all adult adoptees born between 7/17/74 and 1/1/08 (MA adoptees born outside that period already enjoyed, since 2007, original birth certificate access upon reaching adulthood).
Additional information / FAQ courtesy of Adoptee Rights Law Center:
MICHIGAN - PARTIAL WITH RESTRICTIONS
The Michigan access bill died in committee at the end of 2010 legislative session. No new legislation has been introduced to date, and none is on the horizon. The legislature is not favorable, and any access bill faces stiff opposition from the family law section of the state bar.
CURRENT LAW: for adoptions finalized between 5-28-1945 and 9-12-1980, identifying information shall be released to the adult adoptee (18) on each birth parent who has consented to the release, or both birth parents if both consented or if one or both parents are deceased. If no consent is on file, an adoptee can use a confidential intermediary to conduct a reasonable search and obtain consent. For adoptions finalized before 5/28/45 and after 9-12-1980, identifying information may be released to an adult adoptee upon request unless the birth parent has filed a statement with the central adoption registry denying release.
A copy of the original birth certificate may be provided to the adult adoptee upon request when accompanied by a copy of a central adoption registry clearance reply form or by court order.
House bill H.F. 2440 and companion Senate bill S.F. 2369 were introduced February 2014 and assigned to committees (House Health and Human Services Policy Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee). Neither bill received a hearing during the 2014 Legislative Session which ended May 2014. Chief authors were Rep. Melissa Hortman (House) and Sen. Roger Reinert (Senate).
CURRENT LAW: An adult adoptee (19) may request the Commissioner of Health to disclose the information on the adoptee's original birth record. Within 6 months after receiving the request, the department or agency shall make reasonable efforts to notify each birth parent. If the department is unable to notify a parent identified on the original birth record within 6 months, and if neither parent has at any time filed an unrevoked consent to disclosure, the information may be disclosed as follows:
If the person was adopted prior to 8-1-1977, he or she may petition the court for disclosure, and the court shall grant the petition if, after consideration of the interests of all known persons involved, the court determines that disclosure of the information would be of greater benefit than nondisclosure.
If the person was adopted on or after 8-1-1977, the commissioner shall release the information to the adoptee.
If either birth parent has ever filed with the commissioner an unrevoked affidavit stating that the information on the original birth record should not be disclosed, the commissioner shall not disclose the information.
If a parent named on the original birth record has died, and at any time prior to the death the parent has filed an unrevoked affidavit stating that the information not be disclosed, the adoptee may petition the court of original jurisdiction of the adoption proceeding for disclosure.
The State Registrar shall provide a copy of an adoptee's original birth record to an authorized representative of a federally recognized American Indian Tribe for the sole purpose of determining the adoptee's eligibility for enrollment or membership in the Tribe.
For information, contact Penelope Needham
An adult adoptee (21) may request identifying information on either or both birth parents from the Bureau of Vital Records. If the birth parents have not filed a prior refusal, the adoptee can request that agency conduct a search. Unless the birth parent files a consent, identifying information cannot be released. If a birth parent cannot be located, information cannot be released.
The original birth certificate shall not be a public record and shall not be released except upon the order of the court.
MISSOURI - ACCESS WITH RESTRICTIONS
HB 1599 -- ADOPTEE RIGHTS ACT SPONSOR: Phillips This bill specifies that an adopted individual, his or her attorney, or descendants may apply for an original copy of his or her birth certificate. The applicant must be at least 18 years of age; was born in this state, and provide appropriate proof of identification to the state registrar. The state registrar may impose a waiting period and fee that are identical to the fees and waiting period for a non-adopted birth certificate request. The uncertified copy of the original birth must have the following statement printed on it: "for genealogical purposes only - not to be used for establishing. This bill is similar to HB 647 (2015).
Link to bill (2016):
SUMMARY: This act modifies provisions regarding adoption records. Current law allows for non-identifying information, if known, concerning undisclosed biological parents or siblings to be furnished by the child-placing agency or the juvenile court to the adoptive parents, legal guardians or adopted adult upon request. This act allows such non-identifying information to also be furnished to the adopted adult's lineal descendants if the adopted adult is deceased.
SECTION 453.121.3 This act modifies the provisions regarding adopted adults obtaining identifying information of the undisclosed biological parents by making a request to the circuit court having original jurisdiction. This act provides that such identifying information shall also be furnished to the adopted adult's lineal descendants if the adopted adult is deceased.
SECTION 453.121.4 Current law allows the adopted adult to make a request and prescribes a procedure for obtaining consent from both the adoptive and biological parents if prior consent has not been given either through the adoption information registry or through contact by the child-placing agency or juvenile court personnel. This act modifies current law by requiring just the biological parents to be notified about the request for identifying information.
SECTION 453.121.4 and 5 If a biological parent authorizes the release of information or if a biological parent is found to be deceased, the court shall disclose the identifying information as to that biological parent to the adopted adult so long as the other biological parent: is unknown; is known but cannot be found and notified; is deceased; or has filed with the court an affidavit authorizing the release of information.
SECTION 453.121.7 This act provides that adopted adults may obtain identifying information on adult siblings with the sibling's consent without the court having to find that such information is necessary for health-related purposes.
For more information, contact Missouri Adoptee Rights Movement here:
CURRENT LAW: For a person adopted on or before 7-1-1967, the Department of Public Health shall furnish a copy of the original birth certificate upon the written request of an adult adoptee (18).
For a person adopted between 7-1-1967 and 9-30-1997, the department shall furnish a copy of the original birth certificate upon a court order.
For a person adopted on or after 10-1-1997, the department shall furnish a copy of the original birth certificate upon the written request of an adult adoptee unless the birth parent has requested in writing that the original birth certificate to not be automatically released, or by a court order.
The department may release a copy of the adoptee's original birth certificate if the release of this document is required to assist an adoptee to become enrolled in or a member of an Indian Tribe.
If relinquishment or consent to adoption was given prior to 9/1/88, an adult adoptee (25) can file a written request for his or her original birth certificate (OBC). The Department of Health & Human Services shall release the OBC if the birth mother, if unmarried at the adoptee’s birth, or both birth parents have signed a consent form (relative means biological parents or siblings) and the adoptive parents have not filed a non-consent form.
If there is no consent or non-consent form on file, the department may only release information regarding the court where the decree was issued and the adoption agency, if any, involved.
The department shall also release the OBC if the department has information that both biological parents are deceased, or if only one biological parent is known and that person is deceased and no non-consent form has been filed by an adoptive parent.
If relinquishment or consent to adoption was given after 8/31/88 and before 7/20/02, an adult adoptee (21) can file a request for his or her OBC. For relinquishments and consents after 8/31/88, the birth parent consent form is no longer required. Consent is assumed given unless a non-consent is on file. The department shall release the OBC if no non-consent form has been filed by either a birth or adoptive parent. If a birth parent non-consent form is on file, then the department shall only release medical history.
The department shall also release the OBC if the department has information that both biological parents are deceased, or if only one biological parent is known and that person is deceased unless an adoptive parent has filed a non-consent form. The department shall establish a policy for verifying information regarding the death of the biological parent or parents.
If relinquishment or consent to adoption was given after 7/20/02, adoptive parents are no longer given the option of filing a non-consent form. The OBC is released unless a birth parent has filed a non-consent.
Passive registry maintained by the Division of Child & Family Services.
New Hampshire law [since June 2005] gives adoptees who are at least 18 years of age unrestricted access to their own original birth certificates. The state also allows birth parents to file a contact preference form and/or health history questionnaire, neither of which will restrict the right of adult adoptees to obtain their OBCs.
Court adoption records are not accessible except by court order. Any other identifying information—other than an original birth certificate— is not accessible except by court order or mutual consent
To apply for a copy of a non-certified original birth certificate in New Hampshire, go here:
By law passed in May 2014, people born and/or adopted in New Jersey who are at least 18 years of age will be able to access their original birth certificate (OBC) after January 1, 2017.
Others who can have access to adopted person's OBC include:
a) A direct descendant or spouse of an adopted person.
b) An adoptive parent or legal guardian or other legal representative of the adopted person.
c) An agency of the state or federal government for official purposes only.
The birth parent who relinquished a child for adoption BEFORE August 1, 2015 may submit a request for redaction of their name and other identifying information of the birth parent to the office of the Registrar before December 31, 2016. This request may be rescinded by the birth parent at any time, and the Registrar shall provide the identifying information concerning the birth parent to the authorized requester.
The birth parent of an adopted person may submit a contact preference form to the State Registrar.
A parent who files a contact preference must simultaneous submit a completed form providing updated family history information which shall include medical, cultural, and social history information regarding the birth parent. A parent who requests no contact will be requested to update family history information every 10 years until the age of 40 and every 5 years thereafter.
For persons born AFTER August 1, 2015 the birth parent's name and identifying information will remain on the OBC. For persons adopted after this date, the adoptee will receive a complete, un-redacted long form certificate of birth.
This law deletes the portion of the current statute that has allowed the birth certificate to show that the child was born where the adopting parents reside. In the future, the actual place of birth of the person will remain on the amended birth certificate.
Registry maintained by the State Children, Youth & Families Department with search and consent system requiring court approval. Release of the OBC requires court approval.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed S3419, supported by the American Adoption Congress, into law on November 14, 2019. The new law,
Public Health Law 4138-e went into effect on January 15, 2020 and provides:
- Unrestricted access to long form original birth certificates for adult adopted persons.
- Original birth certificate access for direct line descendants, or their legal representatives, if the adopted person is deceased
- Original birth certificate access for legal representatives of adopted persons
TO APPLY FOR AN ORIGINAL / PRE-ADOPTION BIRTH CERTIFICATE:
New York State Department of Health (for adoptions that took place outside of the five boroughs of New York City)
New York City Department of Health (for adoptions that took place within the five boroughs of New York City, which are Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Staten Island)
For information, contact Tim Monti-Wohlpart, the AAC New York State Representative and National Legislative Chair. See and share the Citizens Petition to Enact the "Clean" Adoption Reform Law.
NORTH CAROLINA - SEALED
HB1463, signed into law by Governor Beverly Perdue on July 21, 2010, expands the Confidential Intermediary (CI) program.
HB1463 will allow adoptees age 18 (instead of 21) and older to be able to use the Confidential Intermediary program. It will also allow:
- Adult biological siblings of adult adoptees
- Adult biological half-siblings of adult adoptees
- Adult family members of deceased adoptees
- Adult family members of a deceased biological parent to use the Confidential Intermediary program.
This bill also allows an agency acting as a Confidential Intermediary to obtain a certified copy of a death certificate of the person who is the subject of the search and deliver it to the person who is searching.
For more information please contact Roberta MacDonald
- An adoptee must petition a court to order the North Dakota Department of Health's Division of Vital Records to release the original birth certificate (see NDCC 23-02.1-18).
- For further information, individuals may contact the Division of Vital Records at (701) 328-2360.
State LawNorth Dakota Century Code 14-15-16 provides that an adopted individual, a birth parent, or a birth sibling of an adopted individual may initiate a search for the adoptee/ birth parent. As of August 1, 2003, an adult child of a deceased adopted individual may also initiate a search.
- Searches may be made for either non-identifying information or for identifying information. When completing an identified search, a request for updated medical information may be made.
- An adopted individual may request a search when they reach age 18.
- A birth parent or birth sibling may request a search when the adopted individual being sought reaches age 21.
- The law requires individuals involved in the search process to consent to the release of identifying information about themselves.
- The search agency must make personal and confidential contact with the person being sought to request their consent.
- The licensed child placing agency that facilitated the adoption, or (if a facilitating agency cannot be identified) a licensed child placement agency of the searcher's choice completes the search.
- Search agencies may charge a fee for the search.
OHIO - ACCESS WITH RESTRICTIONS
In adoptions finalized in court prior to 1/1/1964, adult adoptees and their lineal descendants may have access to the adoptee’s original birth certificate and adoption decree upon request through Vital Statistics.
Starting on March 20, 2015 adoptees 18 years old and over adopted between 1/1/1964 and 9/17/1996 and their lineal descendants can request the adoptee’s original birth certificate and adoption decree through Vital Statistics. Birthparents are given a one-year opportunity to redact their name from the version of the documents that will be released – this opportunity to redact concludes on March 19, 2015. In the case of a redaction, only the redacting birthparent’s name is removed (the records will be released with other information intact). For more information on the new law and its implementation, including an informational video, go to www.AdoptionNetwork.org.
Adoptees adopted after September 17, 1996 can have access to these same documents when they turn 21 (and their adoptive parents can when the adoptee is 18-20 years old). In adoptions starting on September 18, 1996 the records may be withheld if the birthparent has filed a denial of release with Vital Statistics.
Birthparents from all years may file a Contact Preference Form and updated Medical and Social History with Vital Statistics at any time. If these are on file they will be released with the OBC and adoption decree.
OKLAHOMA - PARTIAL WITH RESTRICTIONS
CURRENT LAW: For adoptions finalized after 11-1-1997, an uncertified copy of the original birth certificate is available to an adoptee, age 18 or older, upon written request under the following conditions:
• He or she presents proof of identity.
• There are no birth siblings under age 18 who are currently in an adoptive family and whose whereabouts are known.
• The birth parents have not filed affidavits of nondisclosure.
For adoptions prior to 1/1/1997, the State has a search program using the services of a confidential intermediary.
OREGON - UNRESTRICTED ACCESS
In 1998, Oregon voters approved Measure 58, which granted adult adoptees access to the Original birth certificate. Oregon’s results serve as a prototype for what other states can expect when access legislation is passed. The release of 9267 birth certificates to Oregon adoptees during the past decade has resulted in no harm done to any party, including birth parents.
To access the history of the lawsuit that upheld Initiative 58 and to see the results of the Initiative click here.
The Does v. Oregon Decision upholding Initiative 58. (PDF )
Pennsylvania law denies adult adoptees unrestricted access to their original birth certificates.The state allows birthparents to request redaction of their names from the original birth certificate.
A new Pennsylvania law, effective November 3, 2017, allows adoptees who are at least 18 years of age—and who must be high school graduates, possess a GED, or are withdrawn legally from school— to request their original birth record. Birth parents may redact identifying information on the OBC by filing a “name redaction request.” Redaction requests may be filed or withdrawn at any time and do not extend beyond a filing parent’s death.
Forms and information related to the new law are available on the Pennsylvania Department of Health website.
All adult adopted persons in Rhode Island continue to have unrestricted access to their own original birth certificates (since July 1, 2012). Two welcome law changes:
2022: The new provisions, signed into law by Governor Daniel McKee on June 30th 2022, expand access to two groups: (1) direct line descendants of adult adoptees if the adopted person is deceased and (2) legal representatives of adult adoptees or a deceased adoptees direct line descendants.
2021: The law lowered the minimum age for an adult adoptee to be eligible to apply for a non-certified copy of an original birth certificate (from 25 years old to 18 years old). This expanded the unrestricted access provision for the state. Details of the substitute bill. Birth parents continue to have the option of filing non-binding contact preference forms. The prior statute took effect on July 1, 2012.
Complete information about guidelines, including an application form, can be found here:
Rhode Island also maintains a “voluntary adoption reunion registry.” Details can be found here:
Further information along with statistics can be found here:
As of July 1, 2019, South Carolina adoptees placed via adoptions finalized after that date (7/1/19) may, upon reaching the age of 18, apply to receive their original birth certificate and information from their adoption file. Such a request is further subject to (1) birth parent consent for release of the original birth certificate, (2) birth parent contact preference and (3) consent for release of medical history information.
For adoptions before July 1, 2019:
Passive registry with information provided to individuals who match. Parties must undergo counseling. The original birth certificate (OBC) is sealed by the State Registrar. The statute does not specify a procedure for access to the OBC.
The Department of Social Services maintains a voluntary registry of adopted persons and birth parents who have presented a consent regarding the release of identifying information about themselves. Any consent shall indicate to whom the information may be released and whether the adopted person desires release of this identifying information after his or her death. A person who uses this voluntary register may revoke his or her consent at any time. Go to the South Dakota Voluntary Adoption Registry, Department of Social Services.
The original birth certificate is available upon order of the court; 99% have been granted. Please contact the Adoption Unit at 605-773-3227.
TENNESSEE - ACCESS WITH RESTRICTIONS
As noted by Adoptee Rights Law Center, “Nearly all adoptees in Tennessee who are 21 years of age [or older] have a right to obtain their own “adoption records,” which typically includes the original birth certificate. The only exception applies to adoptees whose birth parent was a victim of rape or incest—in such cases the written consent of the birth parent is required for release of records.”
Tennessee remains an Access With Restrictions State because (1) birth parent redactions are still possible in limited cases and (2) the application process remains costly and complicated.
Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (to apply for access to sealed adoption records):
As of July 1, 2022, two new laws have become effective in Tennessee.
The first (Pub. Ch. 101) removes the prior contact veto and contact notice registry provisions.
The second, as part of a larger comprehensive act (Pub. Ch. 937), establishes that adoption records become available for public inspection after 100 years: https://legiscan.com/TN/bill/SB2056/2021
SECTION 15. Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 36, Chapter 1, Part 1, is amended by adding the following as a new section: Notwithstanding §§ 36-1-102, 36-1-125, 36-1-126, 36-1-127, 68-3-313, or another law to the contrary, all adoption records, sealed adoption records, and unsealed adoption records deemed to be confidential pursuant to this part will be a public record and open to inspection when one hundred (100) years have elapsed since the date the adoption was finalized. If an adoption was not finalized, or the date the adoption was finalized is not clearly indicated in the adoption record, then the adoption record will be a public record and open to inspection when one hundred (100) years have elapsed since the creation of the oldest dated item in the adoption record.
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TEXAS - SEALED
The Vital Statistics Central Adoption Registry is a passive registry maintained by the State .
Voluntary Central Adoption Registry Application Instructions
When a match is made, the administrator will notify each registrant. Before any identifying information is released, parties must participate in not less than one hour of counseling.
Beginning in 2005 , adoptees 18 years of age or older who also know the identities of their birth parents may obtain a non-certified copy of their OBC without the need for a court order. Only the court that granted the adoption may grant access to the original birth certificate.
For more information: Adoption and Adult Adoptee Information
UTAH - ACCESS WITH RESTRICTIONS
Legislation passed in 2020, which went into effect on 11/1/21 established access with restrictions for Utah born adopted persons. In general, access to the original birth certificate is dependent on birth parent consent or presented documentation of their death. The law removes a separate date based restriction for adoptees born before 2015.
FAQ published by Adoptee Rights Law Center
Utah maintains a voluntary, mutual consent registry for adult adoptees, birth parents and / or siblings seeking birth family members.
Step for original birth certificate application: As of 11/19/21, the Utah Office of Vital Records and Statistics (Center for Health Data and Informatics) advises that applicants may proceed by first making an application to the voluntary, mutual consent registry (same as referenced above).
VERMONT - PARTIAL WITH RESTRICTIONS
For adoptions finalized prior to 7-1-1986, the Department for Children and Families Adoption Registry shall disclose identifying information if the birth parent has filed any kind of document that clearly indicates that he or she consents to such disclosure.
For adoptions finalized on or after 7-1-1986, the registry shall disclose identifying information without requiring the consent of the birth parent unless the birth parent has filed a request for nondisclosure.
The original birth certificate may be released upon request to an adoptee who is age 18 or older and who has access to identifying information.
VIRGINIA - SEALED
HB 1868, passed in 2011, requires the State Registrar of Vital Records to mail an adult adopted person's (18) original certificate of birth to him upon order of the Commissioner of Social Services or order of a circuit court. This bill also provides that if a circuit court corrects or establishes a date of birth for a person born in a foreign country during an adoption proceeding or upon a petition to amend a certificate of foreign birth, the State Registrar shall issue a certificate of birth showing the date of birth established by the court.
Beginning July 1, 2014, Washington-born adoptees over the age of 18 will be allowed to get a copy of their original birth certificate unless the birth parent files a form stating they do not want it released. To read the bill in its entirety, go to:
For more information, contact Penni Johnson, email@example.com.
WEST VIRGINIA - SEALED
Passive registry maintained by the Division of Human Services. An adult adoptee (18) and each birth parent may register by submitting an affidavit to the registry. The failure of any person to file with the registry for any reason, including death or disability, precludes the disclosure of identifying information to those persons who do register.
The original birth certificate may be inspected only upon order of a court of competent jurisdiction.
WISCONSIN - ACCESS WITH RESTRICTIONS
An adult adoptee (18) will receive identifying information if birth parent has filed an affidavit with the Department of Children and Families consenting to the release. If no affidavit is on file, the state will undertake a diligent search for the known birth parent to obtain consent or refusal.
The original birth certificate is available upon request to the adoptee if the known birth parents have filed affidavits authorizing disclosure.
The Adoption Records Search Program can be accessed at the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families website.
A birth parent’s medical information may also be available to an adult adoptee under a separate but similar statute.
WYOMING - SEALED
An adult adoptee (18) may petition the court to appoint a confidential intermediary for the purpose of determining the whereabouts of an unknown birth relative, except that no one shall seek a relative who is a minor. Any information obtained by the intermediary shall be kept strictly confidential and shall be utilized only for the purpose of arranging a contact between the person who initiated the search and the sought-after birth relative.
The original birth certificate is not subject to inspection except by court order.