Adoption records can be difficult to access, and in many cases, this might make the search for a birth parent or a child given up for adoption seemingly impossible.
What Are Adoption Records?
Adoption records are actually documents detailing pertinent information about an adoption, including a birth certificate, court documents, any other paperwork prepared by an adoption agency or lawyer. State laws can differ quite drastically especially in referring to the privacy of these records. Before you get very far in your search, you will need to become familiar with the state's laws in which you are searching.
Because the laws differ from one state to another, it's sometimes difficult to know which records are considered public and which are considered private. Laws governing adoptions typically include the following:
- Consent to adoption: Both the birth mother and father usually hold the primary right of consent.
- Parties to adoption: Before adopting, a person must be considered eligible.
- Putative fathers: This law addresses the father's rights when the birth mother has chosen to place a child up for adoption.
- Regulation of adoption expenses: Most states have set up some type of regulation which governs some of the fees and expenses associated with adoption.
- Infant safe haven laws
- Use of advertising and facilitators in adoptive placements
- Statute sources
- Contact information
You can learn more about your state's laws online.
Open vs. Closed Records
A war continues to wage between those in favor of giving adoptees access to the records of their adoption and those opposed. Approximately 45 states still deny adult adoptees access to a copy of their birth certificates and records. Instead, they are given an amended birth certificate which lists their adoptive parents only, without any other information pertaining to their birth or life before they were adopted.
While only five states submit a copy of the original birth certificate upon request, several others do offer restricted access to persons filing a request.
Proponents of open records continue to state that the term open records simply refers to accessible information and may not actually mean further contact between the two parties. Those in favor of open records continue to emphasize that these open records aren't threatening to the birth parents, who will still have the choice of denying any contact with the child they gave up for adoption. Basically, these advocates believe in the right to know.
Obviously, there are typically two sides to every issue, and this is certainly true regarding adoption records. While there are many who support the idea of allowing adult adoptees to access their birth records, there are definitely those who are against this practice.
They make the following points:
- Birth parents want to remain anonymous.
- Many feel that abortion rates will rise if records are allowed to be open.
- Many feel that birth parents make the decision to give their child up for adoption based on the fact that their identity will remain unknown.
- Some, however, do support opening the records if both parties give mutual consent.
While the records of an adoption may not be public in your state, you still may be able to access other documents that could help you in your search. Many of the following records are public documents, and these may hold clues to the information that you seek.
There are numerous records that can often be accessed at your county courthouse. For example:
- Court dockets or minute books: These are transcripts of court proceedings. Transcripts may include relinquishment and final decree documents, juvenile proceedings, and probate wills. If you are allowed access to these, you will need the court date before beginning your search.
- Marriage records
- Divorce records
- Property owners
- Business licenses
- Criminal records
Sometimes you can find helpful materials at your public library in the reference section. Search for the following:
- Birth records
- Census records
- School yearbooks
- Directories: These can include old phonebooks and cross-reference directories.
- Genealogy information
You can find at least one college library in your state that has a federal repository. This repository is the home of old Polk directories, old phonebooks, other directories, old newspapers, etc.
Your state's archives building also harbors a wealth of information as well, although you not be allowed to access all of it.
- Birth index
- Military records
- Adoption records
- Genealogy info
- Immigration/passenger info