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State Adoption Disclosure Laws At a Glance

  1. Abbreviations & Definitions
  2. Adoption Disclosure Laws in 50 States
  3. Notes on Specific States

Last Update: August 7, 2000

See also:


Abbreviations & Definitions

AD: Adoptee
AP: Adoptive Parent
BP: Birth Parent
BS: Birth Sibling

**Special exceptions apply, see footnotes

Non-Identifying Information:
Information about the other party usually limited to ages, physical descriptions, talents and hobbies and basic medical data. State laws vary as to the release and definition of non-identifying information. Cost as well as the amount of information received will depend on the agency or court that releases it.
Non-Identifying Information Defined in Law:
Some states define non-identifying information in their statutes, so that the release of non-identifying information is uniform to everyone who requests it.
Passive Registry:
At least two parties are required to register with a public or private agency in order for a match to be made. Some registries require as many as five signatures. (Both adoptive parents, both birthparents, and the adoptee).
Active Registry:
One party registers with a public or private agency and a third party contacts the person being sought for their consent to be contacted or have information released.
Waiver of Confidentiality:
A document filed by one party allowing for disclosure of records or identifying information to the other party. Not always honored by the state or agency.
Confidential Intermediary System:
Confidential Intermediaries (CI) are individuals approved by the court to have an adoption file released to them upon petition by an adoptee or birthparent. The intermediary then searches for the other party to obtain consent for identifying information to be released. Similar to an active registry.
Disclosure Veto:
A document filed by one party to register a refusal to the release of any identifying information
Contact Veto:
A document filed by one party to register a refusal to be contacted by the searching party. Sometimes extends to all lineal relatives and descendants. In some recent proposed legislation it is conflated with the disclosure veto and prohibits the release of identifying information.
Contact Preference  Form:
Medical Registry:
Open Adoption:
An agreement between the adoptive parents and the birthparents, usually verbal, but sometimes in writing that allows the birthparents to have some level of involvement in the adoptees childhood. Records remain sealed in open adoption agreements, unless the adoption occurred in a state that allows the adoptive parent the option of keeping the records unsealed. Should the adoptive parents choose to terminate the open adoption agreement at any time, the birthparent usually has no legal recourse. Currently, no state has passed legislation that outlaws or enforces open adoption agreements.

Adoption Disclosure Laws in all 50 States

State Non-Identifying Information Search Mechanisms Records Access
Alabama AD, AP Passive registry BP, Intermediary System AD AD:  Unconditional OBC access upon request at age 19 **
Alaska Defined in law.AD, AP Passive Registry BP AD: Unconditional OBC access  upon request at age 18,BP: AD identity released with consent of AD
Arizona AD, AP, BP CI System AD, AP, by court order only; AD and BP agree to disclosure via notarized statement to Div of Economic Security
Arkansas Defined in Law.AD, AP, BP Passive Registry, AD,BS,BP w/ counseling, Intermediary System AD,BP by court order only.**
California AD, AP, BP Waiver System, AD, AP,BS,BP** determined by County procedure or by court order, depending on record
Colorado AD, AP (not required to be released to latter) Intermediary System AD,BP,BS; Passive Registry BP,AD; Disclosure Veto Post 1999 placements, records released to adult AD unless BP Disclosure Veto is filed. Everyone else by court order only.
Connecticut Defined in law.AD, AP, BP Intermediary System, AD, AP, BP AD, AP:  OBC by court order o from county of adoption only  if determines relrase is not detremental ro public or parties in adoption**
Delaware AD, AP, BP Active Registry AD, AP, BP  Original Birth Certificate at age 21, AD, unless BP Disclosure Veto. State makes reasonable effort to locate BP to inform her/him of request togive oortinity for parent to file DV
District of Columbia No provisions No provisions by court order only
Florida AD, AP Passive Registry, AD, AP, BP; Intermediary System, AD, BP** AD: OBC by court order only
Georgia Defined in law.AD, AP Active Registry AD,BS; Passive Registry, BP** by court order only
Hawaii AD, AP, BP Pre ’91 Active Registry AD, Post ’91 Disclosure Veto** by court order only**
Idaho No provisions Passive Registry, AD, BP, BS OBC by court order or mutual consent of AD a BP via registry**
Illinois AD, AP Passive Registry, AD, BS, BP** by court order only
Indiana AD, AP, BP Intermediary System AD,BP Passive Registry AD,BP** by court order only except pre-1940 records not sealed
Iowa AD, AP Passive Registry, AD, BP OBC by court order only: Prior 7.1.1941 can file pettion without “good cause;” after 7/1/1941 must petition for “good cause”
Kansas AD, AP Active Registry BP OBC: All adoption records open to AD at age 18**
Kentucky AD, AP Intermediary Program AD; Passive Registry, BP, BS** AD access to records w/ consent of BPs
Louisiana AP (AD, pre-’81) post ’81 w/petition Passive Registry, AD, BP w/ mandatory counseling OBC: by court order only
Maine AD, AP Passive Registry, AD, AP,BP OBC: AD: Unconditional access at age of 18
Maryland AD, AP, BP Passive Registry, AD, BP Intermediary System by court order only**
Massachusetts Defined in law.AD, AP, BP Waiver System AD, BP OBC: AD unconditional access to those born before 7.7.1974 and after 1/1/2007.  Those adopted between 7/17/1974-1/1/2008cannot receive OBC unless probate court finds record containing evidence of BP’s willingness to provide identifying information
Michigan Defined in lawAD, AP, BP,BS Waiver System maintained in Central Registry, AP, AD, BP, BS, Intermediary System BP, AD, BS, AP OBC by court order or with central adoption registry clearance from .Identifying information: AD: finalized between 5/28/1945-9/12/1980: at age 18 on each I can be used if no consent is on file.Identifing information: AD: finalized before 5/28/1945 and aftr 9/12/1980 released unless DV is on file
Minnesota AD, AP, BP Active Registry and Waiver system AD,BP Post 1982 placements, records released to adult AD unless BP Disclosure Veto is filed
Mississippi AD, AP Intermediary System, AD, BP Registry (post-’94) by court order onlyIdentifying information: t age 21 ID info rlased if consent perform search for parents
Missouri AD, AP Active Registry, AD, BP; requires consent of APs for adoptions finalized before 1986. by court order only
Montana AD, AP Passive Registry AD, BP; Intermediary System AD,BP Pre-1967 placements, original birth certificate released to adult AD upon request. 1967-1997 AD requires court order, post-1997 placements records release to adult AD unless BP Disclosure Veto.
Nebraska AD, AP Waiver System and Active Registry AD, AP, BP Original Birth Certificate to AD over 25 w/ BP consent although AP can veto access even w/ BP consent**
Nevada AP Passive Registry AD, BP by court order only
New Hampshire AD, AP Waiver system and Intermediary program through the agencies AD, BP Original Birth Certificate at age 18, AD**
New Jersey AP No Provisions by court order only
New Mexico Defined in law.AD, AP, BP Intermediary system AD,BP,BS by court order only
New York AD, AP Passive Registry AD, BP by court order only
North Carolina AD, AP, BP No Provisions. by court order only
North Dakota AD, AP Waiver system and active registry AD, BP, BS by court order only
Ohio No Provisions Passive Registry AD BP BS by court order only**
Oklahoma AD, AP, BP Passive Registry (unfunded) AD, BP; New Intermediary System by court order only
Oregon AD, AP, BP Intermediary System AD, AP, BP Original birth certificate at age 21, AD**
Pennsylvania AD, AP Intermediary System AD, Passive Registry BP, Medical Registry AD Access to original birth certificate w/ waiver from BP
Rhode Island AD, AP, BP Passive Registry AD, BP by court order only
South Carolina AD, AP, BP Passive Registry, AD, BP by court order only
South Dakota AD, AP Passive Registry, AD, BP by court order only
Tennessee AD, AP Active Registry AD,BP** All records available to adult adoptee upon request. Disclosure veto for adoptees that are products of rape/incest only. Contact veto.
Texas AD, AP Passive Registry AD, BP by court order only
Utah AD, AP, BP Passive Registry AD, BP by court order only
Vermont AD, AP, BP Waiver System maintained in Central Registry AD, BP Pre-’86 Access for AD w/ Consent of BP, and Post-’86 Access unless a BP Disclosure Veto is on file
Virginia AD, AP Intermediary System AD, BP by court order only**
Washington Defined in law.AD, AP, BP (not required to be released to latter) Intermediary System AD, BP by court order only**
West Virginia AD, AP Passive Registry AD, BP by court order only
Wisconsin AD, AP Active Registry AD, Passive Registry BP AD Access to original birth certificate with consent of BP
Wyoming AD, AP Intermediary System and Registry AD, BP by court order only

Notes on Specific States

**Alabama: In addition to the sealed birth certificate, any evidence of the adoption contained within the same file will be released as well.

Arkansas: Passive Registry: i f  BP(s) or birthfather is unknown, adoptee cannot receive identifying information through registry.

**California: Birth siblings may also file waivers to be matched with the adoptee, but, in most jurisdictions, the birth parent must consent to release of identifying information if the sibling lived with the birth parent until he or she reached 18. Individual counties are given considerable freedom to interpret state adoption laws, with the effect that a number of counties release virtually all court controlled adoption records on demand of the adoptive parent and/or of the adult adoptee, with written permission of the adoptive parents. Other records practices have been recorded as well.

**Florida: The intermediary system in Florida is not a traditional intermediary system as the law merely grants authority for agencies to contact the other party for a searching individual and notify the other party of the availability of the state mutual consent registry.

**Georgia: An investigative team of television reporters discovered that over 1,500 people were registered with the Georgia Adoption Reunion Registry and waiting for matched to be made even though the department technically no longer existed as funding had ceased. In order to continue their work, GARR had become an active registry and had started charging for searches but had never notified the previous registrants whose files were sitting untouched. Thanks to the report, the state promised to contact all the individuals on the waiting list and inform them of the change. Release of Non-ID requires registration with GARR.

**Hawaii: Pre-1991, if there is a waiver of confidentiality on file adoptees may obtain their records. If there is no waiver, the adoptee may request an intermediary to obtain a waiver from the birthparent. The intermediary has 120 days to complete a search. If the birthparent is not found, records are released to the adoptee. Post-1991 adoptees, if no disclosure veto is on file, the records are released at age 18. Same provisions for birthparents seeking identifying information and records about the adoptee. Birthparents may also obtain original birth certificates of their children.

**Illinois: A pilot Intermediary project exists in some areas of IL where adoptees and birth parents can request written non-id and communication with relatives through Midwest Adoption Center in Des Plaines. Legislation passed in 1999 expands current state registry and expands criminal penalties for “unauthorized” disclosure of information.

**Indiana: Beginning late 1994 a notice in vehicle registration renewals informed state residents about the registry.

**Kentucky: Adoptees 18 years of age or older may register with the Cabinet for Human Resources their desire to have contact with “pre-adoptive siblings.” If the siblings register, and are eighteen years of age or older, identifying information will be released. For sibling registry information, contact: Cabinet for Human Resources, Department for Social Services, 275 East Main Street, 6th Floor West, Frankfort, Kentucky 40621. Telephone: (502) 564-2136.

**Maryland: The State of Maryland reports: “Most adoption files before June 1, 1947 are open and available to any one. Please contact the circuit court that granted the adoption and request the file or case number. The circuit court will determine if they can provide a copy or refer you to us. Please note, however, that some adoption files before June 1, 1947 were sealed at the request of the persons involved. You must contact the circuit court that granted the adoption and request the procedure for obtaining a copy of the record. There is no state-wide index to adoption records so the Archives is unable to determine the circuit court for you.” Maryland legislature passed an intermediary system into law in 1998.

**Minnesota: For adoptions finalized after August of 1977, if the Department is unable to locate and notify a birth parent listed on the original birth certificate and if neither birth parent has filed a denial of consent, identifying information may be disclosed to the adoptee without a court order.

**Nebraska: The law reads that any adoptee over the age of 25 is entitled to their original birth certificate unless a birthparent has filed a disclosure veto. In practice, adoptees in Nebraska are not having any luck accessing their records unless an explicit waiver exists. The law also makes no provisions for adoptive parent veto that we see, although in practice that is occurring.

**New Hampshire: As of January 1, 2005 New Hampshire adult adoptees regained access to their original birth certificates. Other records are available by court order only.

**Ohio: Individuals adopted prior to 1964 may obtain their original birth certificates upon request, UNLESS sometime after 1964, someone requested the “reissuance” of a birth certificate in the adopted name, in which case, the original birth certificate was sealed. For adoptions occurring after 1964, access to the original birth certificate is available by court order only.

**Oregon: Measure 58, a ballot initiative which opens original birth certificates to Oregon adoptees age 21 years or older, passed on November 3rd, 1998 by a vote of the people. Finally took effect after a fruitless court challenge on June 2, 2000.

**Tennessee: Legislation passed in 1996 that would open all adoption records to adult with a disclosure veto provision for adoptees who were the product of rape or incest. Also containes a contact veto. The legislation was under a court stay pending the outcome of a lawsuit brought by the American Center for Law and Justice. This case was decided by the Tennessee Supreme Court in favor of the defendant in 1999, and records are now open in Tennessee, subject to the disclosure and contact veto provisions above.

**Virginia: In parental placement adoptions, where the consent to the adoption was executed on or after July 1, 1994, the entire adoption record shall be open to the adoptive parents, the adoptee who is eighteen years of age or older, and a birth parent who executed a written consent to the adoption.

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2005 Bastard Nation, Originally compiled by Shea Grimm, Currently maintained by BN LegCom

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Proud Bastard Nation Partner: CalOpen

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SAMPLE STATE ORGANIZATION RESOLUTION AGAINST VETOES AND OTHER RESTRICTIONS

SAMPLE STATE ORGANIZATION RESOLUTION AGAINST VETOES AND OTHER RESTRICTIONS

Any political organization seeking to enact true open records legislation should be very clear with both their constituents and the legislators they work with about what the essential provisions of the proposed bill are. Any modification or deletion of the essential provisions of a bill should be immediate cause to have the bill killed.

Any political organization seeking the assistance of Bastard Nation to pass open records legislation must hold unconditional access by adult adoptees to the original record of their birth as an essential provision that cannot be modified or deleted. Read our Mission Statement.

Bastard Nation will not assist any political organization to pass open records legislation unless their governing board or other leadership

passes a written resolution such as the following that commits the board to a strategy of no compromise on key provisions
informs its constituents of this commitment and this strategy
informs the sponsoring legislators of this commitment and this strategy.

WHEREAS we recognize that disclosure and contact vetoes, redactions, mandatory intermediaries and registry provisions are an affront to the dignity of adopted persons everywhere and a violation of their right to due process and equal treatment under the law,

WHEREAS there has been a demonstrable negative effect on the ability to pass unconditional open records in states that have passed veto legislation and/or any provisions that are less than unconditional access on demand by the adult adoptee,

WHEREAS our primary goal is to restore the right of adult adoptees everywhere to be treated as full citizens under the law,

WE HEREBY DECLARE that under no circumstances will we accept the addition of veto, redaction, intermediary, or registry provisions, or any conditional provisions to our legislation that would be less than unconditional access for adult adoptees to the original record of their birth. All legislative sponsors and members of this organization will be informed of our policy on this matter to ensure that the bill is pulled promptly in the event of such revisions.

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