Accessing the records for an adoption that occurred four decades ago may take a while, but it can be done. Adoption records are sealed, but in most states, procedures exist to obtain information and still protect the interests of all parties involved. If a parent who had given up a child for adoption finds herself or himself wondering about the child and wants to connect with that person again, there is a way to make your wish come true.
- Skill level:
Write down every detail you know. Details such as the name you gave to the child, the birthdate, and the birthplace are necessary. If you know the name of the adoptive parents, it will be a great help. The people who participated in the process, such as relatives, friends, clergy, and social service employees, provided they are still alive, can also give some helpful information. Knowledge of a birthmark on the child, if there is one, will also help. The more information you gather, the easier the search.
Contact the National Foster Care and Adoption Directory Search. This agency will direct you to the right place to start your search. If you do not feel confident doing the search by yourself or you do not have the resources to use, get some help from a reputable social service agency in your area. You may also ask familiy members and friends to help.
Check the state statutes. Each state has its own rules and regulations regarding who can access adoption records and when records can be accessed. In California, the parties who are allowed to get the information are the adoptee at age 21 or older, the birth parent of an adult adoptee, and the adoptive parent of a minor adoptee. Requests should be made in writing. If the birth parent and the adult adoptee wish to see each other, both need to fill out a written consent. The department or the agency in charge may then arrange the meeting. To find out your state statutes, contact the Child Welfare Information Gateway.
Get a court order if necessary. Some states or territories are more restrictive about releasing confidential information. If you are living in those areas, or the adoption occurred in one of those areas, you will need to petition the court to grant you permission to access the records.
Obtain third-party assistance if necessary. In this process, the person who is searching for a birth-family member authorises a public or private agency to locate the other party. The authorisation should be certified by the court. It is called a confidential intermediary system. When the other party is located, the confidential intermediary will then ask that person if he or she would consent to disclosing the records to the person who is searching. Whether the request is granted or denied, everything should be in writing.
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