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17
Apr

How to Access Your Original Birth Certificate as an Adoptee

Most adoptions today are open adoptions, where information between birth parents, adoptive parents and adoptees is readily accessible just by picking up the phone. But for many adult adoptees who were born during an era of closed adoptions, accessing any information about where they came from can be difficult.

If you’re an adoptee who grew up in the closed adoption era, or know an adoptee who wants to learn more about their closed adoption, share this to let others know!

In every adoption, there’s an original birth certificate and an amended birth certificate. The original birth certificate that includes the name(s) of your birth parent(s) is sealed along with your adoption records, and the amended birth certificate is handed to your adoptive parents with their names on it shortly after an adoption is finalized.

Sealing these records or omitting birth parent names on documents in closed adoptions was done in an attempt to protect their privacy. This was especially common in the old era of closed adoptions when adoption was something viewed as secretive and shameful.

Many adult adoptees in closed adoptions want to search for their birth family, or at least learn more about their adoption. This process usually begins by opening your adoption records and requesting your original birth certificate. Unfortunately, that’s not always easy.

Are you interested in accessing your original birth certificate? Here’s what you’ll need to do:

1. Understand Your State’s Adoption Laws

Each state will have different levels of adoption information accessibility to adult adoptees, and each county may have a slightly different process for obtaining adoption records.

States with open adoption records include:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Colorado
  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • New Hampshire
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island

Partial-access states include:

  • Connecticut
  • Massachusetts
  • Montana
  • Oklahoma
  • Vermont

States with restricted open adoption records include:

  • Delaware
  • Illinois
  • New Jersey
  • Ohio
  • Tennessee
  • Washington

States with sealed adoption records or very limited access include:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

If you live in a state with open adoption record access, you’re in luck! Accessing your original birth certificate is typically as easy as calling the County Court Clerk where you were adopted and asking about the request process for your original birth certificate.

States with limited or sealed access to adoption records may not give you your full adoption record unless there’s some sort of medical emergency or your birth parents are deceased, and even then, the identifying information is usually redacted. If this is the case, you’ll need to proceed to Step 2.

2. Petition the Court

You’ll need to file a petition with the county clerk’s office where your adoption was finalized. The petition will explain your reasons for requesting your original birth certificate. Unfortunately, medical need is usually the only instance where strict adoption access states will approve your petition.

If your birth parents are no longer living, accessing your birth certificate will also be more likely. The state no longer puts birth parent privacy first after a birth parent is deceased.

Your case will be presented before a judge, who will decide whether or not you may have access to your original birth certificate and adoption records.

3. Order Your Original Birth Certificate with a Court Order or Through Your Attorney

You can take the signed court order from the judge approving your petition to disclose your original birth certificate, then work with your attorney to submit a written request to your birth state’s department of vital records. If you were adopted internationally, you’ll submit the request to the state where your adoption was finalized.

Best of luck with your search!

23
Jan

Adoption Searches – What They Are and How to Start One

What Is An Adoption Search?

An adoption search is a search for information regarding members of the adoption triad, typically done by people involved in a closed adoption situation. Thankfully, open adoptions such as the adoptions conducted through American Adoptions have nearly eliminated the need for adoption searches by providing an opportunity for birth parents and adoptive families to stay in touch after the adoption is finalized.

Who Searches?

  • Adult adoptees
  • Birth parents
  • Birth siblings
  • Genealogy enthusiasts

…or anyone who is interested to learn more about the people involved in their closed adoption.

Why Would You Want to Conduct an Adoption Search?

For adoptees and birth parents that entered into an adoption before open adoption became the norm, they may have little to no information about their adoption roots.

Birth parents of the closed adoption era sometimes spend decades not knowing if the child they placed for adoption grew up happy, healthy, or even if they’re alive. Adoptees of outdated closed adoptions grow up not knowing who their birth parents were or why they were placed for adoption and feeling a disconnect between their biological history and their adopted present.

On the other hand, many birth parents and adoptees decide not to search for their biological family members. You might not feel emotionally ready to take that step, or maybe you simply don’t feel compelled to seek out that adoption connection. Not every adoptee or birth parent experiences a desire to reconnect with that part of their history.

Whatever you decide, your adoption search (or decision to not search) should be emotionally satisfying for you — not draining. Deciding whether or not to search for biological family members should done in an effort to achieve a sense of peace with your adoption and your personal adoption story. It’s 100 percent your choice to search or not; nobody else’s.

Should You Search for Your Birth Mother or an Adult Adoptee?

An adoption search isn’t the right path for everyone. Carefully research how to find your birth parents or how to find an adopted child before you begin your search, and be prepared for laws regarding adoption records in your state. Talk to others who’ve searched, are searching, or who’ve had a successful adoption reunion for tips, support and advice.

How to Search for Biological Family Members

There are five steps to finding your birth parents or the person that you placed for adoption as a child.

To find your birth parents, you’ll need to:

  1. Talk about your decision to begin an adoption search with your parents (if living) to gather any helpful information they may have
  2. Check with your state’s adoption reunion registry
  3. Request your adoption records from the county where you were born
  4. Get in touch with the person or agency who arranged your adoption, if possible
  5. Determine your adoption search strategy

To find an adult adoptee, you’ll need to:

  1. Talk to the person or agency who completed your adoption, if possible, to gather any helpful information they may have
  2. Request access to your adoption records
  3. Talk to the County Court Clerk where your adoption took place
  4. Check with your state’s adoption reunion registry
  5. Determine your adoption search strategy

Some Final Advice about Adoption Searches

Searching for birth parents or an adult adoptee is a major undertaking on both a practical and emotional level. You should be very sure that this is something that you want and that you’re ready for any outcome before you begin.

Having a support system in place can help you through what is often a difficult process for adoptees and birth parents alike. An adoption search can be an incredibly rewarding and emotionally fulfilling experience for those involved in an adoption, but it can also be a complex journey; having people you can talk to about what you’re experiencing will be important.

For many, the goal of their adoption search is to achieve an adoption reunion — reconnecting with a birth family member or an adult adoptee, often decades after their adoption.

Learn more about Adoption Reunions!

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