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Systems for Accessing Adoption Information


Registries allow adopted adults, birth parents and sometimes birth siblings and adoptive parents to consent or not consent to have their identifying information released. Registry procedures vary greatly from state to state. In some states the registry is centralized in the state government and in others it operates across the state through the agencies or courts that handled the adoption. Also, some states will not release information to a requesting party if the other party is deceased or information will not be released if the adopted adult has not received the permission of the adoptive parents. These registries are many times referred to as passive registries. Passive registries, also known as mutual consent or volunteer registries, require both parties to register their consent for release of information before a match can be made. Once a match occurs, both parties are notified. These systems depend upon parties registering, a match being found, and the follow-up notification by a registry administrator. Many times parties are not aware of the registry or they are unable to register. A passive registry has a match rate of about 10 percent.

Search and consent procedures

Search and consent procedures authorize a public or private agency to assist a searching party in locating triad members to determine if they consent to the release of identifying information or to meeting with the requesting party. If consent is given, then information identifying the party being sought may then be disclosed if authorized by the court. In many states, counseling is often required before information is received. Some states have search and consent procedures called confidential intermediary systems. States with confidential intermediary systems have an individual called a Confidential Intermediary who is sanctioned by the courts and has access to sealed adoption files for the purpose of conducting a search. The confidential intermediaries are hired by the inquiring party to conduct searches for an adopted adult or birth parent, make contact with each party, and obtain each person's consent or denial for the release of information. Depending on the particular laws of the state or county, contact may be attempted once after a specific time period or the file may close permanently if the party who is being sought is not found. A few registries also fall under search and consent procedures. Once one party is registered, a designated individual (often an agency or court representative) is assigned to contact those persons being sought and determine their wishes for the release of information. These registries sometimes are referred to as active registries. These registries have a match rate of between 50-90 percent.

Affidavit System

In an affidavit system parties can give prior written permission affirming their consent to the release of identifying information by placing an affidavit detailing that permission in the adoption file. This written permission may be referred to as a consent, waiver or authorization form. The affidavit system is commonly used along with the search and consent system.

Veto System

A veto is a document filed by one party to the adoption in which the person registers a refusal to be contacted or for release of identifying information. In an access veto or nondisclosure request system, an adopted adult may receive identifying information about another party if no veto is on file. In a contact veto system, a seeking party is permitted access to identifying information, including an original birth certificate, but is prohibited from contacting the other parties.

Court Orders to Receive Adoption Records

Most states in which the adoption records are sealed allow an adopted adult to petition the court to receive identifying information. In these cases "good cause" must be proven to the court in order for the information to be given. The definition of good cause varies widely depending on the judge or state. Variations may include:

  • Good cause as demonstrated by clear and convincing evidence
  • Good cause shown in exceptional cases
  • A showing that the release of information is in the best interest of the child or the public
  • Health or medical reasons
  • Showing of compelling reasons
  • Showing that disclosure would be of greater benefit than non-disclosure