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What Are My Adoptee Rights? [Your Complete Guide]

Everything You Need to Know about Adoptee Rights

As an adoptee, you may be curious about the legal and social rights that you have.

For instance, you could be in a closed adoption, which can limit the knowledge you have about your placement. You may have many questions about your birth parents and adoption story, and you’ll need to know your rights as an adoptee.

That’s why we’re here to help.

We have created this comprehensive guide that explains everything you need to know about your rights as an adoptee. In this article, we will go over the type of information you can access, the history behind your adoptee rights, the Adoptees’ “Right to Know” Law and more. In other words, American Adoptions is here for you.

Rights of an Adopted Child [What They Include]

Adoption law is made primarily at the local level. So, when you research adoptees’ rights, you should know that your rights ultimately depend on what state you live in. This means that you may or may not be able to access some crucial information.

When most people talk about adoptee rights, they mean things like:

  • Access to your original birth certificate
  • Knowledge of potentially life-saving medical history and background
  • Knowledge of your racial and ethnic ancestry
  • Knowledge of your birth parents and reason for placement
  • And more

Although many of these things are important for adoptees to have, you might not have some of them.

For adoptee rights advocates, a major point of emphasis is access to the original birth certificate. Unfortunately, there are only a handful of states in the U.S. that allow unrestricted access to birth certificates for adult adoptees. Advocates, including American Adoptions, believe that all adoptees deserve access to their birth records — even in closed adoptions.

A History of Adoptees’ Rights [What You Need to Know]

Adoption has changed quite a bit within the past few decades.

Until the 1980s, closed adoptions were common. As a result, many adoptees knew next to nothing about their birth family or the reason for their adoption. They were often left wondering what their story was, and it could often provide quite an emotional challenge. Adoptees’ rights to original birth certificates and more relevant information were nonexistent.

More recently, some states began to lighten the restrictions on access to vital information and increase adoptee rights. They did this by allowing some adult adoptees to view their original birth certificates or adoption records if they requested them. Still, it is often impossible to access birth certificates or such access came with a slew of difficult stipulations.

Now, though, open adoption has become the standard. In an open adoption, adoptees grow up knowing who their birth parents are and the story behind their adoption. They talk with their birth family on a regular basis, and the adoptive family sends updates to the birth parents to show that their child is growing up happy and healthy in a loving home.

To go along with that shift, more states are starting to introduce laws that protect adoptees’ rights. Some of these laws allow access to original birth certificates, including information that was originally sealed in a closed adoption.

The vast majority of adoptions today are open, meaning that birth families and adoptees can continue building a relationship by getting to know one another. In other words, adoptees like you could speak directly with your birth parents to find the answers you’ve been searching for.

But, there are still plenty of adoptees from closed adoptions who have difficulties with the slow governmental process of finding important, long-lost information about themselves. When it comes to adoptee rights, there is still quite a bit of work yet to be done.

Adoptees “Right to Know” Law [Understanding the Rights of an Adopted Child]

While you’ve been researching adoptees’ rights, you may have come across something known as the Adoptees’ “Right to Know” Law. But, what is it, exactly?

This is a legal framework that allows complete, unrestricted access to your original birth certificate. Some states have taken this and turned it into a law. We should mention, though, that this law tends to vary from state-to-state, and there are some states that have yet to take any action to increase adoptee rights.

To find out if your state abides by this law, you can learn how to open your adoption records and request to view your original birth certificate here.

The Adoptees Bill of Rights [Knowing Your Adoptee Rights]

If you’ve spent some time browsing the internet to learn more about the rights of an adopted child, you might have stumbled upon a popular list called “The Adoptees Bill of Rights.”

Although there is no listed author, this extensive list is from an organization known as American Adoption Congress.

The Adoptees Bill of Rights details the rights that every adoptee like you deserves to have — even though many of these things are not yet protected by law.

Whether you are a younger or older adoptee, here is the list of 12 adoptee rights that all adoptees should be able to have:

  1. We have the right to dignity and respect.
  2. We have the right to know we are adopted.
  3. We have the right to possess our original birth certificate.
  4. We have the right to possess all of our adoption records.
  5. We have the right to full knowledge of our origins, ethnic and religious background, our original name and any pertinent medical and social details.
  6. We have the right to updated medical and social history of our birth parents.
  7. We have the right to personal contacts with each of our birth families, as all other humans.
  8. We have the right to live without guilt toward any set of parents.
  9. We have the right to treat and love both sets of parents as one family.
  10. We have the right and obligation to show our feelings.
  11. We have the right to become whole and complete people.
  12. We have a right and obligation not to violate the dignity of all people involved in the adoption triad and to carry our message to all adopted children who still suffer.


We hope that this article about adoptees’ rights was able to clear some things up for you. Adoption is far from a simple journey, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. Remember that, if you are interested in obtaining your original birth certificate, you can work with a trusted adoption attorney who understands your state’s laws inside and out.

Information available through these links is the sole property of the companies and organizations listed therein. American Adoptions provides this information as a courtesy and is in no way responsible for its content or accuracy.

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