August 23rd, 2006
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In nearly all States, adoption records are sealed and withheld from public inspection after the adoption is finalized. Most States have instituted procedures by which parties to an adoption may obtain non identifying and identifying information from an adoption record while still protecting the interests of all parties.

Non identifying information is generally limited to descriptive details about an adopted person and the adopted person’s birth relatives and is provided to the adopting parents at the time of the adoption. Non identifying information may include the following:

Date and place of the adopted person’s birth
Age of the birth parents and general physical description, such as eye and hair color

Race, ethnicity, religion, and medical history of the birth parents
Educational level of the birth parents and their occupation at the time of the adoption
Reason for placing the child for adoption
Existence of other children born to each birth parent

All States have provisions in statute that allow access to non identifying information by an adoptive parent or a guardian of an adopted person who is still a minor. Nearly all States allow the adopted person to have access to non identifying information about natural relatives, generally upon written request. The adopted person must be an adult, usually at least 18 years of age, before he or she may access this information. California, Idaho, Nevada, and New Jersey allow access to adopting parents only.

As of January 2006 approximately 27 States allow birth parents access to non identifying information. The States that allow natural parents access to non identifying information include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.

In addition, many States give such access to adult birth siblings. States that allow access to adult birth siblings include Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, and Vermont.

Policies on what information is collected and how that information is maintained and disclosed vary from State to State restrictions on release of Non identifying information. A few jurisdictions are more restrictive about the release of information from adoption records. New York, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island require the person seeking non identifying information to register with the State adoption registry. Pennsylvania and Guam require a party to petition the court before any information can be released.

Non identifying information generally includes medical and health information about the child and the child’s natural family at the time of the adoptive placement. The statutes in Alabama, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Wyoming allow the adoptive parents to request the department to contact the natural parents any time post adoption for additional health information when there is a medical need.

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