How to Open Adoption Records in Texas

By Faith O

In the state of Texas, adoption records are sealed and confidential. Records with identifying information can only be shared by mutual consent of all the parties involved, or through a court order issued to open sealed records. Mutual consent is achieved via registration of the parties involved in a mutual consent registry, after which state officials can confirm details in the records. However, unlike in some other states, officials do not need a court order to view confidential or sealed records to make such a confirmation.

Contact the Texas Department of State Health Services' (DSHS) Central Adoption Registry (see Resources) or the adoption agency that executed the adoption to obtain non-identifying information from your adoption records. If you do not know what agency handled the adoption, the CAR will be able to help.

Submit your information to be registered in the mutual consent registry of either the CAR or the adoption agency that handled your adoption, if it has a voluntary registry. See the link in Resources for adoption agencies with a mutual-consent registry. To register with the CAR, you must be an adult adoptee (at least 18 years old), a birth parent or a biological sibling. Fill out the CAR application and mail it in with a money order or check for $30 payable to DHSS, along with a copy of a government-issued photo ID. See the second link in Resources for the application form, instructions and CAR mailing address.

Apply to DSHS to obtain a non-certified copy of your original birth certificate. You can only do this if you know the names of your birth parents. At the same time, you can also request the identity of the court in which the adoption was filed so you can petition that court to unseal the adoption records if you so choose. See the link in Resources for the application form and instructions. Send the completed form, along with a check or money order for $10 payable to DSHS, to: Department of State Health Services, Texas Vital Statistics, P.O. Box 12040, Austin, TX 78711-2040.

Petition the court to unseal the records. You can petition the court that approved the adoption to obtain sealed adoption records. It is at the sole discretion of the judge to grant the petition. If you do not know the particular court, you can apply to DSHS to obtain this information (see the second link in Resources). You will have to pay a $10 fee.

Make a request to obtain medical records. Texas law allows that non-identifying medical records be released to adoptees when they request such information. This can happen in two ways: via the Health, Social, Education and Genetic History report (HSEGH) and through out-of-business child-placing agency records. Adoption agencies are responsible for preparing HSEGH reports. The birth family may also provide the CAR with ongoing medical-history information, which can be passed on to the adoptee when requested.

About the Author

Faith O has covered politics and general news in Washington DC, Chicago and Maryland. Her writing has appeared in the Associated Press, Prince George's Sentinel, Northwest Indiana Times, Chicago Defender and Daily Southtown, among others. She has a Masters of Journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School and a Bachelor's degree from Hampshire College in Amherst.