States with Open Adoption Records

By Karen Smith
States with open adoption records allow adoptees to retrieve their original birth certificates.

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Upon adoption, the adopted child is issued a new birth certificate. The original certificate, with identifying information with the names of the child's birth parents, is then held by the state. Some states have open adoption records, which means that adoptees upon reaching adulthood, and often adoptive parents beforehand, are allowed to obtain and view a copy of their own original birth certificate through a simple, inexpensive process that does not require a lawyer or an intermediary.

Find the Department and Application Website for Your State

According to sources such as U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Child Welfare Information Gateway, these states include Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Kansas, New Hampshire, Maine, Oregon and Tennessee. If your adoption took place in one of these states -- or in states such as Massachusetts that allow some adoptees to access their pre-adoption birth certificate -- you can find out how to obtain your original birth certificate by going to the vital records department of that state (see Resources) for the appropriate address and procedure.

Complete the Application

The application form to access an original birth certificate, also known as a pre-adoption birth certificate, asks the adopted adult for information such as your full name, current contact information, place and time of birth, and names of parents if known. Most states require that you include a copy of your state-issued picture ID with the request. This may be a driver's license, a passport, a military identification card or a tribal identification card; follow the specific requirements of your state. Most states charge fees of about $20 to process the request. Details about the amount of the fee and about who the check or money order should be made out to will be included on your state's application, which will outline your options for submitting your materials.

How Oregon Made Its Records Accessible

Each state has different requirements for pre-adoption birth certificate access, but only Kansas and Alaska had never sealed their birth certificates from adult adoptees. Starting in the late 1990s, citizens began to succeed in changing the laws in some states. According to the state of Oregon's Department of Human Services, Oregon's voters passed a ballot measure in November 1998 to permit adults adopted in Oregon to be able to obtain their pre-adoption birth certificate. Opponents blocked the law, claiming that women who had relinquished children for adoption had been promised that their names would not later be revealed. After a series of legal appeals, the Oregon Appeals Court upheld the constitutionality of the new law, known as Ballot Measure 58, and in March 2000, the state began processing requests from adoptees for their pre-adoption birth certificates.

State Vital Records Websites

Specific information from several of the states that allow open access to pre-adoption birth certificates to adopted adults can be found on the websites of the vital records departments of the individual states (see Resources). The state of Tennessee's website instructs adopted adults to contact its Post Adoption Services office in Nashville (see Resources). In 1999, the state of Tennessee upheld a 1996 law when its court system concluded that making adoption records accessible "does not impair the vested rights or violate the right to privacy under the Tennessee constitution" (see Resources).

About the Author

Karen Smith has been writing professionally since 2008. Her articles are published in the "Encyclopedia of Muslim-American History" and the upcoming "Dictionary of African Biography," as well as on Patheos.com and in volumes of "Anthropology News," "Contemporary Islam," "Islamic Africa" and "American Ethnologist." She has a Doctor of Philosophy in anthropology.

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