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California is a closed adoption state, with a few exceptions, and adoption records with identifying information can only be shared by consent of all the parties involved or at the discretion of a Superior Court judge. There are two ways this can happen by consent: through the Mutual Consent Program or the Adoptions Information Act. Under the MCP, written notarized consent is required of both an adoptee 18 years or older and the birth parents. Under the AIA an adoptee who is 21 years or older and who was adopted on or after January 1, 1984, can request records if at the time of adoption the birth parents signed a consent form or parental rights were terminated by court order.
Getting Non-Identifying Information
Contact the California Department of Social Services or the adoption agency (if known) if you require non-identifying information such as general facts about the birth parents, background information and medical history. To receive this information you need to make a written request to the CDSS or the adoption agency. If you do not know what the agency is, you can send a written and notarized request to the CDSS. Your request must contain your name, birth date, and the full names of both of your adoptive parents. The address for the CDSS is: California Department of Social Services, Adoptions Support Unit, 744 P Street, MS 8-12-31, Sacramento, CA 95814.
Before and After 1984
The first step in obtaining identifying information is to determine how you should apply. As the adoptee, you must be at least 18 years old to request adoption records that provide identifying information of your birth parents through the MCP program. If you are 21 or older and your adoption took place on or after January 1, 1984, you may be eligible for the AIA program. The process varies, depending which of those avenues you choose to pursue.
Under the Mutual Consent Program
To gain information about your birth parents through the MCP, complete and notarize the California Department of Social Services' Consent for Contact form and send it in to the CDSS or the adoption agency. The form will be kept in the adoption file and if your birth parents send in the same form the names and last known addresses of both parties will be sent out to the other party. If you so choose you can check the box to have non-identifying information from your adoption file sent to you. The CDSS and adoption agencies are by law not allowed to initiate contact with or solicit consent from either party.
Under the Adoptions Information Act
Complete, notarize and send in the AIA form if your adoption took place on or after January 1, 1984, and you are at least 21 years old. The form should be sent to the CDSS or the adoption agency and you will be sent the names and last known addresses of your birth parents if and when they send in consent forms, or if they provided written consent at the time of the adoption.
Opening Records Through the Courts
Petition the county's Superior Court. If you need all the information in your adoption file such as your original birth certificate and you cannot go through any of the processes outlined above or do not have the luxury of time to do so, you may petition the Superior Court of the county where you live or where the adoption took place. Your petition should be filed under the Health and Safety Code Section 102705 in the county clerk's office of the Superior Court to get access to the original birth certificate. File a petition under Family Code Section 9200 in the Superior Court of the county where the adoption was finalized to gain access to documents contained in the adoption file that is maintained by the Superior Court. It is the sole discretion of the court to grant or deny this request.
Ten California counties are open counties and allow the adoptive parents to request identifying adoption records from the Superior Court. This applies only to adoptions finalized in an open county, regardless of whether the adoptee was born in or currently resides in a closed county. The adoptive parents will need to send a written notarized request to the clerk of the Superior Court in the county.
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.