Friday, April 16, 2021

How to Navigate Adoption File Release Laws


If you were adopted, you may eventually come to a time when you want to get in touch with your biological family. After all, it’s nice to know who your biological parents are, especially if you really don’t know anything about them. Nothing says you have to stay in contact, but it’s satisfying to know a bit about where you came from. You also may be able to get in touch with other relatives from there, perhaps building a second, reconnected family. Here are some ways to navigate adoption release laws, as well as what to do if you can’t get your adoption file.

Find non-identifying information

There are different types of information when it comes to requesting information about your parents, and different people are allowed to access it depending on the state. For example, nearly every state allows release of what’s called “non-identifying information” by the adoptive parent upon request, and most of them allow that for the adopted person as well. This information doesn’t really give you enough that you’d be able to find your biological parents, but it can give you some starter information, such as your parents’ general physical description, race, and ethnicity. It can also tell you if your parents had other children, which can be an important tool in finding them.

Get access to identifying information

Identifying information, which generally leads you directly to adoption records that can help you find your biological parents, is much more difficult to access. Nearly all states allow you access to this information if your biological parent consents to it, but if not, you’ll need a court order. In order to get that court order, you need to show a clear reason why your need for the identifying information overrides the consent of the parent, and that’s generally only applicable in cases of emergency, such as needing genetic information that could help you avoid serious illness. If your parent doesn’t consent to it, you’ll probably have to try something else.

Request a copy of your original birth certificate

Once you’ve been legally adopted, all your legal records will show your adoptive parents as your parents, because the parental rights of your biological parents have been terminated. However, your original birth certificate will show your biological parents’ names, and it’ll often show some other vaguely identifying information. In many states, these original birth certificates are available freely once you turn a certain age, usually 18 or 21. However, some require court orders, and in some states, the biological parents can request to have their names redacted or other information changed if they’re not interested in having you contact them. On a better note, many organizations campaigning for more legal rights for adoptees are slowly changing those laws, so access may become easier in the coming years.

Use an online people search

Whether you were able to get access to your parents’ names but no other information, or you just can’t find anything, an online people search can sometimes be of help. Using PeopleFinders, you can get information on almost anyone in the United States, including information about potential relatives of those people. Whether you decide to use a public records search to get contact information of relatives whose names you already know, or you look yourself up to try and see if your biological parents are connected to you, you can use an online people search to get a lot of information that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to access. This is especially useful if your search through the official records didn’t turn up anything helpful. You may also be able to use it to find siblings who may know more than you do about your birth parents.


If you want to find out more about your biological family, there are plenty of ways to do it. The most common way involves going through the actual legal system, so you can see if your biological parents gave their consent to give identifying information if you ever asked for it. There are also many organizations working to allow adoptees the right to research their parents, which may be helpful in the near future. However, if you’re not having any luck with the legal system, you may be able to look up yourself or other living relatives using PeopleFinders and get information that could help you find them. Many ways exist to find your biological family; you just have to be proactive!

PeopleFinders was launched in 1999 to give people easy access to public records data. The PeopleFinders mission is to find, organize and make information accessible - empowering people with meaningful answers.

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