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Obtaining Birth and Adoption Records

If you are trying to access birth or adoption records the information below may be of help to you.

Birth Records

You are advised to get your adopted child's original birth records and/or the birth records that have been amended after the child adoption has been finalized. In many states obtaining adoption birth records may be a problem since child adoption records are sealed after the child adoption is finalized. Many states, therefore, have strict procedures by which parties to a child adoption may obtain non-identifying as well as some identifying information about an adopted person and the birth relatives. You may want to check the laws of the state in which the birth father and birth mother reside and the state in which the child adoption was, or will be, finalized.

Since the access to records is limited and many birth mothers, birth fathers, and adopted children search for each other, two issues related to records are search and reunion and the establishment of child adoption registries.

Private Child Adoption

With a private adoption, the finding of a birth mother, the matching, and the ending of parental rights are done with a person operating as the intermediary (the go-between). Whether this person is an attorney, physician, nurse, friend, child adoption facilitator, or referral service, it will still be a private adoption.

Overall, private adoptions are much more risky for both the birth parents and the adopting family than an agency adoption. For example, in a private adoption the adopting family may cover the birth mother's living and medical expenses only to have the birth mother change her mind, raise the child herself, and the adopting family will loose their money and any fees paid to an attorney.

Additionally, in a private adoption needed support and follow-up services are all too often left out of the picture leading to higher adoption disruption rates for private adoptions. While your attorney, doctor, or friend probably has your best interest at heart, their help and advice can be problematic. Again, based on my experience with both private and agency adoptions, it is strongly recommended you work with a licensed agency and avoid the private adoption route.

Do not forget that even in a private adoption you will most likely need to contact an adoption agency since most states require an evaluation of you and your home (called a Home Study). This Home Study needs to be completed before you take custody of a child.

Where to Write for Vital Records

The site of the National Center for Health Statistics may help you to get information on birth records.

International Documents

If you have adopted a child internationally, you should make sure to get records from the agency you worked with. If they are not able to provide needed items, the vital records office in the foreign country may be able to help. Mailing addresses of offices of vital records in foreign countries can be found on this U.S. state Department website.

Additional Resources

Good information on this topic is also available from the Child Welfare Information Gateway articles Access to Family Information by Adopted Persons and Obtaining Birth and/or Adoption Records.

To see how your state law addresses adoption and birth records, please visit

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