How Do You Find Adoption Records?

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According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, laws for finding adoption records vary widely by state, as does the type of information that can be accessed. For example, a New Jersey law scheduled to take effect in 2017 will allow adoptees to request their original birth certificates, yet in Texas, adoption records are sealed and redacted, so requesters need a court order to access them. Additionally, some states, including Alaska and Kansas, don't restrict access to adoption records at all.

Adoptees are subject to adoptive record laws according to birthplace, not current residence. For example, an adoptee who was born in Texas but currently resides in New Jersey is subject to Texas' restrictive adoption record laws.

If state child protection agencies were involved in the adoption, adoptees can contact the particular agency to receive information tailored to their situation and possibly speed up the process of locating desired adoption details. If a private organization processed the adoption, adoptees can contact that organization. In cases where the adoption agency shut down or went out of business, the agency's records usually become the property of the state.

In many states, adoption record requests are limited to adult adoptees, adoptive parents, spouses or children of adoptees, although requests can also be made by legal guardians or representatives of adoptees. People with no connection to the adoptee can't request adoption records, however, except in states where access isn't restricted.