Why Are Adoption Records Sealed?

Adoption records can give the adopted child information about where they come from. But then, why are adoption records sealed? They are usually sealed in order to protect the identity of the birth family who gave the child up for adoption. Read on to know more.

When an adopted child becomes an adult, sometimes they might grow up and desire to know about his birth parents or from which background he has come. It’s estimated that nearly 1.8 million children in the United States are adopted, of which 25 percent are adopted from other countries.

Unfortunately, adoption records are sealed. But why are adoption records sealed? In order to protect the birth parent’s privacy after adoption. 

The original birth certificate is the primary document from which an adult adoptee can know about his birth parents and the date on which he was born, the hospital’s name, and various others. We discuss more about sealed adoption records, keep reading for more information.

Why Are Adoption Records Sealed

History Of Sealed Adoption Records

Adoptions were informal before 1949, and the children were usually placed in adoption when their parents could not provide them with basic needs. There were limited records of adoption at that time.

After World War 2, many unwed mothers started keeping their children in adoption agencies. The court also started implementing sealed adoption records.  At the time closed adoption was the only choice which meant there was no contact between the birth parent and the adoptive parent. Adoptive families never got to know who the real birth mother was, and records were kept sealed.

You might also like to read: Can An Adoptive Child Inherit From Biological Parents?

Why Were Adoption Records Sealed?

The purpose of sealing adoption records is to protect the privacy of the birth parent who has placed the child for adoption. On the other hand, sealing birth records also prohibits the birth parent from interfering in the adoptive child and adoptive parents lives. 

Sealed adoption records also protect the child from social pressures associated with being born out of wedlock and other such situations where the baby had to be given up for adoption.

In Kansas and Alaska, the adoption records, including the original certificate, are usually sealed after the adoption process. Still, you can see your original certificate on request once you turn 18 years of age.

Why Are Adoption Records Sealed

For How Long Are Adoption Records Sealed?

The adoption records are usually sealed permanently. However, in some states, you can access sealed records after filing a petition in the court. If the judge approves, then you can view the adoption record. The procedure of viewing adoption records varies from one State to another.

How To Open Adoption Records?

While the process for each state is slightly different, you will need to petition the court to get Access to adoption records. In some cases, this request for Access to adoption records might be denied, but you can always request for a confidential intermediary. The confidential intermediary will help access the records and share relevant details with you.

You might also like to read: How to Find Adopted Siblings?

What Type Of Information Is There In Adoption Records?

#1. Nonidentifying Information

Nonidentifying information refers to the restricted description of the adopted child and his relatives to the adopted parents and his family.

The nonidentifying information generally includes the following.

  • Place and date of birth of the adopted child
  • Educational qualification of the birth parents and their occupation.
  • Race and religion of the biological parents
  • Medical history of the biological parents
  • Reasons for playing the adopted child in an orphanage
  • Presence of any other child of either of the parent
  • Age of the biological parents and their physical description like the color of their hair, eyes, and others.

Whenever an adopted child reaches 18 years of age, almost all the states in the United States allow seeing nonidentifying information on request in the form of writing. 

However, the rules may differ from one State to another. There are 26 Sates in the U.S. which reveal nonidentifying information, including the health and social history of the child. Moreover, 15 states in the U.S also reveal the biological sibling, if any of the adopted child.

Why Are Adoption Records Sealed

Restrictions to Nonidentifying information

New Jersey And Nevada

In New Jersey and Nevada, the medical and social information of the adopted child’s birth parents is revealed while putting them in a new family.

New York

In New York, if the adopted person wants to access nonidentifying records, he has to register in-state adoption registry.

#2. Identifying Information

The identifying information refers to the description that can easily identify adult adoptees, birth parents, and relatives. The identifying information generally includes the following.

  • Name of the biological parent while giving away their parental rights.
  • Recent name and address of the biological parent
  • Presence of any biological siblings while ending their parental rights.
  • Current name and address of the adult adoptee,

Almost every State in the United States permits access to identifying information, if the person whose information is being searched has given consent on the file. If the consent is not there on the file, then it can be disclosed only through a court order.

37 States  in the United States allow the adopted person’s biological siblings to find and release identifying information upon mutual consent.

Why Are Adoption Records Sealed

Restrictions On Identifying Information


In Connecticut, the release of identifying information is not disclosed if the child adoption agency that has the needed information determines that releasing such information can hamper the social and mental health of the sought person.

Texas And South Carolina

In Texas and South Carolina, the adopted person has to undergo a counseling process about the impact of searching and contacting his birth parents before the identifying information is revealed.

You might also like to read: Can You Change A Child’s Last Name Without Adoption?

Which States Have Open adoption Records?

The information to the adoptees varies from one State to another. The Sates which have open adoption records become more accessible for an adopted child to appeal for an actual birth certificate. I have listed below a few States which have open adoption records.

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Colorado
  • Hawaii
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Missouri
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
Why Are Adoption Records Sealed

How Can I Find Adoption Record In California?

California is one State in the United States with close adoption records, or the records are not readily available to the public.

But you can file a petition in the court to disclose the adoption records. I am listing below the ways to open the adoption record in California.

#1. Contact The Country Clerk

You have to contact the country clerk to know the rules and regulations of opening adoption records. 

#2. File a Petition

Remember, you need to be at least 18 years of age to access all the vital records. After knowing all the rules and regulations file a petition in court to unseal the adoption records.

#3. Meet the Judge

You need to meet the judge on the given date and explain why the adoption records are unsealing. Remember, the reason should not be personal. A medical emergency can be a valid reason for unsealing your adoption record. The judge can approve or disapprove your request to open adoption records.

#4. See The Information On The Adoption Record

If the judge approves your grant, you can see the information on the adoption record. You can see the information either yourself or request a mediator. The mediator needs to work with a lawyer to know the exact information you want regarding your biological parent.

Why Are Adoption Records Sealed

How To Unseal Adoption Records In Pennsylvania?

Earlier in Pennsylvania, the adoptee had to file a court order to see their original birth certificate, which is usually not affordable. But after November 3, 2017, the adoptee can file an application in the Department of Health which will usually cost $20.the application is generally processed within 45 days.

Frequently Asked questions

#1. Which states have sealed adoption records?

North Dakota
South Dakota
West Virginia
New Mexico

#2. What information is on an adoption certificate?

The adoptive certificate is issued when a new family adopts a child legally. The adoption certificate becomes the new identity of the adopted child.
In an adoption certificate, you will find the following.
Full name of the person who is adopted
Date of birth of the adopted person
Registration district
Full name of the adoptive father
Full name of the adoptive mother.
Date of adoption
Address of adoptive parents
The court where the administration was done.
Occupation of adoptive parents
The date on which adoption was ordered
Signature of the officer
The date on which the certificate was produced

#3. How to find if I am secretly adopted?

If you have already talked with your parents, but they are admitting that they are your biological parents, then it’s better to do a DNA test to confirm.

#4. Can a birth mother contact an adopted child?

Yes, a birth mother can contact an adopted child, but only in an open adoption. The open adoption allows the mother to contact his biological child regularly or through phone calls, messages, and video calls at affixed intervals. In the other case, the closed adoption records are sealed and the only way would be to approach mutual consent registries and hope that the child has registered for the same. 

A Few Final Words

The sealed adoption records mean there is a practice of sealing the original birth certificate and some vital documents and disclose to the public only on court order. However, the rules and regulations associated with sealing adoption records vary from one State to another.

Thank you for reading this article. I hope I have answered all your questions regarding sealed adoption records.