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The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute Explores Opening Adoption Records

Restoring Rights to Adult Adoptees


Updated November 13, 2007

One of the most hotly debated adoption issue is that of open adoption records and whether adult adoptees should have access to their adoption information. New research from the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute suggests that "yes" adoption records should be made available to adult adoptees, including the ever elusive original birth certificate.

Reported to be "the broadest, most extensive examination to date of the various issues related to state laws governing adult adopted persons' access to their original birth certificates and/or adoption records" the recommendations and information contained in the new study For the Records: Restoring a Right to Adult Adoptees, comes from decades of experience and history from the adoption community within the United States. The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute feels that they have provided a "blueprint" for change.

Quick Background FAQS on Adoption Records

  • Most states legally prohibit adoptees from gaining information such as original birth certificates and other adoption documents. They must petition the courts for permission.
  • Kansas and Alaska have always allowed adult adoptees access to original birth certificates and other adoption records.
  • Since 1996, six states have unsealed adoption records to come degree. These states include Alabama, Dealware, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Tennessee.

Reported Findings

  • Adoptees are the only people in the United States that are legally not allowed access to their original birth certificates.
  • Not allowing access to such personal information can have an affect on a person's mental and physical health and well-being, as many diseases and conditions are genetically predisposed.
  • There has been no evidence of open adoption records influencing abortion rates, or adoption rates.
  • Few birthmothers are against opening adoption records. Most welcome open adoption record legislation.
  • In many cases, the need or want for one's adoption record is a separate issue from completing an adoption search. One does not necessarily lead to the other. Besides, many adoption searches have been completed without the benefit of adoption records.
  • Birthmother grief can be helped with knowing what has happened to her relinquished child.
  • There has been very little proof of birthmother's requesting or being promised anonymity upon the placing of a child for adoption. Verbal promises are not legally binding.
  • Some states that have allowed access to adoption records have done so in a manner that has created a "sandwich" situation. These individuals are caught in the middle of having an adoption day too early or too late and not being allowed access, while other adopted peers are allowed information. This is another civil rights issue.


  • All states must amend laws to allow unrestricted access to original birth certificates.
  • Within three years of enactment, states that have created a group of adoptees that are denied access, must take another look at the state laws that created a "sandwich" situation.
  • Expand understanding of adoption and the importance of open adoption records as experienced by all sides of the adoption triad.
  • Draw on the experiences of states that are allowing access to original birth certificates to allow broader access of information to include adoption records and court records.
  • Create education programs to assist in debunking myths and bad information.
  • Regarding open adoption records, look at the issue on the national level.
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  5. The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute Explores Opening Adoption Records - New Research by Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute Seeks Open Records

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