Adoption Records


Adoption laws and procedures have varied over time, and many states did not have a formal procedure until the mid to late 1880s. Before that time, many adoptions were informal.  The child may have been placed with relatives, or an apprenticeship arranged.

Adoption records are confidential in most states. State laws differ in how they handle access to information in sealed adoption records. If you know in which state the adopted person was born, you may contact the courts in that state to find out what the laws are pertaining to adoption rights. If you have little or no information on the birth family, perhaps your state has a Confidential Intermediary Program (CIP). This program trains, certifies, and monitors confidential intermediaries who can gain access to closed records. The intermediary contacts the people involved to see if they are willing to make contact with the adoptee. This also works for parents looking for their adopted children.

You may want to join a triad organization (triad refers to the adoptee, birth family, and adoptive family). These organizations are active in many cities around the United States and provide information and support to people searching for adoption records. Go to www.adoptiontriad.org/  to learn more about these organizations.

Many states now allow access to portions of the adoption record, for instance, medical information.  Some states have open records after a period of time - say 100 years.  In some states the adoptee must request the records in person. A good reference book on adoption is:

Carangelo, Lori. The Ultimate Search Book: Worldwide Adoption and Vital Records. Bountiful, UT: Heritage Quest, 1999.

Research on a modern adoption is best done by a researcher who lives in the area where the adoption took place. Cyndi's List has links to many adoption sites that are specific to localities.  Other links include mailing lists, news groups, volunteers, support groups, etc. If your adoption took place in Arizona, Daniela and Janna will be glad to put you in touch with a confidential intermediary or a triad organization. We may be able to check newspapers, high school yearbooks, and other public records to assist you.

Help Me!  Find a Confidential Intermediary Program in my state?

Help Me!  Tell me the name of the newspaper in my city in which I might find a published birth record for a particular year?

To ask these or similar questions, click on Help Me!, fill out the form that comes up, and submit your questions.