Discover Your Rights

DISCOVER YOUR RIGHTS map

How to find out about your records:

The Child Welfare Information Gateway’s Access To Adoption Records page offers a comprehensive overview of individual state statutes, including the age at which an adoptee is considered an adult (age 18 in some states, 21 in others).

That said, it’s important to note that advocating for a right to one’s original birth certificate is often confused with advocating reunions. To us they are separate issues. Having unrestricted access to your original birth certificate means having the right to the truth about your origins, your ancestry, your medical history—the nonfiction version of your life’s first chapter if you will. It’s a right every non-adopted adult enjoys, as well as adult adoptees in a small number of U.S. states. What you do with that truth, whether or not you initiate a relationship, and at what level of contact (if available), is something very personal, something to be worked out within families, and something beyond the realm of legislation.

Those post-truth complexities are why we are so passionate about honoring the many directions an adoptee’s tale can take—from searching, to reunions (and sometimes rejections), to not even discovering until late in life that you were adopted, and to those who wish to remain secret—the “thousand voices to tell a single story” quoted on our home page. And all stories need that beginning, which is why we hope our collected stories will not only enable us to connect and help one another, but perhaps also create a groundswell of people to help restore original birth certificate access for all adult adoptees across the United States.

In the words of Mahatma Gandhi:
“Truth never damages a cause that is just.”

If you are interested in getting involved in legislation reform in your state, two organizations leading the charge for open access are American Adoption Congress and The Adoptee Rights Coalition.

Image credit: Abby Pardes

Terms Defined

Access Restored States—states where an adoptee’s ability to legally obtain his or her original birth certificate has been restored. See our Sealed Records Era page for more information on when and why the records were sealed. See our Restored Access States page for details on each of these states.

Access Pending States—a state in the process of passing legislation to restore access. Ohio’s Substitute Senate Bill 23 passed on December 19, 2013, granting 400,000 adoptees born from 1964 through September 18,1996 access to their original birth certificates, in approximately 15 months from the bill’s signing.

Access Restricted States—records are typically available only through a court order. Mutual consent registries are often available.

Partial Access States—these states allow adult adoptees born within certain years to access their original birth certificates.

NOTE: Some partial and restored access states permit a birth parent to file an affidavit prohibiting the release of identifying information. The Child Welfare Information Gateway details each state’s requirements.

Adoptee Rights Organizations

American Adoption CongressAdoptee Rights Coalition