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Confidentiality

Laws generally require adoption records to be sealed if the adopting parents request that they be sealed. "Sealing" documents means that no one will have access to the information contained within them and that they will remain confidential.

How do I get my adoption records unsealed so I can locate my birth mother?

You can either file a petition to unseal adoption record or fill out a form with the probate or county court clerk requesting that the file be examined. If your file contains a notice that your birth parent is looking for you, the records will be unsealed. Where a petition is required, you must show the court "good cause" to unseal the records, such as medical necessity.

SIDEBAR: Laws have been enacted in some states that allow adoptees to request and obtain non-identifying information from the adoption records. Additionally, some states, such as Oregon and New Hampshire, have laws that allow adoptees access to their original birth certificate; Alaska and Kansas do not have sealed adoption records. Check your state laws for recent legislation allowing access to adoption records.

SIDEBAR: Under that the Indian Child Welfare Act, when requested, courts must unseal records for American Indian children in order to provide information to the adopted individual necessary to ascertain her tribal affiliation and membership.