Open Adoption does not mean adoption records are not sealed…

24 Oct


A comment by Robyn on the last post about adoptee rights made me dig into my draft posts to find this one to revise and post.  Part of Robyn’s comment said this: “We recently had a conversation on an open adoption group about how open adoption does not have anything to do with open records. Someone thought it did – that in an open adoption, the records weren’t sealed.”

So, I’m saying this again because this myth is still an active part of the adoption world.  The only way an adoption record can be accessed is through a court order for ‘good cause’.   A copy of the original birth certificate may be included in the sealed adoption file, but the original birth certificate remains in Vital Records under the same seal, at least until the child is an adult then it varies by state law as access, and most don’t allow access. The sealed file should also contain the the surrender (or termination) of rights by the first parents, the adoption petition, homestudy information, adoption granted order, and I would assume expenses paid to the expectant mother and approved by the state.

As to access by the adult adoptee to their original birth certificate.  Two states never barred the adult adoptee from requesting and receiving their original birth certificate, those states are Alaska and Kansas.  A handful of states have reinstated the right for the adoptee when they reach a pre-determined age (not always the age of majority in that state, but close), so as an adult, they can file for a copy of their original unaltered birth certificate.  Some states have tiered access depending on when the adoption was granted.  There are also some states that reinstated a limited right to the adult adoptee to get their original birth certificate, but included a ‘mommy may I’ clause that allows a first mother (or father) to file a veto.  How a first mother (or father) who surrendered all parental rights to the child decades before, suddenly can be given back parental rights is unknown.  I know that wouldn’t be tolerated by AP’s  while the adoptee is a child, so why it is allowed to happen after the child becomes an adult?  It doesn’t make sense, and instead proves the point that adoptees are seen, and treated, as perpetual children.  Who could be okay with that being done to them?  So, the only way you will actually know if your child as an adult has the same rights you do is by going to the laws in the state of birth.

So, if you have an open adoption, semi-open, met the mother and/or father before birth, have an active relationship with the first parents, and think, adoption is so different today and there are no secrets or sealed files – you are wrong.  The adoption records/files are still sealed.  The original unaltered birth certificate may, or may not be available to your child when they reach adulthood, but open adoption plays no role in it whatsoever.  All the states who have returned that right to adult adoptees, have done so not because of open adoption, but through the hard work, decades worth of work, by adult adoptees and allies.

For what it’s worth, I think it behooves adoptive parents to understand this most basic premise about adoption.  Open adoption does not change the reality that the adoption file is still sealed.  Nor does open adoption mean that your child as an adult can waltz down to the Vital Records office in their state of birth, and order up a copy of their Original Birth Certificate unless the rights to it were reinstated through hard work by other adult adoptees and allies.

Okay, pretty sure I have run out of ways to say this over and over…


Posted by on October 24, 2014 in Adoption, adoptive parents


Tags: , , , , , , ,

7 responses to “Open Adoption does not mean adoption records are not sealed…

  1. Discovering Mary

    October 24, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. I assumed open adoption meant open records.


  2. Snarkurchin

    October 25, 2014 at 10:13 am

    I’m glad you put it that way, Discovering Mary. One problem with assumptions is that we often don’t know we’re making them. The level of ignorance about adoption even among people whoa are adopting or have adopted sometimes terrifies and saddens me. If you realize you’re assuming *anything* about adoption, that’s a great first step. The second step is to test your assumptions against reality.


  3. mamawmis

    October 28, 2014 at 5:25 am

    I was born when it was “open adoption”. For years I did not really want to know anything about my birth mom but when I was around 30 yrs old and on a whim, I called Vital Statistics just to see how I would go about getting my original birth certificate. The lady asked me my current address as well as AP names etc etc and then she went on to give me more information that may help get my records if I so wished.

    A few days later I got a piece of mail from Ohio Vital Statistics and when I opened it, there was my original birth certificate. It freaked me out, Here is a piece of paper that had my birth moms name. It also revealed that I had an older sibling. I can’t tell you how long I sat and stared at that piece of paper. I had always been told that when a family adopts a child that they get to name you so I guess I thought I was a Jane Doe until then. But no, I had a name. A name that another woman named me. It was so strange.

    I am new to WordPress but instead of writing a book here on your blog I will write a few on adoption etc.


    • TAO

      October 28, 2014 at 1:43 pm

      Welcome – I too remember sitting and staring at my original birth certificate – different circumstances but the staring…


  4. chicken2003

    October 31, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    This was one of the things that absolutely floored me when we finalized our son’s adoption. We have an open adoption with his birthmother, yet in Ohio, his birth certificate was sealed and now states that he was born to my husband and I. It really bothers me that this practice continues despite open adoption becoming increasingly common. It seems that it should be up to the birth parents and adoptive parents as to whether they want a new birth certificate issued. Or, it should be banned altogether. It’s falsifying records in my mind!


    • TAO

      October 31, 2014 at 6:24 pm

      There are states that do allow the adoptive parents to decide not to change the birth certificate…



      • Beth

        November 10, 2014 at 11:40 am

        There are states that allow not changing it? I did not know that, thought they Had to be changed. I wonder how that works? I have never seen or heard of that from anyone, that I know of.
        We can’t do it our state, otherwise I probably would have adopted a couple of times, instead of temp. guardianship. When asked I said No because of it, I just couldn’t do it. That was really hard but it worked out fine for everyone, no regrets. I think adoption would have made some legal things easier, maybe?
        But I guess instead of providing the BC and guardianship documents when needed, that I would just have been providing the BC and adoption documents.
        I think I am confused or it’s too early for me to think about this, or much of anything else LOL



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