More than 6 million Americans are adoptees; surveys indicate that at least half of them search for a birth parent’s identity at some point in their lives. Laws governing an adoptee’s degree of access to his or her original birth certificate and adoption file vary from state to state. From the 1920s until the 1970s, adoption records were commonly sealed and birth certificates amended to protect the privacy of both birth mothers and adoptees. Over the last 30 years, however, a more tolerant society and new definitions of “family” have erased much of the demand for secrecy, fostering a trend toward “open” adoptions, in which birth parents and adoptive parents may share information about each other and may even have extensive contact.
For adult adoptees in search of birth parents or siblings — or simply their family medical history or ethnic origins — reunion registries, intermediaries, or professional searchers may offer assistance if a court petition is unsuccessful. For fact sheets, search tips, and guides to state-by-state adoption regulations, reunion registries, and support groups, contact the Child Welfare Information Gateway, Washington, D.C., 800-394-3366, 703-385-7565.
Additional resources on the adoption process, search guidelines, and related issues:
- Massachusetts Office of Health and Human Services, 800-548-4802 or 617-748-2000.
- Connecticut Department of Children and Families, 860-550-6578.
- Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth & Families, 401-254-7009.
- Maine Department of Health and Human Services, 877-505-0545.
- New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth & Families, 800-852-3345 or 603-271-4711.
- Vermont Department for Children and Families, 802-241-2122.
- Adoption Media
- Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, 617-332-8944.
- Adoption Community of New England, 508-429-4260.
- Center for Family Connections, 800-546-6328 or 617-547-0909.
- UMass Medical School Center for Adoption Research, 508-856-5397.
- National Center for Adoption Law & Policy, 614.236.6730.
- National Adoption Directory
- International Soundex Reunion Registry, 775-882-7755.
See also: Baby Boy #3331