A child who is welcomed into a family by adoption has the same legal rights within that family as any biological child. Your biological parents have given up those rights. There might be times, however, when an adoptee would like to discover more information about his or her biological parents. The adoptee may simply be curious or there may be a more pressing medical need.
Your rights to uncover information about your biological parents depend on the laws in the state where you were born or where your adoption took place. Some states are adoptee-friendly, but others protect the privacy of birth parents - except in dire emergencies. This is a controversial issue, and states frequently change and update their laws regarding adoption and privacy.
State Laws Vary
Some "closed" states seal adoption records to the point where even the biological parents' health information will never be revealed. A very few other states have passed laws that favor granting adoptees access to their birth records. To find out where your state stands on this issue, speak with an attorney.
Some States Will Reveal Non-Identifying Information
Among states that are willing to reveal the medical histories of biological parents, the government will pass along only information that won't identify the parents to the children they have put up for adoption. This usually includes only the parents' first names and a summary of known health issues. This not much to go on, but a good private investigator might be able to use this information to identify individuals who could be the adoptee's parents.
Whether the adoptee can legally do anything with the information is a different story. Biological parents can usually file harassment charges if children they have given up for adoption insist on contacting them against their wishes.
Biological Parents Can Consent to Contact
Adoption rights are mostly on the side of biological parents, not adopted children. If a birth parent wants to remain anonymous, it's often impossible to learn that person's identity through legal methods. Most states have voluntary registries where biological parents can give their consent to contact, either by the adoptive parents if the child is a minor, or by an adult adoptee. If the biological father is known, both parents must usually give their consent. The consents aren't permanent. Biological parents can withdraw their agreement at any time.
In a Medical Emergency, You Have Options
In an emergency, adoptees can petition the court to have their files opened. These kinds of emergencies usually involve health issues, where the lives of the adoptees - or their own biological children - hang in the balance. If a court approves the adoptee's request, a judge can overrule a biological parent's desire to remain anonymous or force the parent to provide medical information.
An Adoption Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding the rights of adoptees is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a family law lawyer.