Adoption records are usually forever sealed when an adoption is final, but the families involved may have questions about the child's background. Non-identifying information includes very basic details about the child's birth family. Adoptees and their adoptive parents are permitted to access this limited information despite records of the adoption having been sealed.
In some areas, adopted individuals must first register with the state to request this portion of their adoption records.
In others, they can simply request it in writing. In most cases, they must be at least 18 years old. In approximately half of all states, this information is provided to the adoptive parents at the time of the adoption and it remains available to them until the child legally becomes an adult. A handful of states allow birth siblings to request the information.
By definition, non-identifying information cannot lead to or disclose a birth parent's identity — it does not include the parent's name, birth date, address or phone number. These limits are intended to protect the parties' anonymity. Non-identifying information can work both ways in some states. A parent who has given a child up for adoption may be entitled to this same sort of information about the adopting family.
Health and Medical Information
The extent of information that is disclosed can vary from state to state.
Health and medical information about birth parents is typically included because it can be crucial to a child's own health and well-being. This often includes disclosure of any medical issues that run in the birth parents' families, as well as blood types.
The Parents' Ages and Personal Information
Birth parents' ages are considered non-identifying, as are details like hair color, eye color, height, and build.
Records may disclose race and religion as well. Birth parents may choose to disclose their occupations and education levels.
Location of Birth
Non-identifying information may include the child's city or state of birth, although it typically does not cite the hospital. If the hospital were to be identified, it could be a relatively simple matter to check birth records for the date of birth and zero in on the adoptive parents. Non-identifying information may only include a state or the geographical area within the state if the child's birth city is served by only one hospital.
The Parents' Reasons for Placing the Child for Adoption
Birth parents may also wish to disclose why and how they've come to the decision to place their child for adoption. They might also include mention of any other children they have — the adopted child's full or half siblings.
More specific information regarding the parties to an adoption is available in most states if the birth parent has signed a written consent to release the information. Some states have mutual consent registries so parties to an adoption can sign up and hope that the individual they want to know more about signs up also.
Identifying information might also be disclosed by court order if the individual seeking the information has a compelling reason.