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Adoption Birth Certificate Access for Adoptees

Unless you were adopted within the last couple of decades, when 90 percent of adoptions are now open, you may have a closed adoption or an adoption with limited information. If you have a closed adoption, you can’t turn to your birth family for information about your history — but your original birth certificate may provide you with some of the information that you’ve been lacking.

But it can be incredibly difficult for adoptees to access their original birth certificate after adoption, leading to an increased push for legislative changes regarding adoptee birth certificate access. There is still plenty of work to be done to give adoptees the same unrestricted access to their birth certificates that everyone else has.

Here’s what you should know about your adoption birth certificate, and why you may want to find your original birth certificate after adoption:

How Does Your Birth Certificate Change When You Are Adopted?

For those who are unfamiliar with adoption, there are two birth certificates issued to adoptees; the original birth certificate and the amended birth certificate.

Your original birth certificate lists your birth parents and is issued upon your birth, while the amended birth certificate lists your adoptive parents and is issued after an adoption is finalized. Sometimes adoptive parents will rename their child, so the original birth certificate may also list the name given to an adoptee by their birth parents. Other details like birth date or location may be changed on the amended birth certificate, depending on the individual circumstances of your birth and adoption, like if you were adopted internationally.

Many adoptees who do not have access to their original birth certificate wonder, “What happens to original birth certificate after adoption?” After an adoption is finalized, the original birth certificate is sealed, along with the adoption records. Some states seal those records permanently with very few exceptions. Other states allow partial or restricted access of that original birth certificate for adult adoptees after they turn 18, and only nine states offer unrestricted access to your original birth certificate.

Why Might You Want to Access Your Original Birth Certificate?

There are many reasons, both practical and deeply personal, why you might want to obtain your original birth certificate, including:

  • The desire to know the names of your birth parents
  • Wanting to begin a search for your birth family
  • Wanting more information from your adoption records
  • Learning your original name or place of birth (if changed after the adoption)
  • And more

Particularly for adoptees of closed adoptions, there can be many unanswered questions. Your original birth certificate may not give you all the answers, but it’s certainly a start.

Not all adoptees feel the need to see their original birth certificate, and that’s ok, too. It’s having the legal option to make that choice that is important for adoptees, which is why the increased push for adoptee rights has been instrumental. If you do wish to see your adoption birth certificate, the following information can help you get started.

How to Find Original Birth Certificate Before Adoption

The process of unsealing your adoption records and accessing your original adoption birth certificate can be impossible, or it could be as easy as putting in a request with vital records. Much of it depends on your state laws, unfortunately. This is why many people are working to improve adoptee rights so that adoptees can access their birth certificate after adoption if desired, the same as anyone else.

You can learn more about how to open your adoption records and request to see your closed adoption birth certificate here.