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Although adoptions have been around throughout history, rules and regulations surrounding them have changed over time. In the early 20th century, some states in the U.S. started applying sealed birth records to adoption proceedings and the practice spread across the country.
Nowadays, whether adoptees and the public can access the original birth certificate depends on state legislation. Keep reading to learn more about sealed birth records and where and how they are enforced.
Sealing a birth certificate means making the original document and the information included in it inaccessible to the public and, with some exceptions, to the subject it refers to.
Often, a new birth certificate is issued after the adoption is finalized. The new document features the adoptive parents as if they were the biological parents.
Adoptees’ birth certificates started being sealed in the early 20th century in the United States to protect the privacy of the children and their adoptive families. At the time, being an ‘illegitimate’ child was cause of embarrassment and the sealed birth certificates were intended as a tool to avoid stigma. By World War II, the majority of U.S. states had included the practice in their regulations.
Since then and adapting to later cultural and social changes, many states have started opening the vital records to adult adoptees who can now access information regarding their biological parents.
Some states still keep identifying information sealed to protect the names of biological parents, but allow adoptees to access medical information and other important data.
A minority of states still keep birth records sealed in case of adoption.
In some cases, the original birth certificate can only be accessed with a court order. Please note that this varies depending on the state and that you should check your local legislation to find out if and how you can view a sealed record.
Here is a list of states that keep records sealed for adult adoptees: