Obtaining Pre-Adoption Birth Information: A Window into the Past

Mr. Nikolaus Alexander Baikow's Adoptions Legal Blogs

Licensed for 4 years

Attorney in Allentown, PA

Pennsylvania law provides adoptees the ability to access certain kinds of "pre-adoption" birth information under certain circumstances.  For adoptees, this opens up an extraordinary opportunity to learn more about their family past, and also to prepare for certain medical procedures or precautions when medical information is sought.

As a preliminary matter, it is helpful to review exactly what kind of "pre-adoption" birth information is out there that can be accessed.  The type of information available can be summarized as follows:

  • "Agency records."  All information collected by an agency relating to a brith family, an adoptive family, and an adoptee.
  • "Court records."  All petitions, exhibits, reports, notes of testimony, decrees and other papers pertaining to a proceeding under this chapter or former statutes relating to adoption.
  • "Medical History Information."  Medical records and other information concerning an adoptee or an adoptee’s birth family that is relevant to the present or future health care of medical treatment of the adoptee or the adoptee’s birth family.  The term includes, but is not limited to, the following: (1) otherwise confidential or privileged information, and (2) information about the birth parents of a child that may concern a potential hereditary or congenital medical problem. 
  • "Social History Information."   The term includes, but is not limited to: (1) information about the adoptee and birth relatives of the adoptee, including economic, cultural and ethnic information, (2) a developmental history of the adoptee, including the circumstances at birth, early development, and subsequent age-appropriate task development, (3) the social experiences of the adoptee, including abuse and neglect, out-of-home care and patterns of interpersonal relationships…
  • "Summary of Birth Record."  The summary of the original birth record, consisting of only the names and ages of the birth parents, the date and county of the birth parents, the date and county of the birth of the child and the name of the child given at birth.  

The next question becomes, who may access the information?  People other than the adoptee can potentially obtain an adoptee’s pre-adoption information. Pennsylvania law provides that the following can access information:

  • An adoptee who is 21 years of age or older.
  • The birth parent of an adoptee.
  • A parent of a birth parent of an adoptee who is 21 years of age or older, if the birth parent consents, is adjudicated incapacitated or is deceased.
  • A birth sibling of an adoptee, under certain conditions. 

If you or an adoptee is interested in obtaining pre-adoption information, consult with a qualified practitioner in your area to find out more. 

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