For many adoptees, the search for their birth families can take many years and be filled with twists and turns. One of the biggest obstacles to an adoption reunion journey is the possibility of closed or sealed adoption records. It can be very hard to unseal adoption records in Oklahoma, but it is possible. Learn about the process so you can continue your adoption journey.
What Are Closed Adoption Records?
In most states, adoption records are sealed by a court order once the adoption is finalized. This is done to protect both the adoptees and the birth and adoptive family from public scrutiny and interference. However, it is possible for adoptees and families to access these sealed records by following the proper procedure.
In Oklahoma, records can be either identifying or non-identifying. Releasing non-identifying information is a little simpler for all parties, but it also doesn’t help if you’re seeking reunion or trying to connect with siblings or other relatives. That said, it can still be useful for other purposes such as medical details or racial heritage information.
Non-identifying information can include:
- The place and date the adoptee was born.
- The age of the birth parents at the time of the adoptee’s birth.
- General physical descriptions or characteristics of the birth parents, like height, eye color, or hair color.
- The race or ethnicity of the birth parents.
- Medical information given by the birth parents at the time of adoptee’s birth.
- The educational background and general occupation of the birth parents at the time of the adoptee’s birth.
- The existence (but not names or other information) of birth siblings to the adoptee at the time of birth.
- The given reasons the birth parents placed the adoptee for adoption.
In contrast, securing the release of identifying information is much more difficult. In Oklahoma and most other states, identifying information can only be released if the birth parents previously consented to it or can be reached for consent. If they do not or are unable to consent, only a court order can unseal the records. This is a substantial barrier for many adoptees, but it’s not impossible to get around.
Identifying information can include:
- Current or past names, dates of birth, and addresses of birth parents or adoptees.
- Employment and occupational histories.
- Detailed medical information that contains identifying or specific information.
How to Unseal Adoption Records
If you are seeking information about your birth family, your adopted child, or a child you placed for adoption, you have a few options for getting it. That said, the type and amount of information you can receive will depend on many other factors.
If you are seeking non-identifying information for your birth family, your adopted child’s birth family or for a child you gave up through a closed adoption, the process is not too complicated. Oklahoma, like other states, allows families and adopted children access to non-identifying information regarding their birth and their biological relatives. Adoptees themselves are usually prohibited from accessing this information on their own until they turn 18.
However, if you are seeking identifying information about someone else, there is a multi-step process you must go through first.
The first step you’ll have to go through when seeking identifying information is trying to secure the consent of the other party or parties. In Oklahoma, this process is handled by mutual consent registries. These registries provide a method through which the parties involved in an adoption can indicate their consent to being identified.
The process for obtaining consent from both parties is handled by a social worker known as a confidential intermediary. These are trained professionals who seek consent from the different parties in an adoption without revealing any information about the other parties beforehand. In Oklahoma, the services of confidential intermediaries are available to:
- Adult adoptees
- Legal parents or guardians of a child of a deceased adoptee
- Adult descendant of deceased adoptees
- Birth parents
- Adult birth siblings or birth grandparents of an adult adoptee
- Siblings of deceased birth parents
When working with a confidential intermediary in order to access sealed adoption information, the first step is to see if any involved party has filed an affidavit of nondisclosure. This affidavit will be filed with the State Registrar of Vital Statistics in Oklahoma. If any party has filed an Affidavit of Nondisclosure, the confidential intermediary will not be able to search for or any identifying information without a court order.
In case an affidavit has been filed, the only way to access any identifying information is through the court system. However, to get a court order to release identifying information against the consent of another party, the person seeking information will need to demonstrate a compelling reason for obtaining it. Compelling reasons can include seeking medical or genetic information on their birth parents or siblings that may not have been present when they were born, or showing that the other parties are deceased or otherwise unable to provide consent.
If your biological relative does consent to sharing identifying information with you, your confidential intermediary can also help you set up an adoption reunion or give you contact information. However, adoption reunions can be emotional and difficult experiences. Make sure you learn what to expect before undertaking one.
If you’re seeking information or help on your birth family, adopted child or a child you placed for adoption, Deaconess Pregnancy and Adoption can help. Our trained staff provides counseling, reunion services and support for adoptees and adoptive and birth families. Call (405) 949-4200 today to learn more or visit our Facebook page for additional tips and advice.