When a child is adopted, it’s usually considered a closed adoption. In closed adoptions, all records pertaining to the child before being adopted are sealed, including record of the biological parents, the child’s original birth certificate, and more. This is done to protect the privacy of the adopted child and the biological parents and to prevent disruption to the new family created by the adoption. But sometimes, it becomes necessary to reveal the information contained in sealed adoption records – whether for purposes of reuniting adoptees with their biological parents or, more commonly, to learn about family medical history and the bearing it could have on an adoptee’s current and future health.
Our family health history is an important part of our own personal health outlook. Having a parent or sibling who develops heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or a number of other genetically-influenced diseases automatically makes us more susceptible to those same conditions. Knowing this information ahead of time makes prevention possible because an adopted person can then make the necessary lifestyle choices and schedule the preventative screenings to catch a disease early.
Besides the advantage that knowing your family medical history provides when it comes to prevention, another difficulty of not knowing arises when an adopted person comes down with a serious illness that doctors can’t easily identify. Whether it’s a rare condition or something that’s just simply difficult to detect, sometimes knowing that a certain condition runs in the family can be all doctors need to confidently make a diagnosis and get a patient on a treatment plan.
Here are the steps for requesting that your adoption records be unsealed:
- Contact the county clerk in the county where you were adopted and ask about the process for filing a petition to unseal your adoption records.
- Fill out the petition, stating your reason for requesting the information, then return it to the county clerk who will arrange a court date.
- At your court hearing, you’ll be asked to tell the judge your reason for requesting that the records be unsealed. Medical reasons are the most commonly granted requests. You may consult an adoption attorney for a better chance at having your petition granted by the judge.
- If your biological parents are still living, you’ll have to neogitate the unsealing of the records with them, or through an intermediary. Coming to a mutual agreement will enable the records to be unsealed. If your biological parents are deceased, it’s more likely that your records will be unsealed.
Did you find out about a hereditary health issue by having your adoption records unsealed? Share with us below.
Sources: livestrong.com, wikipedia.org, and adoption.org