Adoption – Searching for the Birth Parents
All Court records in Pennsylvania concerning adoptions are impounded, by statute, and therefore they are not available to the public. Under certain circumstances, the Court may release some of the information in an adoption file, however, provided that the information would not endanger the anonymity of the birth parents.
Such non identifying information typically requested, and provided by the Court, concerning the birth parents includes: nationality, religion, marital status, age, and (sometimes most importantly) the birth parents’ medical histories. Each agency has its own policy concerning the fees to be charged for the release of non identifying information.
The adoptee (if over 18), the adoptive parents, or legal guardian, may petition the Court for the jurisdiction where the adoption proceeding occurred, which is where the permanent records relating to the adoption will have been impounded.
In some cases, it may also be possible for the adoptee to learn the identity of the birth parents and to search for them. In such cases, the Court will review the Petition requesting such information, and then appoint an agent to search for and locate the birth parents. The Court, by law, must appoint either the County’s Children and Youth Services Agency or a private agency which provides qualified adoption services. The agent will use his or her best efforts to locate the birth parents, and then conveys the reason for the Adoptee’s desire to contact each of them. It must be kept in mind that given the passage of time in a lot of cases, it may be impossible to find the current location of birth parents.
Court approved searches for birth parents normally take 6 months to 1 year to complete. Completion of a search may mean that either both birth parents were located, or it may mean the agent ran into a dead end.
It is very important to remember that if a birth parent refuses to accept the offer to communicate with either the agent or the adopted person, the agent’s search stops. The Court will not order that a reunion occur if a birth parent has not consented.