Domestic Adoption and Foster Care

Today many adoptive and foster families of US children may have contact with, or at least information about, their child’s birth family. The nature of family dynamics may complicate urgent queries about a child’s biological siblings and/or testing of biological parents. If the child was adopted through a state or private agency, parents can contact the agency to ask for assistance if they are not in contact with the birth family themselves, and /or if they desire counseling about the subject.   In cases where a child was placed privately, this may be more difficult.  If the child was informally placed, relatives, former neighbors, teachers, and community members may be able to provide some information.

Washington does not have a centralized registry of adoptions finalized in the state. Families (or adopted persons over the age of 21) need to request a court order be issued in the county where the adoption took place in order to gain access to the confidential records. Once the court order issued, the process is handled by a court-appointed confidential intermediary, and fees are usually involved. Biological parents and adopted persons also have the right to request in writing that the court not release their personal information. The adoption webpage of the Children’s Administration of the WA Dept. of Social and Health Services contains links to the relevant laws and instructions on how to request that sealed adoption records be opened. Since each of the 50 states and US territories has its own adoption laws, parents will need to learn about the rules and procedures in the state from which their child was placed.

Some families choose to seek information and possible contacts through Internet-based bulletin boards and related services. There are also a number of local national, and international organizations involved in adoption search and support services. Contact information for these groups is also included in the resource listings.