St. Mary's Law Journal


Since the adoption process affects the lives of numerous people, courts must reach a decision which benefits all parties involved in the process. Many adoptees retain an emotional desire, or a psychological need, to ascertain the identity of their birth parents. This desire or need is in direct conflict with state statutes mandating adoption information remain sealed and confidential. In recent years, courts across the country have considered several cases challenging the validity of confidentiality statutes on constitutional grounds. Primarily, adoptees have asserted confidentiality statutes deny them a fundamental right to privacy, a right to receive information, and a right to equal protection of the laws. However, courts have uniformly rejected adoptees’ constitutional challenges to the validity of confidentiality statutes. Although courts have routinely rejected challenges to the confidentiality statutes, courts have also recognized adoption information affects the lives of adoptees. Courts must reach a decision which also benefits the adoptee and the birth parents. Courts should allow inquiring adoptees automatic access to all nonidentifying information within the records of the court and the placing agency. Securing this information may satisfy the need of the adoptee for information. Additionally, the release of this type of information does not violate any privacy right of the birth parent since it would not reveal their identity. For those adoptees seeking to ascertain the identity of their birth parents, the legislature should fashion options which assist adoptees in ascertaining the identity of their parents. One such option would be a voluntary adoption registry system to assist adoptees and birth parents in locating each other if both parties so desire. However, in situations where the adoptee must resort to judicial action, courts should engage in a balancing system in which the privacy interests of the birth parents predominate.


St. Mary's University School of Law

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