Minnesota law regarding original birth records for adult adoptees is changing effective July 1, 2024. The new law allows adult adoptees access to original birth records and affidavits of nondisclosure signed by birth parents will become invalid.
Questions and Answers
What is your reaction to this new legislation?
Our adoption organizations are strong advocates for open adoption because we believe that openness enhances child well-being and is generally in the best interests of all parties. We believe that information about a child’s adoption should be part of the child’s upbringing and knowledge base. This has been part of our philosophy since the early 1980s.
Overall, Children’s Home and LSS support adult adoptees gaining access to their original birth record. We recognize this change in the law may be difficult for some birth parents who believed their identity would remain confidential. Birth parents that wish to share their preference for contact are urged to obtain, complete, and file a contact preference form with the Minnesota Department of Health when those become available.
We are concerned about the provisions that expire on an affidavit of nondisclosure a birth parent filed that has been afforded by the law since 1977. While most birth parents are open to their identity being disclosed, a very small percentage of birth parents do not want their identity disclosed and used protections provided in current law. Our position is that those affidavits of nondisclosure should be honored, but they will now expire on June 30, 2024.
What information is available on an original birth record?
Original birth records include the baby’s name, date and place of birth, sex/gender of the baby, and parent information.
This legislative change does not release child placing agencies’ adoption records that contain home studies and/or reports from social workers.
What services may adult adoptees access?
Adult adoptees will be able to access their original birth through the Minnesota Department of Health.
Adult adoptees, birthparents, and adoptive parents may contact the child placing agency to request available non-identifying information, medical information, search, or openness support. Non-identifying information will provide context about why a child was placed and the circumstances at the time.
What does this new legislation mean for birth parents and adult adoptees?
All adult adoptees will have the same access to their birth records as the general population.
Birth parents who signed an affidavit of nondisclosure,who believed they were protected and that their identifying information would not be disclosed under the protection of law will no longer have those protections, as of July 1, 2024.
How many birth parents today will be affected by this legislation?
We don’t know the number of affidavits of non-disclosure on file with the Minnesota Department of Health. Almost all adoptions we do today are open adoptions.
What are Open Adoptions?
Some people may confuse open records and open adoption.
Open Records refers to the Original Birth Record becoming available to adoptees when they reach the age of 18.
Open adoption refers to birth parents and adoptive parents agreeing to develop a relationship that goes beyond the placement of the child; this relationship is ongoing and involves varying degrees of direct contact. With open adoption, children benefit from knowing their biological heritage and culture, identity, genetic and health information, and characteristics or traits they might share with their birth family. They also have the benefit of having more people in their lives that love and care about them.
Why do/did birth parents sign affidavits of nondisclosure?
At one time, there was a culture of shame and stigma surrounding pregnancy outside of marriage. In the past, many young birth parents left their communities to have their babies elsewhere and never shared the news publicly with anyone. Today, some birth parents may fear that their lives are in danger or that they may be shunned from their families and community.
What reaction have you received about this new legislation?
We needed to modernize many aspects of the law. We wish there could have been some provisions to address birth parents who wish not to have contact and honor the affidavits of non-disclosures that have been filed. We offered input about this legislation; some, but not all, was taken.
Are you hearing from birth parents who signed an affidavit of nondisclosure, or adult adoptees wondering how to go about a search?
We want to provide information and be supportive to all parties involved and be as helpful as possible.
As we are contacted by birth parents, we will be sure to direct them to the birth parent contact preference forms available through the Minnesota Department of Health, Vital Records. They can document whether they want contact or not, and how they would prefer to be contacted – by mail or telephone, for example. And if they do not want to be contacted, they can specify their reasons should they choose to share this information.
Adult adoptees adults may be interested in learning more about the circumstance and the time of their adoption or want trained staff to conduct a birth parent search on their behalf.
We can certainly consult about how we may support someone through a complicated openness process that can be full of emotions, and a variety of outcomes.
Is there a cost to search?
Yes, there are fees for the services that we offer at Children’s Home and LSS. We offer Adoption Support Fund grants to eliminate fee barriers. Please contact us to learn more about what service fits your needs, and their associated fees, and/or to request a grant application.
What are your organizations doing to let people know about this change in adoption?
We believe it will be important to create more awareness about this new legislation and the potential impacts on all those involved. We will be working with the appropriate state agencies to make information, support, and guidance available.
How has DNA affected adult adoptees and their potential interest in contacting their birth parents?
DNA has opened a whole new world and as a result, most birth parents can already be found by the adopted person. The birth parent does not need to have participated in submitting DNA to be found if a genetic relative has done so. This information may help an adoptee find their genetic family, but it does not always get to the exact birth parent. This can result in unanticipated inquiries made to other birth family members, which can raise questions or concerns.
Some free, helpful resources to consider include:
- CH/LSS DNA Testing and Adoption: What You Need to Know (available as an on-demand webinar)
- CH/LSS Search and Reunion Support Group (meets Sept-May, online, or in-person)
- The Rise of DNA Testing & Its Impact on Adoption Search & Reunion (article from ChildWelfare.gov)
- Search and Reunion in Domestic and International Adoption Webinar (YouTube)
- How Do I Contact My Birth Parent or Sibling? (article from Legacy Tree Genealogists)
- How Do I Start Searching for My Birth Parents? (article from Adoption.org)
What guidance is available to help adult adoptees and birth parents navigate a search and contact process?
We encourage anyone involved in the adoption constellation to contact their child-placing agency, county, or private organizations for support and assistance.
Do birth parents have a right to be angry with your organizations that told them their identities would remain confidential?
We believe that affidavits of non-disclosure signed by birth parents should be honored. For decades we followed the legal requirements in Minnesota that allowed for the affidavits of non-disclosure and consents of disclosure, and we counseled birth parents as to their rights. Over the years we have worked to introduce legislation and amendments that maintained the birth parent confidentiality.
The law has now changed and birth parents will no longer have the option to remain anonymous. We will be obligated to follow this change in legislation when it takes effect on July 1, 2024. We believe it will be important to create awareness about this change and the potential impacts on all those involved and will work with the state agencies to make information, support, and guidance available.