50 States. 1 Movement. Restore Adoptee Rights!

When a person is adopted, his/her original birth certificate (OBC) becomes sealed and a new, “amended” birth certificate is issued. The amended birth certificate alters essential facts of the adopted person’s birth. In most states today, the OBC continues to be sealed and adopted people are denied unrestricted access even when they reach adulthood. This is a human rights violation that creates inequality for an entire group of people. Everyone should have the right to know the truth of his or her birth. It is essential that we move forward together in one united effort to restore adoptee rights in all 50 states.


  • No Access: There is currently no specific mechanism for adopted people to apply for and receive a copy of their original birth certificate outside of the possibility of obtaining a court order.
  • Partial Access with Restrictions: Adopted people born and adopted during a certain time frame may apply for a copy of their original birth certificate. However, information may be redacted or release may be denied.
  • Partial Access: Adopted people born and adopted during a certain time frame may apply for and receive a copy of their original birth certificate.
  • Access with Restrictions: Adopted people may apply for a copy of their original birth certificate. However, certain restrictions may apply, such as identifying information being redacted or a birth parent being able to deny release.
  • Access: Adopted people may apply for and receive a copy of their original birth certificate just like non-adopted people.

Sources: http://www.americanadoptioncongress.org/state.php


Advocating for equality is never an easy task. It requires organization, commitment and passion. It also requires unity. When individuals come together as one over a shared belief in human rights, the power generated can be immense. There are countless examples in history where justice and equality prevailed due to tenacious advocates who were not daunted by the difficulty that often is a part of this work. In adoption, reformists first began organizing themselves in the 1970s, largely led by adopted people and birth parents, and joined over time by other members of the extended family of adoption, professionals and allies. The Adoption Reform Movement predominantly focused on restoring to adopted people the fundamental right to hold a copy of their own original birth certificate. Although many states have updated their laws to allow an adopted person’s access to this vital record, too many more continue to deny adopted people full access to their OBC.

A birth certificate has long since been considered a vital document. It holds both practical and personal meaning, and when we deny any person the right to access this record, there are serious practical and personal consequences. A lack of accurate knowledge surrounding genetic history leaves people at a serious disadvantage medically. People may not know their true ethnicity. Moreover, this human rights violation denies adopted people the right to construct a complete identity. It leaves adopted people to constantly play catch up as they navigate the story of their lives without the undeniable benefit of a first chapter. The impact of this extends beyond the adopted person to the generations that will come after them as well.

The tangible negative consequences of denying adopted people their OBC are numerous and sobering. Yet the most severe outcome rests in the fact that a fundamental human right is being denied to an entire group of people. There is no other circumstance in which we forbid people the right to know the truth of their origins, except for those who were adopted after they were born.

Restoring this right to adopted people gives them the same rights as their non-adopted peers — the right to know all the parts that make them who they are. It also allows all members of the extended family of adoption to live their truth in a way that is transparent and authentic. Laws that continue to seal OBC’s in perpetuity reflect antiquated ideas that forced all members of the extended family of adoption to live in secrecy and shame. Undoing these laws is one critical way we can work to change perceptions and ensure that all members of the adoption community can live with the honesty and openness necessary for any family to truly thrive.

We must now renew our focus as a united community in supporting advocates throughout the country as they strive to restore adoptee rights. This requires us to collaborate in ensuring the tools necessary to create and sustain active and robust campaigns for OBC access.

As a leader in adoption research, education and advocacy since 1996, DAI has ample experience in providing resources and education in a comprehensive, cohesive and approachable manner to all in the extended family of adoption including professionals and policymakers. We are driven now to extend our work in the area of OBC access via our new program — OBC 2020. The overarching goal is to create an organized advocacy campaign to empower needed change and ensure that all states without access have an active and robust OBC access campaign in place by 2020. DAI will work with our national network of professionals, academics, social workers and members of the foster care and adoption community to:

  • Create national momentum to improve state-level outcomes.
  • Augment existing reform efforts to support the community.
  • Create an educational platform that reframes this issue as a matter of human rights.
  • Activate strategic partnerships with influential human rights, advocacy and family-focused organizations.
  • Create an advisory board of experts on advocacy and equality.

Learn more about the key goals of OBC 2020 and take our survey, which will help us as we create a centralized online hub which will serve as the touchstone of the OBC 2020 campaign. The online hub will act as a resource for a states-rights issue that makes the critical connection to a national movement. The hub, which will be launched in phases, will ultimately contain an interactive OBC map, fundraising functionality, virtual meeting space, and provide the latest national news, social conversations, research and resources for professionals, advocates and the adoption community.

The path to justice is never easy and rarely smooth; yet when we unite our efforts and work in collaboration towards our shared goals, the journey will culminate in justice and equality. We must come together in unity to ensures all adopted people have access to their past in order to move forward into a clearer and brighter future. We hope you will join us in our work.

50 States.

One Movement.

Restore Adoptee Rights!

Take Our OBC 2020 Survey Learn More About OBC 2020 Subscribe To Our OBC 2020 Email Updates

One Comment on “50 States. 1 Movement. Restore Adoptee Rights!

  1. I am an adopted person (adult) I have donated to the Donaldson Adoption Institute in 2017, subscribed to your newsletter for updates on OBC2020, took the survey, clicked on the link to learn more about reforming adoption. I am 100 percent on board with this initiative and would love to get more involved with this cause that has so much to do with me and other like me. Who want to champion their past for bright present and future.

    Thank you for all you do,
    Nichole Melka

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