Whether you are a searching b-parent or searching adoptee, you should do your best to make sure that no one in between you and who you are seeking is worried about giving out your information. It is so ingrained in people to say "no" to adoptees and other seekers that secret-keepers get paranoid! They are scared you will come back and sue them for releasing your info to someone else. Here is a way to try to absolve them of that concern.
Agencies, county courts and hospitals vary in their policies or personal feeling toward adoption and search. Having a "Waiver of Confidentiality" in your file is unfortunately no guarantee some bureaucrat or social worker won't ignore your wishes if your sought-after one comes looking. There are cases of some agencies that never let the other party know they were being sought- recently on our list, an adoptee found out that both she and her b-mom had been in touch with the agency several times, and both were told that the one was not looking for the other. In general though, we are finding many agencies and most courts accept and honor them, and I'd like to think most of the records folks are decent and forthright- probably more than a few would like to help, so you should help them do so.
If you are searching, or open to being found, you should put a letter rescinding any implied or overt confidentiality in your file with the agency or lawyer who handled the adoption. It doesn't need to be notarized, but do so so any question of who submitted the paperwork is gone and the seal lends an impressive aura to the document.
[Do NOT use this waiver letter to register with the Bureau of Vital records. They require that you complete their own form and have it notarized. It's then filed with the adoptee's amended birth certificate at the Department of Vital Records in New Castle. More info on the two state registries is here.]
Many agencies and county courts have a waiver in a made-up form for you to sign. If you want family members OTHER than the adoptee or birthparent to gain acces to your contact info, ask to alter their form to reflect this, Many adoptees are open to meeting or exchaning information with siblings or other birthfamily members, and birthparents might be glad to connect with adoptive parents or others as well. The call is yours- just make sure what you sign reflects this.
The sample letter below is written from a birthmother's viewpoint, but you can easily switch it a bit if you are an adoptee. You might want include an okay to release info to your half or full siblings as well.
FILE THIS LETTER BELOW WITH
•YOUR HOSPITAL RECORDS DEPT.
•YOUR COUNTY COURT OF FINALIZATION (if you are not sure what this is, read below)
•YOUR COUNTY CHILDREN AND YOUTH SERVICES DEPT. IF YOUR ADOPTION OR RELINQUISHMENT WENT "THROUGH THE COUNTY"
•ANYWHERE SOMEONE COULD COME LOOKING FOR YOU
WAIVER OF CONFIDENTIALITY
NO CONFIDENTIALITY NEEDED (big letters across the top)
This Waiver of Confidentiality Applies to the Following:
Name: Present Name: Relationship to Relinquished Child:
Concerning: Date of Birth: Hospital:
Dear Ms./Mr. XXXXXX: (or, To Whom it May Concern:)
Please place this letter in both the adoption file of the above-mentioned relinquished child and mine, and use it as authorization to waive the confidentiality thay may have been offered me. This includes the release of any and all agency records, hospital records, doctor records, court records, and records surrounding the birth and relinquishment, including "identifying information" about me and how I can be reached.
Further, upon request from the relinquished child or the adoptive parents, I request that a photocopy of this letter be sent or given to him/them and recognize this letter to be my consent and authorization thereto. I request notification from you should a request be made for this information by the birth child or the adoptive parents.
Please send a letter informing me of your agency's intent to recognize this waiver and, if I am refused, please cite the state law that prohibits such recognition.
Very truly yours,
You may also wish to alter the wording above to apply to your home for unwed mothers, your hospital, and your attending physician so those records are covered too. They are all common places for people to search and may provide a link. The medical people may have no clue, but it can't hurt to try and explain it.
I would suggest you establish exactly WHO should get this letter before sending, and then following up with them to ensure receipt- maybe sending it return receipt requested. I would even ask specifically, "So this is in my file and ____'s file, right?" so both bases are covered.
And obviously, if you move you need to update this letter with all the parties involved.
COUNTY OF FINALIZATION: If you are a birthparent, you are not likely to know this, and some adoptees won't know this either. The adoption is finalized in the county court where the ADOPTIVE PARENTS GET THE CHILD. It is usually the county they are living in at the time of adoption, but once in a while it is in another county- like the one the agency is in. You should be able to get this county from your agency/attorney. If you can't, write to the Bureau of Vital Stats in New Castle. In your letter, state as much as you can about place, hospital, date, time, names you have then and now. Then state, "I would like to file a waiver of confidentiality in the county court of finalization, so please advise me what county this adoption was finalized in." Then be prepared to wait a while. The Bureau is not noted for swiftness, and we have seen people wait as long as 3 months for an answer, but they DID get one.
PENNSYLVANIA ADOPTION MAIN SEARCH MENU PAGE
PAFind EMAIL LIST - The FREE e-mail list of PA searchers helping one another.
STATE REGISTRIES AND POLITICS - Why neither are helping PA searchers much.
RELINQUISHMENT PAPERS - Like to see an example of PA relinquishment papers?
YOUR OLD AGENCY - Backtrack here for possible help in search.
COUNTY OF FINALIZATION - Some county specific info. You need to find this out and it may not be where you think.
THE DECREE - Adoptee is adopted in the county of finalization, records now sealed. Want to see a decree?
FORMAL PETITION - Learn how some counties make it a bit harder.
NON-ID - Learn what it is, and how to ask for it.
PA ADOPTION LAW - the easy version or the actual wording.
ADOPTION GROUPS - known in PA that handle search, support, legisilation or all three.
SEARCH BASICS - In addition to this whole menu, here's a list of ways to search and try to be found.
PHONE CALL AND LETTER IDEAS - When you are close to making that respectful first contact.
SEARCH SUCKS! I NEED A *@$#! BREAK! - Take one, pal.
HIRING A SEARCHER OR PI? - Caveat emptor! Read some parameters and cautions.
THE UNIFORM ADOPTION ACT or UAA - Learn more about "The Evil Act". Coming to PA or your state?
CITY PAPER - Coverage of adoption search, law and the UAA in PA.
PERSONAL ESSAY - on adoption with info for all sides of the triad.
REGISTRIES AND GENERAL (NON-PA) ADOPTION STUFF - links to varied good places.