In United States, after an adoption is finalized, most states require that the court seal all court records and other documents related to the adoption. While these laws serve to protect the identity of innocent parties and those who wish to remain anonymous, they also present a hurdle for members of an adoption party who wish to find out information about an adoption proceeding they were involved in.
In an effort to protect information while also allowing access to information for parties who wish to find, and be found, many states have enacted laws which allow an individual, called a Confidential Intermediary (CI), to act as a facilitator for parties involved in an adoption (birth parent, adoptee, and adoptive parents). The CI is appointed by the court, granted access to the sealed adoption record, and uses this access to relay information between two parties.
Just as the adoption laws vary from state to state, so do the laws and requirements for Confidential Intermediaries. In general, CI’s must be a resident of the state they are serving, and receive special training including searching and counseling. The states which have CI programs include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
While some states only allow the parent, adoptee, and adoptive parents to enlist the help of a CI, other states have expanded their adoption laws to also include paternal and maternal biological grandparents, and biological siblings (over 18 years old).
CI programs have been met with both praise, and rejection. Many court appointed CIs boast high reunion ratings. For example, in Illinois, CI’s have located over 90% of sought family members. However, being required to use a trained and court appointed CI, can have its drawbacks. Many parties resent the fact that they are never able to view their adoption records, and they only receive the information relayed by their CI. Also, the CI’s services do not come cheaply. The fee can range anywhere from $125 – $600, and if your family member is not located, the fee will not be refunded. In addition to the initial fee, you may also be required to pay an administrative fee, along with all expenses related to the CI’s search, including long distance telephone calls, airfare, hotel, etc.
If you are a member of an adoption party interested in enlisting the services of a CI, it is important to remember that each state has their own requirements for accessing adoption records through CI’s. In some states, such as Illinois, a member of the adoption party must first register with a state run registry, thereby allowing your contact information to be available for viewing by other members of the adoption party. Illinois requires that parties must meet this requirement before being granted a CI by the court. Yet, other states, such as Colorado, bypass this requirement and merely require the requesting party to petition the court for the appointment of a CI.
You can find out more information about the specifics of the CI program in your state, by visiting your State’s Court website. CourtReference.com has a complete list and links to State courts which you can use to locate more information.