What happens to the adoption records?

Once a formal adoption has been finalized, the records of the adoption become sealed to maintain anonymity of the natural and adoptive parents. Access is only by court order and is carefully restricted. Many states are relaxing procedures for opening records for "good cause," say, for example, obtaining medical data.

Some states now allow adults, who were adopted during their minority, to request that the natural parents be contacted by a third party, in order to determine whether they would consent to allow their natural child to re-establish contact (this is called mutual consent between the child and the natural parent before opening the record to the child).