step one of an adoption search in New York State

Access to Adoption Records in New York State

Step One for New York Adoptees Looking to Find their Birth Families

Due to the current laws, access to adoption records in New York State is limited.  New York is a closed records state which means that governmental agencies, courts, or adoption agencies WILL NOT release copies of original birth certificates.  The remaining adoption records held by the state and any agency involved are also sealed and none of the parties involved; the adoptive parents, birth parents or the person adopted, are allowed to access the adoption records.

If you were adopted through foster care and the adoption was finalized, then the original birth certificate has also been sealed.    If you were in foster care, but never legally adopted, then you still have legal access to your original birth certificate.  Use the directions on the New York State Vital Records page to obtain a copy.

The Coalition, along with other stakeholders, is advocating in support of legislative efforts to grant adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates (OBC) in New York State. Updates on the current status of pending OBC legislation can be found in our Advocacy section.   However, until a new bill is passed into law, the state will not release any adoptee’s original birth certificate. While some people have attempted to petition the courts for access to adoption records, the greater majority of these requests, even made for medical emergencies, are denied.

However, there are portions of the adoption record that the state will divulge and some adoption reunion assistance is provided through the New York State Department of Health Adoption Information Registry.

How the New York State Department of Health Adoption Information Registry Works

The New York State Health Department maintains a Free Adoption Registry that can help an adoption search and even facilitate a reunion.  It is a mutual consent registry which means that both parties searching must be signed up for a match to be made.

Adoptees over the age of 18 can register at any time if they are both born and adopted in New York State. Birth Parents who have signed relinquishment consent at the time of adoption can also register at any time after the adoptee reaches age 18, however, if termination of parental rights was issued by the courts or judge, then that birth parent cannot register.  Biological siblings of the adoptee can also register once the adoptee is over 18.

If your original birth parent’s rights were terminated involuntarily via a termination of parental rights  (TPR) in court, then they are NOT allowed to register. As per the state: “A birth parent may not register unless…. the birth parent’s consent to the adoption or signature on an instrument of surrender was required at the time of the adoption.”  You can still try the registry especially if you are unsure of the stauts of a voluntary signature  vs. TPR, but remaining proactive and searching via other methods is recommended.

If all are registered and all have given their final consents, adoptees and their birth parents, or adoptees and their biological siblings can share their current names and addresses. If only one parent signed the surrender agreement or consented to the adoption, then the registration of the other parent is not needed for the exchange of identifying information between the adoptee and the registered birth parent.

Again, the Adoption Information Registry cannot search for missing registrants, release copies of original birth certificates or adoption records, provide non-identifying information or medical information to birth parents or respond to medical emergencies.

How to Register with the New York State Adoption Registry

To register, you must submit a signed and notarized application. If you are registering as the Adoptee or as a Biological Sibling of an Adoptee, you must include a photocopy of your current birth certificate including parents’ names. Down your application as a PDF document from the choices listed below:

Fill out the needed information, compile the documentation and send to:

  • Adoption Information Registry,
  • New York State Department of Health,
  • P.O. Box 2602,
  • Albany, NY 12220-2602

To ensure you get as much information as possible, make sure you check off all four of the first boxes. The same form is used to registry for contact and for the additional release of adoption records including your medical info and non-id.

Get Your New York Medical and Non Identifying Adoption Information

New York State will provide some adoption information from the adoption records to the adoptee upon registration even if a match is not made if requested:

  • Medical Information: Birth parents can give medical and psychological information to the Registry any time after the adoption. If the adoptee is already registered, the information will be shared with him or her. If the adoptee is not registered, the information will be kept until the adoptee registers. Medical information updates must be certified by a licensed health care provider. Any medical information already submitted by birth parents will be given shortly after an adoptee registers
  • Non-identifying Information: Also known as “non ID”; this information can include a birth parents general appearance, religion, ethnicity, race, education, occupation, if known. The name of the agency that arranged the adoption, and the facts and circumstances relating to the nature and cause of the adoption can also be convey, again, if available. It can take at least six months to obtain general non-identifying information. While there is no fee to register with the Adoption Registry, some adoption agencies charge up to $50 to provide non-identifying information to the Adoption Registry. The adoptee must pay any agency fee.

While the medical information is important because it can indicate if the adoptee could have a higher risk of some diseases, the non id can be very helpful in continuing on with the adoption search as it can provide some clues.

New York State’s Birth Parent Consent Program

In addition to also joining the registry, birth parents can register to release of their contact information (name and address) to the adoptee using this form DOH-4455: Adoption Information Registry Birth Parent Registration Form. This allows the adoptee access to their birth parent’s identifying contact information after they register with the Adoption Information Registry.

Additional Contact Information for the New York State Adoption Registry

The registry’s contact phone number can repeat the directions as well if you call: 518-474-9600.  We have been able to find additional contact information should you really need to speak to a human being there. 

Guy Warner, Director
New York State Department of Health
Vital Records Section
800 North Pearl Street, Room 216
Menands, NY 12204
Phone: (518) 474-5245
Fax: (518) 474-9168
Email: vrro@health.state.ny.us or vr@health.state.ny.us  

The Coalition is not a government agency, does not provide direct search services, and is unable to assist you with accessing information in closed adoption records.  We ARE NOT SEARCHERS, however, we can point you in the right direction. Please see the Guide to Finding Your Birth Parents if Born and Adopted in New York State

Page updated  October 2016. All New York State Information can be found at http://www.health.ny.gov/vital_records/adoption.htm

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