Is Arizona an Open or Closed State for Adoption Records?

It can be a daunting task to try and find adoption records. There can be many reasons an adoptee may want to do so. They may be finding medical history, confirming family genealogy, wanting to be reunited with his or her birth family, or have a simple curiosity. Though adoptees have a right to search for this information, the birth parents also have a right to anonymity should they choose to do so. For the most part, Arizona adoption records are considered confidential. Adoption records are sealed unless the birth parents have already signed a written release of information. So, the short answer to the above question about Arizona adoption records is: it depends.

1. Is there a compelling reason to obtain adoption records?

Once an adoptee turns 18, he or she may try to obtain a court order for adoption records. Adoptees will do this if there is a compelling reason to do so such as medical history. According to Arizona Revised Statute, 8-121:

“A person may petition the court to obtain information relating to an adoption in the possession of the court, the division or any agency or attorney involved in the adoption. Non-identifying information may be released by the court pursuant to section 8-129. The court shall not release identifying information unless the person requesting the information has established a compelling need for disclosure of the information or consent has been obtained pursuant to subsection E of this section or from the birth parent pursuant to section 8-106. If a compelling need for disclosure of information is established, the court may decide what information, if any, should be disclosed and to whom and under what conditions disclosure may be made.”

2. Was this a Safe Haven adoption?

Arizona abides by the U.S. Safe Haven Laws. Safe Haven Laws state that a mother may leave a newborn at a certified, designated Safe Haven location, with a safe adult where they take care of the baby. This is done anonymously, without the threat of prosecution for abandonment as long as the child is 3 days old or younger and shows no signs of intentional abuse. The records are sealed since this can be done anonymously.

3. Was an adoption agreement signed?

In Arizona, an adoption agreement (also known as an agreement regarding communication (ARS 8-116.01) is a legal document prepared by attorneys and approved by the court. It stipulates how, when, and where visits are to take place. The agreement, between adoptive parents and the birth parents, can indicate contact type (birthday cards, telephone, face to face, etc.). It can also identify the frequency of contact and persons involved in contact. Adoption agreements protect all three parties involved, most of all, the child. If an adoption agreement was put into place, an adoptee may already have open access to some records. These records could be found through the birth family or through the adoptive family. More importantly, a relationship has already been established. Therefore, the adoptee can go right to the horse’s mouth: his or her birth family. Seeking further adoption records may not be necessary.

Finding and opening original adoption records is not that easy because of all the moving parts and all the people that are involved. It is hard, but not impossible. Adoptees may need to seek legal advice in some cases. At any rate, don’t go it alone. Adoptees need to surround themselves with good people and be patient. Eventually, the hard work and patience will bear fruit.