Navigating the New Adoptee Rights Law
There has been a bit of confusion regarding the new adoptee right’s law in Arkansas that became effective August 1, 2018. Act 519 became law in March 2017 giving adoptees the ability to request their files if they are at least 21 years of age starting August 1, 2018. Many people believe that adult adoptees (those that have been adopted) have an unrestricted right to obtain their own original birth certificates, but the new law does not give adoptees unrestricted rights. What the new law does do is significantly change how an adult adoptee may request and obtain an original birth certificate. An adoptee is now able to request his or her “adoption file”. This file is an Arkansas Department of Health file containing the adoptee’s original birth certificate and the adoption decree. File inclusions can vary depending on the adoption.
What does the new law do? As I mentioned above, adoptees that are at least 21 may request their adoption file from the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH). However, the file is subject to redactions by birth parents. Forms are now available online for birth parents to edit their information in an adoption file. This means they may remove/edit their names as well as update their family history information, contact preference, and/or medical information. Birth parents can also request to be contacted by the adopted child directly, through a third party or not at all, although the ADH cannot guarantee that request will be followed. The request costs $100. Redaction forms may be found online at www.healthy.arkansas.gov or by contacting
To submit a redaction request, a birth parent must show proof of identity, submit a notarized form and update their genetic or social history. A form cannot be submitted by one birth parent for another.
Written requests for adoption files will be accepted by adoptees or, upon their death, a surviving spouse or a guardian of their child. That request must be notarized and include proof of their identity. There is a $100 fee to process an application for adoption files.
New subsections also go along with the new law.
- 9-9-801. Definitions – Clearly defines relevant terms, i.e., adoption file, genetic and social history, and requester.
- 9-9-802. Birth parent redaction request and contact preference forms – Details that the ADH will have a form available on its website to be used by the birth parent to have his or her name redacted, whether or not a requester may contact the birth parent and the preferred manner. The forms must be made available to the public in hard copy format. This section also covers what the form should cover the procedures and requirements for birth parents to have the form. It also states that once the form has met all requirements and has been accepted by ADH that the former form on file be removed. Note: Only the former forms hard copy will be destroyed, an electronic copy will be kept.
- 9-9-803. Access to adoption file – Once all requirements are met by the requester, the ADH will mail via certified mail the adoption file to the requestor. The file will redact the birth parent’s name and any other information if the proper forms under this act were filed.
- 9-9-804. Immunity – This section grants immunity to an officer or employee of the Arkansas Department of Health that releases information contained in an option file or provides a copy of an adoption file to a requester. He or she will not be criminally or civilly liable to any person for injury, death or loss arising from the release of the information.
- 20-18-305(1) [New Subdivision B] – A requester is as defined in 9-9-801 is authorized to obtain a certified copy of adoptee’s original birth certificate.
Adoption and any information pertaining to an adoption are sensitive matters to all involved. Kevin Hickey Law Partners can help you navigate through the new law and help you from beginning to end. We can assist in the initial filings and be with you all the way through the entire process whether you are the adoptee or a birth parent. Contact us today.