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May 17 2019

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Adult adoptees in Arkansas do not have an unrestricted right to obtain their own original birth certificates. A new law, effective August 1, 2018, does not change this. Birthparents now have the option to request and obtain redaction of their information.

Identifying information in Arkansas may also be pursued through the use of an agency or state-operated mutual consent registry, which requires mandatory counseling before a search or match may be made.

About the New Law

Arkansas’ new law significantly changes how an adult adoptee may request and obtain an original birth certificate. It allows an adoptee who is at least 21 years of age to request his or her “adoption file,” which is defined to mean a Department of Health file containing the adoptee’s OBC and the adoption decree. A request, however, costs $100 and is subject to redactions by birthparents, who may file redaction requests at any time. A birth parent may also file a separate contact preference form at any time. Forms and information about the new law are now available on the Arkansas Department of Health website. A flowchart and answers to basic questions are also available here, while specific provisions of the new law are listed below.

Relevant Arkansas Law: Original Birth Certificate

Section 20-18-406
a) The State Registrar of Vital Records shall establish a new certificate of birth for a person born in this state when he or she receives the following:

(1) A certificate of adoption as provided in § 9-9-219, or a certificate of adoption prepared and filed in accordance with the laws of another state or foreign country, or a certified copy of the decree of adoption, together with the information necessary to identify the original certificate of birth and to establish a new certificate of birth. However, a new certificate of birth shall not be established if so requested by the court decreeing the adoption, the adoptive parents, or the adopted person; or

(2) A request that a new certificate be established and any evidence, as required by regulation, proving that the person has been legitimated, or that a court of competent jurisdiction has determined the paternity of the person or that both parents have acknowledged the paternity of the person and request that the surname be changed from that shown on the original certificate.

(b) When a new certificate of birth is established, the actual city or county, or both, and date of birth shall be shown. The new certificate shall be substituted for the original certificate of birth. Thereafter, the original certificate and the evidence of adoption, paternity determination, or legitimation shall not be subject to inspection except upon order of an Arkansas court of competent jurisdiction or as provided by rule or under § 9-9-803.

(c) Upon receipt of a report of an amended certificate of adoption, the certificate of birth shall be amended as provided by regulation.

(d) Upon receipt of a report of annulment of adoption, the original certificate of birth shall be restored to its place in the files, and the new certificate and evidence shall not be subject to inspection except upon order of a court of competent jurisdiction or as provided by regulation.

(e) Upon written request of both parents and receipt of a sworn acknowledgment of paternity signed by both parents of a child born out of wedlock, the state registrar shall reflect paternity on the certificate of birth in the manner prescribed by regulation if paternity is not already shown on the certificate of birth.

(f) (1) Upon request, the state registrar shall prepare and register an Arkansas certificate of birth for a person born in a foreign country, who is not a citizen of the United States, and for whom a final order of adoption has been entered in a court of competent jurisdiction in Arkansas when he or she receives the following:

(A) A certificate of adoption as provided in § 9-9-219;
(B) Proof of the date and place of the adopted child’s birth; and
(C) A request by the court decreeing the adoption, the adoptive parents, or the adopted person if eighteen (18) years of age or older.

(2) After preparation of the birth certificate in the new name of the adopted person, the state registrar shall seal and file the certificate of adoption. This certificate shall not be subject to inspection except upon order of a court of competent jurisdiction or as provided by regulation or as otherwise provided by state law.

(3) The birth certificate shall show the actual foreign country of birth and shall state that the certificate is not evidence of United States citizenship for the child for whom it is issued.

(g) If no certificate of birth is on file for the person for whom a new birth certificate is to be established under this section and the date and place of birth have not been determined in the adoption or paternity proceedings, a delayed certificate of birth shall be filed with the state registrar as provided in § 20-18-402 or § 20-18-403 before a new certificate of birth is established. The new certificate of birth shall be prepared on the delayed birth certificate form.

(h) When a new certificate of birth is established by the state registrar, all copies of the original certificate of birth in the custody of any other custodian of vital records in this state shall be sealed from inspection or forwarded to the state registrar as he or she shall direct.

New legislation passed by the Arkansas general assembly and signed into law by the Arkansas governor added the following new subsections to Arkansas adoption law. The law became fully effective on August 1, 2018.

9-9-801. Definitions
As used in this subchapter:
(1) “Adoption file” means a file maintained by the Department of Health that contains an original birth certificate and adoption decree of an adoptee;

(2) “Genetic and social history” has the same meaning as provided under § 9-9-501; and

(3) “Requester” means a person twenty-one (21) years of age or older who requests an adoption file under § 9-9-803 and is:

(A) The adoptee to whom the adoption file requested pertains; or
(B) The child, surviving spouse, or guardian of any child of a deceased adoptee to whom the adoption file requested pertains.

9-9-802. Birth parent redaction request and contact preference forms
(a)(1)(A) The Department of Health shall create and make available on its website:

(i) A form that a birth parent may use to have his or her name redacted from the copy of an adoption file that a requester receives under § 9-9-803; and
(ii) A form that a birth parent may use to specify if a requester may contact the birth parent and the preferred manner by which a requester may contact the birth parent.

(B) The department shall make hard copies of the forms required under subdivision (a)(1) of this section available to the public.

(2) The form required under subdivision (a)(1)(A)(i) of this section shall include the following:

(A) Information about the procedures and requirements for a birth parent to have the form:

(i) Placed in the adoption file of the birth parent’s offspring so that the birth parent’s name is redacted from the copy of the adoption file that a requester receives under section § 9-9-803; and
(ii) Removed from the adoption file of the birth parent’s offspring so that the birth parent’s name is included in the copy of the adoption file that a requester receives under section § 9-9-803;

(B) The information needed by the department to identify the adoption file of the adoptee named on a form submitted under subdivisions (a)(2)(A)(i) and (ii) of this section;

(C) An attestation by the birth parent that he or she is the birth parent of the adoptee named on the form submitted under subdivisions (a)(2)(A)(i) and (ii) of this section; and

(D) Any other information required by the department.

(3) The form required under subdivision (a)(1)(A)(ii) of this section shall include the following:

(A) Information about the procedures and requirements for a birth parent to have the form:

(i) Placed in the adoption file of the birth parent’s offspring; and
(ii) Removed from the adoption file of the birth parent’s offspring and replaced with an updated form;

(B) A section in which a birth parent may indicate whether a requester may:

(i) Directly contact the birth parent;
(ii) Contact the birth parent through an intermediary specified by the birth parent; or
(iii) Not contact the birth parent directly or through an intermediary;

(C) The information needed by the department to identify the adoption file of the adoptee named on the form submitted under subdivisions (a)(3)(A)(i) and (ii) of this section;

(D) Notification that a form submitted under subdivisions (a)(3)(A)(i) and (ii) of this section is advisory and unenforceable;

(E) An attestation by the birth parent that he or she is the birth parent of the adoptee named on a form submitted under subdivisions (a)(3)(A)(i) and (ii) of this section; and

(F) Any other information required by the department.

(b) The department shall accept a form submitted under this section if:

(1) The form is notarized;

(2) The birth parent submits satisfactory proof of his or her identity as determined by the rules of the department;

(3)(A) The birth parent completes, corrects, or expands his or her genetic or social history.

(B) A completed, corrected, or expanded genetic or social history under subdivision (b)(3)(A) of this section is required if the birth parent’s genetic or social history:

(i) Was not previously compiled; or
(ii) Was compiled but needs to be corrected or expanded; and

(4) A completed form submitted under this section at least substantially complies with the requirements of this section.

(c) The department shall not accept a form provided under this section that is completed and submitted by a birth parent for another birth parent.

(d) The department shall place a form submitted under this section in the adoption file of the adoptee named on the form if:

(1) The requirements of subsection (b) of this section are substantially met; and
(2) The adoption file concerns the adoptee named on the form.

(e)(1) Upon accepting a form submitted under subdivision (a)(2)(A)(ii) of this section, the department shall remove a form submitted under subdivision (a)(2)(A)(i) of this section from the adoption file of the adoptee named on the form.

(2) Upon accepting an updated form submitted under subdivision (a)(3)(A)(ii) of this section, the department shall remove a form submitted under subdivision (a)(3)(A)(i) of this section from the adoption file and place the updated form in the adoption file.

(f) The department shall maintain an electronic copy and destroy the hard copy of a form removed from an adoption file under subsection (d) of this section.

9-9-803. Access to adoption file
(a) Beginning one (1) year after the effective date of this act, a requester may submit a written request for a copy of an adoption file from the Department of Health.

(b)(1) A request submitted under this section shall include the requester’s address and notarized signature and satisfactory proof of the requester’s identity as determined by the department.

(2) If the requester is the child, widow or widower, or guardian of any child of the deceased adoptee to whom the adoption file pertains, the requester shall also provide notarized documentation evidencing the requester’s relationship to the adoptee.

(c)(1) Upon receipt of a request made under subsection (a) of this section, the department shall mail the adoption file to the requester at the address provided in the request.

(2) If an adoption file contains a form submitted under § 9-9-802(a)(2)(A)(i), the department shall redact the birth parent’s name from the copy of the adoption file before it is mailed to the requester.

(3) If a form under § 9-9-802(a)(2)(A)(ii) is submitted after a copy of the adoption file is mailed to the requester, the department shall mail the requester another copy of the adoption file with the birth parent’s name included in the adoption file within thirty (30) days of the date the form was removed.

(4) Before mailing a requester an adoption file under subdivision (c)(1) of this section, the department shall mark the certified copy of the original birth certificate contained in the adoption file as not intended for official use or similar.

(d) The department shall mail a requester an adoption file by certified mail, return receipt requested.

(e)(1) If an adoption file contains a form submitted under § 9-9-802(a)(3)(A)(i) and (ii), the department shall include the form in the adoption file mailed to a requester.

(2) A form included in the adoption file under this subsection shall be redacted in accordance with subdivision (c)(2) of this section.

(f)(1) The department may charge a requester a fee of one hundred dollars ($100) for the department’s provision of the adoption file requested.

(2) The department may change the amount of the fee charged to a requester under subdivision (f)(1) of this section in accordance with the department’s rules.

9-9-804. Immunity.
An officer or employee of the Department of Health who releases any information contained in an adoption file or provides a copy of an adoption file to a requester is not criminally liable or civilly liable in damages to any person for injury, death, or loss allegedly arising from the release of the information or copy if the officer or employee releases the information or copy in accordance with § 9-9-803.

§ 20-18-305(1) [New Subdivision B]
(B) A requester as defined in § 9-9-801 is authorized to obtain a certified copy of an adoptee’s original certificate of birth.

Relevant Arkansas Law: Identifying Information/Registries

9-9-502. Penalty
(a) (1) No person, agency, entity, or organization of any kind, including, but not limited to, any officer or employee of this state and any employee, officer, or judge of any court of this state shall disclose any confidential information relating to any adoption, except as provided by statute or pursuant to a court order.

(2) Any employer who knowingly or negligently allows any employee to disclose information in violation of this subchapter shall be subject to the penalties provided in subsection (b) of this section, together with the employee who made any disclosure prohibited by this subchapter.

(b) Any person, agency, entity, or organization of any kind that discloses information in violation of this subchapter shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

9-9-503. Registry—Establishment and maintenance
(a) (1) A mutual consent voluntary adoption registry may be established and maintained by any licensed voluntary agency involved in an adoption.

(2) Persons eligible to receive identifying information shall work through the agency involved in the adoption. If that agency has merged or ceased operations, a successor agency may assume possession of the files for the purpose of establishing, maintaining, and operating the mutual consent voluntary adoption registry concerning those adoptions.

(3) Any licensed voluntary agency may delegate or otherwise contract with another licensed voluntary agency with expertise in post-legal adoption services to establish, maintain, and operate the registry for the delegating agency.

(4) If any agency ceasing to operate does not transfer adoption records to another licensed agency, it shall provide all records required to be maintained by law to the Department of Human Services.

(b) The department shall establish and maintain a mutual consent voluntary adoption registry for all adoptions arranged by the department or may contract out the function of establishing and maintaining the registry to a licensed voluntary agency with expertise in providing postlegal adoption services, in which case the agency shall establish and maintain the registry that would otherwise be operated by the department.

(c) The department shall keep records of every adult adoptee and birth parent reunited through the use of the mutual consent voluntary adoption registry.

9-9-504. Registry—Operation
(a) (1) The adult adoptee and each birth parent and each individual related within the second degree whose identity is to be disclosed may voluntarily place his or her name in the appropriate registry by submitting a notarized affidavit stating his or her name, address, and telephone number and his or her willingness to be identified solely to the other relevant persons who register.

(2) No registration shall be accepted until the prospective registrant submits satisfactory proof of his or her identity in accord with rules specified in § 9-9-508.

(3) The failure to file a notarized affidavit with the registry for any reason, except death, shall preclude the disclosure of identifying information to those persons who do register.

(b) (1) (A) Upon registering, the registrant shall participate in not less than one (1) hour of counseling with a social worker employed by the entity that operates the registry. If a birth parent or adult adoptee is domiciled outside the state, he or she shall obtain counseling from a social worker employed by a licensed agency in that other state selected by the entity that operates the registry.

(B) If a birth parent or adult adoptee is domiciled outside the state, he or she shall obtain counseling from a social worker employed by a licensed agency in that other state selected by the entity that operates the registry.

(2) When an eligible person registers concerning an adoption that was arranged through an agency that has not merged or otherwise ceased operations, and that same agency is not operating the registry, the entity operating the registry shall notify, by certified mail within ten (10) business days after the date of registration, the agency that handled the adoption.

(c) In any case in which the identity of the birth father was unknown to the birth mother, or in which the administrator learns that one (1) or both birth parents are deceased, this information shall be shared with the adult adoptee. In those cases, the adoptee shall not be able to obtain identifying information through the registry, and he or she shall be told of his or her right to pursue whatever right otherwise exists by law to petition a court to release the identifying information.

(d) The following shall be matching and disclosure procedures:

(1) Each mutual consent voluntary adoption registry shall be operated under the direction of an administrator;

(2) The administrator shall be bound by the confidentiality requirements of this subchapter and shall be permitted reasonable access to the registry for the purposes set forth in this subchapter and for such purposes as may be necessary for the proper administration of the registry;

(3) A person eligible to register may request the administrator to disclose identifying information by filing an affidavit that sets forth the following:

(A) The current name and address of the affiant;

(B) Any previous name by which the affiant was known;

(C) The original and adopted names, if known, of the adopted child;

(D) The place and date of birth of the adopted child; and

(E) (i) The name and address of the adoption agency or other entity, organization, or person placing the adopted child, if known.

(ii) The affiant shall notify the registry of any change in name or location which occurs subsequent to his or her filing the affidavit.

(iii) The registry shall have no duty to search for the affiant who fails to register his or her most recent address;

(4) (A) The administrator of the mutual consent voluntary adoption registry shall process each affidavit in an attempt to match the adult adoptee and the birth parents or individuals related within the second degree. The processing shall include research from agency records, when available, and when agency records are not available, research from court records to determine conclusively whether the affiants match.

(B) The processing shall include research from agency records, when available, and when agency records are not available, research from court records to determine conclusively whether the affiants match;

(5) The administrator shall determine that there is a match when the adult adoptee and a birth parent or individual related within the second degree have filed affidavits with the mutual consent voluntary adoption registry and have each received the counseling required in subsection (b) of this section; and

(6) (A) An agency receiving an assignment of a match under the provisions of this subchapter shall directly or by contract with a licensed adoption agency in this state notify all registrants through a direct and confidential contact.

(B) The contact shall be made by an employee or agent of the agency receiving the assignment.

(C) The employee or agent shall be a trained social worker who has expertise in postlegal adoption services.

(e) (1) Any affidavits filed and other information collected shall be retained for ninety-nine (99) years following the date of registration.

(2) Any qualified person may choose to remove his or her name from the registry at any time by filing a notarized affidavit with the registry.

(f) (1) A mutual consent voluntary adoption registry shall obtain only information necessary for identifying registrants.

(2) In no event shall the registry obtain information of any kind pertaining to the adoptive parents or any siblings to the adult adoptee who are children of the adoptive parents.

(g) All costs for establishing and maintaining a mutual consent voluntary adoption registry shall be obtained through users’ fees charged to all persons who register.

(h) Beginning January 1, 2002, the Department of Human Services shall place the affidavit form for placement on the mutual adoption registry on the department’s website.

Gregory D. Luce

I am a Minnesota lawyer, DC-born adoptee, and the founder of Adoptee Rights Law Center PLLC. I’ve been practicing law in Minnesota state and federal courts since 1993. I also have a sense of humor.

Did I Miss Something?

I work hard to get the laws and facts straight in every state—and to keep them regularly updated. If you see something that’s not quite right or doesn’t fit your experience, let me know with either a quick comment or an email.

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