Steve Kalb, adoptee and Director of Holt’s Post Adoption Services, breaks down the facts about an adoptee’s files and what they contain.
I’ve been working in post adoption services for over 16 years. While unique histories and individual circumstances have brought thousands of adult adoptees to us over the years, many come asking similar questions about topics like adoption files and birth search. I’ll be providing insights and answers to some of those questions in this limited series I’m calling “Tips from Post Adoption Services.”
Part One: Adoption File Copies
Adoptees requesting copies of their files is an extremely popular service. While people tend to think birth search would be the primary driver for seeking a copy of an adoption file, there are several other reasons adoptees might want their file. Something tangible to accompany their memories of childhood stories, general inquiries into where they’re from, scrapbooking, wanting to share it with family and loved ones or confirming the spelling of their name before they were adopted are just a few of these reasons.
Interested in starting the process? Here are my top five tips about file copy inquiries to start your journey.
- It is every adoptee’s right to see their adoption file. If Holt International was your placing agency, we’ll have a file for you. These files will vary slightly depending on multiple factors: the year of the adoption, country of origin, whether it was an open or closed adoption, etc. Generally, you can expect to find information about the adoption process and any adoptee material (legal relinquishment papers, medical checkups, foster parent reports, etc.) that was recorded and gathered on you during the time you were in care in the sending country. There is typically little information about birth family contained in your U.S. file.
- If your adoptive parents kept track of all the information given to them during the adoption process, we’ll have nothing new to offer. Everything we have on the adoptee, including any birth family information that was provided to us at the time of adoption, is given to the adoptive parents during the adoption process. In theory, the file we have won’t contain anything different than the file your parents already possess.
- Depending on your country of origin, you may have other adoption files in the sending country. The overseas file may contain additional information on birth family and background. However, it’s at the discretion of the sending country to determine what’s legal and appropriate to share. Unfortunately, we have no control over what the sending country deems suitable to share.
- We rarely have copies of the Certificate of Citizenship (C.O.C.). Many adoptees reach out to us asking for this document for a variety of reasons like obtaining a passport, applying for federal financial aid, applying for social security or Medicaid benefits, applying for a driver’s license and others. This document, proving the adoptee’s U.S. citizenship, is typically obtained after the finalization of the adoption. Because of this, there is no formal process to inform us of receipt of the C.O.C., and it is usually absent in the materials we possess in your file. Exceptions do exist, as some parents have sent us a copy of the document for our records or have sent legal documentation that the C.O.C. has been obtained, but typically we won’t have a copy.
- There is a $25 administrative fee when obtaining a copy of your file. We house roughly 65,000 adoption files in a secure off-site facility in Portland, Oregon, where they are archived and stored. Files are delivered to us each week, but if a file is needed urgently, it can be pulled and delivered to our office within 24 hours. This fee mitigates the cost of storage and retrieval because we are charged for the storage and each pull. If you cannot afford the file copy fee, there is financial aid available. We are happy to work with you to figure out how to get your file.
If you’re interested in obtaining copies of your adoption files, please reach out to the post-adoption services team at [email protected] and we’d be delighted to assist you.
About the author
Steve Kalb, Director of Post Adoption Services, is an adult adoptee from the Midwest. He received his masters of social work in 2009 and is currently pursuing his PhD in social work and social research, focusing on adoptee community and empowerment models. Since 2005, Steve has worked directly with hundreds of adoptees through adoptee camps and birth search counseling. He has seen the need for, and benefit of, a strong adoptee community; that experience guides his adoptee advocacy work at Holt.