How to Obtain File Copies

If you were adopted through Holt International Children’s Services in the United States, Holt can provide copies of your child materials and other adoption-related documents. Adult adoptees may request copies of their child materials from their U.S. and international file.  Your U.S. file generally contains the same documents that were provided to your adoptive parents at the time of your adoption. Your international file may or may not have additional documents depending on the circumstances surrounding your relinquishment, and the amount of information available to Holt at that time.

Effective November 2016, Korean regulations now require an adoptee to be age 19 to request copies of the Korean file, an assessment of the file, or a search for birth family.  Adoptees age 18 may only request a copy of their U.S. file.

This is the typical process for requesting file copies. Not every case is the same, and requesting file copies is completely optional:

What you do:

  • Complete the Request for Services online form and submit it.
  • Receive an email in 2-5 business days that confirms Holt facilitated your adoption and a link to the request for services form(s).
  • If your adoption was not facilitated by Holt, you’ll receive an email explaining this, and a list of possible U.S. agencies that may have been your placing agency (see two different Holt agencies below).
  • To request a copy of your U.S. child materials only:
    • Print, complete and return the notarized Request for Post Adoption Services by mail only.
  • To request a copy of your international child materials only:
    • Print, complete and return the notarized Request for Post Adoption Services form by mail only.
    • Print, complete the highlighted items, and return the Petition for Disclosure form by mail only.
    • Include a photocopy of either your U.S. passport or Certificate of Naturalization/ Citizenship. Color copies are preferred, if you are able to do so.
  • To request a copy of both your U.S. and international child materials:
    • Print, complete and return the notarized Request for Post Adoption Services form by mail only.
    • Print, complete the highlighted items, and return the Petition for Disclosure form by mail only.
    • Include a photocopy of either your U.S. passport or Certificate of Naturalization/ Citizenship. Color copies are preferred, if you are able to do so.
  • To request an assessment only of your file to determine if a search is possible:
    • Print, complete and return the notarized Request for Post Adoption Services form by mail only.
    • Print, complete the highlighted items, and return the Petition for Disclosure form by mail only.
    • Include a photocopy of either your U.S. passport or Certificate of Naturalization/ Citizenship. Color copies are preferred, if you are able to do so.

    In approximately 4-6 weeks, you’ll receive an email with your U.S. child materials.  We will notify you when we receive your file copy and assessment from our overseas partner.  Time frames may vary and cannot be predicted.

NOTE: All forms must be mailed. Faxed or scanned copies of the forms will not be accepted. Mailing instructions are included on the Post Adoption Services Request form.

What Holt will do:

  • Confirm that Holt facilitated your adoption and that you are age 18/19 or over.
  • Email you the link to the request forms noted above or information about Holt Korea’s other partner agencies (see Our History below).
  • Wait for your request forms and documents to arrive by standard mail.
  • Retrieve your file from our off-site file storage, usually within 2-3 weeks of receipt of completed request forms.
  • Scan your U.S. child material (if requested) and forward it to you via email, usually within 3-4 weeks of file retrieval. Time frames may vary.
  • Request your international child material from Holt Korea (if requested). While we work cooperatively with our overseas partners, we cannot guarantee a specific response time frame. We appreciate your understanding.
  • Forward your international child material and/or assessment within 2-3 weeks of receipt from Holt Korea.

Due to the very high volume of services we provide to adoptees, adoptive families, and birth families, response times can vary and may be longer than expected.  Files are not stored on-site and do take time to retrieve and review.  With limited staffing we are unable to update you when the request is received, or when the file arrives at our office.

Please scroll down to read more about file contents and the process in general.

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** Please note that due to the high volume of travelers to Korea May to September, services may be significantly delayed during this time period. We appreciate your patience and understanding.

 

 

What is in my U.S. file?

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Generally, your U.S. file will contain your Korean legal documents, child progress reports from when you were in care in Korea, and the photo that was taken when you were admitted to the Holt program. All of these documents are referred to as your “child material.” Not all files are the same. Some have more information and some have less; every file is as unique as adoptees themselves.  Because birth parent identifying information is confidential and cannot be released to the adoptee, adoptive parent, or U.S. agency, files do not contain birth parent names.  Please see Birth Parent Search for additional information regarding the process of locating birth family.

What is in my international file?

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Korean files, especially for our younger adoptees, may contain exactly the same documents as the U.S. file. Some files may have a few pages more or less, but are generally the same. Files in Korea may also contain intake documents, counseling notes or information identifying a birth family or foster family — it depends on how you came into care. Please understand that identifying information for anyone (including you) cannot be released to another party without that individual’s written permission. Birth parent counseling notes and other documents, such as the adoption agreement, are confidential and legally cannot be released to Holt International (U.S.), adoptive families or adoptees.  When you receive your file copy it will not contain your birth parent names.  However, the assessment of your file will tell you whether or not the Korean file contains enough information to search for your birth parents.

Adoptee files from the earliest days of our program, both U.S. and international, will contain less information, depending on the time period and technology of the time. For example, files from the 1950s may only have a few pages since the records were kept by hand, there were no copiers, and often very little information was provided to Holt when the children came into care. Files from the 1980s-present typically contain more information about the child after they came into care. For more information regarding record-keeping in Korea or descriptions of Korean legal documents, please click here.

With advances in technology, are more records available now than in the past?

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Advances in technology both here and in Korea can make access to historical records easier and faster, but if the information was never recorded then technological advances won’t help.  In the earlier days of Holt’s program in Korea record keeping was very different than it is today.  Records were kept by hand, often on a single piece of paper, or via typewriters and carbon paper.  If you’d like to learn more about record keeping in Korea and how it applies to your background, please let us know. 

Birth Family Medical Records

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There are many reasons why adult adoptees contact Holt to request a copy of their personal medical records for the time they were in Holt’s care, or to request medical records for their birth parents. For example, when an adoptee becomes a parent themselves, they would like to know of possible inherited conditions that could affect their children. No matter the reason, Holt  will provide whatever information is available.

Unfortunately, however, there is rarely any medical history related to the adoptee’s birth family in our files. The circumstances surrounding how the adoptee came into care, the services available to the birth family at the relinquishment site, and the cultural beliefs and social practices in the country of origin affect the amount of information available. Recognition and management of health and illness in the adoptee’s birth country also impact reasons for the lack of information for most adoptees; for instance, the differences in Eastern medical practices versus Western medicine.

Korean Legal Documents

Many adoptees and adoptive parents wonder if the legal documents from Korea hold clues to the adoptee’s birth history. Common questions include:

• Is the information in the Korean documents different from the information on the English copies?

• Do the birth family or foster family live at the address in the documents, #382-14 Hapjung-dong, Mapo-Ku, Seoul, Korea?

• Will the person listed as the guardian remember the adoptee? Can they be contacted?

• Is the “Family Origin” on the Family Register the birth family’s name? Can it be used to find them?

The legal documents found in an adoptee’s file may include the Certificate of the Guardian, Ho Juk Deung Bon (Family Register), and the Statement of Guardianship. Depending on when the adoptee came into care, the legal documents may have slightly different names, but they serve the same purpose and were created in the same ways as the ones described below.Read More


Although an adoptee’s legal documents are important, they do not necessarily contain clues to the adoptee’s past.  Holt recommends adoptees obtain a complete set of documents either from their adoptive parents or Holt.  We are happy to provide these copies whenever possible, and review them with the adoptee to better understand their personal history.

Older legal documents may be in Chinese, or a combination of Chinese and Korean, and may not have English translations in the file. Chinese is still used today for some legal documents as it has the ability to be much more precise than Korean (the same Korean word can have up to 100 different meanings). In most cases, the original Korean and English versions of legal documents are sent to the adoptive parents when the child comes home. Our files usually contain carbon or photocopies of these documents, but not always.  All legal documents are created by the Korean government at the request of Holt Children’s Services (Holt Korea). They are not created by the adoption agencies, and they do conform to the legal requirements of Korea at that time.

The following are examples of documents that may be similar to your own. Like all countries, the Korean government has changed the style or format of documents through the decades, but the intentions of each has remained the same.

The Appointment of the Guardian for the Minor Orphan Accommodated in an OrphanageRead More

establishes the chairman of the board of directors or the president of Holt Korea as the legal guardian for the adoptee. As the legal guardian, the chairman or president had the legal right to make decisions on the child’s behalf. It’s unlikely that this person had any personal contact with the adoptee, or that they would have any additional information regarding his or her background. The addresses listed on the certificate are for the Holt Korea offices, the Holt president and the Holt reception center. These are pre-printed, standardized forms created by the Korean government and don’t reflect where the adoptee actually lived. In general, all children adopted in the same year have the same address.

Click here to see samples of this document from different eras.

              

The Ho Juk Deung Bon (Family Register) Read More

also known as a “family registration,” is the Korean version of a birth certificate.  In Korea, like in many countries, birth certificates are not automatically issued at birth.  In the U.S. the hospital, clinic or midwife must contact the state and register that child’s birth; the only thing the parents control is the child’s name.  In Korea, registering a birth, death or marriage requires the “family chief” to go into the local government office and register the event on the family register.  Family registers are maintained under the name of the family chief, usually the eldest living male of that immediate family line.  It also lists his wife, their male children and their wives, and any unmarried female children.  It resembles a genealogist’s chart.  Everyone listed on it use it as their birth certificate and legal identification.  When a woman marries, she is taken off her father’s register and added to her husband’s register.  Although there have been changes in Korean law in recent years that allow a woman to be the family chief, this is the process for most families in Korea.

According to Korean law, prior to approximately 2012, a child who has been entered in his or her birth father’s family register cannot be placed for adoption, domestic or international.  In order to be adopted, however, children are still required to have a family register, so a new one is created for them by the Korean government.  The new register shows the child as the family chief, and is required to show both mother and father as unknown, regardless of the actual circumstances surrounding the child’s relinquishment.  The new register will also contain a family origin, which is simply assigned to the child by the government and holds no connection to their past.  A family origin is considered part of a person’s name to distinguish them from others with the same name.  For example, a man may introduce himself as “Lee Min Ah of Chun Joo.”  Prior to the mid-2000’s it was illegal for a couple with the same last name to marry, so the family origin was quite important.

Click here to see samples of this document from different eras.

     

The Statement of Guardianship Read More

is the legal guardian’s consent for the child to emigrate to the United States and transfers guardianship from Holt Korea to Holt International Children’s Services. Holt International is the legal guardian for the adoptee until the adoption is finalized in the U.S. courts. When the adoption is finalized, the adoptive parents are the legal guardians of the adoptee. Like all other documents, this is a standard pre-printed form and holds no information regarding the child’s birth family or residence.

Click here to see samples of this document from different eras.

      

The Certificate of Orphanhood Read More

is the document that establishes a child’s current status as an orphan in care at Holt Korea or another childcare facility. Children who are relinquished by birth parents may still have a certificate of orphanhood as part of their Korean legal documents. Not all adoptees will have this document, as its title and usage varied over time.

Click here to see samples of this document from different eras.

The Certificate of AdoptionRead More

is a Korean adoption decree, or legal court document. In the earliest days of Holt’s Korea program, most adoptions were completed as “adoption by proxy,” which means that the adoptive parents appointed a Holt employee to act as their legal representative in the Korean court. The proxy would accept custody of the child on behalf of the adoptive parents. These are legally binding adoptions and are recognized by U.S. law. Adoptive parents had the option of completing a second adoption in their local court after the child’s arrival in the U.S. If the adoption occurred between 1956 and the late 1960s, or later in some cases, a Korean adoption decree may be the only decree in existence.

Click here to see samples of this document from different eras.

  

 

 

To request a copy of either or both files, we must first confirm that Holt International facilitated your adoption. Once this has been verified, you’ll receive an email and further instructions enabling you to request your file copies. File copies are scanned in color (in most cases) and forwarded via email unless instructed otherwise.