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Is Adoption Confidential? What Is a Confidential Intermediary?

At its best, adoption allows a child to become part of a family and allows a parent to create or enlarge his or her family. Adoption can also be extremely emotional for the adoptees and for everyone involved in the process. In the past, adoptees were typically not told they were adopted until they were adults, if at all. Birth parents and birth siblings were rarely reunited with children placed for adoption. In short, the entire system operated in the shadows. Fortunately, things have changed over the last few decades. For anyone involved in, or contemplating, adoption, however, many questions remain. Is adoption confidential, for example, or what is the role of a confidential intermediary? Because adoption is such a personal and sensitive issue it is always best to discuss questions and concerns with an experienced New York adoption attorney; however, an overview of the confidentiality of adoption and adoption records may be helpful in the meantime.

"Confidentiality" in the adoption process may refer to two very distinct issues. First, whether or not the identity of the birth and adoptive parents are known to one another and second whether the adoption itself is public record. The second question is easier to address. Adoption records are sealed, meaning they are not available to the public. An adult adoptee may be able to access records pertaining to the adoption but as a general rule adoption records are not public record. The adoption itself may be a "closed" or an "open" adoption, or a hybrid of the two. In a closed adoption the identity of the birth parents and adoptive parents remain confidential. Only pertinent, non-identifying information, such as medical history or education level, is shared with the parties. In an open adoption, the birth parents and adoptive parents do share identifying information and may even remain in contact throughout the adoptee's childhood. Whether an adoption is closed or open is decided by the birth mother and prospective adoptive parents.

A "confidential intermediary" is someone who facilitates contact between an adult adoptee and a birth parent or birth sibling. The concept is to allow a neutral, third-party to make the initial contact to determine if the party in question is interested in contact and/or information sharing. As the adoption laws continue to allow for more transparency and access to information for adult adoptees,  more and more birth parents and siblings are suddenly being contacted out of the blue by a child given up for adoption years, even decades, ago. Even if the contact is welcome it can be traumatic. The idea behind a confidential intermediary is to pave the way for contact between the parties if it is desired.

If you have additional questions or concerns about adoption, consult with experienced New York adoption attorneys at Simon & Gilman, LLP.

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