Delaware law does not provide adult adoptees unrestricted access to their own original birth certificates. While adoptees 21 years of age or older may request their original birth certificates, birth parents may legally veto the release of an OBC.
Identifying information in the court records or agency files may not be released except by court order or, if all parties agree, when “it is deemed by the agency to be in the adoptee’s best interest.” Delaware law specifically addresses the release of “needed medical information,” but release may be limited and also requires a court order.
“Search and reunion services” are available to an adult adoptee who is at least 21 years of age and who has already obtained an original birth certificate.
Relevant Delaware Law: Original Birth Certificates
Title 16 § 3110(b). Disclosure of records
(a) To protect the integrity of vital records, to ensure their proper use and to ensure the efficient and proper administration of the system of vital statistics, the records and files of the Office of Vital Statistics shall be considered confidential matter and shall not be open to inspection, except as authorized by this chapter, and regulations adopted hereunder or by order of a court of competent jurisdiction. Regulations adopted under this section shall provide for adequate standards of security and confidentiality of vital records and reports.
(b) The State Registrar shall upon receipt of an application issue a certified copy of a vital record in the Registrar’s custody or a part thereof to the registrant’s, the registrant’s spouse, children, parents or guardian, or their respective authorized representative. The State Registrar shall, upon receipt of an application, issue a non-certified copy of a vital record, including an original birth certificate, to a registrant who is an adoptee 21 years of age or older. Others may be authorized to obtain certified copies when they demonstrate that the record is needed for the determination or protection of their personal or property rights or for genealogical purposes. The Department shall adopt regulations to further define those who may obtain copies of vital records under this chapter.
Relevant Delaware Law: Adoption Records
Title 13 § 922. Birth certificate
(a) If a child born in this State is adopted in this State or in another state, the State Registrar shall file a new certificate of birth upon receipt of a certified copy of the decree of adoption from the proper authorities of the state in which the adoption took place.
(b) If the adopted child was born outside this State, and a certificate of birth cannot be secured from the place of birth, the State Registrar may file and issue a special birth certificate as herein provided, upon receipt from the agency responsible for the adoption of evidence of the birth, considered satisfactory by the Registrar.
Title 13 § 923. Confidential nature of information; old and new birth certificates
(a) Except as provided in subchapter III of this chapter, all information regarding any adoption which is furnished to any State Registrar shall be confidential and not open to public inspection. The names of the biological or previous legal parent or parents or the former name of the child shall not be furnished to the adoptive parents, nor shall the name of the adoptive parents be furnished to the biological or previous legal parent or parents and, after the entry of the decree of adoption, the original record of birth shall be impounded and all birth certificates shall be issued in the adoptive name only, if a new name has been assumed, and shall contain no reference to the former name or background or the fact of adoption.
(b) Notwithstanding any other provision in the Delaware Code to the contrary, an adoptee 21 years of age or older may obtain a copy of his or her original record of birth from the State Registrar pursuant to § 3110(b) of Title 16, even if that record has been impounded. This section shall not apply if the birth parent has, within the most recent 3-year period, filed a written notarized statement with the Department of Health and Social Services Office of Vital Statistics denying the release of any identifying information.
(c) If an adoptee 21 years of age or older seeks vital records about any event occurring before January 18, 1999, the Office of Vital Statistics shall consult Family Court to determine whether there is an affidavit on file expressing a desire by either birthparent to keep information about the adoption confidential.
(1) If there is an affidavit on file with Family Court authorizing the release of information, the Office of Vital Statistics shall request a copy of the affidavit and, upon receipt of the affidavit, release the authorized records.
(2) If there is an affidavit on file with Family Court denying the release of information, or if there is no affidavit on file with Family Court, the Office of Vital Statistics shall send notice, as described below, by United States mail to the birthparent or birthparents.
a. The Office of Vital Statistics shall search a computerized telephone or address database, as well as Delaware’s Division of Motor Vehicles and voter records in order to determine the most likely address of the birthparent. Such notice shall be sent to that address. If no current address is available, then notice shall be sent to the last known address for the birthparent or birthparents. Such notification shall be mailed within 30 days from when the adoptee requested release of the records.
b. The Office of Vital Statistics shall notify the birthparent or birthparents of the legal requirements for maintaining confidentiality and shall provide them with the appropriate forms. The Office of Vital Statistics shall also advise the birthparent or birthparents that in the event that a written notarized statement denying the release of information is not received within 35 days from the date of the mailing of the notification required in paragraph (c)(1)a. of this section then the Office of Vital Statistics will release the records to the adoptee.
1. If the Office of Vital Statistics receives a written notarized statement denying the release of information, then it shall not release the records.
2. If no such written statement is received within 35 days from the date of the mailing of the notification required in paragraph (c)(1)a. of this section or if the birthparent or birthparents specifically authorizes release, then the Office of Vital Statistics shall release the records to the adoptee.
Relevant Delaware Law: Court Records
Title 13 § 924 Confidential nature of Court records
Except as provided in subchapter III of this chapter, all court records of any adoption shall be treated as strictly confidential and shall be kept by the Clerk of the Court in a sealed container which shall be opened only upon the order of the Judge of Family Court concerned. Nothing in this section shall be construed in such a way as to restrict the Department or licensed agency from releasing nonidentifying information in its records to any of the parties to the adoption. Except as otherwise provided in § 929 and subchapter III of this title, identifying information, such as names and addresses, shall not be released except by order of the Court or with the consent of all the parties involved when it is deemed by the agency to be in the adoptee’s best interest, except in cases where the adopted individual’s health or the health of any blood relative of the adopted individual is concerned and the adoption agency has refused to release the health information to the individual, the Court may, through petition by the adopted individual, permit the party to inspect only that part of the adoption agency or Court record containing medical information for health reasons. The Court shall order open to inspection by the individual the part of the record containing the needed medical information if the Court finds that any medical information in the Court or adoption agency record of the individual’s adoption is needed for the health of the individual or of any blood relative of the individual. This section shall apply to information as to the identification and location of any biological sibling of the individual if the individual’s health or the health of any blood relative of the individual depends on the sibling’s participation in any medical treatment. If Family Court receives a report stating that a birth parent, another offspring of the birth parent or the adoptee has a genetically transmitted disorder or a family pattern of a disease, Family Court shall instruct the agency that was involved with the adoption or the termination of parental rights to conduct a diligent search for the adult adoptee, adoptive parents of a minor adoptee or birth parent or parents to inform them of the report.
Title 13 § 932. Interpretation
This chapter is designed to achieve without undue delay the paramount objectives of the best interest of the child, and all questions of interpretation shall be resolved with that objective in mind. Where there appears to be a conflict between the best interest of the parent or parents and the child, the best interest of the child shall prevail.
Relevant Delaware Law: Search and Reunion Services
Title 13 § 962 Search and reunion services.
(a) An adoptee 21 years of age or older who has obtained a copy of a vital record under § 3110 of Title 16 may request that a licensed adoption agency assist in locating any of the following:
(1) Either or both birth parents;
(2) If a birth parent is deceased, siblings (full or half) of the birth parent;
(3) Birth siblings (full or half) of the adoptee.
(b) When a licensed adoption agency locates an individual sought by an adoptee 21 years of age or older, the agency will advise the located individual of the right to make a no-contact declaration. If a no-contact declaration is made either verbally to a licensed adoption worker or in a writing filed with the agency, the agency will so advise the adoptee and no further assistance will be provided. If a no-contact declaration is not expressed, the agency shall immediately advise the searching adoptee of the located individual’s current name, address, and telephone number.
(c) If requested, the agency shall provide counseling or intermediary services, or both, to the searching adoptee or the located individual, or to both.
Title 13 § 963 Immunity from liability
Any person or agency, including the State or any governmental subdivision of this State, who participated in good faith in any requirement of this subchapter, shall have immunity from any liability, civil or criminal, that results from such person’s or agency’s actions. In any proceeding, civil or criminal, the good faith of any person participating in the requirement of this subchapter shall be presumed.