Idaho has enacted a new law to allow a limited number of adoptees to request and obtain their own original birth certificates, with restrictions applying even for the people who qualify to seek them. Here are some questions and answers about the law, which went into effect on July 1, 2022.
What does the new law do?
It’s ridiculously complicated. At its core, though, the new law applies only to people who are: 1) adopted on or after July 1, 2022; and 2) at least 18 years of age. In other words, the new law is “prospective-only”—practically it has very little effect for many years, essentially coming into full effect only in 2040.
What other restrictions does the new law have?
A whole bunch. First, the request for your own birth certificate cannot be made directly to the vital statistics division of the Department of Health, which actually holds the record. Rather, the request is routed through Idaho’s “Voluntary Adoption Registry,” which is intended to mediate contact and sharing of information between biological relatives. That is, this law is an intermediary system rather than a straightforward “request it and get it” law.
Worse, even if the adoptee registers with the Idah Adoption Registry and a match is made with a birthparent, a 30 day “cooling off” period applies (the law calls it a “waiting period”). During that period, the registry attempts to contact the birthparent to ask if they want to complete a “contact preference form.” That form, which as of the effective date is not available online, allows the birthparent to request 1) a preferred method of contact; or 2) no contact.
BUT, hold on, there’s a third bonus option, which is to “request that the registered birth parent’s name be redacted before records are released, which request shall be effective for five (5) years.”
So, information can be redacted from my birth record?
Yes, if you were 1) adopted on or after July 1, 2022 and 2) there is a match with a birthparent on the registry, and 3) that birthparent requests redaction. For everyone else, the law hasn’t changed and it will generally take the consent of a birthparent to release info, but even that is complicated. If you want to just walk away at this point, feel free. You’re not missing much. If it’s currently the year 2022 and you are reading this, the new law basically doesn’t apply to you.
How are birthparents notified if there is a “match.”
Current Idaho administrative rules (which have not been updated for this law) state that “[w]hen it appears to the State Registrar that a match has occurred, the State Registrar will notify the registrants by certified mail of the opportunity to withdraw from the register prior to proceeding with full notification of the registrants.”
A registrant is the person who has registered with the voluntary adoption registry. Presumably, under the new law a birthparent who is currently registered with the registry will be notified of the ability to complete and submit the corrupt contact preference form in addition to requesting withdrawal from the registry.
What happens if there is a registry “match” but a parent does not reply after being notified or withdraws from the registry instead of completing a contact preference form?
That’s unclear. We are waiting to see how the state specifically interprets this scenario. Realistically, it may be a long wait to find out what happens under these facts, as the law won’t effectively be useful for at least ten to fifteen years, if not longer.
What happens if there are two birthparents on the birth certificate and only one is registered with the registry?
Again, unclear. Current administrative rules state that “no information about the missing birth parent will be released . . . . ” While an adoptee can request that a search be done for the “missing parent,” the costs of that search are to be borne by the adoptee. If, however, you can prove that the other birthparent is deceased, you may be able to receive an unredacted birth certificate with that parent’s name on it (subject to redaction requests from the other parent).
OMG this is complicated. Do you have anything that illustrates how it actually works?
Yes. This is probably the best way to illustrate the current law, as it’s ridiculously complicated to describe otherwise (and still has many unanswered questions). Click here or on the image for a PDF. You can also go here for a live and continuously updated version.
How is the original birth certificate actually released—if it’s released at all—or if it’s released with redactions?
The adoption registry is part of the Department of Health so I’m presuming that, so long as the registry process is completed and release of the record is authorized (with or without redactions), then the record is released, along with “all medical and demographic information contained in the sealed file, and the report of adoption.” Presumably, any names of a parent that requests redaction will also be redacted from any additional documents.
So if my birthparent redacts their name from the record, I have to wait five years to apply and ask again?
Yes, if you want an unredacted record. Maybe you can apply earlier but it’s likely your application will be rejected. Instead, you have to stew for five years and, even after that, you may still get the same response: a black box of no info.
Can anyone else request the birth record under this new law?
In addition to the adopted person at age 18 (again, who is adopted on or after July 1, 2022), the law allows a legal representative of the adopted person to request the birth certificate through the registry.
How much does it cost to apply?
The registry charges a fee of $10.00.
Where are the forms to use?
Good question. The “old” forms under the current law are here and have not been updated since 2003. There are no new available forms for the new law, as far as I can determine. Then again, at this point the new law basically has little impact for many years.
I noticed that the new law applies to intercountry adoptees whose adoptions were finalized in Idaho. How does that work?
Great question. I have no idea, and this part of the new law makes absolutely no sense. Legally, intercountry adoptees may not even use the Idaho voluntary registry system (and requiring them to do so is absurd). Current law, which is not changed by the new law, limits the registry to adoptees born in Idaho. By law, it does not apply to intercountry adoptees.
How did this happen?
Good question. I wrote about it during the session and opposed the bill throughout. You can read about my opposition here and here and on social media. But, essentially, this is an example of legislators and misguided advocates trying to “do something” when that something is actually far more damaging than doing nothing.
Can I read the bill that created this new law?
Yes. You can read it here.