All Rhode Island-born adopted people, at age 18, have an unrestricted right to request and obtain their own original birth certificates, as do the direct line descendants of the adoptee if the adoptee is deceased. Birthparents may file a contact preference form, which has no effect on the release of an OBC.
Rhode Island’s family court system also maintains a Voluntary Adoption Reunion Registry.
Note: Legislation in 2021 lowered the age from 25 to 18 for adult adopted people to request their own OBCs. A subsequent law in 2022 extended the right to obtain the adoptee’s birth certificate to direct descendants of the adopted person. The text below is current and reflects these change.
Relevant Rhode Island Law: Original Birth Certificate
§ 23-3-15 New certificates of birth following adoption – Legitimation and genetic parent determination
(a) The state registrar of vital records shall establish a new certificate of birth for a person born in this state when he or she receives the following:
(1) An adoption report as provided in § 23-3-14 or a certified copy of the decree of adoption together with the information necessary to identify the original certificate of birth and to establish a new certificate of birth; except that a new certificate of birth shall not be established if the court decreeing the adoption, the adoptive parents, or the adopted person requests that a new certificate shall not be established.
(2) A request that a new certificate be established and evidence required by regulation proving that the person has been legitimated, or that a court of competent jurisdiction has determined the genetic parent of the person; provided, however, that where a court of competent jurisdiction has determined the genetic parent of the person, the name of the person who has been adjudicated as being the father shall be inserted on the birth certificate.
(b) When a new certificate of birth is established, the actual place and date of birth shall be shown. It shall be substituted for the original certificate of birth.
(1) Thereafter, the original certificate and the evidence of adoption, parentage, or legitimation shall not be subject to inspection except as allowed by this chapter in the case of adoption by the adult adoptee, or upon order of a court of competent jurisdiction or as provided by regulation.
(2) Upon receipt of a notice of annulment of adoption, the original certificate of birth shall be restored to its place in the files and the new certificate and evidence shall not be subject to inspection except upon order of a court of competent jurisdiction.
(3) Upon receipt from a passive voluntary adoption mutual consent registry of a certificate provided for in § 15-7.2-12(b), the adult adoptee named in the certificate, and only that person, shall be entitled to receive non-certified copies of his or her original birth certificate.
(c) If no certificate of birth is on file for the person for whom a new certificate is to be established under this section, a delayed certificate of birth shall be filed with the state registrar of vital records as provided in § 23-3-12 or 23-3-13, before a new certificate of birth is established, except that when the date and place of birth and parentage have been established in accordance with this chapter in the adoption proceedings, a delayed certificate shall not be required.
(d) When a new certificate of birth is established by the state registrar of vital records, all copies of the original certificate of birth in the custody of any custodian of permanent local records in this state shall be sealed from inspection or forwarded to the state registrar of vital records, as he or she shall direct.
(e)(1) The state registrar shall, upon request, prepare and register a certificate in this state for a person born in a foreign country who is not a citizen of the United States and who was adopted through a court of competent jurisdiction in this state. The certificate shall be established upon receipt of a report of adoption from the court decreeing the adoption, proof of the date and place of the child’s birth, and a request from the court, the adopting parents, or the adopted person if eighteen (18) years of age or over that a certificate be prepared. The certificate shall be labeled “certificate of foreign birth” and shall show the actual country of birth. After registration of the birth certificate in the new name of the adopted person, the state registrar shall seal and file the report of adoption which shall not be subject to inspection except upon order of a court of competent jurisdiction or as provided by regulation.
(2) If the child was born in a foreign country but was a citizen of the United States at the time of birth, the state registrar shall not prepare a “certificate of foreign birth” and shall notify the adoptive parents of the procedures for obtaining a revised birth certificate for their child through the U.S. department of state.
(f) When a new certificate of birth is established following an adoption or legitimation in this state, and when no record of the original birth is on file at the city or town of occurrence, the state registrar of vital records shall cause a copy to be filed with the registrar of births in the city or town where the child was born and the city or town of residence of the parents indicated on the new certificate, if that residence is within the state.
(g)(1) The division shall establish, maintain and operate the adoptee vital records file. Beginning July 1, 2012, upon written application by an adult adoptee who was born in the State of Rhode Island the division shall issue to such applicant a non-certified copy of the unaltered, original certificate of birth of the adoptee, or if the adopted person is deceased, the adopted person’s direct line descendants, or the legal representative of such adopted person, in accordance with the provisions of § 23-3-23, with procedures, filing fees and waiting periods identical to those imposed upon non-adopted citizens of the state.
(2) The division shall prescribe and, upon request, shall make available to each birth parent of an adoptee named on the original birth certificate, a contact preference form on which the birth parent may state a preference regarding contact by an adoptee who is the birth child of the birth parent. The contact preference form shall be returned to the division. Upon such a request, the division shall also provide the birth parent with an updated medical history form, which may be completed and returned to the Passive Voluntary Adoption Mutual Consent Registry. The contact preference form shall provide the birth parent with the following options from which the birth parent shall select one:
“(a) I would like to be contacted.
(b) I would prefer to be contacted only through an intermediary.
(c) I would prefer not to be contacted at this time.”
(3) When the division receives a completed contact preference form from a birth parent, the division shall place the form on file and create an index of all contact preference forms filed. When the vital records office receives a request for an original birth certificate they will then open the adoptee’s sealed file and check the file for the names of the birth parent(s). These names will then be cross referenced with the birth parent(s) names listed on the contact preference form index. If there is a match, the vital records office will provide the adoptee a copy of the contact preference form. The division shall inform the adoptee of his or her right to contact the Passive Voluntary Adoption Mutual Consent Registry to see if an updated medical history form has been filed by his or her birth parent.
(4) Beginning September 1, 2011, the division shall make reasonable efforts to inform the public of the existence of the adoptee vital records file; the ability of adult adoptees born in the State of Rhode Island to access non-certified copies of their birth certificates subject to the provisions of this chapter; and the ability of the birth parent(s) of adoptees to file a contact preference form with the division of vital records.
(h) The division shall maintain the following statistics, which shall be made available to the general public on a quarterly basis or more frequently if possible:
(1) Number of original birth certificates released since the effective date of this bill;
(2) Number of contact preference forms filed; and
(3) Number of birth parent(s) who indicated on the contact preference form that they would like to be contacted, would like to be contacted but only through an intermediary, or do not want to be contacted.
§ 23-3-1 Definitions
As used in this chapter:
(1) “Adoptee” means a person who was born in this state and who has had an original birth certificate sealed due to an adoption.
(2) “Adoptee vital records file” means a file operated by the division of vital records that maintains adoptees’ birth certificates, makes available the contact preference forms, provides adoptees with non-certified copies of their birth certificates.
(3) “Adult adoptee” means an adoptee eighteen (18) years of age or older.
(4) “Birth parent” is the person, the father or mother of genetic origin of a child, who is legally presumed under the laws of this state to be the father or mother of genetic origin of a child.
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(6) “Contact preference form” means the form prepared and maintained by the division that birth parent(s) of adoptees may file to express his or her preference regarding contact with the adoptee. The contact preference form shall include language informing the birth parent(s) of their ability to provide genetic, social, and health history to the Passive Voluntary Adoption Mutual Consent Registry as defined in chapter 15-7.2.
(8) “Direct line descendant” means a person who is in direct line to an ancestor, such as a biological child, grandchild, or great-grandchild.
(9) “Division” means the division of vital records as defined in this chapter.
(14) “Legal representative” means an individual’s attorney, personal representative or conservator and includes a guardian appointed by the court to make decisions regarding the person of an adult.
Section 15-7-5.1. Contact preference form information
Upon providing consent to an adoption, the biological parent(s) shall be informed that, consistent with subdivision 23-3-15(g)(1), an adoptee may obtain a non-certified copy of his/her unaltered, original certificate of birth upon his/her eighteenth birthday, and that the birth parent is allowed and authorized to file a contact preference form with the division of vital 8 records as provided in subdivision 23-3-15(g)(2).