Original Birth Certificates. Rhode Island is an Unrestricted State. All Rhode Island-born adopted people, at age 18, have an unrestricted right to request and obtain a non-certified copy of their own original birth certificates, as do the direct line descendants of a deceased adopted person.
Contact Preference Form. Birthparents may file a contact preference form that will be included with the original birth record and sets forth a parent’s preference for any contact. The form provides only the parent’s preference for contact, whether directly, through an intermediary, or no contact at all. The contact preference form does not operate as a disclosure veto or as a tool for removing or redacting information.
People Are Not Secrets. Rhode Island will not issue a new and amended birth certificate after an adoption “if the court decreeing the adoption, the adoptive parents, or the adopted person requests that a new certificate . . . not be established.” Birthparents accordingly have no control over or guarantee that a new birth record will be established and the original sealed. This is true in many other states.
Court Records. Rhode Island law does not specifically state that court records in an adoption are sealed. The court, however, oversees and operates the state’s Voluntary Adoption Reunion Registry, which maintains permanent records and regulates how records may be released, generally upon mutual consent of the parties.
Identifying Information. Identifying information, other than the pre-adoption birth certificate, is generally only available by court order through the state’s Voluntary Adoption Reunion Registry.
Descendant Rights. Direct line descendants of a deceased adopted person have a right to request and obtain the adopted person’s original birth certificate.
Adoption Reunion Registry. Rhode Island’s family court system maintains a Voluntary Adoption Reunion Registry. It is available to adopted people who are at least 21 years of age, as well as adoptive parents of a deceased adoptee, birthparents, siblings of either an adopted person or a deceased birthparent, and the parent of a deceased birthparent. It is generally how a Rhode Island-born adult adopted person—as well as birthparents and others related to the adoptee—may obtain identifying information.
Adult Adoption. Rhode Island law provides for the adoption of adults. State law merely provides that “[p]etitions for adoptions of persons eighteen (18) years or older shall be heard by the probate court of the city or town in which the petitioners live.”
Rhode Island Law: Vital Records and Birth Certificates
Relevant parts of Rhode Island vital records law. The entire Rhode Island vital records statute is available here but may not reflect recently enacted laws. The excerpts below contain newly enacted laws through 2022.
§ 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.
§ 23-3-10. Birth registration
(a)A certificate of birth for each live birth which occurs in this state shall be filed with the state registrar of vital records, or as otherwise directed by the state registrar, within four (4) days after that birth.
(b)When a birth occurs in an institution, the person in charge of the institution, or his or her designated representative, shall obtain the personal data; prepare the certificate; secure the signatures required by the certificate; and file it with the state registrar of vital records, or as otherwise directed by the state registrar. The physician and/or midwife in attendance, or his or her authorized designee as defined in department regulations, shall certify to the facts of birth and provide the medical information required by the certificate within three (3) days after the birth.
(c)When a birth occurs outside an institution, the certificate shall be prepared and filed by one of the following in the indicated order of priority:
(1)The physician in attendance at, or immediately after, the birth, or in the absence of a physician;
(2)Any other person in attendance at, or immediately after, the birth, or in the absence of any person in attendance at or immediately after the birth;
(3)The father, the mother, or, in the absence of the father and the inability of the mother, the person in charge of the premises where the birth occurred.
(4)When a birth occurs in a moving conveyance, the place of birth shall be that address in the city or town where the child is first removed from the conveyance.
(d) (1)If the mother was married either at the time of conception or birth, the name of the husband shall be entered on the certificate as the father of the child unless paternity has been determined otherwise by a court of competent jurisdiction, in which case the name of the father as determined by the court shall be entered.
(2)[Deleted by P.L. 2020, ch. 59, § 3 and P.L. 2020, ch. 60, § 3].
(e)The state registrar shall not decline to register and/or issue any birth certificate or certified copy of any birth certificate on the grounds that medical or health information collected for statistical purposes has not been supplied.
§ 23-3-11. Infants of unknown parentage — Foundling registration
(a)Whoever assumes the custody of a living infant of unknown parentage shall report on a form and in the manner prescribed by the state registrar of vital records within four (4) days to the local registrar of the city or town in which the child was found, the following information:
(1) The date and place of finding;
(2) Sex, color or race, and approximate age of child;
(3) Name and address of the persons or institution with whom the child has been placed for care;
(4) Name given to the child by the custodian; and
(5) Other data required by the state registrar of vital records.
(b) The place where the child was found shall be entered as the place of birth and the date of birth shall be determined by approximation.
(c) A report registered under this section shall constitute the certificate of birth for the infant.
(d)If the child is identified and a certificate of birth is found or obtained, any report registered under this section shall be sealed and filed and may be opened only by order of a court of competent jurisdiction or as provided by regulation.
§ 23-3-14. Court reports of adoption
(a) For each adoption decreed by any court in this state, the court shall require the preparation of a record of adoption on a form prescribed and furnished by the state registrar of vital records. The record shall include those facts that are necessary to locate and identify the certificate of birth of the person adopted or, in the case of a person who was born in a foreign country, evidence from sources determined to be reliable by the court as to the date and place of birth of the person; provide information necessary to establish a new certificate of birth of the person adopted; and shall identify the order of adoption and be certified by the clerk of court.
(b) Information in the possession of the petitioner necessary to prepare the adoption report shall be furnished with the petition for adoption by each petitioner for adoption or his or her attorney. The welfare agency or other person concerned shall supply the court with any additional information in their possession that may be necessary to complete the record. The provision of that information shall be a prerequisite to the issuance of a final decree in the matter by the court.
(c) Whenever an adoption decree is amended or annulled, the clerk of the court shall prepare a certificate which shall include the facts that are necessary to identify the original adoption report and the facts amended in the adoption decree that shall be necessary to properly amend the birth record.
(d) Not later than the tenth (10th) day of each calendar month, the clerk of the court shall forward to the state registrar of vital records records of decrees of adoption, annulment of adoption, or amendments of those entered in the preceding month, together with any related reports that the state registrar of vital records shall require.
(e) When the state registrar of vital records shall receive a record of adoption, annulment of adoption, or amendment of those from a court for a person born outside this state, that record shall be forwarded to the appropriate registration authority in the state of birth. If the birth occurred in a foreign country, and the child was not a citizen of the United States at the time of birth, the state registrar shall prepare a “certificate of foreign birth” as provided by § 23-3-15(e)(1).
§ 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.
§ 23-3-15.1. New certificates of birth following foreign adoption — Exempt from judicial proceedings
(a) A child who has automatically acquired United States citizenship following a foreign adoption and possesses a certificate of citizenship in accordance with the “Child Citizenship Act” (CAA, P.L. 106-395) shall be exempt from the provisions of this chapter which require judicial procedures and reports to acquire a new birth certificate.
(b)The state registrar of vital records shall, upon written request, prepare a “Certificate of Foreign Birth” for a child who was born in a foreign country, adopted by a United States citizen and has automatically acquired citizenship in accordance with the “Child Citizenship Act” upon the production of the following documentations:
(1) Certificate of citizenship;
(2) Foreign birth certificate;
(3) Original documents certified by the United States Embassy abroad;
(4) Permanent United States identification card; and
(5) Social Security card.
Rhode Island Law: Court Records and Information
Relevant parts of Rhode Island adoption law related to court records and information. The entire Rhode Island adoption statute is available here but may not reflect recently enacted laws.
§ 15-7-2.1. Pre-adoption report on child placed for adoption
(a) Notwithstanding any other law or regulation, in those cases where a child is placed for adoption by the department of children, youth and families or a licensed child placement agency, the agency shall provide a pre-adoption report in writing to the prospective adoptive parents as early as practicable after the filing of a termination of parental rights or direct consent adoption petition and before a prospective adoptive parent agrees to accept the child for purposes of adoption. The pre-adoptive report shall include the following information that is reasonably available within the records of the department of children, youth and families or the licensed child placement agency that is placing a child for adoption:
(1) A current medical, dental, developmental and psychological history of the child, including an account of the child’s prenatal care, medical condition at birth, developmental milestones; any medical, psychological or psychiatric examination and diagnosis related to the child; any physical, sexual or emotional abuse or neglect suffered by the child; any developmental assessment and a record of any immunizations and health care received while the child was in foster or other care; the child’s enrollment and performance in school and any special educational needs and any adjudications of waywardness and/or delinquency.
(2) If the child has undergone any genetic testing, and the agency is aware of the results, those results must be disclosed in the report to the prospective adoptive parents.
(3) If the child has been tested for HIV, and the agency is aware of the results, those results must be disclosed in the report to the prospective adoptive parents.
(4) The age, race, religion, ethnicity and general physical appearance of biological parents.
(5) The educational levels of biological parents, including any known diagnosed learning disabilities.
(6) The relationship between biological parents; the age and sex of any other children born to the biological parents and if a parent is deceased, the cause of and the age at death.
(7) Nonidentifying medical, substance abuse and mental health histories of the biological parents and siblings; the medical and mental health histories shall include drugs and medications taken by the child’s biological mother during pregnancy, any known allergies, hereditary, genetic or metabolic diseases.
(8) The circumstances of any judicial order terminating the parental rights of a parent for abuse, neglect, abandonment, or other mistreatment of the child.
(9) The length of time the child has been in the care of the agency and the child’s placement history.
(10) Any information necessary to determine the child’s eligibility for state or federal benefits.
(11) No information provided under subsection (a) shall disclose the name, or last known address of the biological relatives.
(b) A report furnished under this section must be signed and dated by the individual who prepared the report.
(c) Any report regarding the child, furnished pursuant to subsection (a)(1) of this section may disclose the identity of providers of professional services to the child.
(d) The agency shall not be liable for the accuracy and completeness and shall be held harmless for information provided by the biological parents and others that it reasonably relies on to prepare the preadoption report.
(e) Any of the information listed in subsection (a), in the possession of the department of children, youth and families that is related to adoption proceedings completed prior to the effective date of this act [July 8, 2005] shall be supplied to the adoptive parents or an adoptee under this section, who is 18 years of age or over, upon request.
(f) If information listed in subsection (a) that was not available at the time the preadoption report was forwarded to the prospective adoptive parents becomes available prior to the adoption proceeding, the director shall prepare a supplemental written report detailing said information. If subsequent to the adoption, the biological parent or sibling contacts the agency for the purpose of sharing information about a genetic or hereditary illness, disease or condition that may affect the adoptee’s health, the agency shall make reasonable efforts to contact and forward the information in a manner that does not identify the birth relative, to an adoptee who is 18 or more years of age or to the adoptive parents of an adoptee who is less than 18 years of age.
(g) All information and documentation provided in accordance with subsection (a), is confidential and remains the property of the person/agency making the full disclosure until the adoption is final. If the prospective adoptive parent refuses or terminates the placement, all information and documentation provided regarding the child and his/her birth family shall be returned to the person/agency providing full disclosure. A prospective adoptive parent shall not disclose any confidential information, except as necessary to make a placement/adoption decision or to provide to professionals who are treating, assessing or educating the child.
(h) This section does not apply to a stepparent adoption, or the adoption of a child related to the petitioner by marriage, blood or adoption.
(i) Any adoptee under this section, who is 18 years of age or over shall be given the information in subsection (a)(1) upon written request.
(j) Nothing contained herein shall prohibit the voluntary exchange of identifying information between mutually consenting biological parents and adoptive parents and adoptees, 18 years of age or older.
Rhode Island Law: Adoption Generally
Relevant parts of Rhode Island adoption law. The entire Rhode Island adoption statute is available here but may not reflect recently enacted laws.
§ 15-7-4. Petition to adopt — Court having jurisdiction
(a) Any person residing in Rhode Island may petition the family court for leave to adopt as his or her child any person younger than him or herself and under eighteen (18) years of age, and, if desired, for a change of the child’s name, but the prayer of the petition by a person having a husband or wife shall not be granted unless the husband or wife joins in the petition; provided, that upon good cause shown and a showing that the granting of the petition for adoption would be in the best interests of the minor child, the prayer of the petition may be granted although the spouse of the petitioner is not a party to the petition.
(b) The family court shall retain jurisdiction over any petition properly filed under subsection (a) when and if the petitioners become nonresidents after the petition is filed, but during the pendency of the action.
(c) Any person not a resident of Rhode Island may petition the family court for leave to adopt as his or her child any person younger than him or herself and under eighteen (18) years of age, and, if desired, for a change of the child’s name, if the child is at the time of the filing of the petition in the care and custody of a governmental child placing agency, or licensed Rhode Island child placing agency, but the prayer of the petition by a person having a husband or wife shall not be granted unless the husband or wife joins in the petition.
(d) Petitions for adoptions of persons eighteen (18) years or older shall be heard by the probate court of the city or town in which the petitioners live.
(e) The department shall grant an opportunity for a fair hearing, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 671(a)(12) and chapter 35 of title 42 to an individual residing outside of Rhode Island who alleges that the department denied or delayed placement of a child for adoption.
§ 15-7-5. Consent required
(a) The parents of the child, or their survivor, shall, except as provided in this section, consent in writing to the adoption, or the petition shall be dismissed. If neither parent is living, the guardian of the person of the child, or, if there is no guardian, the next of kin, may give consent; or if there is no next of kin, the court may appoint some suitable person to act in the proceedings as next friend of the child, and to give or withhold the consent; provided, that if the child is of the age of fourteen (14) years or over, the adoption shall not be made without the child’s consent. In case the child to be adopted is eighteen (18) years or older, the consent of, or notice to, the child’s parents or other person in the child’s behalf shall not be required.
(b) (1) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a) of this section, when the petitioners are one of the natural parents of the child and his or her spouse or one of the grandparents of the child and the child is residing, at the time the petition is filed, with the petitioners, if the noncustodial parent refused to consent to the adoption, the court shall determine whether the noncustodial parent’s rights shall be terminated involuntarily. In making the determination, the court shall apply the grounds for termination of parental rights set forth in § 15-7-7; provided, that the petitioners need not demonstrate, and the court shall not require, efforts to encourage and strengthen the child’s relationship with the noncustodial parent prior to terminating his or her parental rights.
(2) Notwithstanding the provisions of subdivision (1) of this subsection, when the petitioners are one of the natural parents of the child and his or her spouse or one of the grandparents of the child and the child is residing, at the time the petition is filed, with the petitioners, and if the noncustodial parent refuses to consent to the adoption, then the court may grant the petition without a noncustodial parent’s consent if the petitioners prove by clear and convincing evidence any of the grounds set forth in § 15-7-7(a)(1), (2), or (4). The standard of proof in these cases shall be by clear and convincing evidence and the court shall give primary consideration to the physical, psychological, mental, and intellectual needs of the child insofar as that consideration is not inconsistent with other provisions of this chapter.
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 records as provided in subdivision 23-3-15(g)(2).
§ 15-7-6. Waiver of parents’ right to consent — Guardianship of agency
Any duly licensed child placement agency in this state, or governmental child placement agency, at the request of the natural parent or parents of a child under eighteen (18) years of age, may, not sooner than fifteen (15) days after the birth of the child, petition the family court for the termination of the rights of the natural parents of the child to consent to its adoption. After any notice to the natural parents that the court deems proper, a hearing shall be had prior to the hearing on the petition for adoption in the family court, and if the family court finds after examination of the parent or parents that the parent or parents freely join in the petition, and that the granting of the petition is for the best interests of the child, it shall decree that in the hearing on the adoption of the child the consent of the natural parents as provided above shall be unnecessary and that the agency shall be the sole party to give or withhold consent. The granting of the petition to give or withhold consent to the child placement agency shall also make the agency the guardian of the child for all purposes.
§ 15-7-10. Consent of minor parents
(a) For the purposes of this section, “minor” refers to an individual under the age of eighteen (18).
(b) No minor parent may give a binding consent to any adoption petition or to any termination of rights pursuant to § 15-7-6 except with the consent of one of the parents, guardian, or guardian ad litem of the minor parent; provided, that if the whereabouts of both of the parents of the minor parent are unknown, that fact shall be sworn to by the petitioners or an unauthorized officer or official of a duly licensed child placement agency or of a governmental child placement agency; after notice in accordance with § 15-7-9 and upon finding that the granting of the petition for adoption or the termination of rights is in the best interest of the child, the family court may grant the petition.
§ 15-7-15. Decree of change of name
If, in a petition for the adoption of a child, a change of the child’s name is requested, the court, upon decreeing the adoption, may also decree the change of name and grant a certificate for the name change.
§ 15-7-16. Inheritance by and from adoptive kindred
(a) A child lawfully adopted shall be deemed, for the purpose of inheritance by the child and his or her descendants from the parents by adoption and the lineal and collateral kindred of the parents by adoption, and for the purpose of inheritance by the parents by adoption, and the lineal and collateral kindred of the parents by adoption, from the child and his or her descendants, and for all other legal consequences and incidents of the natural relation of parents and children, except as provided in § 15-7-17, the child of the parents by adoption the same as if he or she had been born to them in lawful wedlock. In the construction of any instrument, whether executed before or after May 8, 1956, a child so adopted and the descendants of the child shall be deemed within a limitation to the lawful heirs, issue, children, descendants, or the like, as the case may be, of the parent or parents by adoption, unless a contrary intention shall appear by the terms of the instrument or unless the particular estate so limited has vested in and as to the person or persons entitled to it on April 20, 1962; provided, that this sentence shall not apply in the construction of any instrument as to any child who is over the age of eighteen (18) years at the time of his or her adoption and who is adopted after the death of the maker of the instrument.
(b) When an adopted child is related by blood to the parent or parents by adoption, he or she and his or her descendants shall be entitled to inherit from and through the parent or parents only as an adopted child or descendants of an adopted child and not by virtue of the blood relationship.
§ 15-7-17. Rights of natural parents terminated — Inheritance by child from natural parents
The parents of the child shall be deprived, by the decree, of all legal rights respecting the child, and the child shall be freed from all obligations of maintenance and obedience respecting his or her natural parents except that the granting of the petition for adoption will not deprive an adopted child of the right to inherit from and through his or her natural parents in the same manner as all other natural children; provided, that the right to inherit from and through natural parents of an adopted child born out of wedlock shall be as provided in § 33-1-8; and provided, further, that the decree of adoption shall in no way affect all legal rights of a natural parent respecting the child and all obligations of the child of maintenance and obedience respecting a natural parent if the natural parent is legally married to the adopting parent at the time of the decree of adoption. Notwithstanding the rights of an adopted child to inherit from or through his or her natural parents as provided in this section, or as provided in § 33-1-8, any administrator, executor or trustee who without knowledge of said adopted child, otherwise carries out the administrators, executors, or trustees lawful responsibility shall not be liable to the adopted child for any damages resulting therefrom.
§ 15-7-21.1. Challenge to decree
(a) Notwithstanding any other provisions of this chapter, a decree of adoption or a termination of a parent’s right to give or withhold consent for adoption shall not be subject to a challenge or petition to reverse unless the challenge or petition is filed in the family court within one hundred eighty (180) days after the decree or order is entered.
(b) In the event a challenge is brought within the one hundred eighty (180) day period by an individual whose parental relationship to an adoptee is terminated, or by any individual who is asserting a parental relationship to the adoptee, pursuant to the provisions of this chapter, the family court shall deny the challenge unless the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the decree or order is not in the best interest of the adoptee.
Rhode Island Law: Adoption Registry/Identifying Information
Relevant parts of Rhode Island adoption law related to the state “Passive Voluntary Adoption Mutual Consent Registry.” The entire statute is available here.
§ 15-7.2-1. Definitions
As used in this chapter:
(1) “Adoptee” means a person who has been adopted in the state of Rhode Island.
(2) “Adoption” means the judicial act of creating the relationship of parent and child where it did not exist previously.
(3) “Adoptive parent” means an adult who has become a parent of a child through adoption.
(4) “Adult” means a person twenty-one (21) years of age or older.
(5) “Agency” means any public or private organization licensed or authorized under the laws of this state to place children for adoption.
(6) “Birth parent” is:
(i) The person who is legally presumed under the laws of this state to be the father or mother of genetic origin of a child; and
(ii) A putative father of the child if the birth mother alleges he is the father and the putative father, by written affidavit at any time or by surrender and release executed within one year of the relinquishment of the child by the birth mother or termination of parental rights of the birth mother, acknowledges being the child’s biological father.
(7) “Court” is family court seating in Providence county.
(8) “Genetic and social history” is a comprehensive report, when obtainable, on the birth parents, siblings to the birth parents, if any, other children of either birth parent, if any, and parents of the birth parents, and contains so much of the following information that is available:
(iii)Cause of and age at death;
(iv)Height, weight, eye and hair color;
(v)Ethnic origins; and
(vi)Religion, if any.
(9) “Health history” is a comprehensive report, when obtainable, of the child’s health status and medical history at the time of placement for adoption, including neonatal, psychological, developmental, physiological, and medical care history.
(10) “Passive voluntary adoption reunion registry” is a registry, which is not authorized to seek registrants out but is authorized only to accept voluntary registration from eligible parties as designated in this chapter.
(11) “Putative father” is a man who, under the laws of this state, is not legally presumed to be the father of genetic origin of a child, but who claims or is alleged to be the father of genetic origin of the child.
(12) “Registry” is a passive voluntary adoption reunion registry as established under this chapter.
(13) “Relevant parties” are only those parties eligible to register and to use a registry pursuant to § 15-7.2-7.
(14) “Successor agency” is an agency which has the adoption records of another agency because of the merger of the agency and the successor agency or because a former agency has ceased doing business and has given its adoption records to the successor agency as provided in this chapter.
§ 15-7.2-2. Policy
It is the policy of this state that adoption is based upon the legal termination of parental rights and responsibilities of birth parents and the creation of the legal relationship of parents and child between an adoptee and the adoptive parents. These legal and social premises underlying adoption must be maintained. The state recognizes that some adults who are adopted as children have a strong desire to obtain identifying information about their birth parents while other adult adoptees have no such desire. The state further recognizes that some birth parents have a strong desire to obtain identifying information about their biological children who were adopted, while other birth parents have no such desire. The state fully recognizes the right to privacy and confidentiality of birth parents whose children were adopted, the adoptees, and the adoptive parents. The purpose of this chapter is to:
(1) Establish a passive voluntary adoption reunion registry where birth parents, adult adoptees, and surviving relatives of deceased birth parents and deceased adoptees as defined in this chapter may register their willingness of the release of identifying information to each other;
(2) Provide for the disclosure of identifying information to birth parents and their genetic offspring through the court if a birth parent or parents and the adult adoptee are registered;
(3) Provide for the transmission of non-identifying health and social and genetic history of the adult adoptees, birth parents, and other specified persons; and
(4) Provide a mechanism in the court to inform registrants of the functions and procedures of the registry at the time of registration.
§ 15-7.2-3. Adoption records to be permanently maintained
(a) All records of any adoption finalized in this state shall be permanently maintained by the department of children, youth, and families or by the agency arranging the adoption.
(b) If an agency which handles adoptions ceases to do business, the agency shall transfer the adoption records to the department of children, youth, and families or to a successor agency, provided that the agency gives notice of the transfer to the department of children, youth, and families.
§ 15-7.2-4. Information — Confidential exceptions
A person or agency shall not disclose any confidential information relating to an adoption except as provided by this chapter or pursuant to a court order.
§ 15-7.2-5. Information of registry confidential
(a) Notwithstanding another provision of law, the information acquired by any voluntary adoption reunion registry shall not be disclosed under any freedom of information legislation or practice.
(b) A class action suit shall not be maintained in any court of this state to require the registry to disclose identifying information.
(c) Any registrant who discloses or causes to be disclosed identifying information about a biological parent or adult adoptee without that person’s express written consent shall be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for a term of not more than one year, or by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or both.
§ 15-7.2-6. The court to maintain registry
A passive voluntary adoption reunion registry shall be established and maintained by the court.
§ 15-7.2-7. Persons eligible to register and to use registry
An adult adoptee, each birth parent, any adult genetic sibling of any adoptee, an adoptive parent of a deceased adoptee, and any parent or adult sibling of a deceased birth parent or parents may register by submitting a signed affidavit to the appropriate registry. The affidavit shall contain the information listed in § 15-7.2-9 and a signed statement of the registrant’s willingness to be identified to the other relevant persons who register. The affidavit gives authority to the registry to release identifying information related to the registrant to the other relevant persons who register. Each registration shall be accompanied by the birth certificate of the registrant.
§ 15-7.2-8. Failure of a necessary registrant to file an affidavit
(a) Except as provided in this chapter, if a birth parent or an adoptee fails to file an affidavit with the registry for any reason, including disability, but excluding death, identifying information shall not be disclosed to those relevant persons who do register. No registration shall be accepted unless the registry is satisfied as to the identity of the registrants.
(b) In the event of the death of the adoptee, the adoptive parent or parents of the deceased adoptee may register, may be considered the necessary registrant in lieu of the deceased adoptee, and identifying information may be disclosed to the relevant persons in the event of a verified match.
(c) In the event of the death of the birth parent or birth parents, the parent or adult sibling of a deceased birth parent may register, may be considered the necessary registrant in lieu of the deceased birth parent, and identifying information may be disclosed to the relevant persons in the event of a verified match.
§ 15-7.2-9. Content of affidavit — Notice of change in information
(a) The affidavit required under § 15-7.2-7 shall contain:
(1) The current name and address of the registrant;
(2) Any previous name by which the registrant was known;
(3) The original or adopted names of the adopted child;
(4) The place and date of birth of the adopted child, if known;
(5) The name and address of the agency, if known; and
(6) The registrant’s relationship to this adoption.
(b) The registrant shall notify the registry of any change in name or address which occurs after the registrant registers. Upon registering, the registry shall inform the registrant that the registrant has the responsibility to notify the registry of a change in address. The registry is not required to search for a registrant who fails to notify the registry of a change of address.
(c) A registrant may cancel the registrant’s registration at any time by giving the registry written notice of the registrant’s desires to cancel.
§ 15-7.2-10. Processing affidavits
(a) Upon receipt of the affidavit under § 15-7.2-7, the court shall review its data base and determine whether there is a match by comparing the dates and place of birth of the adopted person.
(b) If a likely match appears, the chief judge of the family court or an associate justice designated by the chief judge shall examine the original birth certificate or adoption records to verify a match. Examination of adoption records for purposes other than verifying a match and release of information from the adoption record is strictly prohibited.
(c) If the registry determines there is a match, and if the necessary relevant persons have registered with the registry, notification of the match may be given by the registry to the registrants only as defined in § 15-7.2-8.
(d) Notification of a match to the relevant parties shall be made through a direct and confidential contact at the address specified by the registrant. Subsequent to the notification of a match, and prior to the release of identifying information, the adult adoptee shall participate in not less than one hour of consultation designed specifically to assist in addressing the manifest issues that may be expected to transpire in these situations.
(e) Any eligible registrant may receive from the registry non-identifying genetic, social, and health history information as defined in this chapter, regardless of whether a verified match occurs.
§ 15-7.2-11. Registry information to be maintained permanently
Any affidavits filed and other information collected by a registry shall be permanently maintained.
§ 15-7.2-12. Limits on releasing information
(a) A registry shall release only information necessary for identifying a birth parent, adult adoptee or adult genetic sibling of an adult adoptee, and shall not release information of any kind pertaining to:
(1) The adoptive parents;
(2) The siblings to the adult adoptee who are children of the adoptive parents; and
(3) The income of anyone.
(b) In the event of a verified match and release of identifying information, the registry, upon the written request of the adult adoptee of the match, shall certify to the state registrar of vital records that the adult adoptee is a party to a verified match and is entitled to receive uncertified copies of his or her original birth certificate. The certification shall also state that no person other than the adult adoptee is entitled to receive copies of the original birth certificate. However, no uncertified copy of the original birth certificate may be released to the adult adoptee unless each party named on the original birth certificate has registered. Registration by a birth parent not named on the original birth certificate shall not be required for release of the uncertified copy of the original birth certificate.
§ 15-7.2-13. Registration fee
There shall be a twenty-five dollar ($25.00) fee imposed upon persons who register pursuant to this chapter.
§ 15-7.2-14. Objections to release of information
Any eligible registrant or any adoptive parent may file with the registry an objection to the release of identifying information. In the event of a verified match where an objection to the release of identifying information has been filed, the court shall hear the objection of the filing party prior to the release of identifying information and the court shall determine whether it is in the best interests of the parties to release the objected to identifying information.
§ 15-7.2-15. The court to promulgate rules and procedures
The court shall promulgate any rules and procedures that are necessary to establish the operation of the registry consistent with the purpose of this chapter.
§ 15-7.2-16. Public information
The Rhode Island department of health shall provide the public with information regarding the registry, including a link to the information posted by the court, on its website, and in the division of vital records defined in chapter 3 of title 23.