Unless Louisiana or Massachusetts gets there first, on July 1, 2023 Vermont will become the eleventh state in the United States to secure or restore the right of all adopted people to request and obtain their own original birth certificates (OBC). Here’s what the new law does plus how and when Vermont-born adoptees and their descendants can apply for a copy of the OBC.
Does this mean I can now get my own original birth certificate in Vermont?
Yes, yes it does—but not quite yet. The new law becomes effective on July 1, 2023. You will have to wait until that date to apply for and receive a copy of your original birth certificate.
Does the new law apply to all adopted people born in Vermont?
Yes. No matter the date of a person’s birth or adoption, all Vermont-born adopted people will have an unrestricted right to request and obtain their own original birth certificates. While current law uses a complicated process involving the Vermont Adoption Registry, the new law eliminates direct involvement of the registry. Instead, adult adopted people will apply for the OBC directly through the Vermont Department of Health. The heart of the new law is contained in these provisions and may actually answer most of your initial questions:
A certified copy of an adoptee’s original birth certificate and any evidence of the adoption previously filed with the State Registrar shall be released to persons identified in subsection 6-105(a) of this title upon request.
Section 6-105(a), which defines who may apply for and obtain the certified copy of the original birth certificate, specifically includes “an adoptee who is 18 years of age or older.”
How old do I have to be to request my own OBC?
While the general age to request your own OBC is 18 years of age or older, an emancipated minor may also be able to apply for the OBC under the new law. Vermont law on the emancipation of minors is here, and, if emancipation is approved, would allow the adoptee to apply for and obtain the OBC as early as age 16.
Who else can apply for the OBC other than the adopted person?
The law also allows a deceased adoptee’s direct descendant to apply for and obtain a copy of the OBC. The applicant must be either 1) a direct descendant who is 18 years of age or older or 2) the parent or guardian of a direct descendant. In either case, the adoptee must be deceased.
Who is a direct descendant?
A direct descendant is a child, grandchild, great grandchild, etc.—that is, it is a person descended directly from the adopted person.
How and where do I apply?
Once the law is fully effective, you would apply for your original birth certificate with the Vermont Department of Health. The application and more information about the process will be added here and on the New England Adoptee Rights Coalition website once they are available.
What will I receive when I apply for the original birth certificate?
You will receive up to three documents:
- a certified copy of the original pre-adoption birth certificate;
- any “evidence of the adoption previously filed with the State Registrar.” This almost always includes the order or report of adoption issued by a court after an adoption is finalized (an image of a blank Vermont report of adoption is here). What you receive as “evidence of the adoption” may vary depending on the year of the adoption, as documentation and other requirements changed over the years.
- a notice that a birthparent contact preference form may be on file with the Vermont Adoption Registry.
What is a contact preference form and how does that affect the release of the original birth certificate?
A genuine contact preference form allows a birthparent listed on the birth certificate to express a preference for any contact with the adopted person or the adopted person’s descendants. It has three choices, and none of the choices impacts the release of the original birth certificate. It allows the birth parent to
indicate whether the parent would:
(A) like to be contacted by the adoptee;
(B) prefer to be contacted by the adoptee only through an intermediary; or
(C) prefer not to be contacted by the adoptee at this time.
In addition, the form “shall include space where the parent may include information that the parent feels is important for the adoptee to know.”
When will contact preference forms be available to file?
The law requires that birthparent contact preference forms be available for filing by October 1, 2022. They are to be filed with the Vermont Adoption Registry, which will handle release of information from the forms.
How much does it cost to apply for the original birth certificate?
It should not cost more than what it costs to apply for a certified copy of any Vermont-issued birth certificate, though we do not know the specific cost yet.
Can I apply for the OBC online?
It is not known yet if online applications will be accepted. This will be updated as we learn more.
How long will it take to get the copy of the original birth certificate?
I do not yet have an estimate on this. It’s anticipated it may not take long for releasing OBCs related to adoptions that were finalized more recently. For older births it may take more time for the Department of Health to search for and find the original birth record and link it to the current amended record.
Will any information on the original birth certificate be changed or removed?
No. The law does not allow for anyone to change or remove information from the original birth record.
Will I get a certified copy of the original birth certificate?
Yes, the copy of the original birth record will be certified. The law, however, specifically provides that:
The copy of the original birth certificate shall clearly indicate that it may not be used for identification purposes.
The law still has language about “nondisclosure” of information. What is that about?
This relates only to the process of releasing “identifying information” from the current Vermont Adoption Registry. Under current law, which will extend until July 1, 2023, a birthparent may file a nondisclosure request that will prevent the disclosure of specific identifying information from the registry. On and after July 1, 2023, nondisclosure requests will no longer be allowed.
It is important to note that the filing of any nondisclosure statement with the registry, whether in the past or up to July 1, 2023, relates only to information held by the registry. This specific provision does not apply to the original birth certificate and the new law expressly states that:
This section [related to the registry] shall not be interpreted to interfere with a person’s right to obtain a copy of an original birth certificate pursuant to section 6-107 of this title.
Adoption registries almost always require mutual consent to release information, and they are focused on facilitating contact between people involved in an adoption. Vermont’s registry is no exception. After July 1, 2023, however, the registry will no longer accept requests for nondisclosure of certain information to the adult adopted person. Again, these provisions have no effect on the release of the original birth certificate.
Is there a state or other group involved with this new law?
Yes. The Vermont Adoptee Rights Working Group (VAWRG) led on-the-ground efforts to enact the new law. VARWG is part of the New England Adoptee Rights Coalition, which was also centrally involved in efforts.
Where can I read the text of the new law?
You can find the relevant portions of the law here on Adoptee Rights Law Center, which has been updated to reflect the new law. Links to the state law are also on that page but the state of Vermont may not have updated its online statutes yet to reflect the new changes. You can read a PDF of the officially passed bill here.
Will you be updating this FAQ when necessary?
Yes, I will update this FAQ as more information becomes available or if information changes or needs correction based on what I currently understand about implementation of the new law. Adoptee Rights Law Center is also a core partner in the New England Adoptee Rights Coalition, where information will also be posted.
Have you updated your map yet?
Not yet. We will have to wait until July 1, 2023, to set off our full array of adoptee fireworks. Until then, the map will still look like this, though there is a note about the new law if you click on Vermont.
US OBC Rights