Washington does not allow adult adoptees unrestricted access to their own original birth certificates. An OBC is available through the Department of Health but release is subject to birth parent disclosure vetoes as well as to corrupt contact preference forms that allow a birth parent to deny release of the OBC. Disclosure vetoes and contact preference forms expire on the death of the birth parent.
All other identifying information in adoption records are sealed and only available through a confidential intermediary or by court order upon good cause shown.
Relevant Washington Law: Original Birth Certificates
RCW 26.33.345. Search for birth parent or adopted child—Limited release of information—Noncertified copies of original birth certificate—Contact preference form
(1) The department of social and health services, adoption agencies, and independent adoption facilitators shall release the name and location of the court where a relinquishment of parental rights or finalization of an adoption took place to an adult adoptee, a birth parent of an adult adoptee, an adoptive parent, a birth or adoptive grandparent of an adult adoptee, or an adult sibling of an adult adoptee, or the legal guardian of any of these.
(2) The department of health shall make available a noncertified copy of the original birth certificate of a child to the child’s birth parents upon request.
(3)(a) For adoptions finalized after October 1, 1993, the department of health shall provide a noncertified copy of the original birth certificate to an adoptee eighteen years of age or older upon request, unless the birth parent has filed an affidavit of nondisclosure before July 28, 2013, or a contact preference form that indicates he or she does not want the original birth certificate released: PROVIDED, That the affidavit of nondisclosure, the contact preference form, or both have not expired.
(b) For adoptions finalized on or before October 1, 1993, the department of health may not provide a noncertified copy of the original birth certificate to the adoptee until after June 30, 2014. After June 30, 2014, the department of health shall provide a noncertified copy of the original birth certificate to an adoptee eighteen years of age or older upon request, unless the birth parent has filed a contact preference form that indicates he or she does not want the original birth certificate released: PROVIDED, That the contact preference form has not expired.
(c) An affidavit of nondisclosure expires upon the death of the birth parent.
(4)(a) Regardless of whether a birth parent has filed an affidavit of nondisclosure or when the adoption was finalized, a birth parent may at any time complete a contact preference form stating his or her preference about personal contact with the adoptee, which, if available, must accompany an original birth certificate provided to an adoptee under subsection (3) of this section.
(b) The contact preference form must include the following options:
(i) I would like to be contacted. I give the department of health consent to provide the adoptee with a noncertified copy of his or her original birth certificate;
(ii) I would like to be contacted only through a confidential intermediary as described in RCW 26.33.343. I give the department of health consent to provide the adoptee with a noncertified copy of his or her original birth certificate;
(iii) I prefer not to be contacted and have completed the birth parent updated medical history form. I give the department of health consent to provide the adoptee with a noncertified copy of his or her original birth certificate; and
(iv) I prefer not to be contacted and have completed the birth parent updated medical history form. I do not want a noncertified copy of the original birth certificate released to the adoptee.
(c) If the birth parent indicates he or she prefers not to be contacted, personally identifying information on the contact preference form must be kept confidential and may not be released.
(d) Nothing in this section precludes a birth parent from subsequently filing another contact preference form to rescind the previous contact preference form and state a different preference.
(e) A contact preference form expires upon the death of the birth parent.
(5) If a birth parent files a contact preference form, the birth parent must also file an updated medical history form with the department of health. Upon request of the adoptee, the department of health must provide the adoptee with the updated medical history form filed by the adoptee’s birth parent.
(6) Both a completed contact preference form and birth parent updated medical history form are confidential and must be placed in the adoptee’s sealed file.
(7) If a birth parent files a contact preference form within six months after the first time an adoptee requests a copy of his or her original birth certificate as provided in subsection (3) of this section, the department of health must forward the contact preference form and the birth parent updated medical history form to the address of the adoptee.
(8) The department of health may charge a fee not to exceed twenty dollars for providing a noncertified copy of a birth certificate to an adoptee.
(9) The department of health must create the contact preference form and an updated medical history form. The contact preference form must provide a method to ensure personally identifying information can be kept confidential. The updated medical history form may not require the birth parent to disclose any identifying information about the birth parent.
(10) If the department of health does not provide an adoptee with a noncertified copy of the original birth certificate because a valid affidavit of nondisclosure or contact preference form has been filed, the adoptee may request, no more than once per year, that the department of health attempt to determine if the birth parent is deceased. Upon request of the adoptee, the department of health must make a reasonable effort to search public records that are accessible and already available to the department of health to determine if the birth parent is deceased. The department of health may charge the adoptee a reasonable fee to cover the cost of conducting a search.
Relevant Washington Law: Adoption and Agency Records
RCW 26.33.330. Records sealed—Inspection—Fee
(1) All records of any proceeding under this chapter shall be sealed and shall not be thereafter open to inspection by any person except upon order of the court for good cause shown, or except by using the procedure described in RCW 26.33.343. In determining whether good cause exists, the court shall consider any certified statement on file with the department of health as provided in RCW 26.33.347.
(2) The state registrar of vital statistics may charge a reasonable fee for the review of any of its sealed records.
RCW 26.33.340. Department, agency, and court files confidential—Limited disclosure of information
Department, agency, and court files regarding an adoption shall be confidential except that reasonably available nonidentifying information may be disclosed upon the written request for the information from the adoptive parent, the adoptee, or the birth parent. If the adoption facilitator refuses to disclose nonidentifying information, the individual may petition the superior court. Identifying information may also be disclosed through the procedure described in RCW 26.33.343.
RCW 26.33.343. Search for birth parent or adopted child–Confidential intermediary
(1) An adopted person over the age of twenty-one years, or under twenty-one with the permission of the adoptive parent, or a birth parent or member of the birth parent’s family after the adoptee has reached the age of twenty-one may petition the court to appoint a confidential intermediary. A petition under this section shall state whether a certified statement is on file with the department of health as provided for in RCW 26.33.347 and shall also state the intent of the adoptee as set forth in any such statement. The intermediary shall search for and discreetly contact the birth parent or adopted person, or if they are not alive or cannot be located within one year, the intermediary may attempt to locate members of the birth parent or adopted person’s family. These family members shall be limited to the natural grandparents of the adult adoptee, a brother or sister of a natural parent, or the child of a natural parent. The court, for good cause shown, may allow a relative more distant in degree to petition for disclosure.
(2)(a) Confidential intermediaries appointed under this section shall complete training provided by a licensed adoption service or another court-approved entity and file an oath of confidentiality and a certificate of completion of training with the superior court of every county in which they serve as intermediaries. The court may dismiss an intermediary if the intermediary engages in conduct which violates professional or ethical standards.
(b) The confidential intermediary shall sign a statement of confidentiality substantially as follows:
I, . . . . . ., signing under penalty of contempt of court, state: “As a condition of appointment as a confidential intermediary, I affirm that, when adoption records are opened to me:
I will not disclose to the petitioner, directly or indirectly, any identifying information in the records without further order from the court.
I will conduct a diligent search for the person being sought and make a discreet and confidential inquiry as to whether that person will consent to being put in contact with the petitioner, and I will report back to the court the results of my search and inquiry.
If the person sought consents to be put in contact with the petitioner, I will attempt to obtain a dated, written consent from the person, and attach the original of the consent to my report to the court. If the person sought does not consent to the disclosure of his or her identity, I shall report the refusal of consent to the court.
I will not make any charge or accept any compensation for my services except as approved by the court, or as reimbursement from the petitioner for actual expenses incurred in conducting the search. These expenses will be listed in my report to the court.
I recognize that unauthorized release of confidential information may subject me to civil liability under state law, and subjects me to being found in contempt of court.”
(c) The confidential intermediary shall be entitled to reimbursement from the petitioner for actual expenses in conducting the search. The court may authorize a reasonable fee in addition to these expenses.
(3) If the confidential intermediary is unable to locate the person being sought within one year, the confidential intermediary shall make a recommendation to the court as to whether or not a further search is warranted, and the reasons for this recommendation.
(4) In the case of a petition filed on behalf of a natural parent or other blood relative of the adoptee, written consent of any living adoptive parent shall be obtained prior to contact with the adoptee if the adoptee:
(a) Is less than twenty-five years of age and is residing with the adoptive parent; or
(b) Is less than twenty-five years of age and is a dependent of the adoptive parent.
(5) If the confidential intermediary locates the person being sought, a discreet and confidential inquiry shall be made as to whether or not that person will consent to having his or her present identity disclosed to the petitioner. The identity of the petitioner shall not be disclosed to the party being sought. If the party being sought consents to the disclosure of his or her identity, the confidential intermediary shall obtain the consent in writing and shall include the original of the consent in the report filed with the court. If the party being sought refuses disclosure of his or her identity, the confidential intermediary shall report the refusal to the court and shall refrain from further and subsequent inquiry without judicial approval.
(6)(a) If the confidential intermediary obtains from the person being sought written consent for disclosure of his or her identity to the petitioner, the court may then order that the name and other identifying information of that person be released to the petitioner.
(b) If the person being sought is deceased, the court may order disclosure of the identity of the deceased to the petitioner.
(c) If the confidential intermediary is unable to contact the person being sought within one year, the court may order that the search be continued for a specified time or be terminated.