Adoption: Access to Nonidentifying Family and Medical History

Many people see their family doctor at least once per year, whether or not they have specific health concerns. The visit typically consists of a basic physical examination and discussion about health habits and risks. Individuals take into account many factors, including their family medical history, when making lifestyle choices regarding diet, exercise, smoking, and the consumption of alcohol. When a child is adopted, however, especially if the adoption occurs at or very near birth, the child’s family medical history may not be easily available.

Fortunately, Illinois is one of many states that have taken steps toward allowing adopted children and their parents access to medical, demographic, and familial information. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children & Families established guidelines regarding the nonidentifying family and medical history, and states are encouraged to make the following available in all adoption cases:

  • Birth parents’ age and general physical appearance;
  • Birth parents’ race, religion, ethnicity and relationship to each other;
  • Birth parents’ education, profession, talents, hobbies, etc.;
  • Existence of biological siblings;
  • Information about grandparents, including country of origin and reasons for coming to the United States, if applicable;
  • Accurate date and place of birth of the adopted person
  • Detailed medical and mental health histories of the child, birth parents and immediate family.

 Illinois law provides for the release of nonidentifying family and medical history through the Illinois Adoption Registry, under the Illinois Department of Public Health. The law also specifies that the following people may receive nonidentifying family and medical history by participating with the Registry:

  • Any adult adopted person;
  • Adoptive parent or legal guardian of an adopted person under 21;
  • Adoptive parent or legal guardian of a deceased adult adopted person.

Information that can be used to identify an adopted person’s birth parents, such as birth parents’ names, known addresses, or names of biological siblings, is handled similarly, but with much more concern for privacy. Birth family members and adoptive family member are still expected to utilize the Illinois Adoption Registry, but must individually authorize any sharing of identifying information. Sharing of information beyond what is specifically authorized requires a court order.

 Just as every child is different, every adoption case is too. Each has its own challenges and concerns. If you are an adoptive parent and need help accessing information you need to help your child, contact an experienced DuPage County family law attorney. We understand the law and can help you best provide for your adopted child.