Adoption records are generally sealed and not available for public inspection. In Pennsylvania, a petition must be filed with the court in order to obtain adoption records. The correct place to file a petition is the same court which handled the initial adoption matter. An adoptee over the age of 18 may file a petition or in the case of a minor adoptee, the adoptive parents or their guardian. The court, if they believe the request is warranted, will only release limited information. Specifically, they will not release information on the identity of the natural parent(s) unless the natural parent(s) are first contacted and give their consent to disclose their identity. Often, it is the county’s social service agency, such as Children and Youth, that is responsible to reach out to the natural parent(s) on the court’s behalf regarding any petition to access the identity of the natural parent(s).

If an agency was involved in the adoption, a request can also be made through the agency for information on the natural parent(s). The agencies have the same requirement as the courts in terms of getting permission of the natural parent(s) first. It is also possible for the natural parents to agree to disclosure prior to any request coming from the adoptee. At any point subsequent to their termination of parental rights, they may file a consent for the initial birth certificate to be released to adoptee over 18 or their parent or guardian if requested. This consent can subsequently be withdrawn if their decision on disclosure later changes. Consent of both natural parents is needed to see the full record. If only one parent consents, the other parent’s information would be redacted.