One of the first things that an adoptee in search of information on his or her birth parents should do is obtain non-identifying information from either the agency (private or social services) or from the State of California if the agency your parents used is no longer in existence. If your adoption occurred in California but was facilitated through a private attorney then you should request your non-identifying information from the California Dept. of Social Services, Post Adoption Unit in Sacramento.

Many adoptees are given a ‘facts’ sheet of information on their birth parents that was received by the adoptive parents during the adoption proceedings. This facts sheet was intended to familiarize the adoptive parents with the birth parents by giving limited information on the biological parents of the child they were hoping to adopt. It may list the age of the biological parents, height, weight and hair color, and possible the educational level of both birth parents. This fact sheet is not complete non-identifying information. If you do have this sheet, please also attempt to obtain full non-identifying information.

Non-Identifying information is a Social History of your biological parents. It may include their ages at the time of your birth, their physical descriptions, and likes and dislikes. It will contain very limited medical history of the biological parents and families. If your birth parents had siblings, the non-id may include their gender and years of birth. It may also tell you if any of the siblings had particular talents or interest.

Most non-ids will also give you a brief description of your biological grandparents, such as their ages at the time of your birth and may also list their occupations, interests, hobbies and a brief medical history if known. It will also give you a brief breakdown on the reasons you were placed for adoption and the facts or situation which led up to that placement with you parents.

There are other laws which regulate what information you can obtain from the agency or the state. If your non-identifying information states that one or both of you biological parents were Native American, you may have other legal options available to you.

If your adoptive parents are still living, and support your desire to request and receive information on your birth family, please be aware that there are a few counties in California in which the adoptive can request and receive the entire adoption file. This is tremendously helpful and contains a wealth of information.

Obtaining Non-Identifying Information:

Adult Adoptees age 18 years or older, and the adoptive parents of adoptees who are younger than 18 years may request non-identifying information from the agency or the government department that was involved with the adoption petition.

If the request is denied, the party seeking information may petition the court in which the adoption was finalized. Birth parents can receive information on the status of the adoption and the adoptive parents at time of placement.

Obtaining Identifying Information:

If the adoption was finalized on or after January 1, 1984, the adopted adult age 18 or older can receive information on the birth parents if the birth parents have given written consent to the disclosure. Birth parents can receive information on an adopted adult age 21 or older if the adopted adult has given written consent to disclosure. Disclosures are filed with the adoption agency or the government agency that joined in the adoption petition. Adoptive parents of an adoptee, who is younger than age 21, can receive information on the birth parents if there is a medical necessity or other extraordinary circumstances that justify the disclosure according to the State Department of Social Services or licensed adoption agency. If the adoption was finalized before January 1, 1984, with consent of both requesting parties, the agency shall arrange contact between the birth parents and adopted adult. The agency shall release the names and addresses of birth siblings age 21 or older to one another if the birth siblings have filed consent.

Consent Program:

California does not have a mutual consent registry. However, the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) operates a statewide Consent Program for adoptees (age 18 and over), birth parents, and siblings of adoptees who are 21 years of age or older. The Program is only for adoptions finalized in California and the specified parties may participate by submitting a Consent for Contact form (for adoptees and birth parents), or a Waiver of Rights to Confidentiality of Adoption Records for Siblings. You may obtain these forms by contacting CDSS at (916) 651-8089, or by contacting your local licensed public or private adoption agency. Upon receipt of a notarized consent form from an adoptee and a birth parent, or a notarized waiver form from an adoptee and a sibling, CDSS or the licensed adoption agency which handled the adoption can disclose the names and last known addresses of both parties so they may directly contact each other. CDSS and adoption agencies are prohibited by law from soliciting consents or waivers, and do not provide search services to adoptees, birth parents or siblings.

California Department of Social Services
Adoption Branch
744 P Street, MS 19-31
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 651-8089

Providing Information:

The Department or licensed agency shall release any letters, photographs, or other items of personal property in its possession to an adopted adult age 18 or older, birth parents, or adoptive parents of an adoptee under 18 upon written request. Identifying information will be deleted.

Obtaining an Original Birth Certificate:

An adoptee must petition the court in which the adoption was finalized.

Non-identifying information is a crucial part of any ‘Adoption Search’. To an investigator, it becomes his or her clue sheet. If you do not have this vital information, please determine which agency to approach to obtain it. Please be aware that obtaining non-identifying information may take some time. Large counties have a limited staff, and requests are usually taken on a first come first serve basis. Once you receive the information, please contact your investigator immediately and make arrangements to either fax or mail a copy to them.

Footnote 1:
If you have started a Guided Professional Search with Search Quest America, and you do not currently have your non-identifying information, if it is determined that it will take longer than your six month period to obtain non-id, your case will be put on hold while we wait for that information. Upon receipt of the non-id your case will be reactivated with no time lost.

Footnote 2:
Search Quest America has a stellar success rate with adoption searches originating in California. Our success rate for biological parents in search of adoptees is 98%. For adoptees in search of biological parents, we are averaging 91% on those cases that we accept.