June 20, 2019

SB 14-051: Revising Requirements Regarding Access to Adoption Records

On Friday, January 10, 2014, Sen. Lois Tochtrop introduced SB 14-051 – Concerning Access to Records Relating to the Adoption of Children. This summary is published here courtesy of the Colorado Bar Association’s e-Legislative Report.

The bill repeals and reenacts portions of the existing statute on access to adoption records to eliminate different standards of access by members of the adoption triad (consisting of the adoptee, the birth parents, and the adoptive parents) and their descendants based on the law in existence on the date the adoption was finalized. The bill retains the current policy that adoption records are confidential from the general public, unless the requesting party is eligible under the statute to access the records or unless the court finds good cause for release. The bill retains current policy that after a birth parent is deceased or an adult adoptee is deceased, eligible relatives may receive access to the adoption records.

Contact preference forms. The bill allows for the continued use of the contact preference form issued by the state registrar of vital statistics (state registrar), which form may be used by a birth parent to indicate whether he or she prefers to be contacted by an adoptee, the descendant of an adoptee, or a representative of either directly, through a third party, or not at all. Effective July 1, 2014, the state registrar shall not distribute a contact preference form that gives a birth parent the option to authorize or not authorize release of the original birth certificate to the adult adoptee, his or her descendants, or certain adoptive family members. Prior to releasing an original birth certificate to an individual eligible to access it, the state registrar or the custodian of records must conduct a search to determine whether a contact preference form was filed with the state registrar. If a contact preference form was executed prior to July 1, 2014, and the birth parent stated a preference not to authorize release of the original birth certificate, then the state registrar or other custodian of records may not release the original birth certificate to an adult adoptee or other eligible individual unless the birth parent rescinds or changes the contact preference form, upon mutual consent of two or more reunited parties, the birth parent is deceased, or a court orders its release. If one birth parent has authorized the release of the birth certificate and the other birth parent has not authorized the release, the state registrar or other custodian of records may only issue the original birth certificate with the name of the non-consenting parent redacted.

The state registrar shall maintain and make available to the public accurate statistics about the number of contact preference forms on file with the state registrar and how many of the forms state a preference for contact, no contact, or contact through a third party.

Access to adoption records by adult adoptees, their descendants, or adoptive family members. The bill retains current policy regarding parties who are eligible to apply for adoption records. A custodian of adoption records must release adoption records (including birth certificates) to an adult adoptee, an adoptive parent of a minor adoptee, a custodial grandparent of a minor adoptee, or the legal representative of any such individual. In addition, the custodian of records must provide direct access for inspection and copying of adoption records to a spouse of an adult adoptee, adult descendant of an adoptee, adult sibling or half-sibling of an adult adoptee, adoptive parent or grandparent of an adult adoptee, or the legal representative of any such individual, if the individual requesting access has the notarized written consent of the adult adoptee or if the adult adoptee is deceased.

Access to original birth certificates by birth parents. Upon request, the state registrar must provide to a birth parent who relinquished a child for adoption a copy of the unaltered original birth certificate that the birth parent signed or was named in.

Access to death certificates. The state registrar is authorized to conduct a search of death certificates to determine whether a birth parent or an adoptee is deceased and to provide a copy of any death certificate found to the requesting eligible individual. The state registrar may collect fees for conducting a search and for making copies and shall transmit any fees to the state treasurer who must credit the fees to the vital statistics records cash fund.

The legal custodian shall not release records unless the individual requesting access is eligible to access the records and provides proof of personal identification. The legal custodian may charge reasonable fees for copying records.

The bill retains the existing policy that allows identifying information in records of child placement agencies to remain confidential based on prior written statements of birth parents on file with the child placement agency or the court. Subject to the provisions of this bill, any party may seek direct contact with another party or use the services of a confidential intermediary, a licensed child placement agency that agrees to conduct a search, or the voluntary mutual consent registry operated by the state registrar. The bill makes conforming amendments. On Jan. 29 the Judiciary Committee heard testimony but did not vote on the bill.

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