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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Birth records open to adult adoptees July 1

David Colburn
Posted 5/9/24

REGIONAL- Starting July 1, Minnesota-born adoptees, 18 years and older, will have new access to their original birth records, a move that promises to unlock deeply held questions about their …

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Birth records open to adult adoptees July 1


REGIONAL- Starting July 1, Minnesota-born adoptees, 18 years and older, will have new access to their original birth records, a move that promises to unlock deeply held questions about their biological heritage. This access is part of a law passed last year which no longer allows birth parents to conceal their identities from adult adoptees.
After an adoption in Minnesota, birth records are changed to show the new name of the adopted person and the adoptive parents, and the original birth records and all related correspondence are sealed, making the records confidential and only accessible under certain provisions laid out in state law. Access to the records has prioritized the specified intentions of the birth parents to restrict or share the information.
But now the original birth record will be available not only to adult adoptees, but also to an adoptee’s legal representative or relatives if the adoptee is deceased.
Noncertified copies of original birth records may also be released to:
A birth parent named on the original record.
A representative of a federally recognized American Indian tribe for the sole purpose of determining an adopted person’s eligibility for tribal enrollment or membership.
A person with a certified copy of a court order directing the release of the original birth record to them.
The law also introduces a contact preference form for birth parents, allowing them to indicate their openness to being contacted. This form, which includes space for a brief message, will accompany the released birth record, though the decision to initiate contact rests solely with the adoptee. Birth parents retain the right to alter their contact preferences at any time.
Reactions to the change
The provision for changing the law for adoptees to access their original birth records was slipped into the massive health policy bill passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Tim Walz in May 2023. The provision was largely overlooked by legislators as they considered other significant issues.
An MPR News article in August 2023 revealed the feelings of people on both sides of the open records debate, including reservations expressed by Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove.
“There were promises made by government officials that (birth parents’) identities would never be revealed unless they got word from the mother to do that,” Limmer told MPR. “We have to think about that promise that was made by government.”
Limmer also articulated a concern voiced by many pro-life advocates that the prospect of future disclosure could lead to a decision to abort.
“If a woman’s identity can’t be protected, some women would resort to an abortion,” Limmer said. “And quite honestly, that’s a very serious prospect.”
But as Erin Merrigan, who helps run a birthparents support group, noted to MPR, times have changed, and that it’s just as possible that the emotional toll of having a baby and the prospect of never seeing them again could cause prospective birth parents to terminate a pregnancy.
Gregory Luce, a Minneapolis attorney and adoptee, framed the matter as one of human rights.
“I think people are finally recognizing the human right to know who you are and where you came from,” he said. “And making adoption secret in this way is just an anachronism. It’s a human rights issue. It’s found its day, it’s found its advocates, and it is currently now a real movement.”
Part of the change is being driven by DNA and the increasing knowledge base about the role of genetics in influencing people’s physical, behavioral, and psychological traits, including genetically-linked health conditions. A heightened societal interest in genealogy has also informed the debate over open records, particularly with the proliferation of large voluntarily DNA databases maintained by companies like Ancestry that will find genetic matches with others in the database. Also important in the shifting norm has been the increasingly common practice of open adoption, where the birth parents’ identities are acknowledged from the very outset of the adoption process and open communication and relationships are established between them and the adoptive parents and the adoptee.
More information about the new law, as well as required forms and fees, are available on the Minnesota Department of Health website at