Tennessee Adoption Records FAQ

Commonly asked questions about access to adoption records

An adopted person, adopted person’s birth or adoptive parents, grandparents, siblings, and the adopted person’s children. They all must be at least 21. No matter who makes the request the adopted person must be 21.

State law requires the adopted person be 21 years or older. The department's policies must follow state laws.

No, no one can access an adoption record until the adopted person turns 21.

Please see Adoptions prior to 1951 for directions on how to get access to your records.

In most cases you do not need an attorney or a court order to get access to the record.

No.  We do not notify adoptive parents when an adoptee requests a record.

You can download the Request for Access to Sealed Adoption Records/Release of Information and Other Services here.

No. You can either mail the request to our office or email the request to EI_DCS.PostAdoptionServices@tn.gov The request must be scanned and attached to the email.  Photos of the request cannot be accepted.  You can find directions on how to request records here.

The process could take up to 3 months.

Yes, there are fees associated with many services we offer.

Request for access to sealed adoption record: $150

Request for non-identifying information in the sealed adoption record: $45

If you cannot afford the fee, you can discuss the possibility of waiving the fee with your assigned the Program Specialist.

Waivers are granted and no fees are charged if you can provide documentation that you or someone in your household unit currently receives benefits such as:  

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Food Stamps (SNAP)
  • Medicaid/TennCare
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Or any means-tested program that the person’s income and resources would fall below the Federal Poverty Guidelines as published in the Federal Register.

Persons that cannot show evidence of any of the above benefits can complete and submit the Affidavit of Income and Resources for Waiver of Sealed Records Fees form to determine eligibility.

You can download the form here.

Non-identifying information contains medical information, descriptions such as height, weight, and ethnicity. All identifying information will be removed. Complete access is everything in the record that can be released by law.

Complete access to the sealed records means that we provide you will all the records we have associated with your case. This could include birth family information, medical information, birth information, court documents. Complete access usually offers more information regarding the circumstances of the adoption.

The first thing you must do is request access to their, or your, record. Once you complete the request for access and the department determines you are eligible to see the file.

The law outlines who is eligible to have access to adoption records.

  • Adoptees: Have full access to their own records unless there is an indication of rape or incest in the record. In cases of rape or incest, the birth mother must be contacted by the department first and must consent to the release of the record.
  • Birth parents: DCS first must check and make sure the birth parent voluntarily surrendered their parental rights to their child or children and that parental rights were not involuntarily terminated.  If the birth parent’s parental rights were involuntarily terminated, the birth parent cannot be granted access.  If a birth parent was guilty of a crime against the adoptee even if their rights were intact, that birth parent cannot be granted access.  To release records to birth parents, the adoptee must also consent to the release.  The department will contact the adoptee to request permission.
  • Birth fathers: There must be documentation in the adoption record that states the person requesting access is the father.  This means the father’s name must be on a court document or a birth certificate or he must be noted in the record claiming paternity. When there is no documentation, the father is considered “alleged.” Alleged relatives will be denied access to records.
  • Siblings: To release records to siblings, the adoptee must also consent to the release.  The department will contact the adoptee to request permission to release the records. The adoptee and the requestor must be at least 21 years of age. If a sibling was considered guilty of a crime against the adoptee that sibling cannot be granted access.
  • Children: To release records to the adoptee’s child or children, the adoptee must also consent to the release.  The department will contact the adoptee to request permission to release the records. The adoptee and the requestor must be at least 21 years of age.
  • Consent: In situations where the person who needs to consent is deceased, the department cannot grant access to the record.

For more information about eligibility, visit Who is Eligible?

No. You do not have to search for birth relatives. You can access the information without contacting anyone.

You need to request the information through your Child Support Office. DCS can only release the information directly to the Child Support Office.