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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, not department policy, deems the age to be 21.  The department can only do what the law allows us to do. We must follow the law.

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

Please see this page for information on rules for adoptions prior to 1951, or for anyone adopted through the Tennessee Children’s Home Society.

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

This is a confidential service. Neither adoptive parents nor birth parents are informed when information is released.

No. It must be mailed or scanned in and emailed. Taking a picture of a written request does not count.

The complete process can take 3-5 months.

We do not keep the records in the post adoption services office, and each request follows a timeline and protocol.

Yes, the fees are as follows:

  • $150 for complete access to a record
  • $45 for non-identifying information in the records
  • $135 for a search for birth relatives.

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.

Birth family information, medical information, early baby information, court documents. Complete access usually offers a good look into what was going on at the time of the surrender.

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, you can request a search through our department.

Only certain people have legally granted 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 she must consent to the release of the record.
  • Birth parents: DCS first must check and make sure you voluntarily surrendered your child or children and that it was not a termination of parental rights for cause.  If it was a termination the requestor will be denied access.
  • Birth fathers/paternal relatives: There must be documentation in the adoption record that states the person requesting access is the father, so his 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.

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.