Adoption Registration Unit, Access to Sealed Records and other Services
Adoption records in Tennessee are private and confidential and not open to the general public. Adoption records are, however, available to eligible persons. This page will explain who has access and how you can receive adoption records -- whether yours or a relative's.
Persons Eligible to Receive Adoption Records:
- adult individuals, age 21 or older, surrendered for the purpose of adoption.
- an adopted individual’s birth, adoptive, step- or legal parent older than 21-years of age.
- an adopted individual’s birth or adoptive siblings, age 21 and older.
- an adopted individual’s lineal descendants or lineal ancestors, age 21 and older.
Note: The adopted person must consent to the release of any identifying information contained in the sealed record.
Individuals Who Cannot Receive Access to Adoption Records Include:
- A parent or pre-adoptive guardian whose rights were involuntarily terminated for cause.
- A sibling, lineal ancestor, spouse or legal representative of the person whose rights were involuntarily terminated for cause.
- A person guilty of a crime of violence or neglect against the adopted person.
- Alleged parent or relatives. (See note below on “alleged parent.”)
An adoption record can include:
- sealed adoption records
- post-adoption records
- court records
- adoption agency records
- an order of termination of parental rights
- Records from the Department of Health, Office of Vital Statistics.
If you were adopted before 1951 or through the Tennessee Children’s Home Society:
The laws governing access to the records are different if you were adopted before 1951, but the process of access is virtually the same. Learn more about access to records if you were adopted before 1951 or through the Tennessee Children’s Home Society.
How to Request Records
If You Were Adopted:
All requests for access to records must be in writing and must contain an address, telephone number, date, and original signature. Requests must specify the service that is being requested.
Your letter must Include:
- your full name
- your birth date
- the full name of your adoptive parent(s), including your mother’s maiden name.
- the city and county where the adoption was finalized
- indicate in your letter any person(s), or class of persons, with whom you desire contact.
If you are the Relative of an Adopted Person
All requests for access to adoption records must be in writing and must contain an address, telephone number, date, and original signature. Requests must specify the service that is being requested.
Your letter must include:
- your full name and date of birth
- the adopted person’s full adoptive name
- the adopted person’s birth date.
- the full name of the adoptive parents, including the mother’s maiden name
- the city and county where the adoption was finalized
- your relationship to adopted person
- indicate in your letter any person(s), or class of persons, with whom you desire contact
- written permission from the adopted person for the release of any identifying information contained in the sealed record.
There is a $150 records access fee, payable when the department requests it. Do not send it in prior to the request.
Submit requests via mail to:
Department of Children’s Services
Post Adoption Unit
UBS Tower, 9th Floor
315 Deaderick Street
Nashville, Tennessee 37243
What you need to know:
You will be notified in writing of the fee and the documentation needed to establish your relationship to the adopted person. Please, do not send this information before it was requested.
Sealed records are not kept in this office and will be retrieved upon payment of fee or fee waiver.
Requests for service are processed in the order in which the fee/fee waiver is received.
In cases of rape or incest the birth mother must consent to the release of the sealed record, even to the adoptee.
Alleged parent is a person who was named, or described in the sealed record, as a parent of the adopted person but the record does not show this person on any legal documents, i.e. birth certificate, court order, unqualified acknowledgement of parenthood, surrender of parental rights, etc.
When no record is on file, the department will search for records of the adoption when provided sufficient information to identify the court and/or agency and upon payment of fee or fee waiver.
For more information
Call the office of Post Adoption Services at (615) 532-5637.
Background on the Release of Adoption Records in Tennessee
On September 27, 1999 the Supreme Court of Tennessee at Nashville issued an opinion in the case of PROMISE DOE, ET AL., VS. DONALD SUNDQUIST, ET. AL and upheld a new adoption records law that was to take effect July 1, 1996.
After more than three years of litigation, the Supreme Court concluded that the disclosure of adoption records created on or after March 16, 1951 does not impair the vested rights or violate the right to privacy under the Tennessee constitution. This ruling by the Supreme Court allows the Department of Children’s Services to begin processing requests for services to persons eligible to have access to their adoption records.
The department is able to act under provisions of Tennessee Code Annotated §36-1-12 ( c ) to provide access to adoption records, sealed adoption records, sealed records, post adoption records, or records from any other information source that were created on or after March 16, 1951.
Adoption records may be released pursuant to court order as provided in Tennessee Code §36-1-138. If any adoption was attempted or occurred before March 16, 1951, the law affecting services available to eligible persons was effective July 1, 1995.