Wisconsin Records Search Program

Wisconsin Records Search Program

The Wisconsin Adoption Search Law

Wisconsin's Adoption Record Search law is set forth in State Statute Sections 48.432 and 48.433. The primary purpose of the law is to help persons who have been adopted or whose birth parents have terminated their parental rights in Wisconsin to obtain information about themselves and their birth relatives.

This information includes:

  • Non-identifying social history information
  • Medical and genetic information on birth parents and members of their families, including routine health information and any known hereditary or degenerative disease.
  • Most recent names and address of birth parents in Department of Children and Families files.
  • A copy of the impounded birth certificate (the birth certificate on record prior to the time of adoption).

The law specifies conditions and protections under which a search may be conducted. Birth parents have the opportunity to file a notarized statement (affidavit) consenting to the release of identifying information or the right to refuse to allow release of identifying information.

Administration of the Law

The law establishes procedures for adoption searches and places responsibility for administration of the law with the State Department of Children and Families (DCF).

The law requires circuit courts to report medical and genetic information on both birth parents and relatives to DCF at the time parental rights are terminated in Wisconsin.

The law requires Department of Health Services (DHS) to establish a permanent centralized birth record file on all adoptions completed within this State.

The law allows adoptive parents to request non-identifying medical and genetic and social history information from existing records or to request updated medical or genetic information on birth parents.

The law allows persons to petition a circuit court for an order requiring release of information not available under provisions of the search program.

How the Law Affects Adoptees

When an adoptee is 18 years old, he/she can request medical and genetic information about his/her birth relatives and non-identifying social history information.
Upon written notification from a licensed medical provider, the Department of Children and Families or another licensed adoption agency must make every effort to notify an adoptee, 18 years or older, if a birth parent(s) or sibling has developed a genetically transferable disease or condition.

Also, at age 18 an adoptee may request a search for birth parent(s) identity and location and a copy of his or her impounded birth certificate.

Identity and location of birth parent(s) will not be disclosed unless an affidavit of consent has been signed by birth parent(s). If a court has legally determined paternity, or the father's name appears on the impounded birth certificate, affidavits usually will be needed from both birth parents.

If the birth parent(s) files the necessary affidavits of consent, identity and location of the birth parent(s) and the impounded birth certificate will be released upon request.

If affidavits of consent are not on file, a search for the birth parent(s) will be conducted. If located, the birth parent(s) has the option of signing an affidavit of consent to release identifying information.

How the Law Affects a Birth Parent

Each birth parent(s) may file an affidavit with the Department of Children and Families, consenting to the release of his/her identity and location and the impounded birth certificate to the adoptee when he/she reaches age 18. The affidavit must be notarized and may be filed at the time parental rights are terminated, or any time afterwards.

A birth parent may be contacted by the Adoption Search Program to request an affidavit of consent to release their identity or provide family health history to their birth child or birth child's offspring. Birth parents have the right to revoke the affidavit (withdraw their approval) at any time.

Birth parents are required to provide medical/genetic information to the court at the time parental rights are terminated. Updated medical/genetic information may be filed with the Department of Children and Families at any time thereafter. Upon written notification from a licensed medical provider that an adoptee has developed a genetically transferable disease or condition, an effort will be made to notify birth parents.

There is no statutory provision for birth parents to request searches for their birth children by the search program, except to provide medical or genetic information. A birth parent may request the Adoption Search Program to search for their birth child to provide important medical/genetic information. A written statement from a licensed medical provider must accompany each request.

How the Law Affects Adoptive Parents

Upon written notification from a licensed medical provider, the Department of Children and Families or a Wisconsin adoption agency must attempt to notify adoptive parents of a minor adoptee when records indicate that the offspring's birth parent(s) or a sibling has developed a genetically transferable disease or condition.

Adoptive parents may request medical/genetic information and non-identifying social history information about their adoptee's birth relatives.

Other Persons

The guardian or legal custodian of an adopted person, the offspring of an adopted person if he/she is at least 18, and an agency or social worker assigned to provide services to the adopted person may also receive medical and genetic information under this program.

Adults who were not legally adopted as children and whose birth parent(s) terminated parental rights may use the provisions of this law to request medical, genetic and non-identifying social history information and birth parent(s) identity and location. All the conditions for release of information apply.

For More Information or to Request an Application Packet

Adoption Records Search Program
P.O. Box 8916
Madison, WI 53708-8916

By Phone: (608) 266-7163
Website:  https://dcf.wisconsin.gov/adoption/search

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