Jump By Series ID:
Icon Adoption Records

Adoption Records

Access to adoption records created on or after June 1, 1947 is restricted by law (Acts 1947, ch. 599; Md Rule 9-112). According to Maryland State Government Code ann. § 10-616(b), "A custodian shall deny inspection of public records that relate to the adoption of an individual." 

Further, Maryland rule 9-112, regarding court records, stipulates:

(a) Dockets. The clerk shall keep separate dockets for (1) adoption and guardianship proceedings and (2) revocations of consent to adoption or guardianship for which there are no pending adoption or guardianship proceedings in that county. These dockets are not open to inspection by any person, including the parents, except upon order of court. If the index to a docket is kept apart from the docket itself, the index is open to inspection.

(b) Sealing of records. All pleadings and other papers in adoption and guardianship proceedings shall be sealed when they are filed and are not open to inspection by any person, including the parents, except upon an order of court. If a final decree of adoption was entered before June 1, 1947 and the record is not already sealed, the record may be sealed only on motion of a party. The clerk shall notify each person entitled to notice that the adoption has been finalized.

Such laws are intended to safeguard the privacy and rights of all persons involved. 

The Department of Human Resources now helps co-ordinate searches for some adoptive parents, adoptive children, and birth families. Information about this service is best obtained by calling 1-800-39-ADOPT.

Maryland has also created the Mutual Consent Voluntary Adoption Registry which enrolls adoptees and their birth families who wish to find each other. For more information please contact:

    Maryland Mutual Consent Voluntary Adoption Registry
    301 West Saratoga Street
    Baltimore, Maryland 21201

    Phone: 410-767-7663

Anyone seeking to adopt a child or place a child for adoption must first file a petition with the Circuit Court (Md. FAMILY LAW Code ann. § 5-331, §5-345, § 5-3B-12). The petition is placed on the adoption docket and adoption proceedings commence during which the court determines the best interests of the child. If the court authorizes the adoption, a decree is issued and filed in the adoption papers with the clerk of the court and placed under seal (see adoption papers under the individual county circuit court in the Guide to Government Records).       

An official copy of the adoption decree is sent by the clerk of the court to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Division of Vital Records notifying the Secretary of the adoption. The adoptee's original birth certificate, index entry and any related records are removed from the birth records of the Division of Vital Records and placed under seal with the adoption decree (MSA T309). A new birth certificate is created with the updated identifying information provided by the adoption decree and filed among the birth records as the official record. Access to the original birth certificate and adoption decree requires an order of a court of competent jurisdiction, or if it does not violate confidentiality of the record, on written order of the designee of the Secretary, or in accordance with Title 5, Subtitle 3A or 4B of the Family Law Article.  (Md. HEALTH-GENERAL Code ann. § 4-211).

Most adoptions are administered by public or private agencies, except in cases where independent adoptions occur between close relatives.  Public adoptions are through the local county Department of Social Services, a subsidiary of the Department of Human Resources. Each county Department of Social Services only maintains adoption records for each of the public adoptions occurring in the county. The adoption records maintained by the Department of Social Services are independent of the adoption records filed in the county circuit court (see adoption files for a given county under DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES in the Guide to Government Records).

Interstate adoptions involve adoptees adopted outside of Maryland and placed with families in Maryland or those adopted in Maryland for placement outside the state. Such adoptions are handled directly by the Department of Human Resources through the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (MSA T1587).

Private agencies maintain there own adoption records and must be licensed by the State. Access to private adoption records is through the agency that administered the adoption and is governed by the same privacy laws as public adoption records.   

There are no official adoption records prior to 1892. In 1892 the Maryland General Assembly passed an Act to amend article 16 of the code of Public General Laws, title "Chancery," Subtitle "Infants," by adding additional sections 62A through 62 F officially enacting the first adoption laws for the purposes of entitling a child under the guardianship of a petitioner all the same rights and privileges as if the child were the natural born child of the petitioner by acknowledging the child as such. (Acts 1892, ch. 244). Until the mid 1940s adoptions were filed among the equity papers. (See equity papers under the individual county circuit court in the Guide to Government Records).

See also Register of Wills orphan's court and guardianship records for the appropriate county.    

revised March 24, 2014.

Return to the Reference & Research page.

This information resource of the Maryland State Archives is presented here for fair use in the public domain. When this material is used, in whole or in part, proper citation and credit must be attributed to the Maryland State Archives. PLEASE NOTE: Rights assessment for associated source material is the responsibility of the user.

Tell Us What You Think About the Maryland State Archives Website!

350 Rowe Boulevard, Annapolis, MD 21401 | MD toll free (800) 235-4045 or (410) 260-6400
Fax: (410) 974-2525 | Email: ref@msa.maryland.gov | Directions & Hours

Guide to Government Records Copyright © 2015 Maryland State Archives