Access to adoption records is restricted by law. These laws are intended to safeguard the privacy and rights of all persons involved. (See the Annotated Code of Maryland, Family Law Article, Title 5, Subtitles 4B and 4C.)
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
Maryland law stipulates that anyone seeking to adopt a child, whether through public or private agency, must first file a petition with the Circuit Court. It 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.
An official copy of the decree is sent by the clerk to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Division of Vital Records notifying them of the adoption. The adoptee's original birth certificate and index entry are removed from the birth records of the Division of Vital Records and placed under seal with the adoption decree. A new certificate is created with the updated identifying information provided by the decree and filed among the birth records as the official record. Access to the original birth certificate and adoption decree requires a court order (Md. HEALTH-GENERAL Code ann. § 4-211).
All other adoption and guardianship files created after May 31, 1947 are also sealed and require a court order or State authorized intermediary specifically empowered to examine such records. (1947, ch. 599) The Department of Human Resources appoints and co-ordinates these intermediaries (please call 1-800-39-ADOPT for more information). The Maryland State Archives does not have indexing for these records. Adoption indexes are in the custody of the Circuit Courts. Contact the circuit court which granted the adoption for more information about access to these records.
Adoption cases before June 1, 1947 are filed in equity and open and available to anyone, unless one of the parties to the case specifically requested it be placed under seal. In which case, a court order or intermediary is required as mentioned above. To locate a case number it is necessary to know in which county the adoption occurred. Equity indexing and papers for this time period are available at the State Archives for most counties. Where gaps do exist in the record, contact the circuit court of jurisdiction for more information.
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. (1892, ch. 244)
See also Register of Wills orphan's court and guardianship records for the appropriate county.