In 2010, Pennsylvania reformed its adoption law implementing new procedures for voluntary open adoption agreements where the prospective adoptive parent can enter into a voluntary agreement with the birth relative of a child to permit continued contact. The measure also streamlines the procedure for accessing adoption records and directs DPW to establish a statewide confidential registry of medical and social history for all Pennsylvania adoptions.
The Pennsylvania Adoption Information Registry (PAIR) is a system used by agencies as a central repository of adoption medical and social history records of all adoptions finalized or registered in the Commonwealth.
The PAIR collects:
Medical records and other information concerning an adoptee or an adoptee’s birth family that is relevant to the present or future health care or medical treatment of the adoptee or the adoptee’s birth family including but not limited to otherwise confidential or privileged information, if identifying information has been removed;
Information about the birth parents of a child that may concern a potential hereditary or congenital medical problem;
Information about the adoptee and birth relatives of the adoptee including economic, cultural and ethnic information and a developmental history of the adoptee including:
- The social experiences of the adoptee, including child abuse and neglect, out-of-home care and patterns of interpersonal relationships;
- The educational experiences of the adoptee, including the name of schools attended and dates of enrollment, academic performance, extracurricular activities and special interests;
- The current functioning of the adoptee, including behavioral patterns and relationships;
- The circumstances surrounding the adoption; and,
- A summary of the original birth record that consists only of the names and ages of the birth parents, the date and county of the birth of the child and the name of the child given at birth.
Medical and social history records and requests for contact may be made by adoptees, adoptive parents, legal guardians, descendants of a deceased adoptee, birth parents or birth siblings. Forms for such requests are available online from the Pennsylvania Statewide Adoption & Permanency Network (SWAN).
All public and private child welfare agencies licensed to provide adoption services, including Catholic charities adoption programs, are designees to perform searches with PAIR. Nonidentifying information must be provided to the requestor within 30 days. Identifying information (i.e., specific names of birth parents) is provided if an authorization form is on file to release it.
It is a requirement that a medical and social history is recorded in the PAIR system for every adoption. Every adoptee and birth family is entitled to learn that information so they can make important decisions about their own health.
The intermediary process of obtaining adoption information respects and supports all parties. Some birth parents may be reluctant at first to share identifying information, but with reassurance and support from an authorized professional they often change their minds. Some adoptees may be nervous about contact from a birth parent. The authorized representatives are trained professionals who facilitate the search process. They are qualified to support and guide reunions or provide counsel if one party is not ready for contact.
If you or someone you know is an adoptee or birth parent looking for more information about your adoption, Catholic Charities is an authorized agency that will help. Visit Pennsylvania Adoption Option to connect with the agency closest to you.