Tennessee Adoption Records FAQ

Commonly asked questions about access to adoption records

Who can access an adoption record?
An adopted person, adopted person’s birth or adoptive parents, grandparents, siblings, and the adopted person’s children. They all must be at least 21. No matter who makes the request the adopted person must be 21.

Why 21? I thought it was 18.
State law, not department policy, deems the age to be 21.  The department can only do what the law allows us to do. We must follow the law.

I’m not 21 yet can my parents access my record on my behalf?
No, no one can access an adoption record until the adopted person turns 21.

I was adopted before March 16, 1951, how can I get my records?
Please see this page for information on rules for adoptions prior to 1951, or for anyone adopted through the Tennessee Children’s Home Society.

Do I need an attorney or a court order to get access to a record?
In most cases you do not need an attorney or a court order to get access to the record.

Will my adoptive parents know that I’m opening the record?
This is a confidential service. Neither adoptive parents nor birth parents are informed when information is released.

Where is the form I need to fill out to receive my records?
There currently isn’t a form, but you can do it by simply mailing us a written request.

Can I fax in my request?
No. It must be mailed or scanned in and emailed. Taking a picture of a written request does not count.

How long does it take to receive my records?
The complete process can take 3-5 months.

Why does it take so long?
 We do not keep the records in the post adoption services office, and each request follows a timeline and protocol.

Is there a fee?
Yes, the fees are as follows:

  • $150 for complete access to a record
  • $45 for non-identifying information in the records
  • $135 for a search for birth relatives.

What is the difference between non-identifying information and complete access?
Non-identifying information contains medical information, descriptions such as height, weight, and ethnicity. All identifying information will be removed. Complete access is everything in the record that can be released by law.

What can be released if I request complete access?
Birth family information, medical information, early baby information, court documents. Complete access usually offers a good look into what was going on at the time of the surrender.

I want to find my birth parents, siblings, and/or a child I placed for adoption.
The first thing you must do is request access to their, or your, record. Once you complete the request for access and the department determines you are eligible to see the file, you can request a search through our department.

What does it mean to be eligible?
Only certain people have legally granted access to adoption records.

  • Adoptees: Have full access to their own records unless there is an indication of rape or incest in the record. In cases of rape or incest the birth mother must be contacted by the department first and she must consent to the release of the record.
  • Birth parents: DCS first must check and make sure you voluntarily surrendered your child or children and that it was not a termination of parental rights for cause.  If it was a termination the requestor will be denied access.
  • Birth fathers/paternal relatives: There must be documentation in the adoption record that states the person requesting access is the father, so his name must be on a court document or a birth certificate or he must be noted in the record claiming paternity. When there is no documentation, the father is considered “alleged.” Alleged relatives will be denied access to records.

If I access my record does this mean I must make contact with my birth family?
No. You do not have to search for birth relatives. You can access the information without contacting anyone.

If my parental rights were terminated, or I voluntarily surrendered my rights, can I get proof of an adoption for the Child Support Office?
You need to request the information through your Child Support Office. DCS can only release the information directly to the Child Support Office.