On October 27, 2010, former Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell signed Senate Bill 1360, Printer's Number 2188, into law. This amendment to the Adoption Act (23 Pa.C.S. Domestic Relations Chapters 21-29), known as Act 101 of 2010, went into effect April 25, 2011.
Act 101 of 2010 amended the Adoption Act to provide an option for adoptive parents and birth relatives to enter into an enforceable voluntary agreement for ongoing communication or contact to promote and support adoptions of youth for whom contact with their birth family is desired. The Act also amended the Adoption Act to provide more detailed information in the Pennsylvania Adoption Information Registry and to provide a new means for accessing information and records related to adoptions.
There are three sections in the Act, two of which relate to adoption search and reunion and apply to all adoptions, public and private:
Pennsylvania Adoption Information Registry (PAIR)
an electronic database of medical and social history information for all adoptions finalized and registered in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.Adoptees, adoptive parents and birth parents may submit and update medical and social history information and consent for contact with the registry at any time.
Authorized Representatives (AR)
is an individual experienced in providing adoption services who has completed a standardized training program as required by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services and is appointed by a court or DHS-licensed agency or county children and youth services agency to conduct an adoption search.
Access to Adoption Records
Prior to the implementation of Act 101, the law protected adoption records by sealing them after finalization and limiting the information that could be provided in response to a request for information. With the implementation of Act 101, certain individuals may now request information that is “non-identifying” and “identifying” and contact with birth family members.
information that does not reveal the identity of an individual.Includes, but is not limited to, facts and circumstances relating to the nature and cause of the adoption, available health history, and information about the adoptee’s birth.
Identifying Information or Contact
information that reveals the identity of an individual. Contact can take place through an exchange of letters or communication, phone calls or a face-to-face reunion.
Sources of identifying and non-identifying information include the Pennsylvania Adoption Information Registry (PAIR) and the courts or agencies involved in the adoption. The Act expands not only the list of individuals who may access information, but also the individuals who can be the subject of a search, including grandparents and siblings of an adoptee.
Act 101 of 2010 allows a single request form to be used by individuals to make their request for release of information to each location.
Openness in Adoption
While the overall focus of Act 101 is on openness in adoption, the greatest effect of the Act will be felt with adoptions finalized after April 2011.
Adoptions were finalized prior to 2011 with the belief that information in the adoption record would be permanently sealed. Access to these records under Act 101 reveals that adoption records, depending on when the adoption took place, may not contain the breadth and depth of information that an individual requesting information or contact would hope for. In the past, for example, it was not uncommon to omit information on the birth father. Information was also put in records without being verified. Assuming records would never be accessed unfortunately meant relevant information was not always gathered.
Act 101 attempts to resolve these issues for future adoptions by requiring certain information be filed with PAIR and preserved forever.
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