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COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA

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The Pennsylvania Code website reflects the Pennsylvania Code changes effective through 52 Pa.B. 5624 (August 27, 2022).

231 Pa. Code Rule 15.22. Dissemination and Release of Information in the Court File.

Rule 15.22. Dissemination and Release of Information in the Court File.

 (a)  One seeking non-identifying or identifying information or contact shall file a written request with the clerk where the adoption decree was entered and the written request shall contain the following information to the extent known:

   (1)  the name of the court that entered the adoption decree and the date of the adoption decree;

   (2)  the requester’s relationship to the adoption proceeding as the adopted individual, the adopting parents, the adopted individual’s legal guardian, a descendant of the adopted individual, a birth parent, a parent of a birth parent, or a birth sibling of the adopted individual; and

     (A)   If the requester is the adopted individual, the adopted individual’s birth date and that he or she has attained 18 years of age.

     (B)   If the requester is an adopting parent, the adopted individual’s birth date and that the adopted individual has not attained 18 years of age or has attained 18 years of age and been adjudicated incapacitated, including attaching a copy of the court decree of incapacity, or that the adopted individual is deceased, including attaching a copy of the death certificate.

     (C)   If the requester is a legal guardian of the adopted individual, the adopted individual’s birth date and that the adopted individual has not attained 18 years of age or has attained 18 years of age and been adjudicated incapacitated, including attaching a copy of the court decree of incapacity.

     (D)   If the requester is a descendant of the adopted individual, a statement that the adopted individual is deceased, including attaching a copy of the death certificate.

     (E)   If the requester is a parent of a birth parent, a statement that the birth parent either consents to the request for information or contact, has been adjudicated incapacitated, or is deceased, including attaching a signed copy of the birth parent’s consent, a copy of the court decree of incapacity, or a copy of the death certificate, as applicable.

     (F)   If the requester is related to the adopted individual as a sibling through either one or both of the birth parents, the birth date of the requester, that the requester has attained 21 years of age, and that either the requester remained in the custody of his or her parent and that this birth parent consents to the request for information or contact, has been adjudicated incapacitated, or is deceased, including attaching a signed copy of the birth parent’s consent, a copy of the court decree of incapacity, or a copy of the death certificate, as applicable, or that the requester was adopted out of the birth family or did not remain in the custody of the birth parent, including a copy of the requester’s adoption decree or the court order granting legal or physical custody of the requester to another.

   (3)  a general description of the individual who is the subject of the request explaining the subject’s relationship to the adoption proceeding as the adopted individual, a birth parent, a parent of a birth parent, or a birth sibling of the adopted individual. In addition:

     (A)   If the subject of the request is the adopted individual, the adopted individual’s birth date and that the adopted individual has attained 21 years of age.

     (B)   If the subject of the request is a parent of a birth parent, the adopted individual’s birth date, that the adopted individual has attained 21 years of age, and that the birth parent either consents to the request for information or contact, has been adjudicated incapacitated, or is deceased, including attaching a signed copy of the birth parent’s consent, a copy of the court decree of incapacity, or a copy of the death certificate, as applicable.

     (C)   If the subject of the request is related to the adopted individual as a sibling through either one or both of the birth parents, the birth dates of both the adopted individual and his or her birth sibling, that both the adopted individual and the birth sibling have attained 21 years of age, and that either the birth sibling remained in the custody of his or her parent and that this birth parent consents to the request for information or contact, has been adjudicated incapacitated, or is deceased, including attaching a signed copy of the birth parent’s consent, a copy of the court decree of incapacity, or a copy of the death certificate, as applicable, or that the birth sibling was adopted out of the birth family or did not remain in the custody of the birth parent, including a copy of the birth sibling’s adoption decree or the court order granting legal or physical custody of the birth sibling to another.

 (b)  The clerk shall accept and date stamp the request before forwarding it to the court for review and consideration.

 (c)  Upon a review of the request for non-identifying or identifying information or contact, the court shall determine if it is the proper court to handle the request, if the requester is permitted to seek the requested information or contact by 23 Pa.C.S. §  2931(a), and if the request inquires about an individual who can be the subject of the request per 23 Pa.C.S. §  2931(b).

   (1)  If the court cannot affirmatively answer all three of the questions in paragraph (c), the court shall notify the requester that his or her request for information is denied and the reasons for its denial.

   (2)  If the court affirmatively answers all three of the questions in paragraph (c), the court shall proceed under paragraphs (d) and (e), as applicable.

 (d)  If the request is for only non-identifying information, an authorization or consent to release information is not needed. To the extent available and provided that the information will not reveal the identity of the subject of the request or compromise the confidentiality of the relationship between the adopted individual and his or her birth parent(s), the court shall provide a written report containing information such as the date, time and location of the adopted individual’s birth; the adopted individual’s birth weight and other physical characteristics; where the adopted individual’s birth parents were born; the age of the birth parents when the adopted individual was born; the marital status of the birth parents when the adopted individual was born; the facts and circumstances relating to the nature and cause of the adoption; the nationality, ethnic background, race, tribal affiliation, and religious preference of the adopted individual’s birth parents; the educational level, course of study, general occupation, talents and hobbies of the adopted individual’s birth parents; a general physical description of the adopted individual’s birth parents and other birth relatives, including height, weight, color of hair, color of eyes, complexion, and other similar information; whether other children were born to the adopted individual’s birth parent, and if so, available non-identifying information about these children; information regarding the adopted individual’s birth grandparents; the name of the agency involved in the adoption; the length of time the adopted individual was in the custody of an adopting parent; whether the adopted individual was ever placed in foster care, and if so, the number of foster care placements, the beginning and end dates of each foster care placement, and any significant occurrences in any foster care placement; and available health history of the adopted individual and the adopted individual’s birth relatives, including psychological and psychiatric information which may have an effect on the adopted individual’s physical or mental health. This report shall be made available to the requester as provided by local rule or practice.

 (e)  If the request is for identifying information or contact, the court shall appoint an Authorized Representative who shall determine if the court file includes an unrevoked authorization or consent from the individual who is the subject of the request:

   (1)  If the court file does include such authorization or consent, the Authorized Representative shall determine whether and how to deliver the requested identifying information to the requester or arrange for contact between the requester and the subject of the request and then shall either respond to the requester or report to the court if the Authorized Representative believes one of the circumstances described in subparagraph (3) exists.

   (2)  If the court file does not include such an authorization or consent, the Authorized Representative shall proceed in accordance with 23 Pa.C.S. §  2933 and his or her training and thereafter shall either respond to the requester or report to the court if the Authorized Representative believes one of the circumstances described in subparagraph (3) exists.

   (3)  The court shall not grant a request and shall not provide identifying information under either of the following circumstances:

     (A)   dissemination of the requested identifying information will compromise the identify or confidentiality of an individual who has not authorized release of the identifying information, and after appointing an Authorized Representative, the Authorized Representative reports to the court that such individual either cannot be located, or after being located, refuses to consent to the release of such identifying information; or

     (B)   dissemination of the requested identifying information could cause physical or emotional harm to the requestor or others, as determined by the court either with or without the assistance of a report from the Authorized Representative, and in such cases, the court shall issue an order to this effect setting forth the basis of its findings.

 (f)  Anyone requesting an original birth record or a summary of the original birth record shall be directed to contact the Department of Health.

 (g)  Upon the filing of a statement of medical, personal, or social history information, or a statement updating such information, or if either is received from the clerk where parental rights were terminated, the clerk where the adoption decree is entered shall send notice as follows:

   (1)  if the statement contains information about a birth parent, notice of its filing shall be sent to the adopted individual, the adopting parents, the legal guardian of an incapacitated adopted individual, or descendants of a deceased adopted individual, only if such person, at any time prior, had filed a request for non-identifying or identifying information that was approved by the court or was then denied by the court due only to the age of the requester or the age of the subject of the request; or

   (2)  if the statement contains information about the adopted individual, notice of its filing shall be sent to the birth parents, any legal guardian of a birth parent, the parents of a deceased birth parent, and in limited circumstances to a birth sibling, but only if such person, at any time prior, had filed a request for non-identifying or identifying information that was approved by the court or was then denied by the court due only to the age of the requester or the age of the subject of the request.

   (3)  Notice under this subparagraph (g) shall be provided to the individual at the address listed on the request for non-identifying or identifying information or at the last updated address in the court file.

   (4)  Notice shall inform the individuals that a statement of medical, personal, or social history information or a statement updating such information has been received, the date of its filing, and that the information contained in the statement may be provided either in redacted form or with identifying information upon the filing of new request for non-identifying or identifying information.

   (5)  If a new request for non-identifying or identifying information is thereafter filed, the request shall contain the information required in paragraph (a) and shall be processed as provided in paragraphs (b), (c), (d), and (e) as applicable.

 (h)  The court may permit reasonable fees to be charged for the filing, handling, and processing of any request for non-identifying or identifying information, and the fees may vary depending upon the time and efforts involved, the extent of information made available to the requester, whether an Authorized Representative is appointed by the court, and the extent of any search required.

Explanatory Comment

   The handling of requests for non-identifying information, identifying information, or contact will largely be dictated by local rule, custom and practice. Judges, law clerks, or court personnel experienced in adoptions should handle and address requests for non-identifying information and only an appointed Authorized Representative duly trained by the Department should handle and address all requests for identifying information. The statute has very specific rules as to who may request non-identifying and identifying information and the age or existence of one individual may change the requester’s right to have the request answered. See 23 Pa.C.S. §  2931(a). Further, the statute is specific about who can be the subject of a request. See 23 Pa.C.S. §  2931(b). Consequently, requests for non-identifying and identifying information or contact should be reviewed by those trained in the law or otherwise well versed in this statute.

   The statutory deadlines set forth in 23 Pa.C.S. §  2932 for a court to notify a requester of the court’s receipt of a non-identifying information request and to fulfill the request are not incorporated in this Rule because these deadlines are procedural and compliance may not be practical in all cases. The statutory deadlines are aspirational, rather than mandatory. Individual judges must view the specific circumstances when enforcing a request for information and a non-response.

   If the court believes that a request for identifying information or contact could cause physical or emotional harm to the requestor or others, the court shall issue an order to this effect that can be appealed by the requestor in accordance with 23 Pa.C.S. §  2936(b).

Source

   The provisions of this Rule 15.22 added July 22, 2021, effective July 1, 2022, 51 Pa.B. 4267.



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