A genetic and social history has a very special meaning when it comes to Arkansas adoptions.

The law describes this as “a comprehensive report, when obtainable, on the birth parents, siblings of the birth parents, if any, other children of either birth parent, if any, and any parents of the birth parents, that shall contain the following information:

  1. (A) Medical history;
  2. (B) Health status;
  3. (C) Cause of and age at death;
  4. (D) Height, weight, eye color, and hair color;
  5. (E) When appropriate, levels of educational and professional achievement;
  6. (F) Ethnic origins; and
  7. (G) Religion, if any”

This report will be given to the prospective adoptive parents. However, it will not contain any identifying information about the individuals. That is, it can’t include names, addresses, or any other data that would make the identity of the people mentioned obvious to the reader.

Note that this information is available “when obtainable.” The law recognizes that sometimes the information may not be available.

Who has access to this history?

By law, the person who is adopted can gain access to this information, without any identifying details, for 99 years after the adoption. That person’s children or widow can also request this information. This allows adults who grew up in an adoptive family to learn some information about their birth families. There are times when knowing your genetic history can be important to healthcare decisions. The Arkansas Department of Health forms for Birth Parents History collect a lot of this kind of information.

They also ask about ethnic origins, citizenship, religious beliefs, and more. This data may be of interest to people studying their family history or simply wanting to know more about their birth families. However, all of this information is confidential, and cannot be revealed to anyone besides the person who was adopted; his or her parents, widow, and children or grandchildren; or an agency with custody of the adopted child.

A person who was adopted as a child can request this information after turning 21.

After 100 years, the information is available without restrictions. However, the names and other identifying information for the birth parents continues to be confidential and will not be included in the genetic and social history report even after that length of time.

Open adoption and closed adoption

In an open adoption, the birth parent or parents are known to the adoptive family and to the adopted child. In a closed adoption, the birth mother chooses to be anonymous. This is why the genetic and social history is separate from any identifying information about the birth family.

However, a birth parent can file a contact preference form at any time. A birth mother who chose not to share any identifying information at the time of the adoption (a closed adoption) can file a contact preference form later which allows the adopted child to contact her as an adult.

People adopted in Arkansas can request their adoption file, which will contain their genetic and social history report as well as a copy of the adoption decree, their birth certificate, and sometimes a contact preference form.

It is more common, these days, for families to share more information with kids while they’re growing up. Adoptive parents often make a point of talking about the birth parents who made the brave and loving choice to trust them with their precious child. The kind of social history and health information that can make a difference to the child’s life can be shared even in a closed adoption, while respecting the birth mother’s choice to remain anonymous.