Nova Scotia's Adoption Information Act establishes a balance between people's right to privacy and the opportunity for contact between adopted person and their birth families.
The Adoption Information Act creates an active registry to help people search for members of their birth family. Identifying information will be exchanged only after both parties have consented.
Adoption information on file
The basic record for any adoption consists of legal documents and background information. In recent years there has been a general improvement in the type and amount of information recorded. In the past, records were not so complete and there may be little information available on a particular adoption.
Identifying and non-identifying information
Identifying information is information that will likely reveal the identity of another person involved in the adoption. Under the Act, identifying information includes a person's name, birth date, residence or occupation. Non-identifying information may include medical history, physical description, interests and level of education.
Who can obtain non-identifying information?
You can obtain non-identifying information about an adoption you were involved in if you are:
- An adopted person 19 or older
- An adopted person under 19 with the written consent of your adoptive parents
- A birth parent
- A birth sibling or birth relative 19 or older with the written consent of the birth parent (some exceptions apply)
Who can obtain identifying information?
To obtain identifying information, both you and the person you are looking for need to be 19 years or older. You may request identifying information if you are an adopted person, a birth parent, or a birth sibling with the written consent of your birth parent (some exceptions apply). Adopted persons may also request information about siblings who were placed for adoption in other families.
Under most circumstances identifying information will not be released without the consent of the person being identified.
What if we can't locate my birth family member?
The Adoption Disclosure Services Program staff have been successful in locating more than 95% of the people being sought. If the Adoption Disclosure Services Program staff cannot locate the person you are seeking, you will be advised of the steps that were taken. If we can not locate them, identifying information cannot be released.
What happens to the Passive Adoption Register?
The Department of Community Services will continue to maintain the Passive Adoption Register. The Register contains the names of all the people who registered before the Adoption Information Act as well as those who registered after January 1, 1997.
If I am already on the Passive Registry do I have to register again?
If you want the Adoption Disclosure Unit to conduct a search, you need to apply again. Searches will be conducted on a first-come, first-served basis. Priority will be given to medical emergencies and in cases where the birth parents are over 65 years of age. If you only wish to remain on the Passive Adoption Register, there is no need to reapply.
The first step in obtaining information is to register with the Passive Adoption Register (see How to Register, below). This will record you as someone who wants contact with another person involved in the adoption. Registering will also provide you with all non-identifying information that is available from your record.
Once you have registered, the Adoption Disclosure Services Program staff will check for a match. If both of you have registered as wanting contact, a social worker can help you to arrange contact.
If the other person has not registered, the staff will search for him or her on your behalf. The search is carried out in the strictest confidence to protect the privacy of the person you are seeking.
If the person is located, he or she will be asked if he or she consents to contact. If the person objects to contact for any reason, identifying information will not be released. He or she will be asked to provide updated non-identifying information for you.
If the person you are seeking has died, identifying information will be released.
If you do not want to be contacted
If you do not want to be contacted, you can formally register your wish by writing the Adoption Disclosure Services Program.
How to register
To register write:
Adoption Disclosure Services Program
Halifax District Office- Child Welfare
103 Garland Avenue
Dartmouth, NS B3B 0K5
Phone (902) 424-2755