Changes to adoption records

Nova Scotia is changing how adoption records are accessed. The Adoption Records Act will open adoption records to provide greater access to information for an adopted person, birth parent, birth sibling and other relatives. The change takes effect in Spring 2022.

Open adoption records allow an adopted person (who is now 19 or older) and birth parents to access adoption information if they want to. You still get to choose if your identifying information is shared, who can contact you (including birth siblings and other relatives) and how you want to be contacted.

What the change means

When the change takes effect in Spring 2022, the Adoption Records Act will allow an adopted person (who is now 19 or older) or birth parent to access identifying information about the other person without first getting consent, unless the adopted person or birth parent filed a disclosure veto. Identifying information includes the name of the birth parents and the adopted person’s adopted name.

If the adopted person or birth parent doesn’t want their identifying information shared with the other person, they need to file a disclosure veto.

After the legislation changes, you can still file a disclosure veto or contact notice. If you file after the legislation changes, it’s possible that the Disclosure Program may release your identifying information before you file.

The change will apply to all adoption records. Even if you didn’t give your consent to disclose information in the past or you filed a Do Not Consent Form, you still need to file a disclosure veto if you want to continue to keep your identifying information private.

Why the law is changing

Currently, the Disclosure Program conducts a search for an adopted person or birth parent if the other person asks for it. When the program finds the person it’s looking for, that person needs to consent to the program releasing their identifying information before information is shared. If that person doesn’t consent, the program can’t share their identifying information. The program also can’t release any identifying information if the search is unsuccessful.

Under the new legislation, a person who was adopted in Nova Scotia will be able to access a copy of their:

  • original birth registration if they were born in Nova Scotia and a disclosure veto hasn’t been filed
  • post-adoption birth registration
  • Adoption Order

An adopted person may also access information about a potential birth parent if the potential birth parent hasn’t filed a disclosure veto or a contact notice. A potential birth parent is a person named in the adoption record but they’re not confirmed as a birth parent. Or the adoption record includes credible information about paternity (for example, a birth mother describes a birth father but doesn’t include the name).

A birth parent whose child was adopted in Nova Scotia will be able to access a copy of the:

  • birth registration if the child was born in Nova Scotia
  • post-adoption birth registration with the adoptive parents’ names removed
  • Adoption Order with the adoptive parents’ names removed

It’s your choice to share your information

If you’re an adopted person (who is now 19 or older) or a birth parent, you can protect your privacy by filing a disclosure veto or contact notice before legislation changes take effect in Spring 2022.

Disclosure veto

A disclosure veto prevents the Disclosure Program from releasing your identifying information. A disclosure veto expires if the person who filed the veto passes away or has the veto removed.

An adopted person can file a disclosure veto once they turn 19. They have until they turn 20 to decide if they want to file a disclosure veto. The program won’t release identifying information about them to the birth parents until they are 20. After they turn 20, they can file a disclosure veto at any time. They can also remove their disclosure veto at any time​.

A birth parent can file a disclosure veto at any time as long as the Disclosure Program hasn’t already released their identifying information. They can also choose to only share non-identifying information like medical history and social and cultural information (for example, interests, occupation and spoken languages). Medical history can be critical for an adopted person and their children or grandchildren. Social and cultural information can also be important.

Contact notice

A contact notice lets the Disclosure Program release your identifying information but lets the other person know how you want to be contacted or that you don’t want to be contacted. Before the program releases your information, the other person needs to agree to your contact preferences.

An adopted person can file a contact notice if they’re 19 or older as long as the Disclosure Program hasn’t already released their identifying information. They can remove or change their contact notice at any time.

A birth parent can file a contact notice at any time. They can remove or change their contact notice at any time.

Filing a disclosure veto or contact notice

You can protect your privacy by filing a disclosure veto or contact notice before legislation changes take effect in Spring 2022. After the legislation takes effect, you can also file a disclosure veto or contact notice. If you file after the legislation changes, it's possible that the Disclosure Program may release your identifying information before you file.

Guide: Disclosure Program – Adoption (PDF)

Online form

Start now

You can use the Disclosure Veto Form (PDF) and the Contact Notice Form (PDF) if you're unable to file online. Each person needs to complete a separate form (you can't complete a form for more than 1 person). Send your completed form and supporting documents by mail or email to the Disclosure Program.

Where to find more information

The Disclosure Program can help you review your privacy options, provide more information about how open adoption records work and how the new legislation applies to you. You can contact the program by phone or email. If you call the Disclosure Program, you may experience a wait time. You can also leave a message when you call (the program will return your call).

The Disclosure Program also provides an option for you to speak with someone who identifies as African Nova Scotian or Indigenous.

Contact

Disclosure Program
Department of Community Services
Phone: 902-424-2755
Toll-free (within Canada): 1-833-424-2755

2131 Gottingen Street, 3rd Floor
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3K 5Z7

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