I posted this on Facebook in response to a fellow researcher's question about it, but I thought that I should probably post it here too, that it may be beneficial for others who are searching and need to know what they can do to assist themselves and others.
In this case, a woman in her late 30's is looking for her birth mother, but she is hitting many brick walls, and she feels that the records are out there some where, and she was not sure how to go about having the records produced for her.
She knows her birth name (first and middle, not sure about last), what time she was born, what day she was born, and she knows she was immediately given up for adoption.
Normally, when adoptions happen, the adoption agency must release the records of the person's birth once the person reaches the age of maturity, normally between the ages of 18 and 21. This woman is now in her late 30's, and she STILL does not know who her birth parents were! To have been searching for her own personal truth for so long...my heart goes out to her...I sincerely hope that my response helps...
~ Vince ~
The FOIA can be used for darn near anything now. It's a really great "tool to keep in your back pocket", your "ace in the hole", so to speak...
Here is the link to the FOIA form: http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/g-639.pdf
In part 1, you will need to make sure the Privacy Act (PA) area is checked, that you are requesting your own records.
In part 2, you will need to check Other and specify what records you want released under the FOIA (example: "Complete and unabridged birth records, and all records relating to birth parents obtained by the hospital in connection with the event of my birth")
In part 3, obviously you would check All My Records, etc etc etc....
Just make sure to fill out all the parts that you can and make sure to fill in all the required information and they cannot ignore the request for information regarding births, especially if there are certain circumstances involved.
There is also another version, one used by ICE, but it's not the same as that which you would file with hospitals and such: http://www.ice.gov/exec/forms/foia-request/request.asp
The Freedom of Information Act has been used by people around the country for a myriad of reasons, from people in Phoenix, AZ, sending FOIA documents to the government for full disclosure of the "Phoenix Lights", to information about Area 51/Roswell, NM's, "weather balloon experiment", to people requesting immigration status of a someone...it's amazing how much information you can actually get from people or companies just by mentioning the FOIA! For example, I used it to obtain records from funeral homes a number of times, when they were going to give me a hard time for requesting any documentation they had on my family. As soon as the FOIA was mentioned (long name, not short), they seemed to want to cooperate quickly with me...I like it when that happens...lol...
Check out the Wikipedia article on the FOIA:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_Information_Act_(United_States)
My favorite quote from there is from the section entitled HISTORY:
ENACTMENT OF TITLE 5
5 U.S.C. § 552 WAS ENACTED AS PART OF PUB.L. 89–554, 80 STAT. 378, ENACTED SEPTEMBER 6, 1966, WHICH CREATED TITLE 5 OF THE UNITED STATES CODE (GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATION AND EMPLOYEES). 5 U.S.C. § 552(D), AT 80 STAT. 383, STATED:
“EXCEPT AS OTHERWISE REQUIRED BY STATUTE, MATTERS OF OFFICIAL RECORD SHALL BE MADE AVAILABLE, IN ACCORDANCE WITH PUBLISHED RULE, TO PERSONS PROPERLY AND DIRECTLY CONCERNED, EXCEPT INFORMATION HELD CONFIDENTIAL FOR GOOD CAUSE FOUND.”
Some circumstances over ride HIPAA and the Privacy Act (the Patriot Act, for one, but we'll not go there just now)...there could concerns about family medical conditions, which would severely limit or possibly impede the quality of life for that woman and any children she had (such as a family history of cystic fibrosis, cancer, epilepsy, etc.), which if brought to the attention of the courts, normally has the judge issuing the warrant for release and disclosure of documentation ASAP, especially when -- if a child is put up for adoption -- he or she has the right to have their birth parent's information revealed to them upon their state's age of maturity (usually between 18 and 21, but I know someone who had fought from the time she was 18 until the time she turned 28 to get her birth parent's information -- that person was my half sister)...depending on the state, you may need to check their FOIA policy because Federal FOIA may not prevail over the state's if the state's FOIA policy or form is more strict or stringent...
To cut to the chase, there are certain FOIA papers which a person can use before they go to a court house and obtain a subpoena for documents -- or "subpoena duces tecum".
A fillable civil action form (to fill out if your FOIA doesn't work with the people or company) can be found at the following link: http://www.uscourts.gov/uscourts/FormsAndFees/Forms/AO088B.pdf
Remember when submitting FOIA's for hospital records, court records, etc., it is best to have printed at least 3 copies and make sure to have the one that you are delivering to the place of records notarized and sent via some method that requires a signature confirmation of delivery (USPS Certified Mail, UPS, FedEx, etc.). You will want to make sure you receive confirmation that the documents have been delivered and verification of the accepting person's signature, so if you need to go back and say "yes, you did receive that on Tuesday, May 5th, 2020 at 2:20 pm EST; it was signed for by Miss Jones", etc., you can...
Accompanying your official form, you will want to make sure you write a formal letter (should also be notarized) stating your name, the purpose of this letter and the FOIA and give them a reasonable time frame in which to produce documents (anywhere from 30 to 90 days) before you are forced to pursue a subpoena for them to produce documents (FYI, anyone can file a subpoena for nearly anything within the bounds of the law, and all you need to do is pay the filing fee and the fee for the process server and you are done). Make sure to leave your contact information, cell phone, physical address, etc etc etc in the letter as well, so that if there are any questions or hiccups along the way that they should be able to call you.
Can you tell I have had to do this kind of thing before? lol