Confidential Intermediary Program
The confidential intermediary program was established as a court administered program under Michigan's adoption law, MCL 710.68b. The following represents the most frequently asked questions relating to the confidential intermediary program and is provided as a guide to understand this program. It must be stressed that each court where the final order of adoption was entered, will make their own determination regarding the services related to their confidential intermediary program.
What is the Confidential Intermediary Program?
The confidential intermediary program is a program available through the court where the final order of adoption was entered that allows for search and contact. This program is available for those adoptions in which the former parents' rights were terminated on or after May 28, 1945 and before September 12, 1980.
In general, how does the program work?
An individual would file a petition with the court where the final order of adoption was entered. The court contacts the Central Adoption Registry to determine if a former parent filed a statement giving their consent to or denial of their information; if no statement of denial is on file with the Central Adoption Registry, the court shall, by written order, appoint a confidential intermediary.
Who can petition the court for the appointment of a confidential intermediary?
The following individuals may petition the court for the appointment of a confidential intermediary:
- Former family members, who are defined as parent, grandparent, adult sibling related to the adult adopted person through birth or adoption by at least one common parent.
- Adult adopted person.
- Adoptive parent of a minor adopted person.
- Adult child of a deceased adopted person.
What are the credentials of a confidential intermediary?
As outlined in statute, the confidential intermediary, at a minimum must be approved by the court after completing training and filing an oath of confidentiality with the court. The court will determine the type of training needed for the confidential intermediaries serving their court.
What is required of the confidential intermediary?
At a minimum, the confidential intermediary will:
- act in a confidential manner, not disclosing identifying information in sealed records without written consent.
- conduct a reasonable search, reporting to the court the results of the search and inquiry.
- comply with the court's instructions.
- not charge or accept any fee for services except for a reasonable fee approved by the court and reimbursement for actual expenses incurred in performing services.
If the confidential intermediary locates the individual being sought, what is the possible next step?
The confidential intermediary shall discreetly and confidentially contact the individual being sought to ascertain whether the individual is willing to release information to the petitioner or to meet or communicate with the petitioner. If the individual, who has been found, consents, in writing, to the release of information, the intermediary shall release the information to the petitioner. Upon written mutual consent, the confidential intermediary may facilitate a meeting or other communication between the petitioner and/or the individual. The process of such will be carried out per court instruction.
What are the consequences if a confidential intermediary fails to contact the person(s) named in the petition?
If the confidential intermediary fails to contact a former family member within six months after the appointment, the adult adopted person may petition the court for the release of information that is considered identifying and any additional information obtained by the confidential intermediary. (NOTE: The adoption law speaks only to the adult adopted person's petition).
If the confidential intermediary is unable to locate the birth family member named in the petition, can the adult adopted person choose to again petition the court for the release of identifying information?
In these types of cases, what may happen?
The court requires the confidential intermediary to submit a report to the court designating all efforts made to locate the former family member and all information obtained. The court then could:
- order the confidential intermediary to search for another six-month period.
- appoint a new confidential intermediary to search for a six-month period.
- release to the adult adopted person the identifying information and any other information that the court considers appropriate, if the court finds that a diligent search had been made and that there was good cause to release the information.
What happens in situations where the individual being sought refuses to authorize the release of information or is deceased?
The confidential intermediary is required to report that fact to the court and the petitioner.