It’s estimated that 6 million people in the US are adopted. There are many reasons to look for your birth parents: to learn more about your family history, to seek medical knowledge, and others. Mainly, adopted people are interested in their birth parents’ personalities, appearance, and abilities.
Before it was possible to find people online, you needed to comb public records, libraries, and printed documents painstakingly. You could spend months leafing through dusty papers in the hope of getting a lead. Once you did, you would start writing and sending letters, expecting to get a reply from a birth parent or at least a clue how to locate them.
The internet is our go-to resource for information today. The International Soundex Reunion Registry and other databases have tens, maybe even hundreds of thousands of users searching for lost relatives. Mutual consent registries and databases, both federal and state, match people with those they are looking for. If someone needs further information, they can join a mailing list or a special support group.
When it comes to reuniting adoptees with their biological parents, social media have developed a life of their own. You can use Facebook to search for your birth parents as long as you have their information. If you know their names and places of birth, for example, you just type this information into the search bar. You can also use the medium to put your story out there. People might share it and if they do, this is an excellent way to get more information and possible leads.
If you’re well-off, you can hire a confidential mediator or PI as a last resort. Their services are expensive, but they get full access to agency and court records.
If you were adopted and want to find more information about your biological parents, start by locating the state agency or professional who was involved in the process. They might have some useful facts. Ask your extended family or adoptive parents if they were told anything or if they remember anything. Try to find out if your biological mother ever resided in a home for the unwed.
Meet with an ombudsman or someone else in social services if you know where you were born. You might need to go to the hospital. Find out who attended your birth. This information is available on birth certificates. Meet with them or any nurses who worked in the clinic or hospital at that time or ask where these people’s records are held.
Don’t neglect state laws and regulations. You might be able to obtain your original birth certificate if the adoption procedure was finalized in a state different from the one you were raised in. Perhaps most importantly, do a people search if you get names.
For more information, you can refer to the Child Welfare Information Gateway. This service has a section outlining the search process on their site, including how to conduct a search, how to obtain adoption and/or birth records, reuniting with biological parents, and links to relevant organizations.
Many states make it possible to enter your name in a register and, ideally, be matched and put in contact with your parents. More information on accessing adoption records is available from the Gateway’s Access to Adoption Records.
Every Situation is Different
As we already mentioned, there are many reasons to look for your biological parents. Sometimes parents will look for a birth child they gave up for adoption. You could also look for a biological sibling. Whatever the case may be, a search and reunion can be and often is painful and emotional. It can end without resolution or otherwise disappointingly.
Having a good support system is critical. If you can, research what other people have experienced in similar situations so you have an idea of what you can expect.