Search and Reunion Guide

A tour through the basic steps of finding your biological relatives.

The decision to take an adoption reunion journey is a big step!  It is a journey that can be full of bumps and hurdles, but can also be an exciting pilgrimage to self discovery.  Your search may last just a few days or weeks while others search for years without success.  There is no way to predict how long your search will be, but careful planning and preparation can help you navigate your way through the journey.

Step One: Find Support
1. Step One: Find Support
Identifying supports before your journey begins will be key. Support can come in the form of a friend, family member, or professional whom you trust. It can also come through connecting with others who have been through the journey. You can connect through social media channels, support groups, or online forums No matter what supports you choose, make sure you have a place where you can talk about your experiences and share your feelings openly. Ensuring you have these supports in place ahead of time can save you a lot of stress in the long run.
Step Two:  Keep Good Records
2. Step Two: Keep Good Records
As you go through your journey make sure to keep good records. Keeping a journal or file with photocopies of all documents and notes will be helpful. Keep a record of dates and people you have contacted. Notes and documents will be valuable as you make initial contact and meet with your birth family.
Step Three:  Ask Your Adoptive Parents For Information
3. Step Three: Ask Your Adoptive Parents For Information
Asking your adoptive parents for information regarding your adoption can prove to be very helpful. They may have information such as the agency or attorney that completed the adoption, the names of your birth parents, or even an original birth certificate. These bits of information can provide you with a great starting point for your search.
Step Four:  Know Your State Laws
4. Step Four: Know Your State Laws
Most states have laws that prohibit adoption records from being "open" or available for public inspection. Visit the adoption laws directory in our Wiki to obtain more information about accessing adoption records post-adoption in your state. The sections about "Access to Adoption Records" will help you become familiar with the procedures you should follow to obtain both non-identifying, identifying, or medical information contained in your adoption record.

Non-identifying Information usually includes a physical description of the birth parents, their age, health or medical information, and other family background information.

Identifying information includes information that could lead to the discovery and identity of your birth parents such as names, addresses, phone numbers, drivers' license numbers, social security numbers or birth dates.

Medical information contains medical information about the adoptees biological family. This information can be helpful in identifying hereditary disease.
Step Five:  Contact the Adoption Agency or Attorney
5. Step Five: Contact the Adoption Agency or Attorney
Contact the agency or attorney that completed your adoption and request your information. Ask about the policies and services they provide for adoptees searching for their birth parents. Each agency and attorney will have specific policies (and possibly fees) regarding what information can be released. Usually non-identifying information can be given upon request to an adoptee over the age of 18. Adoptees under the age of 18 must have the consent of their adoptive parent.
Step Six:   Register with Online Registries and Use Social Media
6. Step Six: Register with Online Registries and Use Social Media
Adoption Registries are a central place for both adoptees and birth family members who are engaged in a search. They are simply a connection engine for those searching. When you are registered, these systems allow you to search digitally for other registered members with defined search criteria. Many of these online directories are free, including the Adoption.com Reunion Registry and the International Soundex Reunion Registry.

Because of the efficiency and popularity of online registries and social network sites, they are a great places to list your information. These methods work best if you have identifying information about the person you are searching for. To create your profile or search visit our registry.
Step Seven:  Overcoming Roadblocks
7. Step Seven: Overcoming Roadblocks
Sometimes the journey seems to come to a screeching halt and frustration creeps in. Don't give up! There are many resources available to you. For a list of adoption reunion professionals please visit our reviews/directory of professionals. Often, services available through agencies or professional searchers may have associated fees, so it is important to research the services and agencies before making a decision.
Step Eight:  Initial Contact
8. Step Eight: Initial Contact
So what do you do when you think you have found your family? The initial contact may be very nerve-racking. Keep in mind that this is new for all parties involved. There are many options to consider. You can choose to write a letter, email, make a phone call or ask a third party to mediate and help ease some of the awkwardness. Practice the initial contact with a friend and discuss possible question or things to say. This may be difficult, but remember you have support.
Step Nine:  The Reunion
9. Step Nine: The Reunion
The first meeting will be filled with lots of anticipation and emotion. You should choose a location that is neutral for both parties. Keep in mind that all relationships develop over long periods of time and not all questions have to be answered in the first day. Being able to walk away for a time and reassess can be invaluable. Be prepared to set clear boundaries and expectations as you move forward with the relationship. Most of all remember to laugh, cry, love, forgive, and learn every step of the way.

"We don't receive wisdom; we discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us." - Marcel Proust