Search Tips for Birth Parents

Searching for adult birth children can be especially difficult for birth parents who may or may not be able to obtain such information. This article is written for both birth parents; however, unless the biological father’s name is listed on the original birth certificate and a signed relinquishment form is on record, birth fathers’ information requests may be denied. All information and search tips in this article pertain to search for an adult birth child.

Know Yourself 

Read some good books and online information about searching, the emotional impact, and reunion. Be sure you feel comfortable with your reasons and the kind of search you want to do:

Know The Law 

Make yourself familiar with the law regarding the release of non-identifying and identifying information in the state where the adoption was finalized. If the state where you are searching has a Confidential Intermediary Program, contact them to find out costs and procedures.

Start a Journal 

It’s very easy to forget where you’ve registered, people you’ve asked for information, and details that may not seem to mean anything. Write down everything, no matter how insignificant. And use your journal to record your own thoughts as you search. This can help jog your memory and solidify your thoughts, as well as provide a record of some of the things you may want your birth child to know if and when you do reconnect.

Start Close to Home 

Write down everything you remember or think you remember about the entire adoption process: names, dates, places. Then ask family and friends who were with you at the time to tell you all they remember… and write it all down, even the information that doesn’t match with your own recollections. As you move forward with your search, these differences may turn out to be valuable clues.

Register with ISRR 

The International Soundex Reunion Registry is the largest free mutual consent registry in the world. It’s international in scope, and while contact information can be found online, the registry itself is not online. “Mutual consent” means that a match must be made from registrations filed by both parties who are searching. If you prefer that contact be initiated by your birth child, be assured that if you receive notice of a match, he/she has received one as well and can take the first step.

Note: As you gather more details about the adoption, be sure to update your information with ISRR. The more complete information, the better chance of making a match. Chances are, your birth child will be starting with a lot less information than you have.

Update Your Information 

State Adoption Units, agencies, and even some attorneys will accept updated information from you to be placed in the adoption file. These can include:

Before doing any of the above, contact the agencies and attorney to get a current mailing address and the name of the person to whom you should send the documents. They may also have other requirements you will need to know.

Who To Contact 

There are several places you can contact to request information, including:

Initial Information Request 

Non-identifying information (non-ID) is information about the adoption without any names or other details that provide specific identifying information. For adoptees, non-ID does not disclose the names of birth parents or their family members, and for birth parents, non-ID will not reveal names of the adoptive parents, their family members, etc.

Don’t be discouraged if you get turned down with general requests. You may be able to get answers to specific questions more easily.

Information to Collect 

When you contact agencies, attorneys, and hospitals, it is generally better to write a letter. Here are some suggested information requests which you can build on to find more details.

Copy of the hospital record. If the adopting parents paid for any of your expenses, their names could be in the record. (If you don’t remember the doctor’s name, this could be there as well.)
Court jurisdiction where the adoption was finalized. Judge’s name; caseworker’s name.
Was the child placed in foster care between relinquishment and placement? Where? When? For how long?

– Outside of the adoption, were there any court actions taken affecting the child? Where? When?
– How old were the adopting parents at the time of placement?
– Did the adopting family have other children, adopted or biological?
– How long had the adopting parents been married at the time of placement?
– General description of adopting parents: hair color, eye color, health, heritage, religion.
Adopting parent’s occupations? Education?
– Were adopting parents divorced before or after adoption? Did either one die before or after finalization?
– Has the agency or court ever contacted the parents or child after finalization? When? Why?
– What is the best way to update my health and location information? File a Waiver of Confidentiality?


You are not alone! For some, joining a local and/or online support group is something they want to do at the very beginning and for others, it may take some time before they’re ready to open up. Whenever you are ready, there are many wonderful online resources.

And don’t forget to record everything in your search journal!