As the Founder of a technology platform connecting clients to private investigators and the former Executive Director of Joint Council on International Children’s Services, I have connected with thousands of individuals searching for biological family members.
Many individuals who were adopted seek to find some information regarding their birth families. According to the University of Oregon’s Adoption History Project, approximately 5 million Americans alive today were adopted. A large percentage of those adult adoptees do not have an original birth certificate or knowledge of their family medical history or birth families. Closed adoption prevented them from having access to this information.
The Maine Department of Human Resources Task Force on Adoption found in a survey they conducted that “every birth parent who was surveyed wanted to be found by the child/adult they had placed for adoption and 95% of the adoptees who were surveyed expressed a desire to be found by their birth parents. 98% of the adoptive parents supported reunions between their adopted child and members of the adoptee’s birth family.”
Various obstacles prevent individuals from searching for their birth families. The reasons vary from not knowing where to start to not knowing if they are ready to find the answers they seek. Some may not even know what they wish to find. Some adoptees want to be reunited with birth parents, others want to discover information on their medical history or just desire the story of their parents and their placement. Many do not start the process of finding their birth parents because they imagine the high costs associated with a potential search.
Today there are numerous ways to find birth families with little to no cost involved. Understanding the inexpensive options available may help you jump start your own search. Here are 5 inexpensive ways to find your birth parents.
1. Hire a private investigator.
Private investigators who are experts in adoption and reunification can get you the answers you need in an affordable and timely manner. Sometimes starting with a professional search is the easiest and most time- and cost-effective route in locating family members or records. Traditionally, private investigators charged a large retainer up-front for their services. Adoption searches, in particular, could take months and years, racking up a large bill. Services such as Trustify make it easy and affordable with very quick turnarounds on the information desired. Licensed private detectives and professional searches will also help facilitate the reunion or contact over the phone, email, or in-person.
2. Utilize search registries.
An excellent and inexpensive way to find your birth parents is through the agency or attorney who facilitated your adoption. Many agencies offer services that include a registry you can utilize, or they work with a third-party intermediary to facilitate the search and reunion. There are also a plethora of free registries online that are not agency-specific. Adoption.com has one of the best Reunion Registries.
3. Reach out on social media.
As a technology start-up founder, I see new social media platforms coming onto the market every day. We are now more connected than ever before in human history. This ability to connect with people all over the world in real-time makes a search for a biological sibling easier than ever. Educate yourself on how to use the many sites available and take advantage of the creative ways individuals are finding family members. Facebook and other platforms are a great place to start a search and reunion process.
4. State adoption records.
Nearly every state keeps adoption records sealed after an adoption is finalized. Most states at this point have implemented procedures in which both adoptees and birth parents can obtain non-identifying (medical records, and health information) and identifying information (this may lead to positive identification of the parties involved in the adoption). According to Child Welfare Information Gateway’s report, Access to Adoption Records, fifteen states give siblings access to non-identifying information; thirty states have mutual consent registries allowing each party to the adoption the ability to consent to the release of identifying information; thirty-seven states allow biological siblings to seek and release identifying information through mutual consent.
Utilizing one of the many services available for DNA testing is another affordable way to find your birth parents. Many birth parents state that they have utilized sites such as 23andMe, Ancestry, MyHeritage, and FamilyTreeDNA to find the child they placed for adoption. Most of the DNA testing companies in the market today make the process very easy. Once you place the order online, you will receive a kit in the mail. The kit will include information on how to register yourself online, complete the test, and send it back to their company for the results. Some kits require you to fill a small vial with saliva and others are a traditional cheek swab test. Most testing sites will send your results back to you via email within a few weeks. You then have the option of viewing your genetic family matches (sorted by percentage of DNA shared) in private or public mode. You can easily work backward and find extended family members who you can contact.
There are many reasons for wanting to begin the search and reunion process to find your birth parents. Understanding the options involved allows anyone considering the process to understand the resources available to begin. There are many inexpensive options to find your birth parents. Do not allow the fear of large costs of connecting with your birth parents deter you from beginning one of the most important journeys you will ever take.
Are you considering placing a child for adoption? Not sure what to do next? First, know that you are not alone. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to speak to one of our Options Counselors to get compassionate, nonjudgmental support. We are here to assist you in any way we can.