Searching for adult birth children can be especially difficult for birth parents who may or may not be able to obtain much 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 in this article pertains to search for an adult birth child.
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:
- Passive Search: A passive search is one where you make every effort to place the information you have about the adoption in places where it can be found by your searching birth child. Many birth parents believe that timing for initiating a reconnection should be left to the adoptee, and choose this option.
- Active Search: An active search is one in which you actively pursue avenues to find information about your birth child’s current name and location. This does not necessarily mean that you will be the one to initiate contact, but it might give you the ability to do so, if you choose.
Know The Law
Make yourself familiar with the law regarding 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 out 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:
- Waiver of Confidentiality: (Be sure to adjust the form letter to reflect your information.) This is a form whereby you agree that confidential information about you (your name, current location) can be released to your birth child or his/her parent(s) who may wish to contact you. Some states may have their own form that they will send you upon request.
- Updated Health Information: You are free at any time to write a letter to any agency involved in the adoption, giving your updated health information and asking that the letter be placed in the adoption file and released to your birth child or his/her parent(s) as requested.
- Personal Letter: You can write a personal letter to be given to your birth child or his/her parent(s), or an open letter indicating that you would welcome contact, including your current name, address, phone and email address.
Before doing any of the above, contact the agencies and attorney to get a current mailing address and the nameof 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:
- Agency, if one was used.
- Attorney, if one was used.
- County Court Clerk in the county where the adoption was finalized, and/or where relinquishment was filed.
- State Adoption Unit, through the Department of Social Services or its equivalent in the state where the adoption was finalized.
- Hospital where the birth took place.
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.
- Non-ID: If the state allows birth parents to obtain non-identifying information, contact them or an agency that is authorized to request it.
- Copies of All Papers You Signed: From the agency/state, or County Clerk where the adoption was finalized and/or where the relinquishment was filed.
- Original Birth Certificate: This is part of the original adoption file.
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 parents 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!
© Nancy S. Ashe