Adoption Searches; Ten Easy Steps to Take

adoption searches find my family- mother- biological father- adopted childFind Your Birthmother? Find Your Adopted Child?

What You Need to Know if Adopted and Searching for Birth Parents

(and visa versa )

Please do note: I am NOT a searcher. My skill set is more along the lines of promotion, social media, SEO, and internet tools, and facilitating connections between people. Like a tour guide to AdoptionLand. So I can tell you how, I can tell you who to get in touch with, I can give you links; happily, all that information on Adoption Searches that I would share with you  if you ask me for help, is  right here in this post.

Get the Information from the State Your Adoption was Finalized In

 1. Day 1 of Adoption Activism; NAAM2013- Help Jeff Educate Social Workers and Adoptive ParentsGet Your Original Birth Certificate if You Can

If your adoption was in: Maine, Alaska, Kansas, New Hampshire, Oregon or Alabama, then you can request a copy of your original birth certificate( OBC) from the state. Ohio, Washington State, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Montana , New Jersey, & Rhode Island all passed recent adoptee rights legislation and the laws have changed. Even if you have been denied access to your birth certificate it the past, check into it again.  Your OBC will have your birth parents names on it and from there your search is usually much easier!

Other states have different “rules” for different adoptees: Illinois you can also request info, Delaware is pretty open at age 21 UNLESS there is a contact veto on file ,  Massachusetts has “black out” dates so if you were born in certain years then you have no right to your birth certificate while other years you do! Other states have no previsions at all to allow adoptees to ever access their original birth certificates. Doesn’t make sense, but that’s the way the laws are.. If you think it sucks then help support the Adoptee Rights Demonstration!(http://www.adopteerightscoalition.com)

For an updated list to check your state laws and what you need to do, the Child Welfare Information Gateway, usually keeps their master list, Access to Adoption Records, pretty up to date. To find your particular states forms, you can refer to our “Quick List” of state links.   OBCs do come from the offices of Vital Records. Follow the directions, fill out the forms and pay the small fee.

 2. Day 3 of Adoption Activism; NAAM2013- The Proposed Adoption Bills in MichiganApply for Your Non Identifying Adoption Information

If you CAN get your OBC, get your non ID from the state as it might have some information in it that can help define your search.

Even if your state still refuses you OBC access, you can  still request “non identifying” information about your adoption. Basically, they let you know what they know without releasing names or allowing you access to your birth certificate. This can range from the really bland “mother white age 17 brown hair of Scottish descent” to something a bit more interesting, but keep in mind, it does not have to be 100% the truth.

Use our “Quick Links to Adoption Information List“.  Go to the website of the state you were born in.  Follow the directions, fill out the forms and pay the fee.

No matter HOW you plan to search get your state non-ID first.

Gather Existing File and Existing Information About the Adoption

Now is a good time to start prepping yourself for more information. Start by revisiting what you do know, what you have been told and what you think you remember. Start asking questions and making direct inquires about your adoption.

3. Day 3 of Adoption Activism; NAAM2013- Sign Adoption PetitionsSearch for Existing Adoption Files and Information

For an Adoptee searching for their original identity, you need to do try to find as much information as you can from your adoptive parents. Ask them for ANY paperwork they might have from your adoption. There is usually legal paperwork and the final adoption decrees, however what communication that went between your folks and the adoption facilitators might have more information on it as well.

As an Adoptee, will want to see if you can find:

  • the agency that facilitated the adoption: many agencies keep their own records and have their own procedures involved for reunions, so they are a good place to start an adoption search
  • the lawyers who did the paperwork: again, sometimes they actually have records on hand and names
  • the maternity home that your mother might have been at: this might be buried in the adoption papers work but can help.
  • the state that all happened: you’ll be looking for the state your birthmother was from, the state you were born in, the state the adoption happened, etc.. sometimes there are a whole bunch of state lines crossed!

For a birthparent, trace the same steps. Add in hospital records which you should be privy too ( even if you have to pay a small fee for the research end of it.) Dig up what you can from your relinquishment. Depending on what state you relinquished in, there are usually certain forms which you have a legal right to have. For instance, I relinquished in Massachusetts, so my agency HAD to provide me with any paperwork I had signed..even if I ask for it 19 years later.

4. Day 4 of Adoption Activism; NAAM2013 - Vote for AdopteesGather Anecdotal Information about Your Adoption as Baby

You will also want to find out as many tiny rumors and bits of information as you can. Even the most minute scrap of hearsay might be something that helps eventually.. so that story that your cousin heard your aunt say once.. write down all the details.. you never know! Plus it is surprising on how many people actually KNOW the details of your birth.. so ask around! Start with people who might have been confidants of your folks at the time; grandparents, siblings of your adoptive parents, friends, etc. Let people know you need information and take it all in!

Ask for help, but be ready to hear a bunch of annoying assumptions and bits of advice. Ignore the stuff that gets you down and gather the information!

Day 5 of Adoption Activism; NAAM2013- HelpBring Hailey HomeAdoption Searches at the Beginning: Contact Your Adoption Agency

Then, start local first …go to the agency and see what they say. DO NOT, however, pay them for anything if you can avoid it. Some DO make you go through a whole bunch of “counseling” or make you pay for their services. I would say to fight that. They MADE money off of your relinquishment and the act of separation, now they want to make money off of this end too?

Fill out what they offer you, put a letter in your file, play nice, but watch out and don’t put all your eggs in one basket!

Some agencies are great and really do help and some are more interested in keeping you in your place of ignorance. The bottom line is you really cannot trust most of the professionals in adoption well meaning or not. Remember that this is YOUR life and YOU are the professional of your own experience.

Be Proactive

6. Day 6 of Adoption Activism; NAAM2013 - Help STOP CHIFFRegister for your States Passive Adoption Reunion Registry or Program 

Most states also have some kind of passive reunion registry as well. They don’t have very good success rates since they are underfunded and under manned in general, so again, don’t put all your eggs in one basket, but sign up!

Many states also have “unofficial” registries and then email lists and “search angels” and more folks that can help you.. so Google is now your best friend and you need to find those places online! There are incredible people online who will help and how have great methods and information as well.

Remember that often much of the information that you think you know is wrong including:

    • Your Birth date: depending on when you were born even this got changed at times
    • Where you were born: often the city was changed to your adoptive parents area
    • Your birthmothers age, occupation etc.
    • Same with your birthfather, etc.

So be open to “maybes” and “almosts”.. and if you have a gut feeling.. explore it!

7. Day 7 of Adoption Activism; NAAM2013- Petition Open Sealed Adoption RecordsCheck and Sign Up for the “Big” Adoption Reunion Registries

You might have it easy and your biological family might have begun searching for you as well, so try the two best adoption reunion registries first!

The International Soundex Reunion Registry (http://www.isrr.net/) You HAVE TO FILL out the form and send it in by mail, but they are the BEST since it is an active search registry.. meaning they will actively compare and try to find a match! All non profit and run by volunteers, they have no ulterior motivation except to help all separated family members find each other.

The other one that is really good is at Adoption.com (http://registry.adoption.com/). I don’t really like their politics of adoption, BUT it IS a good registry that you can search and add your information. Lots of people have found others there, so it is good to keep updated, etc.

G’s Adoption Search Registry ( http://www.gsadoptionregistry.com) has also been around forever, so worth checking out as well.

There are many many more adoption registries; you can just google them and go crazy or start with this list.  For your own sanity, DO create a method of keeping track of where you have checked and where you have registered. I personally am huge fan of creating Excel spread sheets to quickly copy and paste urls and notes when researching anything online.  You might also consider having a word document made with your basic info on it so you can just copy and past the required information over and over again.

Get Help When Stuck on an Adoption Search

7. Day 7 of Adoption Activism; NAAM2013 Today Show and Craigslist!Try Using an Adoption Search Angels

Adoption search angles are people who search for others lost through adoption because they are just incredible people who help others. Since they work on more than just one personal search, they tend to be really great researches and know how to find things! The majority of search angels I know are all on a volunteer basis. Once you have non identifying information or some serious clues and if you get stuck, don’t hesitate in asking for help. A professional adoption search angle is a miracle worker!

Make sure you know what to expect form a Search Angles Help and how to best help them help you in an adoption Search!

Click here to find out more about using Search Angels and where to find one to help you with an Adoption Search. 

Day 9 of Adoption Activism; NAAM2013- PetitionUse Social Media for Adoption Searches

Facebook, MySpace and even Twitter can be amazing tools for adoption searches. I have witness decade long adoption searches turn successful after mere days of a Facebook page made dedicated to the adoption search. The same adoption search that I witnessed in real time, became this article on I found my own son using MySpace as well with a whole group of other adoptees, Birthmothers and adoptive moms helping me! By opening up your search on social media you open yourself up to the many eyes and minds and Googling fingers.. and the hive mind is incredible! It’s a way not to be so isolated and alone and get the support you need during the emotional journey.

Top get the best results form an online search, please check out  How to Use Social Media for An Adoption Search

Also, consider creating an “Adoption Search Party” on Facebook.  For advice, please check out this great blog post by Lynn Grubb:  Looking for your birth parents? Create a Facebook Search Party!

10. Day 10 of Adoption Activism; NAAM2013 - Help Adoptee Rights in OhioGo to the Source: Use DNA Testing for Difficult Adoption Searches

DNA testing has literally blown up many adoption searches in the last few years. There are many folks who have searched for their family for decades with no luck at all and then, after DNA testing, they found family. The whole concept of “sealed” Adoption records is practically moot now due to DNA testing.

For all adoptees and others with unknown parents and/or grandparents, autosomal DNA testing is recommended. For autosomal DNA testing, start with either one of the big three. If at all possible, test at all three companies in order to “fish in all three ponds” for close family matches.

 For the basics to get  started on a DNA Testing for an Adoption Search, click here. 

 

The truth in open adoption informationPrepare for the Emotions of an Adoption Reunion

The other thing you will want to be doing at the same time is reading! This cannot be stressed enough! READ READ READ! Read “The Girls That Went Away”, read “The Baby Thief”, read about the history of adoption in the USA. You MUST be prepare for the realm of possibilities that you might find and you need to know how to prepare yourself for the emotional up and down that happens! Read adoptee blogs and read blogs and stories from the birthparents point of view too. I always say that my heart hurts the most for anyone who finds success at the end of their adoption search and has ONLY their emotions to guide them. Emotions are just not enough . The term “emotional roller coaster  is used by almost every person in a search and reunion and with good reason.. it can make you feel crazy and if you are not prepared you might begin to think you really are!

For more reading on Adoption Reunions, click here. 

Find an Adoption Support System

Start gathering together the people who “understand” and will support you . An adoption search both emotionally exhausting and wonderful at the same time. It’s a good time now to find and adoption group for support. The bonus of sharing an adoption reunion with others in adoption is that we know you are not crazy as we all lived it too.

To find Adoption Support Online and Locate Adoption Support Group Meetings; click here.

Not all these groups are for adoptees only, so take a peak and find one that feels good. It’s also not a bad idea to see if you can find a local group that physically meets once in a while.

It can take years to find your birthmother and birth families, or it can takes days, but you never know until your try.

Good luck!

Other Helpful Links for Adoption Searching Information:

 For more articles, tips,stories, and news about adoption searches, click here. 

 

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