Find Your Birthmother? Find Your Adopted Child?
What You Need to Know if Adopted and Searching for Birthparent
(and visa versa )
For an Adoptee searching for their original identity, the first thing 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.
Gather 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!
Use Reputable Adoption Registries for Searches
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 atAdoption.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.
There are many many more adoption registries.
Adoption Searches at the Beginning: The 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.
Information from the State Your Adoption was Finalized In
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. 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 has some openness, Ohio & Massachusetts have “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! 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)
Non Identifying Adoption Information
If your adoption was in any of the other states of have a blackout year, then you can 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.
Passive Adoption Reunion Registries
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!
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!
Use 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.
Prepare 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!
- Your adopted parents might or might not understand why you are searching for your biological family.
- Your birth family might not be what you expected and you will need to understand why your mother won’t met you. There are many cases of Secondary Reunion Rejection for Adoptees searching, please be prepared.
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.. want to find adoption people? Friend me on Facebook..seriously, most of my network there is adoption related. There is also a list of online Facebook Adoption Support groups that you can start from 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.