Birth Parent Search

Guide to adoption search and adoption reunions

Millions of adopted children grow up wondering about their birth families. As they get older, many of these people want to reconnect with their blood roots, and birth parent search services can help.

An adoption search can be an emotional roller coaster, filled with incredible, soaring highs and disheartening lows. With an open adoption, birth mothers can easily regain or keep contact with the child, but closed adoptions make reunions much harder to come by. Privacy laws can make finding biological parents difficult, but if adoption reunions with your birth family are something you're committed to, there are resources out there than can be of great help.

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Finding Birth Parents: A Step-by-Step Guide

Before you start sifting through adoption records, you have to come to terms with the reality that you may never find what you're looking for. For every adoption search story with a happy ending, there is one that never ends at all. Once you've accepted that and you're ready to begin, following these steps could lead you to a happy ending:

  1. List everything you know about your birth and your adoption, including everything from the city and hospital where you were born to the adoption agency that handled your case. Contact the hospital or the adoption agency to see what, if any, blanks they can help you fill in.
  2. Get help from your adoptive parents. Collect any and all information they can provide, and use a government-maintained adoption database to retrieve your adoptive birth certificate and any other available records, such as the original adoption application and final placement approval.
  3. Gather every piece of so-called "non-identifying information" you can scrounge up. While agencies are not able to provide the identity of your birth parents, non-identifying information can be used to help you narrow your search. Some of the pieces of non-identifying information that may be available include the geographic location of your birth mother, father and/or siblings, their ages and occupations, their ethnic backgrounds, and certain physical characteristics such as height, weight, eye color and hair color.
  4. Sign up with a mutual consent registry. These services allow adopted children, adoptive parents and birth parents to be matched together if two or more parties are simultaneously searching for one another.
  5. Consider confidential intermediary (CI) services. They are expensive, but very effective. A confidential intermediary can access your full adoption file and petition a court to release contact information to one or both parties. However, using a CI comes with the risk that your birth parents will not consent to the petition, which will effectively end your search while leaving you on the hook for the cost of the service.