No one can stop you from looking for or making contact with your birth family. However, before you do so, most search groups and professionals will only work with someone over age 18, or only with you if your adoptive parent(s) consents.
You also need to understand how your search and reunion may affect all parties involved in your adoption.
At some point your birth parent(s) made a decision to relinquish their parental rights, paving the way for you to be adopted. Your adoptive parent(s) made a decision to build or expand their family through adoption. You most likely had no choice in the matter, were placed into your adoptive home, later legally adopted, and your adoption records were “sealed.” This sealed record contains your original birth certificate, family background and circumstances of your earliest life.
In some instances, your birth and adoptive parent(s) may have made an arrangement to stay in touch or share information. There may have been letters and photos shared for a specified period of time, sharing of information through an intermediary, or there may have been no contact at all.
Before you start your search, you should be aware of the possible outcomes—you find no information at all, you get the names of your birth parent(s) but cannot locate them, you discover your birth parent(s) died, you locate your birth parent(s) or birth family and they are not what you expected, want nothing to do with you or they welcome you into their lives without limitations.
It is important that you examine your expectations. Do you want them to be a part of your life, are you just looking for information or do you have open and flexible expectations of the reunion and the relationship to come.
It is a good idea to talk to your adoptive parent(s) and siblings, and let them know that you would like to contact your birth parent(s) and birth family. They may be upset that you are looking, feel threatened that you are rejecting them or understand your need to search and even be willing to help you. The more support you have, the better.
You may have identifying information on your birth parent(s) or birth family or you may have no helpful information. There are support and search groups that can help you with expectations, possible outcomes and even provide assistance or information on how to start a search or make contact.
What information should you collect:
- Ask your parents, extended family, your parents’ friends and anyone else who may have been around at the time of your adoption. Ask them what they remember or what they were told.
- Try to locate the attorney or adoption agency that was involved in your adoption. Make an appointment to go meet with them.
- Find out if your birth mother lived in a home for unwed mothers or was sent to live with an out of state relative or friend. Ask them everything they remember during that time, at the time of birth and after.
- Find out who the original pediatrician was (and any nurses who worked in the practice) and meet with them or find out where they have kept their records.
- If you know where you were born, go to the hospital and meet with someone in social services or an ombudsman.
- Cooperate with anyone who will meet with you or help you in your search for information. This means filling our forms and sometimes accepting or completing counseling. They want to make sure you are searching for the “right” reasons.
- Check out state regulations. While being raised in one state, if your adoption was finalized in another state, you may be able to get your ORIGINAL birth certificate.
With the information you have collected, you can continue to SEARCH FOR INFORMATION AND REUNION on your own, but many adoptees find the assistance of a support group or search registry helpful:
Adoptee Rights Coalition (state listings)
Looking for and finding birth parent(s), siblings or extended family can open up a new world that may provide your family background information, your identity—understanding who you are and why the adoption plan was made. It may create new relationships and shift those you already have. Take it slowly and work through the search and reunion, if that is your goal but always be mindful of your and others feelings. It can be a very emotional experience for all who are involved.