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Adoptees Looking for Birth Parents [Everything You Need to Know to Begin Your Search]

If you are an adult adoptee who grew up in a closed adoption, you likely have many questions about your birth parents. The best way to get answers to these questions may be reuniting adoptees and birth parents. 

But, where do you begin?

While every search and reunion journey is different, here’s what you’ll need to do:

  • Step 1: Prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for all possible outcomes
  • Step 2: Attempt to access adoption records
  • Step 3: Look into other avenues, like DNA testing sites, adoption registries and social media
  • Step 4: Identify your biological family
  • Step 5: Keep an open mind and proceed based on what is best for you

This guide provides you with the information you need throughout your journey of searching for them and helpful tips on what you may expect along the way. 

Just like every adoption situation is unique, every search and reunion is as well. Maintaining an open mind and setting reasonable expectations can help avoid any letdowns or frustrations. If you need help along the way, whether while searching or dealing with your thoughts and emotions throughout, follow this link to get professional help from an adoption counselor.

In the meantime, continue reading to learn more about what you need to know as an adoptee searching for your birth family.

How to Find Your Birth Parents

Adoptees searching for their birth family go through a lot of emotions — ranging from excitement to fear, anger, and more.

Before you begin your journey of reuniting with your birth parents, it is necessary to make sure you are emotionally ready. Our adoption reunion advice is to ask yourself questions like:

  • Are you prepared for the chance you may not find them or that they do not wish to be contacted?
  • Do you have an overall goal in mind? What do you hope to accomplish by finding them?
  • Do you understand the laws about adoption information in your state?
  • Are you ready to establish a relationship with them if that is what both parties want?
  • Have you considered there is a possibility they are facing health issues, a challenging lifestyle, or are no longer living?
  • Is your adoptive family supportive of your decision?
  • Do you understand the laws focused on adoption information in your state?
  • Are you prepared for your biological family to be completely different than you have imagined them in the past?
  • Choosing to search for your birth parents is a very important decision. Contact with them not only impacts you, but can impact your adoptive family, your birth parents, and any family they may have as well.

Reactions to adoptees looking for their birth parents will vary, which you need to be prepared for. Keeping an open mind is important as you begin your search and throughout so that your goals remain realistic and the outcome does not disappoint or emotionally harm you.

Being prepared mentally is just one of the ways to help yourself as an adoptee searching for your birth parents. Continue reading to learn more about the resources available to assist adoptees searching for their birth family.

Adoption Records

Every adoption in the United States has “adoption records.” These records include:

  • Identifying information about the birth parents (name, address at the time, phone number at the time)
  • Your original birth certificate
  • Where you were born
  • And more

Obtaining these records is a big first step for any adoptee searching for your birth parents. But, in most states, closed adoption records are sealed after an adoption is finalized. 

Because each state has its own specific laws regarding unsealing and opening adoption records, it can be a challenge to get the information you are looking for as an adoptee searching for your birth family.

Most states allow the release of non-identifying information to adult adoptees through written requests. Although it does not provide specific information such as names, addresses, or means of contact, non-identifying information can help provide information like:

  • Birthdate and location of adoptee’s birth
  • Birth parent(s)’ age, race, ethnicity, and medical history
  • The birth parent’s general reason for adoption
  • Ages of the birth parent(s)’ other children, if any

The majority of states have systems that allow birth parents to release identifying information to adult adoptees upon request. In this case, an adult adoptee must request the information, and the birth parent has to give consent before this request for the adoption record to be opened and shared. Adoption records can be a great place to start, and in many cases, help adult adoptees find the information they need. 

Keep in mind, in many closed adoption situations, the birth parents chose to remain anonymous. In these situations, finding their information through adoption records will be extremely difficult, if possible at all. To learn more about how adoption records can help adoptees searching for their birth parents, click here for helpful information about available counselors who can steer you in the right direction. 

Adoption Reunion Registries

As an adult adoptee searching for your birth parents, adoption reunion registries can be a helpful resource to find contact information with your birth parents. When you begin to use these services, you will have two types of registries to choose from:

Passive registry: Information is publicly posted and anyone (adoptees or birth parents) can search through the registry to see if there is a possible match for the information they are searching.

Active registry: Information is only given to parties who search and have a match, based on the information you have submitted. 

By providing identifiable information from adoptees and birth parents, these registries are a great tool for adult adoptees searching for their birth parents.

Unfortunately, because each state has its own laws regarding the release of adoption information and records, there is not currently a national adoption reunion registry, nor does every state have its adoption registry. You can find a list of state registries by clicking here.

In situations where your state does not have a registry, you may consider the services of a private adoption reunion registry. These third-party services can provide similar information but sometimes require a subscription or membership, which generally carries a cost. You may consider private reunion registries such as:

Because each state has different rules for how information can be released, not everyone is aware of these registries. So, not everyone can or will add their input.

These registries could be a great place to start in your search. But, when doing so, keep a levelheaded expectation, as this is by no means a guarantee to find the information you are looking for. 

If you have questions or are looking for more information Adult adoption counselors can also answer your questions about reunion registries and the pros and cons of using them. 

DNA Testing Services

Although adoptions are heading towards being more open, closed adoptions still exist and were a common type of adoption not long ago. As technology continues to advance, adult adoptees searching for birth parents may consider using DNA testing services to try to connect with their biological family.

Through DNA testing services, your chromosomal markers are identified and compared to other DNA samples. The results are able to tell how closely linked your DNA is to that of others and helps determine possible genetic connections. Technology can go as far as to tell the relationship you may or may not have by your genetic linkage.

In order to get your DNA test results to help your adoptee search, you may consider using services like:

Once you have completed your genetic testing, multiple services are available that will take your results and put them in a database to compare with other samples. Websites like DNA Detectives, Ged Match, and Search Squad specialize in helping adoptees find their birth families through the DNA information provided. 

Genetic testing for adopted adults is one of the easiest and best places to start your search. Many adoptees looking for their birth parents have had positive results when starting with DNA testing services. To learn more about the pros and cons of this resource, adult adoption counselors are here to help answer any questions you may have. 

Social Media

As an adult adoptee, you likely know the global reach social media has created. If you have any information about your birth parents, this can make searching and connecting with them easier. Before doing so, there are some things to consider.

  • Are you ready to contact them?
  • Are you certain you have the right person?
  • Is a message via social media the best way to reach them?
  • What if they do not respond?
  • Social media can be a very helpful tool for adoptees searching for their birth parents, but it can also lead to a dead-end and disappointment.

For a birth parent, a message out of the blue can cause different reactions, some good and some bad, so it is important to be emotionally prepared before initiating any contact. Before reaching out, you may consider discussing your situation with an adult adoption counselor. They will be able to provide the insight you may not have considered and guide you in the right direction on what may be the best steps.

Keeping an Open Mind Throughout Your Search

Adoptees looking for their birth parents will face many different challenges along the way. Some may be emotional, others may have to do with finding information, but all can spark different feelings and thoughts. If you are searching for your birth parents, keep an open mind that the journey may not go as planned or that the outcome may differ from what you were hoping to achieve.

Each adoption and adoption reunion will be different. No matter where you are at in your journey as an adoptee searching for your birth parents, adoption counselors can help guide you in the right direction. Whether through the resources they provide or by suggesting other tools, you never have to go through the process of an adoptee search alone.

Information available through these links is the sole property of the companies and organizations listed therein. American Adoptions provides this information as a courtesy and is in no way responsible for its content or accuracy.

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