The Adoption Searchers Handbook

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When both parties register at the same passive registry and a match is made, registry officials share the mutual information and help to arrange for contact. Passive registries do not actively search for the other party. The largest passive registry is the International Soundex Reunion Registry.

Searching For Birth Relatives

This is open to all adopted adults over 18 years of age, all birth parents, and all adoptive parents of adopted children under 18 years of age. There are also a number of "active" registries that charge fees to actually go out and search for the birth relative. Some of these are State registries that will initiate a search for a fee. Others are maintained by private search and support groups. There are few reliable statistics on the success rate of these registries; however, as expected, passive registries tend to show a much lower match rate than active registries.

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At this point, the searcher may want to attempt to acquire some of the missing documents that could help with the search. There are many types of documents that may lead to locating a birth parent or child or provide a breakthrough to this information. The following is a list of potentially helpful documents:. Filing a court petition. If none of the above have been successful, adopted persons may petition the court to have the sealed adoption records opened. Whether this is successful may depend on the State, the particular judge, the reason given for the request, and any number of other factors.

Petitioning the court does not require an attorney's services, but a petitioner may choose to hire an attorney. The judge may deny the petition completely or agree to release only nonidentifying information or a summary.

In some States, the judge may appoint an intermediary, such as the original adoption agency or a professional searcher, to locate the birth parents and determine whether or not they want to release information or be reunited with the adopted person. In other cases, the petitioner may be able to request the appointment of a confidential intermediary, who will conduct a search for a fee and determine if the birth parents are willing to be contacted. Following these steps may lead the searcher to enough identifying information that birth relatives can be located.

In cases in which the search seems to be leading nowhere, the searcher may want to review information or begin to research such things as alternative spellings of names or places. In some cases, information may have been falsified, making it difficult or impossible to continue the search without new information. Adopted persons or birth parents searching for birth relatives have the option of hiring a professional searcher. In some cases, it may be useful to hire a professional searcher if specific information needs to be located in another State. For instance, a professional searcher may be able to search courthouse or church records in a faraway locality.

This limited professional help may be enough to allow the adopted person or birth parent to continue his or her own search. Individuals who choose to hire a professional searcher should research the reputation of the searcher or company. There are some searchers who have a certification from Independent Search Consultants , a nonprofit organization that trains in adoption searching. Other searchers may be licensed as private investigators by a particular locality. Individuals should ask whether private investigators have specific adoption search experience before making a decision to hire them.


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Other professional searchers may be experts in a particular locality or a particular field but may not have a certification. Before hiring anyone, it is crucial to call references and to check with the Better Business Bureau. In addition, support groups can be a ready source of information about professional searchers. In some cases, a court or agency may refuse to open sealed records or provide full information in response to a petition or request; however, the court or agency may appoint a professional searcher.

In such cases, this professional searcher serves as an intermediary whose job is to locate and contact the birth parents or birth child and to find out whether they want to have their name and address revealed and whether they want to resume contact. The professional is given access to sealed records, but the petitioner who generally receives no access to records pays the fee of the professional searcher.

If nothing is found, or if the found person refuses to release information or agree to contact, there is generally no recourse except that the adopted person or birth parent can continue to search on his or her own. People who were adopted from outside the United States through intercountry adoptions face unique challenges in locating birth parents. Each country has its own laws governing information access. In addition, there is great variation in record-keeping practices across countries and cultures, and in many cases, searchers will find that no information was ever recorded, that records were misplaced, or that cultural practices placed little emphasis on accurate record-keeping.

However, in a very few cases, it may actually be easier to gain access to an original birth certificate in a foreign country than in the United States, since some countries do not seal their vital records. The child-placing agency is the best beginning point for an international search. The agency, or its counterpart abroad, may be able to provide specific information on names, dates, and places.

They also may be able to offer some medical history, biographical information on parents, and circumstances regarding the adoption. In general, searching overseas is more difficult than searching in the United States. In cases in which the search for the birth parent is unsuccessful, some adopted persons may derive some satisfaction from visiting their birth country and experiencing their birth culture.

Many agencies and support groups have begun to organize homeland tours for adopted persons and adoptive families. These tours generally provide an introduction to the country and culture. Visiting the birth country for the first time as part of such a group may provide searchers with some emotional security, because the people in the tour group are often looking for answers to similar questions. Reunions between long-lost birth family members have been the subject of books, articles, and television shows.

Two important themes emerge from these accounts:. Participants should be emotionally prepared for the reunion experience. Adopted persons and birth parents may carry a picture in their mind of the perfect family, but the reunion experience may not live up to that ideal. In preparing for contact and reunion, adopted persons and birth parents should prepare for a whole range of realities, including rejection.

Pacing the contact can be key to having a successful reunion and relationship. This interval between contact and meeting allowed information to be exchanged and gave the "found" relatives some time to become accustomed to the idea. Such an interval can also give the found relatives time to share the news with spouses and 2.

Some factors that may increase the possibility of a successful longer term relationship include Muller and Perry, b:. In many cases, a successful reunion with a birth mother may prompt the adopted adult to continue the search process for the birth father. Meeting with birth siblings also may occur, and each reunion experience requires preparation and time to evolve.

Each search for a birth relative is guided by a unique set of circumstances. The outcome is uncertain and, even when the birth relative is located, the reunion experience does not always turn out as expected. Nonetheless, many adopted persons and birth parents have conducted successful searches and built successful relationships with their new-found relatives. For those who are just beginning the search, the best preparation may be finding out about the search experiences of others.


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  6. To that end, a list of resources has been included below. View or edit your browsing history. Get to Know Us. English Choose a language for shopping. Amazon Music Stream millions of songs. Amazon Drive Cloud storage from Amazon.

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    Alexa Actionable Analytics for the Web. AmazonGlobal Ship Orders Internationally. Amazon Inspire Digital Educational Resources. Amazon Rapids Fun stories for kids on the go. Amazon Restaurants Food delivery from local restaurants. A Gathering , www. Telling the truth about adoption. Adoption General Information Packet 3: Searching for Birth Relatives , www.

    Factsheets on the impact of adoption on birth parents and adopted persons; issues related to the search process; coping skills, support groups, resources for searching, state laws. Child Welfare Information Gateway. Building cultural bridges for adult adoptees mostly from Korea , language classes, motherland visits. American Adoption Congress - Search Guidance , www. Referrals to search groups. Bastard Nation , www.

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    Impact of Adoption on Adopted Persons , www. Identity and self-esteem, feelings of abandonment, interest in genetic information, search for birth parents.

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    Child Welfare Information Gateway, International Soundex Reunion Registry , www. Free registry for birthparents and adoptees seeking to make contact. A mutual-consent database that links birth parents and children separated by adoption. PA Adoption Reunion Registry , www. Search and Reunion Resources , adoption. Search support groups in the U. Find search support groups by state. Steps to take; hiring a professional.

    The Idea of Adoption: Samuels, Rutgers Law Review, Winter The Seeker , www. To find missing friends and relatives. Many links to adoption sites.