Thankfully, adoption has come long and far and above and beyond what it was decades ago. When families want to find an adopted child, there are more resources than ever before. Nowadays, birth families can make the choice between open or closed adoption. And thankfully, for everyone involved, open adoption is a more common choice to make these searches possible and feasible. Those open adoptions can determine how much contact people involved want to have. Decades ago, that wasn’t such the case. Many adoptions were kept under wraps. Adoptees were less likely to know about their adoptions, and ties to the birth family were severely cut. It’s no secret that adoption is a beautiful yet complicated way of creating a family.
Fortunately, the process of a birth parent finding the child placed is much easier, rather than the adoptee finding a birth family. Birth parents have the information that the child may not. Birth parents also have more memory or potentially the records of the date of birth, where it took place, and maybe even the agency or attorney who facilitated the adoption, and or the name of the adoptive parents. This information is a great springboard to jump-start the searching process.
But before we start, let’s look at the how much, why, what, and who of the search process.
Depending on what route you take to finding the child you placed, the expense amount will vary. Between requesting information from local agencies, or hiring a private investigator, or using a website to help you in your research, the cost will vary. Make sure you are ready financially to take on this search.
Why now? What is your reason for wanting to find the child you placed? Maybe enough time has passed that you are ready to meet that child. Maybe you weren’t in a place in life that you were able to have a present and consistent relationship with your child and you are now in a place where you can. Maybe you felt pressured into placing your child. There are an infinite amount of reasons birth parents choose to place a child. Regardless of the reason, ask yourself why you are now wanting to reconnect.
Next, ask yourself, what outcome do you want? What are your goals for this reunification? Do you want to hold a relationship with your child, or is it to just check in and have peace of mind about everything? But most importantly, are you okay if your adult child doesn’t want the same outcome as you do? If not, you should reconsider this search.
Do you have support from your family and/or loved ones in your life? Are the people around you, ready and willing to go along this journey with you? If not, ask yourself why. There is quite a bit of psychological preparedness you must have before embarking on this journey. It’s important to have some sort of support system before you start this, whether that be a friend, family member, therapist, or adoption counselor. There are even forums and groups on Facebook that connect birth parents with other birth parents who are also searching.
Another thing to consider is who you will reach out to first. Make a plan of who you contact first once you find the information you need to make contact. Will you reach out to the adult child, or will you contact the adoptive parents? Are you willing to involve everyone or are you just wanting to talk to your child? You must think about these things because this will inevitably change not only your relationship with your child and the relationship you have with the adoptive parents, it will change the relationship between your child and the adoptive parents.
Once you decide the answers to the questions mentioned above, you will want to start your search. Below will be a list of websites, companies, agencies, and places you can research to find the child you placed for adoption.
Adoption Agencies/Lawyers/Social Workers
If you used an adoption agency, a lawyer, or social worker to place your child, reach out to those agencies and ask for the records of your placement. This could include the names of the adoptive parents, an old address, telephone number, etc. It could also be a great place to kick start your search. The agency may have recent phone numbers or addresses for you to send a message to. Sometimes, social workers are even willing to be the mediator for your meet up and reunification. This can be great for everyone involved since emotions and feelings will most likely be high. It will be good to have a third party there to help fill in the awkward moments and subsequent conversations.
You will have to check your state regulation, but a county clerk can help you find the records that the agency might not have. However, some states seal the records to protect the privacy of everyone involved. You can petition the court to release some information to you but you will still have to start with the county clerk to get the information you need.
Hiring a Private Investigator is another way to find the child you placed. Private investigators are able to take just a little bit of information and expand, oftentimes, with great results. However, you must make sure you hire an ethical and legit private investigator. Do your research on this, since private investigators are typically expensive. You want to make sure you’re not paying someone who is making false promises.
In the article, “The Financial Costs of Search And Reunions,” Jennifer Mellon states that “the time and costs associated with any search and reunion can vary by each individual case. A highly qualified and well trained private investigator or adoption detective can utilize very little information to get successful results. No private investigator can guarantee results, but be wary of any who make such promises. Ethical private investigators will charge you accordingly for their expertise and time, and that can fluctuate from a few hundred to many thousands of dollars based on their agency or organization. Do your research and ask the right questions framed above to begin the process of getting the information or reunion you desire.” Make sure you are investing your money in the right investigator, you don’t want your money to be wasted and it all be for nothing.
Your state may have an online adoption registry. If the state doesn’t there are other websites that do, such as Adoption.com. You can register online and once your child registers, you will be matched. It doesn’t work until both parties are registered, but it is always good to look into every option possible. Parties may already be registered. You never know which one will be the link to reunification so you want to make sure all of your bases are covered. These resources are free so it’s a win on that aspect.
Online Public Record Websites
Websites like PublicRecord.com, Radaris, Spokeo, and PrivateEye.com are places to start if you have the names, phone numbers, or old addresses of the adoptive parents. You can put in the information and it can lead to other personal information on the family and where you can get in contact. This will be good information to launch your search or to give your private investigator if you choose that route.
With the popularity of DNA registries, such as Ancestry.com, 23andme.com, and FamilySearch.org on a rapid rise these days, many families are being reunited and connections to culture, history, and heritage are being found. Sometimes even sparking a reconnection or reunification between adoptees and birth families. Once you send in your DNA, you will be registered in the respective databases and it can connect you with matches in the system. If your child has also submitted DNA, it will provide and match and a means to connect through the website.
Personal Finder Adoption Websites
Places like Adoption.ORG are wonderful for you if you feel like you don’t know where to start, or if you are nervous about the results you will get. Maybe making the first initial contact is too overwhelming for you. Whatever it may be, these websites are the places you should look at. Adoption.ORG is a website that focuses on stories and resources for finding accurate information with people who have personal experience or expertise with all kinds of aspects of the adoption process. The authors and team all have some sort of connection to the adoption world, whether that be a connection to birth parents’ situations, adoptive parents, or adoptees. These individuals understand the ins and outs of the adoption world and the feeling associated with finding these connections.
These websites, such as Adoption.com, Adoption.ORG, and Adopting.org are excellent beginning resources for finding accurate, positive, and encouraging information. In addition, these websites provide sources of state-specific information, such as California, as an example, for birth parents who are seeking reunification. The sites provide information on international adoption groups and open adoptions as well. Adoption.com and other sites included are also gateways for finding advocates for legislation on both state and federal levels if you should run into the problem of accessing information about your adoption if you were a part of the abandoned baby or assisted reproduction programs. These adoption attornies have a lot of history navigating the ins and outs about accessing the information on these fronts. Along with all of this knowledge, these sites also provide a plethora of things you might need to begin your search also.
No matter the outcome of your search, it will be an emotional one for everyone involved. Your adult adopted child is the focus of this search. Take into account your child’s feelings and emotions. Those emotions are valid, even if it’s not what you want or expected. Keep the lines of communication open and flowing. Respect wishes. In an article from Adoption.ORG, the author says it best, stating that “there cannot be an expectation that everyone will be comfortable right away. Even though you are a family, it is going to take some time to get to know one another. As with any relationship, there may be things that you disagree on or feelings that you do not share. It is important to take things slowly in a reunion situation and understand that the relationship may ebb and flow.”
We can’t deny that this process will be lengthy, hard emotionally, mentally, and maybe financially. We hope that these resources to reconnect with the child that you placed are helpful in your search. Like I mentioned before, this process will be psychologically hard, so make sure you are a part of some type of support group with people who can relate to what you are feeling and experiencing. You shouldn’t do this alone.
Here are a few tips from fellow birth parents who have open adoptions with adult adoptees or who have closed adoptions and since been reunified.
- Resist the urge to introduce the adoptee to everyone you know. Whether that be distant family or friends. Take it slow when you first reintroduce yourself.
- Don’t insist that the adoptee calls you by your desired designation; mother/father, mom/dad, labels shouldn’t be an issue or case to draw tension or uncomfortable feelings.
- Let the child set the pace. This is new and probably unexpected. Make sure all lines of communication are open. Watch body language, read between the lines, and ask questions.
- Please respect any boundaries that are set. Whether it be the adoptee or the adoptive parents, respect the lines and rules and those individuals have.
- Don’t compare your reunion to others. It’s very likely that there are some far worse and maybe even better or easier than yours. Own your story. It’s one of a kind.
Best of luck on your journey in finding your adopted child. Comment below or on our social media for more information and if we can help you.
Khrystian Hembree is a proud military wife, a momma to an adventure-seeking and spunky little girl, and a freelance copywriter. She enjoys hosting playgroup, reading books, leading worship at her church, and anything that includes donuts and coffee.