With Advice and Encouragement for the Search
As an individual who was placed for adoption, you are commonly referred to as an “adoptee.” Your biological parents are often referred to as “birth parents.” As an adoptee, thinking about your birth parents most likely elicits a lot of thoughts and emotions for you. It is quite easy to let your mind wander to try to fill in the blanks that you may or may not have in your adoption story. The decision to locate your birth parents will likely be challenging, especially emotionally, but it is a big decision in your adoption journey. It seems as though no matter the circumstances surrounding adoptions, adoptees often have an innate desire to know, locate, or gain information on their birth parents at some point in their lives. Adoptees have incredibly varying experiences within their adoptions. Some adoptees come to understand their adoption at an early age while other adoptees may find out later in life. There are even instances in which adoptees are never told they are adopted until it is learned by mistake or by accident. While such situations are not ideal for an adoptee’s overall well-being, it does happen, which causes even more curiosity about birth parents.
Being curious about birth parents is a normal thing for you as an adoptee, and the questions you have should be welcomed. You may perhaps be simply searching to fill in blanks that have been presented to you or you may be searching to get important information. Regardless of the why surrounding your search, please know that your desire to search for your birth parents is admirable. Your pursuit demonstrates a type of self-respect and desire for emotional and mental well-being for yourself. Not only is having a desire to find your birth parents admirable, but it is also your right as an adoptee.
While this is not an exhaustive list of reasons to locate your birth parents, the reasons listed below tend to be some of the primary reasons that adoptees pursue searching for birth parents:
- To fill in the blanks of your story
- Medical history
- Cultural/racial/ethnic information
- To establish a relationship
- A biological connection
Am I Prepared for Connection?
While locating your birth parents is not always guaranteed or even a possibility for some adoptees, it is important to realize that if and when there is a connection made, you will need to be prepared. Some reunions are joyful and welcoming, while other reunions may involve more hardships. In an effort to be prepared for your outcome, you can help yourself by realizing that you are potentially embarking on a highly emotional reunion. In addition, you will want to have realistic expectations concerning what will be accomplished. If potential hardships make you feel unsure or not confident to navigate on your own, you can always have a professional or close friend or family member assist you with the process. It might be a productive and proactive idea for you to think about all of the possible outcomes that come with a potential birth parent reunion. Once you think about the options, you can go ahead and begin to process what each potential outcome may look like for you. This information is not meant to scare you, but it is meant for you to acknowledge so that you can prepare yourself in ways that are appropriate for you. If you find that you may not be ready to locate your birth parents, after all, you can always reevaluate your desire at a later time.
How to Locate a Birth Parent for Free Versus What Is Not Free
As you might assume, states differ in their rules and laws regarding adoption files and what is made available to adoptees. There are, however, ways that you can search for your birth parents. For example, Adoption.com has a free registry. This registry is available for adoptees, but also know additional services may be needed depending on your situation. Adoption.com also offers a free search and reunion guide and a free eBook that includes personal stories and advice from those who have embarked on the journey to locate their birth parents.
The resources made available on Adoption.com are obviously not the only resources that exist for locating birth parents. Every search for birth parents will be different because every adoption is different. The level of difficulty your search has depends on how much personal information you already have at your fingertips. For example, if you know where you were born, your birth parents’ name, or any other significant information, you will likely be a step ahead of most adoptees. On the other hand, if the information you already have is limited, then you will obviously have more of an extensive search. At that point in time, you may need an experienced professional to assist you. Such professionals may include a licensed investigator with the tools and knowledge to locate your birth parents. Licensed investigators and other similar professionals have resources that are not available to the general masses, making the likelihood of them locating birth parents more successful. These services would not be free, but the financial cost would be determined by which professional you chose to use.
Utilizing Every Tool
Searching for your birth parents can seem like a monumental task, and it will take perseverance and grit. One of the most important things an adoptee can do in their search is to use every tool available to them. You will need to be an investigator, of sorts, and use all of your resources to your advantage. If you still have access to your adoptive parents, you will need to speak with them and learn as much as you can about the details surrounding your adoption. You likely already know the major details surrounding your birth like the place of your birth and when, but for this task, you will need to ask deeper adoption-related questions. If you have the blessing of still having your adoptive parents, there are some things you will need to ask your adoptive parents, which include the following:
- Was my adoption open or closed?
- Did you use an adoption agency? If so, what agency?
- Did you use an attorney? If so, what attorney?
- Have you ever had any contact with my birth parents?
- What information do you have on my birth parents?
- What, if any, documents do you have available concerning my adoption?
If you find that your adoptive parents used an adoption agency or attorney, it is recommended that you reach out to that agency or attorney for more information. It is not uncommon for birth parents to leave information for adoptees when the adoptee is of age to begin his search on his own. This is a prime place to begin your search.
Another thing to keep in mind regarding searching for your birth parents is to utilize social media, which would obviously be free in most cases. You can research and determine what social media platforms are available for adoption search and reunions. Using social platforms such as Facebook can be a way to conduct a general search, especially if you are fortunate enough to have the names of one or both of your birth parents. There are additional websites you can explore that test and match DNA profiles if that route is of interest to you.
A State-Level Approach
As mentioned previously, each state differs in its adoption laws, even in terms of what information can be disclosed to adoptees. You will need to include a state-level approach in your birth parent search. You will need to contact the Department of Vital Records in your state where your birth and adoption took place. Normally, states have adoption consents and registries available to adoptees especially if birth parents registered themselves. Your state’s Vital Records Department will be able to assist you with what documents you need or what information is available to you as an adoptee. Some of this information will be contingent upon what information that state has regarding your birth parents. For instance, some birth parents register to be identified at the adoptee’s request. You are encouraged to ask specific questions and use every resource your state provides for you. At the state level, be ready to exercise patience as you navigate through what is required to obtain information.
What If I Find Them and What If I Do Not?
A search for your birth parents can lead to different possibilities. As mentioned earlier, it is important to maintain realistic expectations and be comfortable with whatever result may occur. The media and other outlets can often portray a fairytale-like version of what may occur when locating a birth parent. You’ve likely seen adoption reunions played out on television that depict the best-case scenario where the search is flawless and fast. While it is possible that your reunion could occur in that manner, it is recommended that you keep your expectations in check. This will allow you to take everything in stride on your journey.
If your search becomes long, tedious, and difficult, you will need to remember the call of perseverance and grit this endeavor requires. If you do locate one or both of your birth parents, consider yourself fortunate and seek every opportunity to build upon your discovery as much possible as long as it remains emotionally healthy for you and your family. If you do not locate one or both of your birth parents, be mindful of your story and work to determine your next steps. At this point, you may want to consider seeking professional assistance if you have not done so already. You must keep asking questions, researching, digging, and navigating your way through the information until you obtain leads that can help you. You have been given your story for a reason, and sometimes, that story is easy to navigate, and sometimes it comes with excess baggage.
The Last Thought
Whether your desire to locate your birth parents is just an innate desire you have or another reason, take inventory of your heart to determine how you would like to go about your search. If applicable, use your adoptive parents as a resource. You might be surprised how willing they are to help you connect to your biological family. It is likely they will assist you because they love you and recognize how important it is to you. Use social media platforms to your advantage. Allow them to do the work for you because the possibilities are endless. Use DNA resources as well if you see fit. Remember to utilize what is available in your state and at the state level in terms of the Department of Vital Records. Above all, and regardless of the specifics of how you search, remember that your birth parents also have a voice and a story. Regardless of the reason they chose to place you for adoption, they love you deeply because they chose life for you. Remember to be sensitive to them and approach them with love, grace, and patience. They have probably thought about you just as much, if not more, than you have thought about them over the years. While everyone can agree that respecting each other is a wise thing to do, it is even more important to do among birth parents and adoptees. There must be respect for each other’s voice and story. Hopefully, the voice and story of you and your birth parents will collide into a beautiful relationship that includes restoration and fulfillment. However, if it does not, you must remember that your story is still a story to be valued. Without difficult stories, there would be no hope for better things to come. No adoption story is easy because it always begins with some type of brokenness. However, there is hope for a story to continue to be written. It is my sincerest hope that your journey to locate your birth parents leads to where you long to go.
Sarah Beth is an adoptive mother through infant domestic adoption. She and her husband experienced six disrupted adoptions before meeting their son. Sarah Beth has experience walking alongside numerous expectant mothers and birth families. As an adoption advocate, she enjoys sharing her experiences in hopes of advocating for both birth and adoptive families and impacting the adoption community. When she is not with her family, she is busy as a middle school Assistant Principal. Sarah Beth enjoys reading, coffee, documentaries, and all things adoption related.