It’s a scene all adoptive parents run over in their minds but are never quite fully prepared to deal with when the time comes: Your teen or young adult adopted child comes to you and asks for your help to find his or her birth parents. After dealing with the emotional complexities of such a request, you must handle the practical side. How do you help them find their birth parents if you’ve had no contact since the adoption was finalized?

Open vs. Closed States

The first thing to consider is whether the adoption took place in an open or closed state. In a closed state, the birth parents may not know who adopts the child and may not have contact with the adoptive parents. If the state has an open adoption policy, both sides would know basic information about each other, and they may even be allowed to maintain contact.

You must also consider the agency you went through for adoption. They may only provide a closed adoption even if located in an open state. You can find the birth family no matter where you live or the agency you went through, but the process may be a little different.

Contact Your Adoption Specialist

If you adopted through the foster care system, your first step should be to contact your adoption specialist, who will be able to access records from when the child was in care. Specialists can help you begin the process of asking for the records to be unsealed so you can find important information about the biological family.

If you adopted through a private agency, you could also contact the person who handled your case or someone within the same department. You would need to ask about their protocol for accessing records or what information could be provided to help you with your search.

Adoption Reunion Registries and Groups

One method to help you in your search is to sign up for an adoption reunion registry. There you can provide information and search for others who may be looking for their birth child. This resource only works if both parties are searching for each other or someone within the family recognizes the connection. However, many birth parents long to find their child later, so they will set up profiles in hopes of connecting with them at some point.

You can join online groups of people who are searching for biological family. They can provide information and tips that will assist you in your own research. If you have a name of one of the parents and know where they live, you can pull up social media profiles to give you a starting point.

For those who adopt from foster care, you may be given access to your child’s file before the adoption is finalized. If not, ask for the opportunity to review the file. Write down any information provided about the biological family, no matter how small the detail. The more information you record, the more you have to work with when your child is older and asks for your help in the search.

Use a Confidential Intermediary

Depending on where you live, you may be able to hire a person known as a confidential intermediary. The cost is often substantial, but intermediaries will have access to information you cannot obtain. They may be able to view your entire adoption record and use the information to contact the birth parents. If the birth parents agree to be contacted, the adopted child may be given the birth parents’ current contact information.

If you can get the name of the birth family and any other information, you can begin your search. The more details you have, the easier and faster you will find results. It may take some time for you to help your adopted child locate his or her birth family, but it can happen if you’re diligent in your efforts.

Click here for a real-world reunion story.

For a comprehensive adoption training course, visit

Support and adoption forums to find others also searching for their birth parents, visit

Written by Joyce Morse