At present, there is no single consolidated national adoption registry. For individuals seeking to reunite with birth family, there are steps you can take and other registries, online and elsewhere, that can hopefully help in your search. Since adoption laws are all individual from state to state, each state handles the disclosure of adoption information differently. In general, adoptees must be 18 or older in order to access any existing records regarding their adoption. If they do not have access to their original birth certificate, they will need to petition the court to have it “unsealed” so they might receive a copy.
In many states, when an adoption is finalized, the original birth certificate, containing the names of the birth parents, is essentially overwritten and a new birth certificate is issued with the adoptive parents listed as the sole parents of the individual. Each state has a different process to request access to sealed original birth certificates, and generally, information can be found online through your state’s vital records website.
Many states themselves have state-specific adoption registries. For adoptees who know what state they were born in, enrolling in this registry could be a way to connect with birth family. Generally, on adoption registries, individuals list their name, date of birth and place of birth. If someone scrolling through the registry feels this information matches what they are looking for, the registry will have a process that allows the two parties to connect. In some states, a written notice will be sent to both parties authorizing the release of contact information. In others, contact information is provided on the website or by contacting the vital records bureau. For birth parents looking for children placed for adoption, not knowing their adopted name or surname could present an issue, but if they know the location, date, and hospital the child was born in, this is information that can help them make a connection.
There are additional online adoption registries that are not overseen by any government agency. These are websites where individuals who are searching for their birth families can voluntarily place their important information in the hopes that it might be seen by the person or people they are looking for. An additional source of information is the adoption agency or lawyer who oversaw the adoption. If this information is known, the agency can be contacted, and they can attempt to contact the other parties to see if they would like to share their contact information. Often for international adoptees or people who were adopted many decades ago, this information is unfortunately lost as agencies close and records are inadvertently lost.
Another option for finding your birth family that is growing in popularity is DNA testing. With websites like 23andme or Ancestry.com, you can access information on any relatives who may have also voluntarily participated in the service. As these types of tests grow in popularity they will undoubtedly become a useful tool for adoptees or birth parents looking to reunite or just for adoptees to learn more about their biological ethnic makeup.
Whatever route you take in an attempt to reconnect with birth family, have patience and go into it with an open mind. Consider that any information is better than nothing. Even if you are not able to find and contact the individual or individuals you are searching for, with the internet bringing us all closer, it may be only a matter of time before that information reveals itself.
Julianna Mendelsohn lives in sunny South Florida where, odds are, it is hot enough right now that she’s sweating just a little, no matter what she’s doing. She is the brains, brawn, blood, sweat, and tears behind The Adoption Mentor and is thrilled to be able to help others build their families through adoption. She is a former elementary school teacher, current MS in school counseling student, Sephora junkie, and the momma via domestic adoption to one lovely daughter.