How Do I Find a Birth Parent?

Renee Booker

Millions of people around the world have been raised by adoptive parents. While some do not have any interest, others feel a strong need to connect with a birth parent. Whether the desire to locate a birth parent is based on practical or emotional reasons, the search generally begins by locating as much information available from the adoptee's own records and from the adoptive parents. An adoptee also may have a right to non-identifying information in the custody of the state or private adoption service used to facilitate the adoption and/or may petition the court to unseal his or her court record. Registering with one of the many adoption search groups, or hiring a private detective or confidential intermediary, may also help to locate a birth parent.

An adopted child's birth certificate will reflect the child's birth name and biological parents.
An adopted child's birth certificate will reflect the child's birth name and biological parents.

An adoptee should begin the search for a birth parent by gathering all the available information he or she has about himself or herself and the adoption. If the adoptive parents are supportive of the search, they may have valuable information, such as the name of the adoption agency used or facts about the birth parents that are not found in any official records. An adoptee should also obtain a copy of his or her amended birth certificate and adoption decree, which may have additional clues.

Adoption support groups may help adults to reconnect with their birth parents.
Adoption support groups may help adults to reconnect with their birth parents.

Laws will vary significantly from one jurisdiction to the next with regard to what information, if any, an adult adoptee is entitled to regarding the adoption. In the United States, adoption records are sealed; however, an adoptee is generally entitled to non-identifying information upon request. Exactly what is included in "non-identifying information" may also vary, but often includes information about a birth parent, such as medical information and religious affiliation, as well as age, height, and weight and educational information. The adoptee must request this information from the agency that facilitated the adoption.

In the United States, an adult adoptee may petition to unseal the record of his or her adoption. Again, laws vary from state to state with respect to unsealing adoption records. An adoptee should consult state law or an adoption attorney to determine whether or not unsealing his or her records is a viable option.

There are a number of national and international adoption reunion registries and adoption search groups that are free to join and may lead to information or even a reunion. In most cases, an adoptee or birth parent may post what information he or she has and indicate who he or she is searching for in the hope that someone may have information. In addition, these groups can be a wealth of specific information on the geographic area that the adoptee is searching in and may lead to additional sources of information or assistance.

The option to hire a private detective or confidential intermediary may need to be considered. A private detective, while generally efficient and quick, can be expensive. Confidential intermediaries are a relatively new concept, but are growing in popularity. A confidential intermediary may work for a private organization or be appointed by the court after an adoptee petitions to open his or her records. The confidential intermediary is allowed access to the records and then contacts the birth parent on behalf of the adoptee, if possible, and offers the birth parent the option to accept or decline contact from the adoptee.

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