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Search and Reunion

If you are a birth parent searching for a child or a child or adult searching for your birth parents, the information below may prove very helpful.

Searching for Birth Relatives

Within the past decade there has been, and continues to be, and increase of adopted persons searching for their birth families and birth parents searching for the child they placed for adoption.

Why an adopted person or birth parent searches for each other is not a simple question to answer since the answer varies with each person and each situation.  However, some of the more common reasons behind a search appear to be: 1) finding general family and birth parent information including the names, where they live, and what they are like; 2) looking for family traits and personalities; 3) seeking medical history information; and 4) exploring the reasons and circumstances surrounding the placement and termination of rights.

The first thing you should do in a search is to gather any and all of the adoption papers that you have access to.  Then you might be best off contacting the adoption agency or private attorney that was involved in the placement and adoption.  To find the current status, address and phone number of adoption agency involved you may want to contact your state adoption authority and for the attorney you want to contact the State Bar Association where the attorney practiced.

You may also find it helpful to hire a private investigator or professional searcher.  If you are thinking of going this route, please research the reputation of the person or company. You should ask whether the searcher or private investigator has specific adoption search experience before making a decision to ask for their services.

Those thinking of a search need to note that a search often leads to the desire for a meeting or reunion.  Each search and/or reunion is guided by a unique set of circumstances and the outcome is never certain.  Such meetings and reunions can have profound effects on everyone involved and should not be undertaken without a good deal of careful consideration and preparation. They impact not just on the searcher but on the searcher's family, on the person who is "found", and on the other parties involved.  All parties need to be emotionally prepared for a whole range of realities including the possibility of rejection. It is also important to note that moving slowly and pacing any contacts can be key to having a successful reunion.

The Child Welfare Information Gateway Searching for Birth Relatives Factsheet for Families discuses the issues of search and union and provides some guidance on the search and reunion processes.



International Searching

If the searchers were involved in an international adoption they face some different challenges than those faced in a domestic adoption. Each country has its own laws governing adoption records, confidentiality and information access. In addition, there is great variation in record-keeping practices across countries and cultures.

As is the case with a domestic adoption, the best place to start a search is by gathering all available paper-work and then contacting the agency or attorney that was involved with the adoption. Some other resources for international searching include:

1) mailing addresses of offices of vital records in foreign countries on the U.S. State Department website;

2) the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services many be able to provide copies of immigration records;

3) the international agency International Social Services that has their U.S. branch at;

4) some foreign countries have support groups and organizations with websites and search information.  Some of these can be found on the website Child Welfare Information Gateway; and

5) AdoptionSearchReunion  is for anyone thinking about searching for, or making contact with,, birth and adopted relatives or researching an adoption that took place in the UK.


Additional Resources

Adoption Registry is a good first resource to find out if your state has an adoption  registry.

International Soundex Reunion Registry is one of the largest passive registries.  It is open to all adopted adults over 18 years of age, all birth parents, and all adoptive parents of adopted children under 18 years of age.

AdopteeSearchInfo is a website for adoption reunion search. It has information about all 50 U.S. states, lists of mailing lists and registries, and other links where you can receive help.

AdoptionRegistryConnect is a worldwide adoptee and birth parent search registry designed to reunite adoptees with their birth parents and siblings.

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