According to The AFCARS Report from the US Department of Health and Human Services as of September 30, 2011 there were 104,236 children age 18 and under who were waiting to be adopted. Each year, more and more of these children grow farther apart from their personal history, some never knowing who their parents are and others with unpleasant memories of their birth families. The tragedy for the former group is the ever-present questions “who am I?” and “why did they give me up?” Every day they receive constant reminders of these questions when they are asked at the doctor’s office for their medical history or even in the faces of their children when they in turn ask the questions about their ancestry, often times for a classroom assignment. Thus, the search begins.
Who am I?
The daunting task of beginning the search looms over these people. How do I begin? What if I’m not prepared for the answers I might receive? No doubt, it will be an emotional journey full of stops and starts, emotional highs and pitfalls.
Beginning Your Search
First, create a folder where you will keep all of the information you collect. Whether it be electronically or a hardcopy file, it is best to keep everything in one place with a backup copy somewhere else just in case. Second, write down everything you know about your birth- the date, location, your original name if your adoptive parents changed it, the hospital, etc. Anything you know can help. Your adoptive parents may hold some information in some documents from your official adoption. They may or may not contain your birth parents’ names. If possible, contact the Clerk of Courts in the county of your birth for your official birth certificate if you do not have one. Usually there is a small fee associated with mailing or emailing it. A petition for adoption and final decree of adoption may also be available. The Child Welfare Information Gateway has an excellent document regarding how to obtain the adoption paperwork and information from each state that can be found here or search for Access to Adoption Records, Child Welfare Information Gateway.
Many people suggest adding your name to an Adoption Reunion Registry to let people know that you are interested in a reunion with your birth family. The most popular that I’ve found is the Adoption.com Reunion Registry found here. Adoption.com also appears to be a good resource on information for preparing for the impending reunion once you locate your birth family.
Make It Public and Start a Support Network
Support is also an important part of your journey into finding information. Not only from your family and friends, but also from other people who are going through the same search. There are numerous communities of people with the same experiences and the same emotional rollercoaster. One of the best ways to find information is to get it out there that you are looking. Start a blog, post on Facebook and Twitter, create a YouTube video, do something that can be shared and encourage your friends and family to do so. However, be careful of the information you post as it will be public domain. Beware of people who may try to take advantage of you or imposters. Never post your address, social security number, or other such private information.
Now You Have Some Information
Ok, now you have a nice collection of information and you feel like you can start actually trying to find the people to match the information. How do you go about that? You can join a geneaology website like Ancestry.com and find out more information about your relatives and who else you might be related to based on the information you have if it is not complete. You may also consider joining a location service such as E-Verify. The website will be able to give you the current locations of people and sometimes even the exact address and phone number of the people you are searching for. Be careful though because multiple people may show up in the search so you must be vigilant in determining your birth location and look for that location in the listing next to the names.
Finding your birth family can be a large personal victory. I do not recommend just showing up at their front door! Contact them first and let them know who you are and why you were searching for them. It is not a good idea to start out with accusatory language for leaving you to the adoption agency. I hate to say it, but be prepared for disappointment if they are not interested in meeting. It could be too emotional for them after the separation and they may need time to warm up to the idea. Remember, at this point you have been on this journey for quite some time now. If all goes well and they are overjoyed to hear from you, congratulations!
Good luck on your search! I hope some of this information can be useful, even if you are just searching for a long lost friend or other relative. Remember to get your information out there! The person that spawned this post is one of my friends from elementary school who posted her search for her birth parents on her Facebook account with a YouTube link. If you can, please watch Anne’s video and let me or her know if you have any information!