The Ultimate Search: Finding Your Birth Family

imagesCAOT6STOAccording 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 alogo-theme1 reunion with your birth family.  The most popular that I’ve found is the Reunion Registry found here. 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 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!

Smart Solutions to and Possible Reasons for Behavior Issues in School

So much can be changed by our reaction as adults to the students’ actions. Please review and follow this very important entry and blog by ACES too High. If you have never heard of the ACE Study, I invite you to read more about it at or send me an email or leave a comment and I can fill you in on this important work.

ACEs Too High


Two kindergarteners at Cherokee Point Elementary School in San Diego’s City Heights neighborhood get into a fight on the playground. Their teacher sends them to the principal’s office. 

Instead of suspending or expelling the six-year-olds, as happens in many schools, Principal Godwin Higa ushers them to his side of the desk. He sits down so that he can talk with them eye-to-eye and quietly asks: “What happened?” He points to one of the boys. “You go first.” 

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Day Three: Feeding America

Child Hunger in AmericaFood is a basic necessity that many people often take for granted.  How many times have we only eaten half of a sandwich and thrown it away?  How much money do we spend on Starbucks every year?  So many commercials on television talk about the hunger in Africa and India, but there are significantly fewer commercials highlighting the charities fighting hunger right here in the United States.  Below are data from the World Hunger Education Service (taken directly from their website found here):

“Three years after the onset of the financial and economic crisis, hunger remains high in the United States. The financial and economic crisis that erupted in 2008 caused a dramatic increase in hunger in the United States. This high level of hunger continues in 2010, according to the latest government report (with the most recent statistics) released in September 2011 (Coleman-Jensen 2011).

  • In 2010, 17.2 million households, 14.5 percent of households (approximately one in seven), were food insecure, the highest number ever recorded in the United States 1   (Coleman-Jensen 2011, p. v.)
  • In 2010, about one-third of food-insecure households (6.7 million households, or 5.4 percent of all U.S. households) had very low food security (compared with 4.7 million households (4.1 percent) in 2007. > In households with very low food security, the food intake of some household members was reduced, and their normal eating patterns were disrupted because of the household’s food insecurity (Coleman-Jensen 2011, p. v., Nord  2009, p. iii.) .
  • In 2010, children were food insecure at times during the year in 9.8 percent of households with children (3.9 million households.) In one percent of households with children,one or more of the children experienced the most severe food-insecure condition measured by USDA, very low food security, in which meals were irregular and food intake was below levels considered adequate by caregivers (Coleman-Jensen 2011, p. vi).
  • The median [a type of average] food-secure household spent 27 percent more on food than the median food-insecure household of the same size and household composition (Coleman-Jensen 2011, p. vi).”

Thus, the highlighted organization for this post is Feeding America, the leading domestic hungeFeeding Americar-relief charity in the United States.  Through their network of food banks and public services, they feed 37 million Americans each year. They provide nutritious, fresh food, a safe and nurturing place for children to eat, emergency assistance for disaster victims (think Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy and the numerous tornadoes every year), and a chance at self-sufficiency to try to break the cycle of poverty and hunger.  For more information on their programs and services, you can visit their website here.

To help distribute the food and make the most impact, Feeding America has a network of more than 200 food banks and partner agencies.  You can view how their network and the process works here.  It really is a fascinating look at how people across a nation come together in a complicated system for th esame cause- to help a fellow citizen, feed a child, support a struggling family, and senior citizen.  To view these leadership partners, click here.

You don’t necessarily have to donate here.  Post offices, banks, and grocery stores often collect dry and canned goods for families in need.  You can also Google a food collection agency in your area (we have the Second Harvest as one example).  Pick up another 50 cent can of corn or green beans next time you’re at the grocery store and ask the store manager if they collect for food banks.  Chances are that they do.  If everyone donated one food good, we might be able to eliminate hunger in our country.  Worth a shot, wouldn’t you say?

Visit their website and browse around:

Unrealistic Expectations?

My lack of blogging is due to taking a six week course that felt like being beaten with a bag full of railroad spikes. On top of working full time, which includes traveling every other week at this point, I also took a 6 week course about United States history between 1920 and 1945. The class was a lower level graduate course so I figured it wouldn’t be that difficult.  Apparently my perception of a lower level course and the professor’s perception were completely different.  Our assignments included reading 9 books in 6 weeks, writing two 12 page papers on two books each, one 16-20 page paper on three books, and presenting a 15 minute lecture.  I felt like all of my work was rushed and below my average quality- or at least what I consider quality but they let me stay here so it must not be too bad!  I barely had time to think about one thing before I had to get onto the next.

So now I pose the question, at what point do we assign too much in a class?  There is a fine line, no doubt, between too little and too much.  However, when do we allow for time for the student to absorb the information they are reading and process the knowledge, taking the time to apply it to other information in their mind before we usher them off onto the next assignment?  Undoubtedly, I am not the only student in the class that has a full time job since the class was offered in the evening.  I was fortunate though to be one of the only students enrolled in the class to not have other classes for which I had responsibilities as well.  One, a social studies education student, had a panic attack during break on the first day of class because of the load of work from her education program every night with lesson plans, portfolios and such that were due at the end of the week every week on top of the assignments and reading for this class and two others.

Stress is manifested differently in each person and everyone has their various stress levels.  I panicked but I looked at the class as a challenge with my work and unavoidable travel schedule.  I walked out of the first class thinking, “Challenge Accepted.”  But in less than a year, these are the kinds of problems I will be running into as a teacher.  How do I manage my courseloads in the classes I teach so that I can challenge everyone but not overdo it?  Likewise, what will I be capable of handling with 4-6 classes?  I’ve talked a little bit before about time management, stress management, and migraines.  This seems to be a recurring theme, though not only in grad students (and history students!) but life in general.

Today I ordered a Yoga for Stress DVD through my subscription at Yoga Journal.  I will let you all know how that works out.  Until then, contemplate, what’s my toxic stress level?  At what point in the past have I wanted to just throw in the towel and what’s made me get there?  How did I get out of that dark place?

This weekend, I will be updating with some book reviews that I’ve owed people for months now and possibly a bit more on the levels of stress.

Until then, enjoy life my friends 😉

Things I’ve Learned in Grad School: Stress Migraines

Graduate school has a profound impact on a person, not the least of which involves an added level of stress.  Intense weight gain or loss, irritability, isolation from friends, depression, sleep deprivation- these are all effects that I expected as I signed up for my first course.  However, there was one sneaky little stress ninja that had snuck under my radar – migraines.  As a full time employee at a strictly grant funded department at the University and a part time history graduate student, to say I was stressed was an understatement at first.  Time management skills became crucial elements to the maintenance of my sanity.

Just as I thought I had it under control, my body disagreed and decided to go on the offensive.  Searing pain ripped through my head, down my neck, and into my shoulders one morning as my alarm went off.  The noise alone made me want to burst my eardrums because surely the pain from that could not have been as bad as the one that was pounding its way through some kind of offbeat anthem in my brain.  My eyes were swollen to the point where I felt like I could barely open them.  I knew what was going on, I had experienced minor migraines in high school that had similar effects though nowhere near this degree.  Those were more to the degree of tension headaches.  Time, strong coffee, and a hot bath helped me through the day but once I could stand bright lights and sound, I opened my laptop and dug around on the internet for more information like the good little researcher I am.

I went through all the different elements that could be triggering it: household pollutants (dust, mold, new items brought in), weather changes, diet changes.  None of those seemed to have an effect on either the intensity or frequency that these monster migraines were coming at me at this point.  As the semester wore on, they were coming every week.  Having portions of my brain removed was starting to sound like a fantastic idea, just to relieve some pressure I’d tell myself.

Finally, I broke down and made a doctor appointment who prescribed me a medication and gave me a referral to a neurologist.  The magical little pills worked wonders and put me in a very happy, but full functional, place for about four hours, just enough time to be on the other side of the migraine.  Yet I was interested, if not apprehensive to hear what the neurologist had to say.  My great grandmother had passed a few years back because of brain cancer, so with that in the back of my mind I sat in his office explaining my family history as well as my current situation.  He asked me what I was responsible for at work and then what type of classes I had been taking and what my grades were as well as the papers I had written and outside activities I was involved in.  When I had finished, he told me that I was understandably having migraines and he was surprised they hadn’t started sooner.  The culprit was stress.  The age old adage “this too shall pass” was tossed around as we discussed my looming graduation date, but he did not give me much hope for the future.  However, those time management skills will last me a lifetime, especially now that they are paired with my newfound discernment in “outside” activities.  Walking out of his office, my mind drifted back to my great grandmother, the same who had battled brain cancer, bent over the tomato plants in her backyard teaching me how to tell the good from the bad.  She taught me then to “do what you’re able” as she put it “not much more but certainly no less.”

Now, I have the migraines under control and have found exercise to be a fantastic stress reducer for any of you who may be in my same position.  Below are some helpful links regarding migraines, their types, and how to deal with them. If you have any questions or just want to share your story, please post below!

HHS Women’s Migraine Fact Sheet for Women: Stress Migraines

HeadWise Magazine: 7 Ways to Manage Stress and Reduce Migraine Pain:

WebMD: Preventing Migraines and Headaches by Managing Stress: