Adoption in the United States is much more common than people think. According to the US Census Bureau, one in every twenty-five families with children have adopted. Around 2% of the people have adopted, but more than a third have considered adopting a child. 100 million people in the United States have direct contact with adoption in their immediate family (either adopting themselves, being adopted, or placing children). In recent years, there is a tendency of more openness to the topic and somewhat between 60 and 70 percent of adoptions being “open” which means that there is some sort of disclosure between parents and children about their adoption.
A lot of people that figure out that they were adopted develop, at some point in their lives, the interest or need to know who their biological relatives are. For some, it is about knowing where their roots are or understanding why they could not be taken care of, for others is about the information on medical predispositions or conditions. Others might want a fresh start or build new connections for their children. For many, this can be a stressful and very emotional process. Here you can find a very helpful guide to help you by delineating some of the most effective ways to search for your biological relatives.
1. Prepare yourself emotionally and be aware of the reasons why you start the search
This first step should not be overlooked since reuniting with biological relatives can be very intense. It is recommended that you hear experiences from other people that have gone through the same process. The Center for Adoption Support and Education (C.A.S.E.) offered a very interesting webinar that goes in-depth into the preparation process. It might be also useful to reach support groups. The Child Welfare Information Gateway offers a directory of state-specific groups. Of course, relying on emotional support from friends and family will also be essential in this process.
2. Gather existing information and existing documents
After making sure that you have devised ways for protecting yourself emotionally, it is time to get to the practical matters. Where to start? The very first step in the process is gathering all the information that you have about your biological relatives. The specific means you will need to use will depend upon the information that you already have.
You should start by reaching to your adoptive parents and ask them about information about the adoption agency. Documents that might be useful will be any hospital records and your amended birth certificate. An amended birth certificate is issued after an adoption is finalized and puts the names of the adoptive parents instead of the biological ones. Several States in the USA provide access to original birth certificates which could provide you the valuable information about the name of your biological parents. In case that your state is not one of those that directly gives access to your original birth certificate, you can appeal to a court petition. In general, it is very advisable to get acquainted with the most important State Laws concerning adoption and access to records.
3. Develop a Search Strategy
Depending on the amount of information that you have at each point of your search, you will want to make use of one of the following search means. Some of them only work if you have the names of any of your relatives or at least someone that you know had contact with them.
– Register at reunion registries
There are several organizations that offer “reunion registries”. Passive registries (or also known as mutual consent registries) will help connect both parties only when both sides registered. Although it is a long shot, it is usually worth trying this means since this service is usually free of charge. Active registries are organized by private groups that will help you look for your biological relatives for a fee. The Child Welfare Information Gateway offers a useful search tool.
– Search through social media
The internet offers entirely new ways of communication and interaction. Now almost every person in the United States uses the internet on a daily basis. We all have different accounts and profiles that will be useful if you want to find someone. Try all possible combinations of the information that you have both for your relatives and for the people you think might have some information on them. For example: name, name + birth city, name + school, name + workplace, name + degree of education.
– Do a background search
Whenever you have the name of any of your biological relatives or of anyone that knows the, doing a background search is a very efficient way of finding a lot of information at once. For example, Nuwber offers the possibility of getting a full report with all publicly available data on a person which will include marital status, history of addresses, criminal records, business records, information about their workplace, evictions, and records on bankruptcy. This extra information might be very useful in the next step, where you will want to develop the right strategy to approach your biological family.
– Hire a professional
Whenever you cannot find any information that will help you start your search, the only thing left is to hire a professional person or group. Although they will ask for a fee, they usually rely on their experience to find relative in situations where information is scarce. For example, Search Angels is an organization that seeks to help you find your family using methods like DNA testing.
4. Design an appropriate way for first contact and reunion with your biological relatives
After going through the process of searching and once you have concrete ways of contacting biological relatives, it is very important that you take some time to decide on the most appropriate ways of contacting them and reuniting with them. In general, before meeting in person, it is generally advisable to contact them either online or through telephone. A meeting in person carries a bigger emotional load.