These days, birth mothers are able to choose to have an open or semi-open adoption that allows them to maintain as much or as little contact as they feel comfortable sharing with the adoptive family. This gives women the option to keep in touch with the children they place for adoption, if they wish.
But for many years, adoptions were primarily closed and contact between birth mothers and the adoptive family was severed. The more time passed since the adoption, the more likely the loss of information and adoption records became, which has made it difficult for many birth mothers to find adopted children years after the adoption.
Fortunately, the process of birth parents searching for adoptees is typically easier than the process of an adoptee searching for birth family, simply because you usually have more information to start your search with. For example, if you’re a birth mother searching for daughter and you remember (or have records of) the adopted child’s date of birth, the hospital and county of birth, the name of the child as listed on the original birth certificate, or the name of the adoptive parents, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to locate an adopted child with relative ease.
Here are the five steps of how to find a child that was adopted:
1. Talk to the people who helped to facilitate your adoption.
This would likely be your lawyer, social worker, or adoption agency that worked with you to place your child for adoption. If you placed your child for adoption through a friend or family member, you should start with the person you spoke with throughout the original adoption process.
These people will often have some adoption records that can include the adoptive family’s last name, an old address for the family, etc. They may even still be in direct contact with members of the adoptive family and may be able to reach out to the adoptive family for you to ask if they’re interested in having contact.
2. Research your state’s regulations about adoption records.
Some states will be able to provide copies of adoption documents such as the consent forms, the original birth certificate, or some identifying information for the adoptive family at your request. Other states have sealed this information to protect the privacy of those involved in the adoption. You may be able to petition the court to have some information released to you, but you’ll need to contact the County Court Clerk to learn more about their individual procedure.
3. Contact the County Court Clerk where you completed your adoption.
This is who you’d contact to obtain the adoption records outside of the agency you worked through. At the very least, they’ll likely be able to find the name of the judge and/or adoption caseworker that finalized the adoption proceedings, and they may have information on the adoptive family.
4. Register with the online adoption reunion registry.
Your state may have an online adoption reunion registry that you can sign up on. The registry will notify you if your adopted child also registers to find you. They may already be registered if they’re also searching for you.
To successfully find your adopted child through the reunion registry, you’d both have to register, but it’s a good idea to cast as wide a net as possible in your search for your adopted child, starting with the registry — just in case.
5. Use whatever information you have to find an adopted child.
If you have the date of birth and birth location information, you’re already off to a decent start. If you know the name(s) of the adoptive parents, that’s even better.
Here are some helpful resources to aid you in how to find an adopted child:
- DOB Search
- American Adoption Congress
- Advanced Background Checks
- Moose Roots
- Social Security Death Master File
- US Identify
- Facebook—search for Adoption Search Angels or adoptee search groups!
It can also be helpful for both practical and emotional support to join online forums for other birth parents searching for adopted children. They may be able to provide you with support, advice and useful tips in finding your adopted child.
You should take care to prepare yourself for the possibility of not finding your adopted child, or learning that they’re not ready to have contact with you. Adoption reunions can be extremely positive for both parties, but it isn’t always the best option for every situation.
Remember: if you do find your adopted child, this doesn’t mean that you can “take them back.” It simply means that you may have an opportunity to establish some level of contact or even form a relationship with them, if they’re equally willing to do so.
No matter the outcome, the search and reunion process is an emotional one for everyone involved. The adult adopted child needs to agree to establish contact if you decide to pursue an adoption reunion.
Follow the links to learn more about how to decide if you’re ready to begin the adoptee search process and how to open adoption records in the U.S. Best of luck in your search!