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What is a Search Angel?

How to Use (or Become) an Adoption Search Angel

For those who grew up in the era before open adoption was the norm, the desire to find and potentially connect with biological family members who were separated by closed adoption can be understandably strong. But where do you start an adoption search if you have limited information?

Some people only have a name, a birth date, a location, or similarly scant details. The search process is often a little complex and intimidating. That’s where search angels can be helpful.

Who Are ‘Adoption Search Angels’ and What Do They Do?

Search angels are online volunteers — individuals and groups of people who use their time and personal research skills to help others find biological family members. Search angels are often people who have been through the search and reunion process themselves and want to “pay-it-forward.” 

They most often help adoptees find birth family, but they also help people who are trying to find an adoptee to whom they are biologically related; birth siblings, cousins, grandparents and more have all been reunited through search angels.

They volunteer their assistance for free and may work collaboratively amongst themselves to help you in your search. Some search angels specialize in creating family trees, while others may dig through birth and adoption records or have their own specialities. 

Where Can I Find a Search Angel to Help with My Adoption Search?

If you need help connecting with a search angel, you can usually ask anyone in an online adoption forum! Chances are good that someone there can point you in the right direction.

Starting with the Search Angels website is a solid bet.

Additional resources that might be helpful include:

What Should I Know Before Using a Search Angel to Find Biological Family Members?

Can you (and should you) use a search angel to help you find your birth family members? Note that:

  • Search angels will not search for a minor under the age of 18.
  • Your search angel will not make contact with anyone on your behalf.
  • You should seriously consider using a professional mediator if you want to reach out to a found family member, as this is a delicate matter.
  • A search angel should not charge for their services outside of reimbursement for any legal or administrative fees incurred during your search (those are your responsibility).
  • Your search angel will likely ask for your help in some aspects of the search (local phone calls, more information, etc.) so be prepared to do some of the legwork yourself.
  • You must always be respectful of this volunteer’s time and experience — take their lead, even though this is an emotional time for you.
  • If you pester your search angel to move more quickly, or if you lose interest, your search angel may move on to help others who are more respectful.
  • You’ll need to provide your search angel with as much information as possible (original birth certificates, adoption paperwork and any information your family can offer); otherwise, they won’t be able to conduct a proper search.
  • Your search angel may uncover unpleasant information, family members who do not want to be contacted, or they may find nothing — so be ready for anything.

Most importantly, you should be absolutely sure that you’re ready to search. Be certain that you’re emotionally prepared for any outcome, and have a support system to lean on during this process.

If you decide that you are ready to search, gather and organize as much information as possible before you contact a search angel. Their ability to help you often depends on how much information you can provide. 

If you do find biological family members and you plan on reaching out, take your time and carefully consider the best way to do this. 

No matter what, be kind to your search angel. They are volunteers who do their best to help others in their adoption searches, and the outcomes aren’t always as positive as hoped. However, they still provide an important service of illuminating personal histories. 

How Can I Become a Search Angel?

Feeling inspired to help others reconnect with biological family members? Want to put your time and research skills to good use? Becoming a search angel can be very rewarding. 

Not all searches result in a happy ending, but you may be able to provide some information to others, at the very least. If you’re interested in becoming a search angel, reach out to one of the groups listed above. 

Remember that there are some general rules that you’ll follow as a search angel — the administrators of the organizations will help you learn the ropes and share some tips to help you search. The search angel community will be your best resource!

Whether you’re thinking about beginning an adoption search or you’re inspired to become a search angel, we wish you the best of luck!

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