Adoption: How to Begin A Search


Adoption Agencies and Social Service Departments

If you know the name of the agency through which your adoption was arranged, start your search by contacting the agency directly. If you do not know the name of the agency, the adoption division of your State or county department of social services might be able to help you. That agency can also tell you about the laws governing disclosure of adoption information in your State. (See Adoption Central's list of state-by-state resources for information on accessing adoption records.)

These laws vary from State to State, and sometimes change, as new legislation gets enacted. Within the last few years, new legislation has been introduced in several States, and it is likely that other States will be enacting legislation in the future. Some national adoption groups are deeply involved in the effort to get legislation enacted allowing all adult members of the adoption triad access to adoption and birth information. The legislation generally is concerned with the type of information that can be revealed, the age and specific relationship to the adoption proceedings of the person requesting the information, and the procedures to be followed in obtaining the information.

In some States, it is possible to obtain birth data by contacting the Bureau of Vital Statistics. In a few States, a request for information can be made directly to the probate court in which the adoption proceedings were filed.


Some adoptees and birth relatives may not wish to undertake an active search for their relatives but are willing to be contacted if their relatives are looking for them. Mutual consent registries that match identifying information of adoptees and birth parents have been established in many States and by some national organizations. You provide your identifying information, current address, and telephone number to the registry. If anyone is looking for someone whose information matches yours, the staff of the registry puts you together. In some States in which records are unconditionally sealed, these mutual consent registries are one of the only avenues open to you. However, some adoption organizations have found these registries not to be very effective. The national registries are listed below with the other national organizations. You can contact NAIC to find out if your State has a state registry.

Search Consultants

Professional search consultants are individuals who have made searching for missing people, and specifically, searching for adoptees or birth relatives, their specialty. They charge fees for their services. It would be important if you hire one to check his or her credentials thoroughly and ask for references from former clients. Before you hand over a retainer fee, you want to be sure that you are dealing with a reputable person.

Computer Networks

The latest computer technology is now also being used by those who are searching. Many of the commercially available online services have adoption forums or mailing lists. They may have forums for general discussion on adoption, as well as specific areas for adoptees, birthparents, or adoptive parents. Some contacts for these are listed at the end of this article. Note: For those for whom the Internet information is a foreign language, either find a friend who knows about it to help you, or contact one of the other services for help in entering this route of the information superhighway.

Source: National Adoption Information Clearinghouse

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