Once you gather background information and get help for your search (see Adoption Central's Adoption Search Sources), you may still be left searching on your own. What's the next step?
If you are an adoptee, you might want to talk to your adoptive parents and other relatives who may remember details that would help you to put the pieces together. You will want to be tactful in the way you phrase your questions. Birth parents might have discussed possibilities with individuals who were confidants at the time of the adoption. You will have to think creatively and not necessarily logically to come up with appropriate strategies for your search.
Birth, death, marriage, divorce, school, church, genealogy, health, military and property records can be useful, so use them. (See Adoption Central's list of state-by-state resources for records.) Newspaper articles and classified ads in personal columns may also be helpful. Some search organizations publish newsletters or magazines with personal columns as well. Keep accurate notes throughout the process. You never know which seemingly insignificant detail, when added with another one, will be the breakthrough clue for you.
For instance, one adult adoptee was able to find out which high school her birthmother attended. She then located the yearbooks for that school for her birth year and the years before and after her birth. She pored over the photographs of all the students until she zeroed in on the one she felt was her birth mother. She was correct!
How Long Will a Search Take?
There is no pat answer to the question of how long a search will take. It will depend on the availability of reliable sources of information, the laws in the State in which the adoption took place, the amount of help and resources you have, and various other factors. Again, if it turns into a long and difficult process, you will be glad you have your support network ready to see you through it.