FAQs on Adoption: Searching for Birth Relatives

How many adoptees search?

An estimated 500,000 adult adoptees are seeking or have found their birth families. Between two and four percent of all adoptees searched in 1990.

Why do adoptees search?

In a study of American adolescents, the Search Institute found that 72 percent of adopted adolescents wanted to know why they were adopted, 65 percent wanted to meet their birth parents and 94 percent wanted to know which birth parent they looked like.

What are the attitudes of triad members (birth parents, adoptive family and adoptee) toward searching?

One survey indicated that every birth parent wanted to be found by the person they had placed for adoption, and 95 percent of the adoptees who were surveyed expressed a desire to be found by their birth parents. At least 98 percent of the adoptive parents supported reunions between their adopted child and members of the adoptee's birth family. Most birth mothers (85.5 percent) and adoptees (81.1 percent) supported access to identifying information about birth parents. Eighty-four percent of the adoptive mothers and 73 percent of the adoptive fathers agreed or strongly agreed that an adult adoptee should be able to obtain identifying information about his or her birth parents.

Which states allow access to birth records?

In some states -- Kansas and Alaska -- all adopted adults can obtain copies of their original birth certificates. In November 1998, Oregon passed a statewide referendum in which the voters approved a measure allowing adult adoptees to obtain their original birth certificates. It, too, is being challenged in the courts. Oklahoma and Washington allow access to the original birth certificate under certain conditions. Currently, mutual consent registries are in place in at least 24 states. Mutual consent registries permit parties of an adoption to register their willingness to meet at some point in the future, but they allow the release of identifying information only when a birth parent and an adult adoptee both file formal consents to the disclosure of their identities.

At least 24 states have search and consent statutes. These statutes provide that when a birth parent, after being contacted by an individual or agency acting as a confidential intermediary, consents to the disclosure of his or her identity to the adoptee, the disclosure may then be authorized by a court.

Several states allow access to adoption information only for "good cause" shown to a court: New Jersey, North Carolina and the District of Columbia. Iowa requires a showing of good cause except for adoptions that were finalized before July 4, 1941 and in those cases where both the biological parent and the adult adopted child have placed in the adoption record written consent of the revelation of identifying information.

Read stories by birth parents

More information on search

Source: National Adoption Information Clearinghouse

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