Literature is growing on the adoptee and birth relative search movement. Many helpful books and articles have been written on the subject by adoptees, adoptive parents, birth parents, birth and adoptive siblings, and professionals who work with them. If you are considering undertaking a search, familiarize yourself with this literature and gather all the helpful information you can.
In addition to these resources, you can contact the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse for a more complete list of relevant articles. The articles address specific areas related to searching for birth relatives. An NAIC information specialist can help you determine your specific areas of interest.
People who have searched advise new searchers to begin the process with a realistic rather than an overly optimistic or pessimistic attitude.
Searchers should be prepared for either positive or negative outcomes. As a prospective searcher, you should also be connected to a supportive individual or group with which to ventilate your feelings before, during, and after the search. The supportive individual might be a spouse, friend or professional counselor. The supportive group might be a local or national self-help group that has been formed expressly for adoptees and/or birth relatives.
Support groups not only provide emotional support, but in addition members of these groups may also have helpful hints for you as to how to go about the search process. Hearing about another person's successful efforts would certainly provide encouragement for you as you consider the possibility of searching. The national groups are listed at the end of this article. For referrals to groups in your State or the State in which the adoption took place, contact NAIC.
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.