We Know: How to do an Adoption Search

How Do I Get Started?

Your first step in any adoption search is to gather together all the information you have on you and your birth. If you have an original birth certificate, copy all that information into a document you can email out. If you know your mother's name, the place you were born, the adoption or government agency handling the adoption, you should make a record of all that information as well. If you are fortunate enough to have adoptive parents or older family members with information they'll share with you, make a record of all of it.

Once you have all this information together, save yourself some trouble and condense it into a form letter you can send to different agencies or government entities during your adoption search. Your first paragraph should state that you're searching for your natural mother, the second should put all the gathered information together in one place. Vital bits of information to include are:

  • Your date of birth;
  • Your place of birth;
  • Your full birth name;
  • Any information you have on your birth mother;
  • Any information you have on the agency that handled the adoption;
  • Other information you may have gathered anecdotally.

What Types of Adoptions Are There?

The most common type of adoption is the independent adoption, in which a person or couple goes through an adoption agency or government agency to adopt a child they do not already know. You may also see foster care adoption, in which foster parents want to adopt; kinship or relative adoption, in which another family member adopts a child; and international adoption.

With both foster care and relative adoption, the adoptee is much more likely to know where he or she came from. With an independent adoption, the adoptee may have been adopted in a state with a sealed-records policy, or the adoptive parents may have gotten to know the natural parents before adopting the child. In an international adoption, tracing your ancestry may be impossible due to loss of data and paperwork.

How Do Different Locations Affect Adoption Searches?

Different states have different degrees of openness with adoption records; for instance, Washington State has some of the most liberal laws, while Virginia will give hardly any information to adoptees or natural parents, regardless of whether the two parties have both requested their information to be shared. Starting with the state department of child welfare, start making phone calls. Any phone calls that show positive reactions on the other end should be followed up by letters detailing your situation and giving what information you can to help them locate your birth parents.

There is nothing you can do to make this easier, unfortunately. What you can do is investigate the laws controlling the state you were adopted in for yourself. If it looks like you may have hit a dead end, consider using some of the online adoption search databases listed below.

How Does Time Affect Adoption Searching?

Adoption laws have changed over time, and while sometimes these laws are eased to allow you to search records that were previously closed to you, this is not the norm. Paperwork may also be lost over time. Your best bet is to start your adoption search as early in your life as you can. The earlier you start, the more likely you are to find living people along the process of your search and at the end. The best resource for any adoptee seeking his or her mother is always going to be living people who were familiar with the circumstances.

If you can't begin your adoption search early, or if you find the laws currently affecting adoptions in the area where you were adopted are too restrictive to effectively search, you should consider an online search.

What Online Resources Are Available to Me?

One of the real blessings technology has brought is easily accessible, worldwide databases. Many adoption search groups have opened databases to more easily locate adoptive parents and adopted children. Some of the best are below, to get you started. Never limit yourself only to one applicable database; these databases likely all have different information.

  1. Adoption Registry Database - for a $10 charge, you can list your information on this database. You can search it for free.
  2. The Adoption Records Database by Peace Monastery brings together free resources as well as bulletin board services for adoptees.
  3. The International Soundex Reunion Registry is an international database you can register at and search for free.
  4. The Find-Me Registry charges $25 to register, but searches are free. You may also be able to find black market placements at this site.
  5. The Canadian Adoptees Registry is specifically for children adopted out of Canada.

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