First Steps to Take

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Once you make the decision to search, there are several things you might want to do as first steps:
  • Know the Law
  • Keep a Journal
  • Register with ISRR
  • Gather Information
  • Write a Letter
  • Join a Support Group
Know the Law

Laws regarding the release of identifying and non-identifying information about your adoption vary from state to state (even county to county in some states), province to province, and country to country. For US adoptions, check the statutes regarding access to information. Getting information about your adoption may be as simple as asking for it.

Keep a Journal

Write everything down - no matter how insignificant. Write down information about yourself and the adoption, registries where you post your information, names and contact information for your state adoption offices, agencies, searchers, and anything/anyone else you think has a bearing on your search. If you're addicted to your computer, you can certainly use it, but be sure to backup to a disk or CD frequently. If something happens to your computer, your information will be safe.

Register with the ISRR

The International Soundex Reunion Registry is the largest, free mutual consent registry in the world. If your information matches that from another entry, you will be notified. The reason all searchers recommend registering with the ISRR before all others is that it is international, and it is becoming more and more well-known to searchers on and off the Web. Go ahead and register early, using as much information as you have (birthdate, birthplace, agency, your name, year of adoption, etc.) and add to it as you gather more details. The ISRR Web site has a form to download that you can fill out and mail.

Gather Information

Do Your Best. In the beginning, we all *assume* the information we know about ourselves and events in our lives is true, and this is the most reasonable way to start. If you discover that your adoption is connected to "black market adoptions", or that you were given information that isn't accurate, you can incorporate that into your search. For now, concentrate on what you believe to be true.

Adoptees: Start with your basic information, birth date, place, year of adoption, and anything else you know. Ask for information from your parents and other relatives and family friends who may have been privy to information at the time your adoption occurred.

Check your state contact person or agency for non-identifying information, and either write or call to obtain whatever information will be released. Excellent guidance can be found at Rema's Adoption and Search Site.

Birth Parents: Write down everything you remember or think you remember about the entire adoption process: names, dates, places. Then ask family and friends who were with you at the time to tell you all they remember... and write it all down, even the information that doesn't match with your own recollections. As you move forward with your search, these differences may turn out to be valuable clues.

Then check the listing in Search Tips for Birth Parents for additional questions to ask of agencies, attorneys, hospitals, and others.

Write a Letter

Whether you are an adoptee, birth parent, sibling, adoptive parent, or other adult related to any of the parties to an adoption, write a letter.

The State Access to Information page will give you access to a contact point. Find out about placing a letter (and/or waiver) in the adoption file so that another adult searching in connection to this adoption will be able to receive it. Ask to whom you should write - state, agency, attorney.

Depending on the state and/or agency, you may want to include your present location, information about current medical situations, and express your desire for contact (or not - see When You Don't Want to be Contacted).

When you do send a letter to the state, agency, or attorney, spend the extra money to send it registered mail, return receipt requested. You will have a permanent record that it was received, and by whom.

Join a Support Group

Check your state or provincial resources for a search-related support group, or join one of the many support groups with a wider scope that may provide help.

Best Resources:
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