Searching: Birthfamily and Adoptees

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1. Get your Non-identifying information.

Many of the social service agencies and sometimes the main social service office of the state will release non-identifying information to the adoptee, the adoptive parents, and to the birthparents. This non-identifying information may or may not be extensive depending on the information that was recorded at the time of the birth and adoption. Each agency, governed by state law, agency policy and the individual workers judgment, releases what is considered appropriate and non-identifying. The following information has been quoted from a legal state document...Genetic and genealogical history...comprehensive report, when obtainable, on birthparents, siblings to birthparents, if any, other children of either birthparent, if any, and parents of the birthparents...the following is available:

  • Medical history
  • Health status
  • Cause of and age at death
  • Height, weight, eye, hair color
  • Ethnic orgins
  • Level of education
  • Professional achievement
  • Religion

It also may include:

  • Parents ages at time of birth
  • Ages, sexes of other children
  • Hobbies
  • General geographical location
  • Reasons for action taken

2. Register in State and National Reunion Registries

Reunion Registries, also known as Mutual Consent Registries, are usually maintained by the state or private individuals. Basically the way in which a registry works is that each member of the adoption triad registers, hoping to be matched with someone else who might be searching for them.

3. If available, apply for a Confidential Intermediary (CI)

Many states and provinces have institued intermediary or search and consent systems. These require an individual (usually limited to adult adoptees or birthparents) to express a desire to have the state, an agency official or a trained, confidential intermediary search for and locate his/her birthparents or child. The CI is then given access to the complete court and/or agency file and, using the information contained in it, attempts to locate the individuals. If and when contact is made by the intermediary, the person found is given the option of allowing or refusing contact by the party searching. The CI then reports the results to the court; if the contact has been refused that ends the matter. If the person located agrees to contact, the court will authorize the CI to give the name and current address of the person sought to the adoptee or birthparent. Check with the state your adoption occured in as to the availability of an Intermediary System.

4. Send for hospital records.

Most states either have no statute or allow you to inspect and copy your hospital records.

5. Gather Available Documents

  • Amended birthcertificate (state registrar)
  • Ask adoptive parents for any documents
  • WRITE for documents, don't call (always keep a copy of all correspondence)
  • Final decree of adoption (county clerk)
  • Petition for adoption (county clerk)

6. Contact Agency (private or state)

  • Introduce self and give reasons for contact which is background information (see questions to agency)
  • Ask agency to obtain adoption records if not stored at their facility.
  • Make an appointment for interview with a social worker
  • Ask questions (see questions to agency)
  • Ask for information in writing if personal interview is not possible
  • Ask if social worker will continue to help - verify information
  • Send a Waiver of Confidentiality (Calif; ask for special form)

7. If no agency involved (first, check to see if the state department of social services holds records.)

  • Locate Lawyer
  • State Bar Associations; old and new phone directories
  • Ask for copies of documents and any information held by lawyer (Lawyer might release records only to adoptive parents or possible family members that may have custody of the records.)
  • If Lawyer is deceased, locate any partners or possible family members that may have custody of records.

8. Record or Log All Information Known From All Documents Questions to Agency


  • Mothers given name, date of birth, U.S. citizen, age at birth of adoptee
  • This pregnancy: full term, hours in labor, delivery normal or surgical, known medical history of mother and child
  • Infant: given name, date of birth, hour of birth, length, physical condition
  • Hospital Name: date admitted, discharged
  • Infant discharged with mother, date - other than mother, to whom
  • Mothers full physical desription
  • Stated religion, child baptized prior to placement, place and date, by whom, what faith
  • Marital status: wed to birthfather
  • Education level and location: grade school, high school, college
  • Known occupations
  • Usual State of residence
  • Siblings: sex, given names, age at this birth
  • Special talents or interests
  • Stated reason for placing this child for adoption
  • Did mother make any attempt to keep her child
  • Exact age of this child when surrendered to agency, child in foster home
  • Mother supply agency with pictures, if so may adoptee have same.
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