You’ve decided you want to search for your biological family, whether it’s your birth mom, birth dad, siblings, or a combination of family members.
Where do you start?
I’m a private investigator who conducts these searches on a regular basis. This is my advice, based on my own knowledge and experience.
Determine Your Why
It’s a good idea to first determine within yourself why you want to conduct a search. Determining this will give you a clearer direction for your search. It will also help you articulate your intentions to your biological family later on if you find them.
There is no right or wrong reason to search.
Some adoptees are curious. Simple as that. Others might be seeking medical or social history. Some adoptees just want to know where they come from. They want their complete story. There are adoptees who want to ask their biological parents specific questions surrounding their decision to place them for adoption. Many have a strong desire to tell their biological family that they’ve had a good life and they want to thank them for placing them for adoption.
The reasons are too numerous to list.
DIY or Hire Someone?
You can conduct a search on your own or you can choose to enlist the help of someone else. There are several options here.
You can absolutely choose to to conduct your own search. Those who are most often successful seem to possess the following characteristics: dogged determination, organization, ability to learn adoption laws and search processes, resourcefulness, and the ability to separate emotions from the task at hand.
If you don’t have time to commit to a search, don’t have the resources, or just think you’re not cut out to conduct your own search, then you’ll want to find someone else to do it on your behalf.
You can hire a private investigator or other professional who specializes in adoption searches. (Hey, I know a gal).
You can look into the possibility of using a search angel or DNA detective.
Your state might actually require you to use a confidential intermediary appointed by the court to conduct a search for you.
Like I said, there are options. Do your homework and make the decision that’s right for you.
Talk to Family Members If Possible
As far as the actual search, it is so important to gather as much information as you can about the circumstances surrounding your birth and adoption.
For you, this might mean digging through boxes and boxes of old forgotten documents in an attic. For others, it might mean talking to your adoptive parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, or siblings.
You know your family and the circumstances of your adoption best. You know who to go to for information. So if it’s possible, don’t put this off. Informally interview as many family members as you can. You might very well learn something you never knew that could end up being quite valuable to your search.
Was Your Adoption Open or Closed?
Many older adoptions were closed. That’s just the way it was years ago. It’s much more common now to see some form of open adoption, but it’s still not always the case.
If your adoption was closed, it means your adoptive parents might hot have much information about your biological family, if any information at all.
If it was open, your adoptive parents might have a whole file on your biological family that you never knew existed. They might remember bits and pieces about your birth mom or birth dad. They might have letters addressed to you from your birth family. You just never know.
Contact the Agency, State, Attorney, and Doctor
You must first determine where you were born in order to move forward with the proper channels because every state is different.
Once you determine which state you were born in and which state handled your adoption, you can research your next steps.
Some states allow adoptees to request a copy of their original birth certificate. This can be a hugely valuable piece of evidence in a search for biological family. Your original birth certificate could have your biological parents’ names on it, as well as other information such as their professions, places they were born, ages at the time of your birth, whether or not you have older siblings, etc.
Some states might not hand out original birth certificates, but they might pass on any non-identifying information they have about your biological family. The non-identifying information might not overtly give you names and identities, but you sure can piece a lot together with some pretty major clues.
Regardless of the state that has your papers, definitely contact them to get your hands on any and all paperwork they are willing to release to you, whether it’s your original birth certificate, non-identifying information about your birth parents, or even just some various court documents and such.
Don’t forget that it’s also smart to contact the agency your adoptive parents used IF they used one. If yours was a private adoption, you can still try to track down the attorney they used, the doctor who delivered you, and the hospital where you were born.
Place a Waiver of Confidentiality In Your Adoption File
When you contact the state or the adoption agency to request paperwork, ask if you can place a waiver of confidentiality in your adoption file. This would give the state or the agency permission to share your information with your biological family, should they ever come looking for you.
Don’t Forget About Adoption Registries
Find out if the state in which you were born has a state adoption registry. If it does, register. Your biological family might have already registered or might register in the future.
The International Soundex Reunion Registry (ISSR) is another registry you should register with, in addition to or in place of a state registry if your birth state doesn’t have one.
Pull the Trigger
Don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today. Just don’t.
Many of my clients have regretted waiting so long to contact me. Some waited too long only to discover their biological parents are deceased. They have regrets. Don’t have regrets. Make a decision today and go for it.