How an Adoption Search Can Have a Higher Chance for Success

Adoption has been on my mind these past few weeks.

Last week, my husband and I spoke at a fundraising event for the crisis pregnancy center where our son’s birth mom stayed throughout the last half of her pregnancy.

I just completed a successful adoption search for a 53-year-old woman in search of both birth parents.

Pursuit Magazine recently published my own “why and how” story of adoption searches as an investigative specialty.  (Read it here).  As a result of that article, Francie Koehler has invited me on her “PI’s Declassified” internet radio show this Thursday.

Since adoption has been buzzing around in my head for a few weeks, I’ve decided to address how to set your adoption search up for a higher chance for success.  It doesn’t really matter if you intend to conduct the search yourself or if you plan to hire a professional.  These are good pointers, either way.

Here’s what you can do.

Start by collecting as much information as you can that surrounds the circumstances of your adoption.

This might include writing down your own memories, recording the memories of other family members, interviewing adoptive parents and other close family members, gathering any photos you or your adoptive parents might have of your birth parents, reading old journals or diaries of your adoptive parents, making a copy of your amended and/or original birth certificates, collecting any relevant mementos from the time period of your adoption, and anything else that could provide clues for your search.

Don’t put off a search.

If you think there is any chance at all that you might conduct a search in the future, even if you’re not interested at this point in your life, there are things you can do to set yourself up for a more successful search in the future, should you ever decide to take that step.

If your adoptive parents are still alive and you feel comfortable enough to approach them about the possibility of a future search, do it now.  Once they pass away, you won’t have the chance, and they could very well take important clues with them when they pass.  This goes for other family members as well, especially the elderly ones or those in poor health.

Depending on your own personal adoption story, it might behoove you to attempt contact with a nurse or doctor at the hospital in which you were born.  I just completed a search in which my client had contacted the hospital where she was born about 20 years ago.  She was able to track down the elderly nurse who handed her from her birth mother to her adoptive parents.  The nurse was able to tell my client that her adoptive mother loved her very much.  That’s something my client has clung dearly to for the last two decades.

Don’t leave out or gloss over the small details.

Sometimes, the most minute detail can be of great value to a searcher.  I once conducted a case in which my client thought her birth father had a brother named David.  I wasn’t able to find the birth father at first, so I found the brother named David first.  Then finding the birth father was cake.

It was a small detail my client could have left out altogether, and almost did.  But when I prodded her for even the smallest of details, she said, “This is probably nothing, but for some reason, someone in the family once told me that my birth father had a brother named David.”

Consider submitting your DNA to all of the main DNA genealogy providers to gain insight into your ethnicity.

Sometimes, your DNA results can be matched with other familial persons out there who have submitted theirs to the same provider.  When this happens, it narrows your search immensely.

Even if no matches are found, your DNA results can still give you a solid foundation that can provide clearer direction in your search.

Place a waiver of confidentiality in your adoption file with the agency, state, or attorney that handled your adoption.

This waiver will be in place in case your birth parent decides to search for you in the future.  Its purpose is to give permission to the agency, state, or attorney to contact you or permission for the birth parent to contact you directly.

Register with the International Soundex Reunion Registry at

Additionally, register with the state agency in the state where your adoption took place.

Join a search and support group.

Adoption search and support groups can often help you to gain a better understanding of your own adoption experience.  You can find a list of state by state support groups here.

No matter your path, I send my best wishes to all of you out there who are currently searching, contemplating a search, or might search in the future.