If you were adopted as a baby or child, it is perfectly natural to want to trace your routes back to your birth and be curious about your biological parents, wonder if you have a possible long-lost brother or sister or even be able to fill in gaps related to your medical history. Although an increasing number of adoptions are classed as “open adoption” and can trace everything back to the day they were born, there are still many adult adoptees who have no access to identifying information regarding their birth parents.
Reuniting children with their birth mother or father can be a rewarding experience that can lead to a healthy, long-lasting relationship or at the very least provide closure and a deeper understanding of the circumstances surrounding your adoption. If you love your adoptive parents but your feelings are strong for finding your birth parents then it can be a fairly long but rewarding process.
That said, the process can also carry its own distinct set of challenges. In the end, your reunion might not go exactly as you planned in your mind. Unfortunately, it may not happen at all. If you are prepared for negative outcomes, the rollercoaster of emotions—regarding what you may be told and how your adoptive mother may react—and are not set on an idealistic image of your real parents, then reaching out may be a good option for you. Here are five ways you can begin the process of finding, making contact and possibly being reunited with your birth parents.
Adoption Agency Registries
Many, but not all, adoptions are facilitated with the assistance of an adoption agency. Adoption agencies can help the birth mother decide between open and closed adoption plans, provide financial and emotional support and can match adoptive and birth families.
Another resource many adoption agencies provide is a voluntary registry. Registries would allow adoptees involved in closed adoptions, birth parents and, in some cases, other relatives such as siblings to possibly reunite later in life.
In order for a reunion to occur as an adult child, both the adoptee (or adoptees) and a birth relative would have to voluntarily register. After a match is made, both parties can decide if they wanted to release identifying information and make the adoption an open one. If you are unaware of the adoption agency that your adoptive family used (or if one was used at all), reaching out to your parents is probably the best place to start.
The Voluntary Central Adoption Registry
This option is similar to agency-organized registries, except that it is a public resource that was initiated by Texas State Legislature. As it is publicly operated, the rules around registration are the same regardless of the agency used during the adoption process.
This registry allows not only the adoptee and birth parents to register, but also the biological siblings of the adopted child. However, all applicants are required to be over the age of 18. As the registry is based on voluntary consent, only an individual can register themselves and can choose not to release any identifying information if and when a match is made.
A disadvantage with all registries is that there is some level of uncertainty. Before applying, there is no way of knowing whether your birth parents already have. After applying, a match may not be immediate, and it could take years for your birth parents to follow suit and register. Finally, if a match is made, your birth parents may not choose to go through with the process of releasing contact information.
Original Birth Certificate
Having access to a copy of your original birth certificate can help you reunite with your birth parents. Although the process of accessing these records is typically quite easy for most people, these records are sealed in cases of closed adoption to protect the birth parents’ identities. If you are interested in this option, then visiting your county clerk is often a good place to start.
However, in cases of closed adoption, this process can be challenging. There are steps to take that can help you access these records, although the process can be time-consuming and restrictive depending on your location.
Ancestry has been a popular online genealogy resource for years. The website can help families expand their family tree and discover new documentation detailing their family history. But the website can be used for more than fun. In fact, the site has a page dedicated to resources on adoption reunions. Using Ancestry’s huge database of records, it is possible to locate adoption records, birth certificates and other useful documentation. At the very least, the family tree feature from when you were a child can be used as a starting point to organize and consolidate your personal research.
Recently, Ancestry began offering a DNA test. Taking the test requires you to mail in a saliva sample and wait for results. The results can not only detail your ethnic background but can also connect you with distant relatives who are also part of the company’s DNA database. Although you may not automatically match with a birth parent, you could potentially end up in contact with a relative who has information that can help you reunite with them.
23andMe is another service that provides similar genetic testing with a non-invasive saliva sample. In a similar fashion to registries, a match with biological relatives can only occur if said relatives have also voluntarily taken a DNA test.
However, you may experience a higher chance of success in reuniting with birth relatives given the popularity of DNA tests. Many people take the test for fun or genealogy purposes, rather than the smaller pool of people who are eligible for adoption registries.
Although the testing may provide the results you want, it is important to understand how difficult and deeply personal the choice is to reunite with a birth child. Simply because you have discovered a family tree of which you are a part of, does not mean individual family members will feel ready to reunite with you. Potentially, using DNA testing could leave to you making contact with a birth relative who does not want to be contacted.
At the end of the day, it is important to remember that being able to find your birth parents’ identities and having a healthy, happy reunion are two different things. When you believe you have found a match, consider carefully how to go about initiating contact. Finally, remember that timing can be everything. Simply because you have not found your birth parents now (or they are not ready to reunite) does not mean that it will never happen.