Officially called the Texas Vital Statistics Unit (VSU) Voluntary Central Adoption Registry (CAR), it is a publicly mandated voluntary mutual-consent registry system.

What exactly does this mean? It means that birth parents, adults who were adopted as a child and the biological siblings of adult adoptees can potentially locate and contact birth family members if both parties agree to voluntarily register.

How Does the Registry Work?

The Voluntary Central Adoption Registry System provides the opportunity for birth parents and adult adoptees to reunite, as well as biological siblings. Although there are other avenues to reunite with adoptive parents, including the court system, these processes can be expensive, time-consuming and stressful. Additionally, it may be difficult to find biological family members with a high degree of certainty, depending on the circumstances of the adoption.

The registry, which was first mandated during Texas’ 68th Legislative Session in 1983 is a completely optional process, which means all adoptees and birth relatives have the right to refuse to participate.

The registry enables an adult adoptee, birth parent, or sibling to place his or her name on the registry and to locate other family members who are also registered. Applicants who are interested in potentially reuniting with biological relatives may be able to register with both the VSY registry and a private registry operated by the agency that handled the adoption, if one is available.

When both an adult adoptee and a biological family member (either a parent or sibling) voluntarily place their name in the registry, a match is made.

What Are the Steps to Reunite after a Match Is Made?

Even though both parties have entered the registry, it does not automatically mean that contact information will be released to either party.

In order to receive identifying information, all participants must complete a document that specifies the information they feel comfortable releasing to the adoptee or birth relative. Depending on the wishes of the parties involved, certain participants may have access to less identifying information than others.

Participants in Texas must also attend a one-hour post-adoption counseling session before a reunion can occur. This session exists to educate and support participants, as well as help them emotionally prepare for the reunion.

Once this step has been completed, participants will provide written biographies detailing the participant’s life, along with visual media such as home videos or photographs. These biographies and media files will be available to other participants along with identifying information.

Who Can and Cannot Use the Registry?

The registry exists for the use of birth parents, adult adoptees and biological siblings only.

Although children who have been adopted may be curious about their birth parents or potential siblings, in order to use the registry to contact family members you must be 18 years of age or older.

As an adoptive parent or family member, you may want your adopted loved one to have the opportunity to reunite with their adopted love ones, especially if they are too young to use the registry themselves. However, the registry is based on mutual consent, meaning you cannot use the registry on behalf of another individual.

While children who have been adopted may be curious about meeting their birth parents or potential siblings, in order to use the registry to contact birth relatives you must be 18 years of age or older.

How to Register

The first step towards registration is completing a two-page application form that pertains to your specific situation (i.e., being an adult adoptee or biological sibling), which can be found here. The application must be made through the mail. Other materials that must be submitted at the same time as the application include:

  • A $30 check written out to DSHS
  • Photo I.D. that proves age (such as a driver’s license or passport)
  • Copy of birth or marriage certificate if the applicant’s name has changed due to marriage (the documentation must show the applicant’s maiden name)
  • A copy of your birth certificate (if the applicant is a biological sibling)
  • Copy of court orders should the applicant’s name be legally changed for reasons other than marriage

You can send your application form, registry free and all relevant documents to:

VSU—CAR

DSHS MC 2096

P.O. Box 149347

Austin, TX 78714-9347

Should I Register?

This is ultimately a deeply personal question, and it is a decision that should not be taken lightly. Some factors to consider when deciding may include:

  • Do you feel emotionally prepared for a reunion?
  • Would you be alright if the reunion does not live up to your own expectations?
  • Do your friends and family support the decision?
  • Are you alright with the uncertainty of whether a match will happen?

It is also important to remember that the registry is designed with ongoing consent in mind. If a match is made and you do not feel ready to release identifying information, you will still have the opportunity not to go through with a reunion.

What if a Match Does not Happen?

If there is not a match immediately upon registration, this does not mean that a match will ever happen. Potentially, your family members may need more time to prepare for a reunion before registering, or they may be unaware or uninformed of the registry.

Ultimately, it is important to remember that the registry is not a guarantee that a reunion will happen, and that you do not need a reunion to find happiness. It is important to remember the ways in which you and your relatives have benefited because of the adoption, and the people that are in your life as a result of the decision.

Adoption is a rewarding and wonderful option for birth parents, children and adoptive families. However, the process comes with a number of emotional choices, including whether to initiate contact later in life. If you are interested in making your closed adoption an open one, then the voluntary central adoption registry may be the best place to start.

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