So, you're adopted. Throughout your life, in the back of your mind has always been a nagging curiosity about your past,
your roots, etc. Now, you feel driven (or semi-driven) to find some answers to those life-long questions. It is time, but
you do not know where to start, or how to proceed. Read on.
- Obtain Your Non-Identifying Information
- This information, which includes such things as the hospital you were born, birth parents general characteristics
(height, age, ethnicity), medical information, and the agency which your adoption was handled through. This information is
usually available at a low cost from the state in which you were born. Obtaining this depends on the state. Note that this
information will NOT include such information as birth parents' names, locations, or contact information.
- Getting Your Records Opened
- In most states, when an adoptee reaches adulthood (usually 21, but some states 18), the adoptee can petition the court to
open the adoption records. A liaison is used to contact the other parties, and if the birth parents approve of opening the
records, the adoptee is given this information. In some cases, such as in extreme medical emergencies, the adoptee may
obtain the information without the other parties' consent. Often, this process is quite complicated and takes time, so
patience is important.
- Put your information in as many registries as possible, in the off chance that someone is looking for you also. The best
registries are those that are only state wide, and not nation wide, due to the sheer volume of those looking. Often, there
are even state run (ie. gov) adoption registries. These are the best.
I found my own birthmother in about a month through this method, and although I hate advertising, I believe I must. For
adoptees and birthparents in Wisconsin, there is a free registry called I.C.A.R.E (http://www.icareregistry.com/). This site
is run by two amazing women who go above and beyond for absolute strangers. Amazing. Although I am not familiar with any
registries from other areas, I believe that there are likely to be something similar to this.
- Hiring a Private Detective
- This is by far the most expensive approach. It is advisable that you try the other approaches first, and use this as a
last resort. For some, it is a necessary step after years of searching, for others, like myself, a little self detective
work can lead to a quick conclusion to the search.
Ok, You've Found Them, Now What?
- First Contact
- This is the toughest part of the whole journey. The best way to establish a first contact is through a simple letter
telling them that you are interested, or by having a third party, such as a friend, who is somewhat detached from the
situation, call them.
There is a risk that is taken in this step of the process, and the adoptee must evaluate if he or she is ready to handle what
may come. There is a chance that the contact will not be well received, and that the birth mother or father may want nothing
to do with the adoptee. This can be crushing, and in some cases, worse than not knowing at all. Be aware of this.
- First Meeting
- Remember all those things that you used to dream about them? That they were movie stars, or that they were geniuses, or
great artists, or super successful? How wonderful they must be? FORGET IT ALL.
They are real people, not dreams. They really exist, and they exist with all the problems, and nasty habits, and faults
as the rest of us. Don't set your self up for a disappointment.
The first meeting can be extremely emotional, or can be extremely pleasant. Prepare yourself for a roller coaster of emotions
and questions. Nervousness is normal, and often unwarranted. Take it slow, plan a outing to a restaurant or something that
is not too personal, and try to keep the first meeting short. Take it slow, filling in 20,30, or more years in one sitting is
a bit too much for most people. Relax. Most importantly, do what feels right for you.
- Take it Slow
- Building a relationship takes time, it won't happen in a day. Be careful not to push the relationship. If the other
party gives any hint of discomfort, do not feel offended. This is often a confusing time for all, and sometimes, it is best
to let everyone have a bit of space while the relationship falls into place. For some, a few meetings is all that will take
place, for some, a friendship may develop, and for others, a second family may be gained. No one can predict what will take
place. Be prepared for anything.
I know that I have left out so many things. The whole process is so unpredictable, that any amount of information cannot
adequately prepare one for meeting his or her biological family. To all who are searching, I wish you luck! If there are
questions, feel free to contact me.