Closed adoptions present challenges to adoptees and birth parents looking to reunite. Typically, records are sealed, and no access is given to those who wish to seek each other out. Fortunately, there are many tools available to assist a successful search and reunion. The following article provides 5 common steps you can take to find your birth parents in a closed adoption.

Step 1 - Collect Your Information

In many cases, adoptees have more questions than answers. Regardless, it’s important to deliberately compile all the information you do have, since this will help you maximize each step of your search. Even in situations of closed adoptions, the adoptee often knows the following information:

  • Year/month/date of birth
  • Country/state of adoption
  • Date of birth

By starting with these prompts you can add additional information to your starting point. Asking your adoptive parents for information is also often helpful. They may have information such as the adoption agency they used, the names of your birth parents, or even your birth certificate.

Beyond this (and depending on your country of origin), you can get a copy of your non-identifying information. This includes very basic details about your birth family (not including your parents' names, birth date, or contact information). Although adoption records are often sealed, adopting families can sometimes access this non-identifying information that provides some limited data about your background. In some countries, like the USA, both adoptees and adoptive parents are often permitted to access this information, even for closed adoptions.

Non-identifying information may include:

  • Health and medical information
  • Information about your birth parents (e.g. hair colour, eye colour, height, and build)
  • Location of birth
  • The cited reason you were placed for adoption

In many cases, you must be at least 18-years-old to make a direct request to your state/county for this information. This varies by region.

Step 2 - Use a Mutual Consent Adoption Registry

A mutual consent adoption registry allows families who are separated by closed adoption a platform to connect. The common format is for adoptees, birth parents, and siblings to register their information in the hopes that it matches with another searcher. If a match isn’t made, you can be notified down the line when your sought-after family member registers.

Adoption reunion registries typically don’t require in-depth information and are often the fastest and easiest place to start your search. Consider using Adopted.com’s Reunion Registry, the world’s largest reunion registry. It is a global registry and a chance to reunite instantly.

Step 3 - Use DNA Matching

DNA matching has opened up an effective new channel for adoption reunions. The first requirement is to get your DNA tested. This means ordering a DNA kit from a major DNA service like:

  • MyHeritage
  • AncestryDNA
  • FamilyTreeDNA
  • 23andMe

The typical process includes the following steps:

  1. Create your account and order the DNA testing kit
  2. Get your kit in the mail and follow the instructions
  3. Mail in your sample
  4. Get notified directly within your account

The whole process can take about 2 to 4 weeks.

Once you have your test results, you can upload your information to Adopted.com’s DNA Matching service. If you don’t find a match at this junction, your DNA test provider may be able to provide a match for a close relative, affording you a lead for further investigation into your family tree. This process is made easier by the information gathered in Step 1.

Step 4 - Consult a Confidential Intermediary

Some regions have confidential intermediaries. This is a person who leverages confidential records to find and request the disclosure of identifying information from birth parents. Not all regions subscribe to this process, but it is worth investigating on your end.

Step 5 - Hire an Adoption Detective

Hiring a private adoption detective is another option. If none of the actions in the preceding steps have worked and you are still set on working toward a reunification, there are benefits to hiring an adoption detective.

Adoption detectives can help by both reducing your personal time expenditure and ensuring all stones are turned. They typically have familiarity with adoption law and are acquainted with effective search methods. Some even have access to databases otherwise unavailable to the public.

Common techniques include:

  • Research
  • Background checks
  • Database queries
  • Interviews
  • DNA

As you would imagine, service parameters vary greatly across regions. At the very least, adoption detectives can provide additional consultation and even a custom search plan based on your unique situation.