They say that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. You may now be contemplating the idea of taking that first step, which often feels like a leap of faith, of starting to search for your biological family. Amid the flurry of excitement, apprehension and hopefulness stirred by your decision, an intrusive thought usually pops up, putting a damper on your enthusiasm: where would I even start?...

It is completely normal to feel a bit lost at the beginning of a project so complex and delicate as attempting to reunite with lost family members. Fortunately, if you—like so many other people in your situation—are struggling with questions such as:

  • What would be the best starting point to my search?
  • Are there any simpler and less expensive options than hiring a private investigator?
  • Might I have siblings or other relatives whom I am not even aware of?
  • Might my biological relatives also be looking for me?
  • Is there any hope if I have very little information about the people I am searching for?

...you would likely benefit from using an adoption reunion registry.

What exactly is an adoption reunion registry?

An adoption reunion registry is a database which contains information useful to people who are looking to reunite with their biological relatives, whom they have been separated from through the adoption process. This information can take on many forms, depending on the type of adoption reunion registry used. In general, you can potentially find the following information from consenting relatives:

  • Names (before and after adoption and marriage)
  • Place of birth and/or adoption
  • Birth date
  • Date of adoption
  • Known biological relatives
  • In some cases, DNA profile

In the past, most adoption registries were maintained by public authorities, containing official adoption information which could legally be disclosed only under certain circumstances to biological family members who sought to be reunited. Nowadays, an effective registry is a simple mutual consent format and can be easily accessed online. This is made possible by the shared desire of two or more biological relatives to find each other. Anyone searching for a family member lost through adoption can enter their personal and adoption data into the registry, as well as information regarding the ones they are hoping to find. From there, they are empowered to search for close matches within the registry using various search tools.

Why are adoption reunion registries necessary?

While open adoptions are quickly becoming the norm in many parts of the world (due to the many benefits they hold for birth parents and children alike), this has not always been the case and it is still not the case in all locations around the world.

The process of cutting through bureaucratic red tape to access closed adoption records can be nerve wracking and time consuming and it can often reach a dead end. Even when access to adoption records is granted, they may have been accidentally damaged or even lost over the years. Furthermore, obtaining the information in the files represents no guarantee that biological relatives wish to be contacted and there is no chance of obtaining data about other family members who were not directly involved in the adoption process (e.g. siblings who hadn’t been born at the time).

By contrast, a mutual consent adoption reunion registry can be easily accessed, is quick to provide results if there is a match, and offers a certain degree of confidence that the family members you find are also hoping to find you.

What are adoption reunion registries NOT to be confused with?

The name “adoption reunion registry” can be somewhat confusing and it is common for this kind of database to be mistaken for different kinds of records or services with similar titles. Most frequently, these are:

  • State adoption records/archives - these contain information regarding all adoptions which have taken place within the state, regardless of whether they are open or closed. In most places, adult adoptees are at least entitled to non-identifying information (e.g. parent ethnicity and race, occupation, education level, circumstances surrounding the adoption, etc.). Pre-existing consent is, however, normally required for disclosing identifying information (names, addresses etc.).
  • Putative father registries - some states offer very limited parental rights to biological fathers, giving them little say in the adoption process and making it difficult for them to regain custody of a biological child who has already been legally adopted. So in order to ensure that a father does not lose custody of a child he is not even aware of, he can enter his information in a putative father registry. By doing so, he states that he wishes to be informed and asked for consent before a current or former partner can place his biological child up for adoption.

What is the difference between a “state-run” adoption reunion registry and a “global” adoption reunion registry?

Many adoption reunion registries are “state-run registries”, which are maintained by local governmental agencies from different parts of the world. They are most often found in regions where closed adoption was practiced on a large scale and can reveal information about biological relatives on the basis of mutual consent or legally mandated disclosure.

While these registries can be of use, they have their share of drawbacks. Here are some common roadblocks associated with state-run registries:

  • They typically cannot provide information regarding out-of-state adoptions.
  • They often operate with limited digital resources, and therefore require physical presence or paper applications.
  • They can easily become overwhelmed and be slow to respond to requests.
  • They normally provide limited support in navigating the search system.
  • They do not provide the option to use complex types of data, such as DNA profiles.
  • They only provide information, but not community support for the complex and emotional experience of searching for your lost relatives.

Alternatively, the global adoption reunion registry is a privately run service with a massive database from people all around the world who are searching for their biological family members. The roadblocks bulleted above are naturally resolved with the global registry.

With nearly one million profiles in its data base (and counting), Adopted.com is fully digital and available to you in the comfort of your own home at the click of a button. This tool can help you find the one you are looking for within minutes. It can be used for local or international adoption, with little information. It also supports searches supported by DNA. The “global registry” offers expert guidance and a supportive community to share your experiences with.

Who can use an adoption reunion registry?

Only certain kinds of biological relatives are allowed to request official adoption information from state authorities (usually birth parents and adopted children, but siblings and grandparents may also be accepted depending on local laws). However, adoption reunion registries are open to anyone who is searching for a biological family member lost through adoption, regardless of their relation to them. Thus, you are welcome to join such a registry if you are trying to find:

  • Your birth parent(s)
  • Your biological grandparent(s)
  • Your sibling(s)
  • Your cousin(s)
  • Your aunt(s)/uncle(s)
  • Your niece(s)/nephew(s)
  • Any other family member

What to look for in an adoption reunion registry

Here are a few tips and tricks regarding what you need to look out for to find the best adoption reunion registry:

  • Size Does Matter: A large database offers more chances of finding your biological relatives. The largest option available offers around 1 million profiles to search.
  • Global Beats Local: While local and state-run adoption reunion registries can work if you are sure the relative you are trying to find still lives in the same location you were adopted, the global registry will give you the best and easiest chance to find family in general.
  • Success Stories: Look for testimonials from satisfied customers who have found their biological relatives through the registry.
  • Multiple Search Options: If you’re starting with limited information about your birth family, it is important to leverage the data you do possess. Thus, a good adoption reunion registry should allow you to search by:
    • Name
    • User Profile
    • Date of birth
    • Place of adoption
    • DNA profile
  • Free Registration: Especially when you are on a budget, you may want to be sure that there is a chance the relative you are looking for is listed in the adoption reunion registry before paying for the service. Look for reunion registries that allow you to perform some types of searches before asking you to subscribe.
  • Data Privacy:Always be sure the adoption reunion registry you use has a strong data protection policy in place and that they are compliant with relevant legislation.
  • Support is Key: A company that handles such sensitive matters as adoption reunions should have a responsive support service available. However, community support matters just as much, as it can provide a valuable emotional and informational resource.

How do you use an adoption reunion registry?

While every adoption reunion registry has its own particularities, the process itself is normally quite simple and follows a standard set of steps. To best illustrate this point, here is how you join and use the world’s largest adoption reunion registry, Adopted.com.

Your first step is to register for an account and create a search profile. You do so by entering all the information you possess about the adoption itself in the form of a short questionnaire. A good registry will provide matches base solely on information that both parties know to be true.

Once your account is ready, you can search for your biological family among the 1-million profile database. You can do so using a variety of search options, and you even have the possibility to search historical databases or upload your DNA profile to cross reference.

Should you find a profile that seems to match the one you are looking for, you will need to subscribe to the service and pay a monthly subscription fee to contact them. If your search does not yield any results, don’t despair, as there are hundreds of new profiles uploaded every day and you will be notified as soon as someone matching the description you provided joins the adoption reunion registry.

In the meantime, you can use the community forum, offering emotional support and a platform to exchange stories with people who are also looking for their lost biological relatives.