How do they do it? A wealth of information and the Internet, including Facebook.
As I am writing this, I remember how I used to think more about my birthmother. Let me remind adoptees - you have two parents and each has their own medical history and genealogy. Like I did, an adoptee may only have one parent’s name but that is enough to begin a search.
As I wrote in my memoir, I opened my own adoption through a kind judge in Wisconsin. I didn’t actually meet my mother after I found her. I met relatives on her side of the family. My uncle helped immensely. Then after I wrote to my mother requesting my father’s identity, I met him and we agreed to do a DNA test to prove his paternity. Many adoptees will do DNA with their dads.
Since I started my search in the late 1970s, I did it without the internet. Yes, I used the phone book. (There are later steps when you do get a name which I will outline in Part 2.)
Check the date when your birth certificate was notarized and what state signed it. I was born in 1956 but the amended birth certificate wasn’t signed until 1958. Like many adoptees I was born in a state different than where I was adopted. In my case, I was adopted in Wisconsin. Adoptee birth certificates are usually missing information. Mine did not list my birth-weight or inches. Missing information is the sure sign you were in a closed adoption.
There are different types of adoption: Foster-to-Adopt; Infant or newborn adoption; International adoption; Step-child adoption; Semi-open adoption; Older Child adoption; Closed adoption; Relative – Kin adoption; Foster Child adoption; Special Needs adoption; Military Overseas adoption; and Embryo Adoption. If possible, ask your adoptive parents which type of adoption and ask them to show you all the paperwork on your adoption. If your adoptive parents are deceased, you may inherit your adoption paperwork, so you need to read them carefully for clues.
Sadly, adoptive parents are not always the best source of information. Asking them could upset them or they might be unwilling to talk with you. This might be the riskiest step of all. If you are not able to talk to them directly, use another family member to collect the adoption paperwork and information for you. They can explain why to your adoptive parents. A compelling reason might be future medical conditions like diabetes and cancer. They can say you need to know about ancestry, siblings, ethnicity, religious heritage, the genetic background of each birthparent, or possible inherited medical conditions. This is a very sensitive step and careful decisions need to be made to keep the peace between family members but it’s important to get all the information you can.
One example: My adoptive mother saw papers you don’t normally see when they adopted my brother. She had his birthparent’s names but did not write them down. This may be the case for other adoptees. Your adoptive parents may know your birthparents name and what you were named at birth. My adoptive mother told me I was named Helen. That was not my name on the adoption paperwork that I read when I was 22. I was named Laura Jean. My birthmothers name was Helen. So remember some information your adoptive parents have may or may not be correct.
For adoptees, there are two types of information you will need: identifying and non-identifying. Identifying information is the real deal with real names – yours and your birthmother. Non-identifying information has no names but descriptions.
Access to your identifying information is not always restricted to birth parents and adoptees. In 36 States biological siblings of the adoptee are allowed to seek and release identifying information upon mutual consent. They are: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming. Depending on where you were born, adoptees should write a letter and consent to be contacted.
Never give up, adoptees. It may seem impossible at first but help is out there.
According to sources such as U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Child Welfare Information Gateway, states with open adoption records include Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Kansas, New Hampshire, Maine, Oregon and Tennessee. If your adoption took place in one of these states -- or in states such as Massachusetts that allow some adoptees to access their pre-adoption birth certificate -- you can find out how to obtain your original birth certificate by going to the vital records department of that state for the appropriate address and procedure.
Adoptees need to know what to request, and how much it will cost and what conditions need to be met to access your adoption records and original birth certificate.
http://registry.adoption.com/ –FREE, Reunion registry for adoptees, adoptee blogs and information.
Get your non-identifying (Non-ID) from the state where you were adopted. Non-identifying information includes birthparents age and (in recent years) medical history at the time of the child's birth; their physical description (height, weight, eye color); heritage (religion, national origin, race); number of other children, and whether they’re adopted. More detailed data is collected describing your birthparents, not adoptive parents.
Ask your adoptive parents to file a request for your adoption file and court proceedings. If they signed the documents, the adoptive parents have the legal right to request them and read them with the adoptee. Your birthmother had to sign the paperwork, too.
Contact a local newspaper where you were born and tell a reporter your story, and follow up especially if you find your parent or sibling. Some adoptees run ads in newspapers or create a Facebook Page with their birthdate. There are free ads on Craig’s list. One adoptee wrote a tribal newspaper and his siblings recognized him in his photo and contacted him right away. Use the media!
Contact your own state’s Social Services/Human Services and work with a social worker to gain access your adoption file.