Adoption
Resources
Basic Information
Adoptive Parent PerspectiveBirth Parent Perspective
More InformationQuestions and AnswersLinksBook Reviews
Related Topics

Child & Adolescent Development: Overview
Parenting

Adoption Registries/Potential Reunion Meetings and Conclusion

Kathryn Patricelli, MA

Today's networked world has made a wide range of resources available to those birthmothers and adopted children (adults) that would like assistance coping with their adoption experience. Support groups, website forums, specialist counselors, books and other resources that address the aftermath of adoption are available. There are also registries where birth parents and adopted children interested in meeting each other but separated by closed adoption arrangements can go to locate one another.

The process for locating birthparents and/or adopted children differs based on the type of adoption that occurred, and the state in which the adoption took place. Locating birthparents or children is generally an easy affair when the adoption was open or semi-open as contact information was shared at the time of the adoption. Making contact may be a simple matter of the birthparents or child choosing to call the other party and initiating a discussion. This process becomes harder to accomplish when years have passed and contact information is out of date, but a little detective work (performed either by the searcher or by a professional) can often produce a valid telephone number.

The process of locating birthparents or adopted children is more difficult with closed adoptions. In such cases, adoption records were sealed by a court, and only a court order can make them public again. Luckily, the advent of the Internet has made the process of finding birthparents a great deal easier, at least when both parties want to be found. There are now several online adoption registries designed to reunite consenting children and birthparents. One prominent registry of this type exists at Adoption.com.

Some specialized registries also exist to help international adoptees make contact with birth parents. Most registries work in the following manner: birthparents and adopted children each contribute an individualized profile containing relevant details they know concerning their adoption experience (e.g., date of birth, child's gender, hospital name and location, identifying marks, geographic location, given names, etc.) as well as necessary contact information. Each contributor also provides consent for their information to be shared should a match be made. Profiles then become publicly searchable. When a birthparent or adopted child finds a potential match they are then able to make contact with their counterpart. Adoption registries work best when both birthparents and adopted children wish to make contact with each other. They cannot function when either party is not interested in contact.

Even in the event that a birthparent is not interested in making contact with an adopted child, there may still be mechanisms available to adopted children seeking answers to questions about their origin. Some states (Alabama, Alaska, Kansas and Oregon are examples) are open record states. In such states, adopted children can fill out a form and receive identifying information about their birthparents. California has a process in which adopted children can request medical information contained in their sealed records by sending the state a notarized letter, and providing their date of birth, adoptive parents' names, and the location of their adoption. The state will then provide basic medical information contained in the file, but will not release contact information or any other information that would lead the child to be able to locate the birthparents.

Even in states where such information request mechanisms are not formally in place, it is still possible to petition the court that granted the adoption to open the adoption file if the circumstances are compelling. Courts have been known to open and share sealed records with adopted children facing a new and chronic illness with uncertain outcome, for example, so as to help that child gain access to important family medical history. Adopted children can also choose to hire an adoption agency or researcher who can conduct a private search on their behalf.

Once the search is completed and the birthparents or child have been located, the next step involves working through how best to make contact with the other party, what sort of contacts to set up, and how much contact to have. Children or birthparents that contact the other party through means other than mutual consent registries should be prepared for the very realistic possibility that their birthparents or child may not want contact with them and may refuse or otherwise reject a request for contact. Should this occur, it is vital for the rejected seeker to keep firmly in mind that the rejection is a statement about the psychological and perhaps social needs of the rejecting individual, and not at all a commentary on the desirability of the adopted child or birthparent. Even so, the rejection will still most certainly be felt in a very personal sort of way. Rejection is likely to hurt the adopted child or birthparent, should it occur. Such pain can best be handled by talking with family and friends in order to remember and reaffirm connections with all those who do want a relationship with the child or birthparent. Over time, the pain of the rejection will hopefully lessen in intensity.

Conclusion

Whatever form adoption takes, there are common, sometimes painful life issues and emotions, which require addressing. These issues, including varieties of grief and loss feelings as well as how to deal with future encounters with the child and adoptive parents (either those that are expected, as with an open adoption, or those that are unexpected as with a closed adoption) can occur across the lifetime of both the birth parent and the child. Though working through these issues can sometimes be a difficult and emotional process for all involved, it is possible to make peace with such feelings; to bear them gracefully, and to learn from them. With proper education concerning the nature of the adoption experience, access to loving caregivers and accepting partners, a willingness to engage and deal with issues and to communicate openly, everyone can go on to live healthy and productive lives.