There are three types of people who can help when your searching for birth parents: attorneys, private investigators and counselors. You may want to start with a counselor, either a professional, or just someone you know who will listen. Tell him what you have in mind and see if you learn anything from the talk. Such a talk is good because it can help you better understand why you have chosen this particular quest.
What Do You Hope to Find?
While the reasons behind a search for birth parents can include a need to know your own medical history, usually the reasons are emotional. That's where a good chat with at least one other person can make all the difference.
Also consider how your adoptive parents will feel. Yes, they should understand, but the main thing is to handle the situation with care. One of the biggest mistakes you could make would be for you to begin your search quietly, only to have them find out later.
Consider what you might discover if your search is successful. They might not want to see you. Are you ready for rejection? Or you may discover that your father or mother is a crook. Are you ready for disillusionment? On the flip side, what if your birth parents have put together fantastic new lives, separately or together, and suddenly you arrive from the past? How will this affect your birth parents and the other people in their worlds?
Does your motivation to search for birth parents have anything to do with whether you generally feel happy with your life? As an adopted child, there's a tendency to believe that meeting your birth parents will miraculously answer all your questions about yourself and any problems you might have. In reality, this is seldom the case. It's better to be in a positive mental state and secure in yourself so that you're prepared to handle potential disappointment.
Starting Your Search
State laws vary for adoption. If your adoption was open, you'll have a far easier time finding your birth parents. Difficult cases are those defined as closed or sealed adoptions. In these cases, you'll need a court order to gain access to records, and they may not provide all the information you're hoping to get.
Next comes the question of whether to employ an attorney or a private investigator, and which source to consult first. Initially you should begin with some legwork of your own. You can ask your adoptive parents if they know anything at all about your birth parents. Do they have a copy of your birth certificate? Can they identify the hospital where you were born?
Relatives and family friends may also have information or documents that will aid your search for birth parents. Ask if an original adoption petition is available. Seek out the adoption agency. Some agenices will only provide nonidentifying information, such as birth parents' medical histories. Let the agency know if you are searching for the existence of siblings as well.
Visit the main public library in the city, township or village where you were born. Many libraries will have local newspapers on microfilm. Scan the papers for the few days that surround your date of birth. Tell a librarian about your quest, because most librarians are eager to help with investigations.
As you're looking for leads, concentrate on your father, if he's listed on the birth certificate. He will usually have retained the same last name, while your mother may have a different one.
Choose a Lawyer or Private Investigator
If you have little success with your own search, find a family law adoption attorney. Legal steps will be needed to get into the inner workings of that birth certificate, to unlock records that have been closed. This is where a medical need would add power to your legal case.
If you feel you have some decent information on the identities of your birth parents, you may bypass the attorney and go straight to a private investigator for help. Be aware that this is a dangerous route to take, particularly if your birth parents stipulated that they wanted no contact with you. The unexpected arrival of someone acting on your behalf could sour any chance of positive contact.
A few states have made it simpler for adopted children to get nonidentifying information through online adoption registries or mail-in forms. By filling out your information and paying a fee, you can get whatever information the state is allowed to disclose. In some cases, both the birth parents and the adopted child can specify whether or not they wish to have contact.
Most states still require an adopted child or a legal proxy to petition the court directly for records. If travel is practical, this is the best way to get the job done, but it's still a good idea to hire a local adoption attorney to minimize your trips. If travel isn't an option, the best choice is to hire a lawyer licensed to practice family law in the sate where you were born as a legal proxy. This person will act on your behalf, filing court papers and providing you with information as soon as it becomes available.
Check with adoption agencies in your state to get referrals for out-of-state lawyers. Agencies that specialize in interstate adoptions should be particularly helpful. Talk to a few different lawyers before you choose a proxy, comparing their costs and getting an estimate of how long you'll have to wait to get information.
Whether or not adopted children should know their birth parents is an emotionally charged question. In recent years, the stigma previously attached to adoption has all but vanished.
Adopted children are naturally curious about their birth parents, and some will go to any lengths to meet them. This presents challenges for adoptive parents, who may fear losing their role.