Using the Internet to find birth parents has become the most common method of reuniting adopted children with their birth families. The surge in open adoptions over the past 30 years has made the process of finding birth parents much easier. Since the advent of the Internet, an entire industry has sprung up to meet the growing demand.
An important factor in the overall success of a birth parent search is the amount of information the adopted child has. In past decades, when closed adoptions were the norm, little if any information about birth parents was available to adopted children. Often, even if information was available, it was sealed by court order and kept from the adopted child.
Even in cases where little information is available, the Internet can be a big help. For example, if an adoptee knows nothing about his birth parents but knows where he was born, the Internet can be used to find all the hospitals and orphanages that were open in the area at the time of his birth. Local birth records can also narrow things down.
Birth certificates are commonly amended to reflect the adoptive parents' names upon the granting of an adoption decree. However, a record of the original birth certificate with the birth parents' names will be kept by the court, and sometimes by the adoptive parents themselves.
With the name of one or both birth parents and the place of birth, the Internet really kicks into overdrive. It is at this point that an adoptee can go in several different directions.
Conducting Your Search
Some states, including Illinois, have set up online adoption registries. These act as a clearinghouse of information for adopted children and birth parents. By registering with the site, parents and children who want to contact one another can be matched. This is the least-expensive and most direct option, but it's limited to a few participating states and won't help if either the child or the parents don't want to be contacted.
The most expensive route is to hire a professional investigator who specializes in finding birth families. These individuals have access to proprietary databases and methods to retrieve sealed information that can lead to birth families. Often the investigator will also contact the birth family directly to set up the first meeting, thus making it less traumatic for both parties. Keep in mind that some people don't want to be contacted, and using a private investigator could be seen as an invasion of privacy.
Another way to find birth parents is to use the multitude of genealogy Web sites. An adoptee must have at least a name to search genealogy records. It is not uncommon for adoptive parents to change a child's name after adoption. Sometimes all it takes to track down a birth family is the adoptee's original name. Perhaps the most recognizable Web site in this realm is Ancestry.com, though there are scores of others that specialize in a given lineage or geographic area. Another excellent resource for finding birth parents in America is the Social Security Death Index. It is free to use, though it will only reveal deceased relatives.
Web forums and chat rooms can also be a good place to track down birth parents. Chances are that an adoptee's birth parent may be searching for her at the same time. There are a great many adoption forums on the Web, but the largest has to be Adoption.com.
A word of caution here: Chat rooms and Web forums are known to attract disturbed individuals and con artists. The adoption industry is not immune. There are hundreds of horror stories of people who were duped into sending money to "facilitators," investigators who aren't actually investigators and others. Be skeptical of anyone you meet, and always ask for references.
Using the Internet to find birth parents can open doors into a person's past and answer many questions. Sometimes it is enough for an adoptee to find his birth family on the Internet and to be satisfied with the results without ever contacting that family. Others will go all the way and attempt to reunite with the family. There isn't always a happy ending to each story, but often enough a new family bond is forged for life.
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.