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"Are you searching?"
This is the first question one adoptee or birth parent generally asks another in an online meeting, and if the answer is "no," it's often followed by, "but I'm thinking about it." There are literally hundreds of chat rooms, bulletin boards, and mail lists devoted to The Search, and although the majority of those searching are adoptees and birthmothers, there are growing numbers of birthfathers, siblings, other birthfamily members, and adoptive parents joining in as well.
Here at Adoption.com, questions about search come up in our chat rooms and on the forums every day, and the most frequently asked is:
"Where Do I Start?"
Those approaching search for the first time are often confused right from the outset by terms and abbreviations, such as "non-ID" and "OBC," so let's go back to the basics with some ideas for the beginning searcher.
With the exception of the first suggested step, "Know why you are searching," the others are not in any particular order - they are all important!
If you are an adult adoptee, and your adoption was finalized in Alabama, Alaska, Kansas, or Oregon, you can receive a copy of your Original Birth Certificate (and possibly other documents) upon request. These are "open records" states. And beginning in January 2005, New Hampshire records will be open as well. (Look for state information here.)
Know why you are searching.
The decision to search is a serious one. Peoples' lives will be affected forever, not in the least your own. Many adoptees never search. Many birthparents never search. It is an individual decision and someone else's reasons may not be yours. You should be prepared for all that searching will involve, and for where it might lead.
"Some Things To Think About," from the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse, and Marcy Axness' "The Second Rejection" are two of the many helpful online reading resources available. There are also many books about self-discovery and preparation for search available in our online store.
Read "The Definitive Guide to Self-Empowered Adoptee Search."
Don't be deceived by the title. Whether you are an adoptee or not, this is an excellent resource. This multi-part series starts with making the decision to search and covers each step of the process, from talking to everyone who might have information to contribute, to writing down every hint and clue, to organizing what you collect, all the way through to petitioning the courts to open your adoption record. The series' author, Shea Grimm, is an adoptee who conducted her own successful search.
For Canadian searches, check out The Adoptee Searcher's Handbook which is available online in its entirety.
Register with the ISRR.
The International Soundex Reunion Registry is the largest, free, mutual consent reunion registry in the world. It is not an online registry - remember, not everyone has Internet access or a computer - and it is almost always the first step recommended by reputable searchers (paid or volunteer), support groups, and reunion registry operators.
You may be tempted to post your information far and wide on every registry (including ours here at the site), guestbook, and listing you find, but wait. Send for your ISRR registration form first.
Apply for your non-ID.
Non-identifying (non-ID) information from your adoption files can be released upon application, sometimes for a fee. This does not include information that will identify your birthparents and their families by name. Non-ID can include their physical descriptions, education, current (at the time of the adoption) health and health history of their families, and other bits and pieces. Each state has its own regulations about who can apply for and receive non-ID, and what documents and/or waivers must be submitted in order to prove identity and authorize release of the information.
Applications for non-ID are made to the state, or court in the jurisdiction where the adoption was finalized, the adoption agency, or to the attorney who handled the adoption.Join a support group.
This is where the adoption community shines. There are groups and individuals willing and able to give you emotional support, search support, reinforcement, and guidance whenever you need it.
In additon to our excellent Search & Reunion forums, online support can be found in groups like Sunflower Birthmoms, on forums for the entire adoption community hosted by reunion registry owners like Angry Grandma, on specialized lists like the Black Market Babies Mail List and 1950s Adoptees Mail List, and on others targeted to searchers connected with foreign-born adoptees. Check our complete listing of search resources for an online group to meet your needs.
Almost every state has local search and support groups for various segments of the adoption constellation, and for a bit of the unusual, the Washington-based Adoption Search and Counseling Consultants offers search and reunion counseling in person and by phone - locally and long distance!
There's more to it than this.
Of course there's more! But if you're just starting out, it's important to get a good understanding of what The Search can mean. For many, it becomes almost an obsession. For others, it means depression. For others, it's a roller-coaster ride. It can last days, weeks, months, years... or it may never end.
Read everything you can find. And then read some more. The adoption community has been enormously generous on the Net with advice, personal stories, and professional guidance. Groups of dedicated people, who have either searched and found or who are still searching, man the lines on phones, run email lists, mastermind registries, and keep Web pages updated with current information so that others can find help when they need it.
Credits: by Nancy S. Ashe
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