Approximately two-thirds of children in foster care in the United States have a sibling in foster care. For a variety of reasons, many of these siblings are not placed together or eventually are separated.
According to the University of Oregon’s Adoption History Project, approximately 5 million Americans alive today were adopted. A large percentage of those adult adoptees do not have an original birth certificate or knowledge of their family medical history or birth families.
Closed adoption prevented them of having access to this information.
The result is that there are many people who are aware they have other siblings, or may suspect they have siblings, but have never met or lost contact. Many of those people long to connect with their family members in hopes to learn more about their origin, history and heritage.
As individuals who were adopted or spent time in foster care away from biological siblings age, the desire to find biological siblings may increase. Here are some ways to begin the process of finding them.
1. Hire a private investigator.
Private investigators who are experts in adoption and reunification can get you the answers you need in an affordable and timely manner. Sometimes starting with a professional search is the easiest and most time- and cost-effective route in locating family members or records. (As the only nationwide network of licensed, highly vetted private investigators, my company Trustifyworks every day to match individuals seeking access to information regarding their adoption with a specialized investigator.)
2. Utilize search registries.
A good place to start is with the agency that facilitated the adoption. Many agencies offer services that include a registry you can utilize or they work with a third-party intermediary to facilitate the search and reunion. There are also a plethora of free registries online that are not agency-specific.
Adoption.com has one of the best Reunion Registries.
3. Access state adoption records.
Nearly every state keeps adoption records sealed after an adoption is finalized. Most states at this point have implemented procedures in which both adoptees and birth parents can obtain non-identifying (medial records, and health information) and identifying information (this may lead to positive identification of the parties involved in the adoption). According to Child Welfare Information Gateway’s report Access to Adoption Records, fifteen states give siblings access to non-identifying information; thirty states have mutual consent registries allowing each party to the adoption the ability to consent to the release of identifying information; thirty-seven states allow biological siblings to seek and release identifying information through mutual consent.
4. Reach out on social media.
As a technology start-up founder, I see new social media platforms coming onto the market every day. We are now more connected than ever before in human history. This ability connect with people all over the world in real-time makes a search for a biological sibling easier than ever. Educate yourself on how to use the many sites available and take advantage of the creative ways individuals are finding family members.
The search and reunion process can be fraught with emotions, frustrations, and dead ends. It can also lead you to finding answers and siblings with whom you have lost communication, have never met or never even knew existed. As with any journey, it takes a first step to reach your final destination.
Be sure in your process you seek wise counsel. In some cases, it may be wise to enlist the help of a family counselor to help you process the potential emotions and results of a successful or unsuccessful search. For many people this process can create or re-create emotions that are often hard to understand or handle. So, be honest and give yourself permission to experience these emotions and feelings.
Additionally, be sure you help your adoptive family to understand your desire for the search. Allow them to ask questions and be gracious.
Remember that some adoptive parents may feel unsure about this search, Be patient and give them a chance to express their emotions. However, ultimately this is your decision, so do what you believe is best for yourself and your wellbeing.