An INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION is one whereby American parents adopt a child born in a country other than the United States (US).
Non-Identifying Information and File Review
Non-identifying information is any information that does not identify or expressly lead to the identification of birth parents, adoptive parents or adoptees. While adoptive parents are given available background information on birth parents and siblings at the time of the adoption, certain information may have been lost or not shared at the time of placement for some reason. In addition, the amount of background information available may have changed over time. In some cases, letters and pictures may have been sent by birth parents and placed in the file in the event that the adoptive parents or adoptee decide to seek information.
If you are interested in receiving background information and/or help with sending correspondence to birth family members or foster parents overseas, you can request assistance by contacting one of our post adoption counselors or completing this form. A counselor will review your request with you. We will need a copy of your driver’s license or birth certificate before any information can be released. The process of retrieving, reviewing and releasing the information may take two to three weeks. You will receive the information by phone or in writing.
The adoption journey will take some adoptees and birth families on a quest to find each other. While this may not be of interest to some, others may feel keenly curious. For some, locating their birth family may be the key to feeling “whole.”
If you are interested in locating and making direct contact with birth family or foster parents overseas, you can request assistance by contacting one of our post adoption counselors or completing this form. A counselor will contact you to discuss your request. We will need a copy of your driver’s license or birth certificate before any information can be released.
If you choose to initiate a search, it is important to keep a few things in mind. First, you may not have success in locating the person you hope to find. If you are able to find this person, he or she may not be ready for contact with you. In addition, if you do exchange information or have a meeting, the individual you meet may be very different from the one you have imagined for so long.
File Review: We will review your file for the information you are seeking. If you are an adoptee age 21 or older, any information originally given to your adoptive parents, whether identifying in nature or not, will be given to you. If you are under age 21, you may request non-identifying information, unless you have parental permission to receive identifying information. In some countries, the name of the birth parent(s) appears on a child's original birth certificate and the release of parental rights form signed by the birth parent(s).
Locating Birth Family: The ease of locating birth family in international adoption depends upon a number of factors. Countries vary tremendously with respect to their willingness to assist adoptees or their parents in locating birth family members. Adoption continues to be secretive in many countries, and officials may protect birth families from exposure by refusing to assist adoptive families. For example, Russia will not assist in these searches due to the closed nature of adoptions there. On the other hand, Korea is open to assisting adoptive families with contact if the birth family is agreeable.
Some countries also have strict guidelines or requirements with respect to who can search, such as the age of the adoptee. Often authorities will require permission from the birth family before officials will assist with a search.
When we receive a request for an international search, we begin by determining whether we have an in-country representative who can help. If this is not the case, there may be private individuals who, for a fee, will assist with a search. We can put you in touch with them; however, please be advised that we cannot vouch for their reliability or the likelihood of success.
It is very difficult to say how long the search process will take. If you receive assistance from an in-country official or private agency and your birth family remains at its last known address, a search can take a few months. In truth, this is rarely the case. Some searches take years of slow progress to locate birth family members. More often than not, birth relatives cannot be located.
If you are able to locate the person you are seeking and can verify that they want contact with you, we can offer guidance and support before you meet. You will have a number of options regarding your initial contact. Before arranging a face-to-face meeting, we recommend you write a letter introducing yourself, exchange photos, share your email address and speak by telephone.
Although there is no absolute right or wrong way to make contact with birth relatives, this journey should not be undertaken if you are not fully prepared for every possible outcome. In addition, you need to carefully consider the feelings of your birth family. Remember that, in many countries, single parenthood, or placing a child for adoption, is viewed as shameful. Your adoption plan may have been made in secret, making it likely that many birth family members and other acquaintances do not know about you.
If you have exhausted your resources and are unable to locate your birth family, you might consider writing them a letter and requesting that it be placed in your overseas adoption file. Perhaps some day your letter will be made known to someone in your birth family.
Counseling and Support
WHFC can offer information and support to help you initiate your search. For some, this process is highly emotional and may raise feelings of fear, rejection, anger, worry or other difficult emotions. Taking the time to discuss your desire to search with a counselor can be helpful. We can also recommend other resources for support, such as online groups of internationally adopted persons with a similar interest in searching for birth family.
Please contact us if you would like to speak with a post adoption counselor or need additional information. We are here to help.
For adoptions from Africa: Lisa Lovett, MSW, LICSW |
Additionally, feel free to peruse some resources to assist you in your search.