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Adoptees can utilize the Internet to safely connect with family

Recently, adoptees of all ages have posted Facebook photos of themselves holding small posters itemizing their known adoption information. The accompanying caption usually asks viewers to share the photograph and send it nationwide, so genetic relatives can be contacted. However, there appears to be little thought in how posted social media information could be used in a fraudulent or dangerous manner by identity thieves or scammers posing as family members.

How can adult adoptees utilize the Internet to safely connect with unknown biologically-related individuals?

The first step is to organize and manage any personal adoption information. Since post- adoption law differs within each U.S. state and foreign country, it is vital that you know the state where you were born and, if possible, which state finalized the adoption. Because adopted persons have an original birth certificate and an amended birth certificate, which lists their adoptive parents as giving birth to them, you must know if you can access both documents. If you are not familiar with the post-adoption access laws in that particular state, the following site can help:

Adoptive families often have legal documents, such as the Adoption Decree from the court that finalized the adoption. Your birth name, first mother’s name or legal father’s identity may be contained in these documents. Once you have gathered all of the available information about your own birth and adoption, you are ready to begin the Internet search for your biological family members.


Do realize several Internet sites will be required for a successful search

There is not one magical website to tell you everything you need to know about your birth family and how to directly contact them. As a first step, the adopted community recommends that you download an International Soundex Reunion Registry ( form. Complete the few spaces you can and mail that form back to the ISRR staff. Every year, hundreds of adoptees and birth family are reunited through this free registry. Check to see what additional registries are available for the state of your birth and adoption.

Do use websites that are current and regularly updated

Test each site with a friend’s information to check for accuracy. Try inputting information about adoptive relatives that live in other states, who may have moved within the past year or two. This is important as some websites seldom update their information.

Do open your social media settings

You are searching for family and perhaps they are also searching for you. Make it as easy as possible for them to find you and make contact by giving public access to your Facebook page and other social media sites. If you have posted photos that you would not want to share with your own grandparents, delete those immediately.

Do join an adoption support group

Members of an adoption support group have been through the same search process and usually have lists of websites helpful for that region or state. If you are searching in an area other than where you currently reside, also join a support group there because regional advice can be invaluable. This document contains support group listings:

Do acknowledge that search and reunion are two different processes

It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of an Internet search as each piece of your adoption puzzle is revealed. Start thinking about what you want from contact--and if you desire a relationship with the your family of origin.


Do not overlook your public library

Genealogy is considered the most popular hobby in the U.S. Public libraries have subscriptions to many of the popular “members only” websites and make these available to their library patrons. Connecting through your home computer to the research section of your local public library website grants you access to these. Consult a reference librarian at your local college or public library for assistance. If the library requires you to be in the building to use their websites, take a laptop computer or tablet with you so information can be easily saved directly to your own equipment.

Do not inform your birth parent’s network about relinquishment

Nothing ruins the chances of connecting with birth family like telling all of your original mother’s friends or former classmates that you are looking for her because she had a baby when she was a teenager. Instead, tell them that you believe you might be related, and you would appreciate talking with this person. Be willing to give your own contact information to be forwarded to a birth family member. Ask the appropriate questions to ensure that you are talking with the correct person before revealing you are an adoptee seeking your birth parent or sibling.

Do not always use Internet sites according to their directions

Several telephone directory websites list possible relatives for a particular address and phone number, which gives you additional names to research. Input as little information as possible for each search site. For example, a website may have blanks for first, middle initial and last name, plus birth date. If a site allows you to input your own information, but leave the last name empty, will that site post results that include your last name?

Do not pay an individual or company a large upfront search fee

Scammers realize adoptees can be desperate for any extended family information, which makes them easy targets for fraud. Exceptions are search consultants that charge small nominal fees for the use of some databases or Search Angels. Search Angels are committed individuals on the Internet, who are dedicated to helping those separated by adoption connect with genetic family members at no charge.

Do not get discouraged

There are no impossible searches. Some require minutes, while others take days or weeks to make significant progress. It is not uncommon for an adoptee to frantically search, take a two-week break, and then resume the search process.

DNA tests, such as Family Finder from, allow adoptees to obtain genealogical information by an analysis of their own mouth or buccal scrapings. This expanding scientific field continues to refine the process of identifying unknown ancestry.

Jumping cartoon

Adoptees are able to connect with genetic family members via the Internet; however, caution must be used during the search process to avoid fraud. Use regularly updated and accurate websites and reunion registries--and don’t follow the directions exactly as printed on each site. Be respectful gathering information about the person you seek and make it simple for them to contact you through social media. Don’t be discouraged if your search takes longer than you imagined. Keep in mind that it is definitely possible to connect with your family of origin.

More expert advice about Adoption and Foster Care

Photo Credits: © Gajus -; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas -

Marilyn Mendenhall Waugh, MACo-owner and Founder

Marilyn Mendenhall Waugh, MA, is a reunited birth mother, Director of Adoption Concerns Triangle of Topeka, a search and support group serving those in Northeastern Kansas, past president of the American Adoption Congress and currently the AAC s...

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