Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock () or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

November 2015Vol. 16, No. 8For Adoptees Considering a Birth Family Search

A recent tip sheet from the Coalition for Children, Youth and Families, in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, highlights some of the key questions and considerations that should be addressed when an adopted person is deciding whether or not to initiate a search for birth relatives. Many adopted persons do not have connections with or information about their birth family, which can sometimes lead to feelings of "incompleteness." However, before an adopted person begins his or her search, it's important to have a thorough understanding of the reasons for searching, realistic expectations, and a support system in place to help navigate what can be an emotional journey.

The tip sheet is organized into three main sections: reasons for searching, things to consider before your search, and beginning your search. In the first section, authors discuss adoptees' natural and reasonable curiosity about their past; unknown medical and genetic history; the sense of loss adoptees often feel with respect to relationships with family; and for those adopted internationally, lost connections to their cultures, languages, and customs.

The second section addresses the importance of setting realistic expectations about the information an adopted person may find and the outcomes that may occur. Because the search process can involve many emotional highs and lows, the tip sheet provides the following suggestions for building a strong support network:

  • Understandably, the adoptive family may have mixed feelings about the search process, so it is important to consider their feelings and be open with the reasons guiding the search.
  • Members of the larger adoptive community who have experienced the search process can provide guidance through support groups and other events.
  • An adoption-competent therapist can help an adopted person process feelings and emotions and set healthy boundaries and expectations.
  • In Wisconsin, the Coalition has resource specialists that provide adopted persons with information and support in their search efforts.

The third section of the tip sheet offers direction on locating and accessing adoption records and information in Wisconsin, as well as general guidance and resources for conducting searches and accessing adoption records in other States and internationally.

While the tip sheet was written for a Wisconsin audience, much of the information is applicable to all adopted persons. Access the 2015 tip sheet, To Search or Not to Search, on the Coalition's website at (796 KB).