Tips for searching for birth family information in an international adoption

Discover how to search for birth family information in a way that respects and is sensitive to their desire for privacy.

April 30, 2019

Consider this: Adoptive parents, counseled that openness is best for their child’s well-being, are curious about their child’s birth family. They use Google to search for information, including names of extended family members, addresses, dates of birth, and other personal information the birth family may not want to share.

In comparison to adoptions in the U.S., many more international adoptions tend to be closed – meaning minimal contact, if any, is provided between birth family and adoptive family.

Yet, many adoptees understandably seek information about their birth family – such as their level of education, medical history, or economic status. While you may be able to find information online – via Google or social media searches – that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.

If a birth family signed an adoption agreement with the understanding that it would be closed, this could be a violation of their privacy. If you’re an adoptee or adoptive family hoping to reconnect, please be prepared for a scenario in which the birth family may prefer to keep the adoption closed.

Your curiosity is understandable. But searching for information must be done in a way that respects birth parents and is sensitive to their culture and their desire for privacy.

A few reminders:

  • The internet isn’t used the same way across the world. While information may be available online, sharing or searching for personal information may be seen as a breach of trust.
  • Exposing birth parent information could put the birth family at risk in a culture where the pregnancy was surrounded by negative stigma.
  • Sometimes, adoptive families generously give money to birth families who have few resources. Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead other families in poverty to relinquish their child for adoption in desperate hope of receiving financial support to care for their family.

Your adoption service provider can share what culturally-appropriate search services are available. At Bethany, we can help you understand legal boundaries and ethical practices.

We recognize that pursuing openness internationally can be complicated. But, when done carefully and with professional guidance, openness provides an important connection to a child’s history and identity.

If you want to find information about your (or your child’s) birth family, let us help you carefully conduct this search.

Your support changes lives