Adoption: Deciding to Search for Your Birth Family

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If you are adopted, it is possible that you might not know who your birth parents are because you were adopted at a very young age. As you get older, an important part of figuring out who you are is where you came from and the history of your family. You might decide you want to find your birth parents. This does not dishonor your adoptive family; they are and will always be a very important part of your life.

Before you begin, it is important to understand the laws that surround adoption. There are different types of adoptions in the United States today. An open adoption is where the birth parents are involved in selecting who the adoptive parents will be for their child. The birth parents and the adoptive family typically speak prior to, and even after, the child is born. In some cases, they agree to exchange pictures and letters over the years. In a closed adoption, the adoptive family and birth mother remain confidential, with absolutely no contact. The birth mother allows a state-run agency or a private agency to select the adoptive family. Being in a closed adoption increases the chances that your adoptive parents may not know any identifying information about your birth mother or father.

Deciding to search for your birth parents is a big decision. Think through your expectations, and how you will deal with them if they’re not met. Consider the reactions of both your adoptive parents and your birth parents. Prepare yourself mentally and emotionally. How will you feel? What will you say to your birth family? Check out the Barker Foundation website for more things to consider.

It is normal to feel worried about how your adoptive parents will react to your search. Talk to your adoptive parents to sort out any concerns. Your adoptive parents may be a good support for you if you decide to search for your birth parents, but there is also a chance that your adoptive parents will not be supportive. If this is the case, it is still ultimately your decision, and you should let them know that your decision has nothing to do with how you feel about them. Chances are they just need a little time to adjust.

Whatever you decide, it is important you make the decision that is best for you and have support to manage all possible outcomes. Meeting your birth parents may not change the way you feel about being adopted. It takes time to work through those feelings.

It may be helpful to talk through your feelings with someone. This could be a friend, family member, or someone who is not so close to you like a counselor or teacher. If you would rather speak with someone anonymously, you could call The Boys Town National Hotline at 1-800-448-3000.

Acknowledgement: This fact sheet was originally developed by youth and staff at, a website that helps teens get through tough times. 


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