5 Steps To Find An Adopted Child

Many doors are open, all you have to do is try.

Reviewed by Dr. Kimberly A. Ludwigsen, PhD, MEd, MSW, CST, LCSW Dr. Kimberly A. Ludwigsen Dr. Kimberly A. LudwigsenPhD, MEd, MSW, CST, LCSW Specialty: Clinical Social Work/Therapist Experience: 22 years
Written by sanjana lagudu
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Adoption is complicated, but it is also rich with narratives of strength. – Jillian Lauren

Couples resort to child adoption due to several reasons. This post will tell you how to find an adopted child and get more information about them. People often think it’s impossible to love an adopted child the way you would love the child who bears your blood, but this is a myth. You can care about your adopted children and love them just as much as any other parent would love the child who carries their genes. Keep reading as we share information about the adopted child and their adoptive family.

How To Find An Adopted Child?

At the time of adoption, most birth parents are provided a choice between open and semi-open adoption processes. The process of finding your child depends on the choice you made. 

  1. Open adoption: Open adoption allows birth parents to maintain some contact with their child and adoptive parents. The biological mothers are usually sent the child’s photos periodically, and if the agreement specifies, she can get further details about the child. In such cases, it becomes easier for the parent to find the child.

If you had chosen an open adoption, but lost the details of the adoptive family, then you can contact the adoption agency, lawyer, or social worker who helped with the adoption process.

  1. Closed adoption: Finding a child becomes difficult in a closed adoption as the details of the birth parents are kept a secret. In this case, you should first know the state and federal adoption rules related to the matter. Different states have different laws pertaining to the birth family’s right to know the details of the adopted children.

Once you have an idea of the rules, then you may take the following steps to find your child:

1. Reach out to the adoption agency

Check with the agency, person, or support group that facilitated the adoption process. They are likely to maintain the original adoption documents, records, or files, which contain information, such as the last name of the family, the names of the adoptive parents, or any other information related to the history of the adoptive family. You can access this info only if the privacy laws of the state permit it. You can also get leads by visiting the adoption wing of the Department of Social Services, where the adoption occurred.

2. Learn more about state regulations

Birth parents need to follow the procedures given within the state laws to access confidential content from the adoption records (1). Here are some highlights of such laws in the US.

  • About 26 states permit birth parents to access non-identifying information about the adopted person.
  • Some 15 states further permit birth family members, such as an adult sibling, to access more information.
  • States, such as Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and New York, make it mandatory for a person to register with the state adoption registry if the person wishes to access non-identifying information.
  • In Guam, one needs to place a petition in the court and seek its approval to access information.
  • Some states, such as Pennsylvania, allow access to non-identifying information through court, registry, or adoption agency that handled adoption proceedings (2).
  • Several states also maintain online adoption registries.

In all these cases, a county court clerk can provide information about the prevailing state laws to access any sealed adoption records.

3. Contact the county court clerk

The court clerk at your county can provide you with more information about the legal process and other legal avenues to know about your child. The clerk might help you obtain adoption records beyond the ones that you could access at the adoption agency. They can also provide details of the judge or the adoption caseworker who cleared the adoption.

4. Check for adoption reunion resources

Even as you go through the legal procedure to find an adopted child, you can also consider registering on several online adoption reunion services. These services (some of them paid) allow individuals to maintain a record of changes in names, addresses, and other identifying information. If the child’s adoptive parents are part of a family or adoption reunion service, then there you can find information about the child.

For example, you may visit the International Soundex Reunion Registry (ISRR), a non-profit humanitarian organization, and search for the name of your birth child or their adoptive family members.

You can also consider joining support groups, especially those around the regions where you had placed the child for adoption. These groups can provide you significant leads that let you inch closer towards your reunion with your birth child.

5. Explore social media

Social media and other online platforms can help search for your child.

  • If you have the child’s birth name, adoptive name, or the names of their adoptive parents, then you can explore social media for their profiles. If the child is in their teens, then their likelihood to be present on social media platforms is high.
  • Take the help of your friends, family, and other acquaintances to spread the word on social media. Families maintain a healthy relationship with the child’s birth parents through the use of technology (3).

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What happens when an adopted child turns 18?

When an adopted child turns 18, they may be curious to learn about their roots. Hence, they can choose to seek out their biological parents if they wish to do so, depending on state rules.

2. What is adopted child syndrome?

Adopted child syndrome causes specific behaviors that may be uniquely observed in adopted children. These behaviors include bonding issues, defiance of authority, and lying. Though this term has not received complete acceptance, many researchers state that adopted children have a higher tendency of displaying such behaviors (4).

Fortunately, these days, adoption is not as complicated a process as it was a few decades ago. There are more resources to help you connect with an adoption agency and with the above article on “how to find an adopted child,” you can have a head start on the process. However, it might still be a long and tiring process to find a good family for the child. To help through the process, you can try to join support groups to connect with your fellow adoptees. This would also allow you to estimate and correct your strategies for finding an adopted child.

Key Pointers

  • For finding a child for adoption, you may need to choose between the open adoption and closed adoption options.
  • You will need to know about the federal adoption laws of your state as they vary from one state to the other.
  • Reach out to an adoption agency and contact the country court clerk to understand the legal procedures.


1. Obtaining Birth and/or Adoption Records; Child Welfare Information Gateway
2. Access to Adoption Records; US Department of Health and Human Services
3. Library Search Results; Child Welfare Information Gateway
4. Jerome Smith; The Adopted Child Syndrome: A Methodological Perspective; Sage journals
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Dr. Kimberly A. Ludwigsen
Dr. Kimberly A. LudwigsenPhD, MEd, MSW, CST, LCSW
Dr. Kimberly Ludwigsen did her Master’s in Social Work (MSW) from the University of Pennsylvania, followed by a doctorate in Human Sexuality from the Widener University. In addition, she obtained certificates in couples and family therapy and sex therapy from the Council for Relationships, Philadelphia.

Read full bio of Dr. Kimberly A. Ludwigsen
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