Those embarking on an adoption search usually have lots of questions...and, thanks to the experience we've gained in assisting thousands of adoptees and birth family members, we have lots of answers...Throughout our Web site you'll find specific responses to a wide range of post-adoption concerns. This FAQ is designed to cover some of the questions that aren't covered elsewhere on this site...and address some of the moral and legal issues that can often stall, complicate or doom a possible search or reunion...
We'll start with what is probably THE most frequently asked question about adoption searching...
Q: Is all this legal?
A: There is a lot of misconception about what adoptees, adoptive parents and birth parents seeking to locate one another can legally do under current statute. If you possess the name of your birth parents...or the date of birth of a child you relinquished for adoption, there is nothing in Illinois statute that prohibits you from using that information to locate a biological family member... What the law prohibits is accessing information (that is often duplicated elsewhere) contained in sealed records without prior approval of the court.
Q: How likely am I to locate the person I'm looking for?
A: The national databases used in adoption searches can locate persons for whom you possess one or more of the following:
If you possess complete and accurate information for all 8 of these criteria, your chances of locating the object of your search are about 99%. If you only have accurate answers to half of these questions...or have only half the information required, your chances of successfully resolving the search diminish accordingly. To calculate your chances of successfully locating the object of your search, give yourself 10 points for each piece of information on the above list that you possess...Add an additional 10 points if the person's first or last name is uncommon...and subtract 10 points if the surname is extremely common. Your score should give you a pretty good idea of your chances of completing your search successfully...
Q: How much does it cost to search?
A: The cost of an adoption search can vary widely...from as little as a few dollars (for those lucky enough to be looking for a male with an uncommon name who just happens to be listed at www.whitepages.com) to several hundred (for those unlucky enough to be looking for a female with a very common first name and an unlisted phone number). Generally speaking, the higher you scored on the preceding search criteria test, the less it should cost you to complete your search. Agency and state programs usually come with a $250 to $500 price tag. Some private searchers charge less than $150 (there is a minimum $75 fee for White Oak's search assistance program), but the "going rate" for private searchers is currently between $300 and $500. It usually costs less to search for males (who don't change their name when they marry) than females...and it's easier (i.e. less expensive) to locate younger females than older ones (who may have changed their surname 2 or 3 times).
Q: Can I search without involving my adoptive parents?
A: This is a question frequently asked by adoptees in the initial stages of searching. The answer is usually, "yes," particularly now now that all adoptees over the age of 21 have access to their original birth certificates. In the majority of cases, it is possible for an adoptee to search without involving his/her adoptive parents (a lot depends on where and when the adoption took place). BUT, in most cases, adoptive parents can be very helpful in filling in a number of search criteria blanks. Approaching this issue honestly with your adoptive parents can also help foster stronger family bonds... But, yes, it can be done...
Q: What if I locate my birth mother/birth child and then change my mind about making contact?
A: The decision of whether or not to make contact with a relative who's been located is a very personal one. It is not uncommon for searches to be completed in two or more distinct phases...with long periods of inactivity between each stop and start...But once you've initiated contact with a birth family member, changing your mind about meeting them can be downright cruel...and may compromise your chances of making contact with them in the future--as well as make it nearly impossible to obtain life-saving medical background information.