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Adult Adoptee & Birthparent Hub

Search and Reunion

Are you considering searching for birth relatives or trying to decide if this is something you want to do? Want to more know about what is involved?

Founded in 1988, Adoption Network Cleveland: The Ohio Family Connection is an experienced, trusted, reliable search resource.  The wrap-around support provided by our knowledgeable staff, and the breadth of resources available through Adoption Network Cleveland round out our unique and holistic approach.

Preparing to Search

When embarking on a search, it’s important to consider some of the following for self-preparation:

  • Prepare for all possibilities. This means everything from best case to worst case, including acknowledging that not everyone wants to be found, others will be thrilled, and everything in between.
  • Maintain realistic expectations—for yourself, your immediate family and whomever you may find, for the completed search and post-reunion period.
  • Meet people where they are at and don’t make assumptions.  Let people tell their own stories.
  • Know your own boundaries and respect the boundaries and wishes of others.
  • Have a support system in place. This may include helping your family and friends understand what you are going through, searching out support/discussion groups, reading books, or having an adoption competent therapist.
  • Have patience and be resilient. Searching can be time-consuming and emotionally draining.

Who Can Search?

  • Adult adoptees
  • Birthparents of adoptees 18 years old and over
  • Siblings or extended relatives
  • Adoptive parents on behalf of their minor child
  • Lineal descendants of adoptees

Preparing to Search

  • Contact Traci Onders, Program Coordinator, Adult Adoptees and Birthparents at Adoption Network Cleveland for a free individualized consultation to discuss how to get started.
  • Connect to Adoption Network Cleveland’s support system—attend General Discussion Meetings; join our online Virtual Meeting or let us assist you in finding a local adoption support group or an adoption competent therapist in your state/area if needed
  • Read books about adoption, search, and reunion.  Here is a curated list of recommended books and websites to get you started
  • Read our FAQs. More detailed questions about searching can be found here, and individual questions can be addressed by contacting Traci Onders at or (216) 482-2323.

Download our Search Assistance Flyer.

Benefits of Searching With Adoption Network Cleveland

Since being founded in 1988, Adoption Network Cleveland has successfully helped thousands of adult adoptees, birthparents, siblings and extended families find one another. Our assistance includes providing information on public records, search techniques, guidance and emotional support throughout your search and beyond.

Adoption Network Cleveland:

  • Has 30 years of experience with searches.
  • Has been involved in all legislative changes regarding adoption law in Ohio during that time, including spearheading legislation for Ohio adult adoptees to access to their original birth certificates.
  • Provides individualized support and guidance throughout your search until completion and beyond
  • Shares expertise in best practices about making initial contact, once your search is completed, through individual consultation where suggestions and recommendations are presented based on our years of experience
  • Provides private and confidential help with sensitivity to all involved.
  • Gives you access to information gathered from multiple reliable and safe paid subscription sites and resources.

Our expertise is in Ohio, but we may have helped in many searches beyond our state borders. To see if we can help in your search, contacting Traci Onders at or (216) 482-2323 for a confidential personalized consultation at no cost.

Adoption Network Cleveland Search Requirements

In order to get started with us in a search, we require from all people: a 1-year Search Membership ($100), which includes ongoing support and individualized search assistance. An optional Renewal Membership ($40/individual or $50/family) is also available for subsequent years.

We recognize that not everyone may be able to purchase or renew a membership at one of the set membership levels. We will not turn anyone away due to an inability to pay, so if you would like to purchase or renew a membership at a reduced rate, or if you have questions regarding paying for membership, please contact Traci Onders.

Other recommended steps:

  • Request your non-identifying information from the agency that handled your adoption. If you have trouble getting your information, we can help.
  • Register with the International Soundex Reunion Registry at 888-886-ISSR or online at
  • Complete a form with search-related information for adoptees or birthparents or siblings and return it to Traci Onders, Program Coordinator for Adult Adoptees and Birthparents, at Adoption Network Cleveland.
  • Visit the Ohio Department of Vital Statistics website to download the paperwork to request your original birth certificate. If you are a birthparent you can file a Contact Preference Form to give your adult child direct contact information should they request their record.
  • Attend at least two of our General Support and Discussion Meetings in person or as a virtual participant.
  • Manage your own search with the assistance of Traci Onders, Program Coordinator for Adult Adoptees and Birthparents, at or (216) 482-2323, either through individual appointments to discuss your search at our office or telephone and/or email guidance and support.

Accessing Birth Certificates

Forms and detailed information are available on the Ohio Department of Health website.

Forms available to be submitted by the adoptee:

Application for Adoption File (HEA 3011)
Authorization of Release of Adopted Name (HEA 3036)
Rescission of Authorization of Release of Adopted Name (HEA 3037)

Forms available to be submitted by the lineal descendants of an adoptee:
Application for Adoption File (HEA 3011)

Form available to be submitted by the birthparent:
Birthparent Information Packet (which includes Contact Preference Form, Social and Medical History Form, and Application for Release of Adopted Name)


Genetic genealogy has revolutionized the adoption search process. Adoptees with little or no information about their birth families are learning their ethnic ancestry and uncovering biological relatives of varying degrees that can lead to their birth families.

New DNA tests are powerful adoption search tools for adoptees looking for birth families. Contact Traci Onders to discuss using DNA in your search and to see if we can help.

Things to consider before using DNA:

Some things to know about DNA specific to connecting with family members:

Making Contact

If your search is complete and planning to make contact with birth relatives, read Adoption Network Cleveland's Making Contact Guide. This is based on our decades of experiences with search and reunion and may give you some insight into how to approach the contact.

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