4614 Prospect Avenue, Ste. 550
Cleveland, OH 44103

Search Assistance

Searching for one's birth family is a personal and important life event that is unique to each individual. Adoption Network Cleveland: The Ohio Family Connection is an experienced, trusted, reliable search resource for adult adoptees, birthparents, birth siblings, and others who are interested in searching for their relative(s). The wrap-around support provided by our knowledgeable staff, and the breadth of resources available, round out our unique and holistic approach.

"Armed with the information and direction provided, I felt inspired and motivated, and appreciate the encouragement and support along the way." - an adoptee

While our expertise is focused on Ohio, our knowledgeable staff has assisted in searches beyond our state borders. Contact Traci Onders, Search Specialist, at (216) 482-2323  or traci.onders@adoptionnetwork.org for a confidential  personalized consultation at no cost. 

Important Considerations

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, for your immediate family and for whomever you may find, as well as for the completed search and post-reunion period.
  • Discretion and confidentiality are important.  Adoption usually carries some hard details and is not something that happens when all conditions are ideal. A birthparent who has relinquished may not have told their immediate or extended family. If possible, initial contact with the person that you are searching for should be with that person directly and not a spouse, child, sibling, parent, or extended family member.
  • Meet people where they are and do not 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.

Steps for a Successful Search

  • Start a file or notebook for your search. Record names and dates of everyone you speak with and keep all emails, letters, documents, etc.
  • Obtain all documents to which you are entitled. This can vary by state, research what you are entitled to in the state you were born, and in the state which handled your adoption. In some states, such as Ohio, adoptees can request their original birth certificate. Ohio Adoption Forms can be found below.
  • Contact the Probate Court that handled your adoption and request the name of the agency that handled your adoption and any non-identifying information the court can provide. If you know the agency that handled your adoption, contact the agency and request non-identifying information, as provided by the Ohio Code regarding Non-identifying Information.

Searching for birth family or an adoptee is not only a technical process but an emotional journey as well.

  • Assess and develop your support system. Connect to Adoption Network Cleveland’s support system—attend General Discussion Meetings, join our online Virtual General Discussion Meeting or let us assist you in finding a local adoption support group or an adoption competent therapist in your state/area.

  • Acknowledge it can be emotional for the person on the other end of the search, the person being found. Making efforts to understand the perspectives of all triad members can be extremely beneficial when reaching out, allowing one to prepare for possible responses. Adoption reunion is often referred to as an emotional roller coaster with good reason. Having knowledge of the core issues can help normalize that experience.

  • Read recommended books about adoption, search, and reunion. Some are listed below and more can be found on our Recommended Resource list.

  • The Adoption Reunion Survival Guide, by Julie Jarrell Bailey and Lynn Giddens
  • Birthright: The Guide to Search and Reunion, by Jean Strauss
  • The Girls Who Went Away, by Anne Fessler
  • Lost and Found, by Betty Jean Lifton
  • Primal Wound, by Nancy Newton Verrier
  • Seven Core Issues in Adoption and Permanency by Sharon Kaplan Roszia & Allison Davis Maxon

Forms for Adoption Searches

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

DNA

DNA tests are powerful adoption search tools for adoptees looking for birth families. For birth family looking for an adoptee, taking DNA tests can be an important way to enable an adoptee to find their birth family.   

Our Search Assistance program can help you develop a testing plan, understand your test results, and understand how to use your results to find your birthparents. Our approach provides experienced guidance on reaching out to DNA relative matches.

We have assisted in many adoption searches using DNA, as well as a variety of other searches, including those with misattributed parentage. Commonly referred to as MPE, this can occur when someone learns that a parent is not a biological parent and can include late discovery adoptees, donor-conceived individuals, or someone who has a different biological father than the person on their birth certificate.

To learn more about using DNA to search for birth family, read these two blogs by Traci Onders, DNA is a Game Changer and Important Things to Remember When Your Results Arrive

Making Contact

If your search is complete and you are planning to make contact with birth relatives, read our Making Contact Guide. This guide combines our decades of experiences with search and reunion and may give you some insight into how to approach the contact.

Resources

Additional resources can be found through our Resources for Adult Adoptees and Birthparents.