What to Consider Before Finding Your Birth Parents

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If you’re an adopted child, it’s natural for you to think about your birth parents. You may wonder where they are, what they’re like, why they chose adoption, and what your life would have been like if you lived with them.

This curiosity can sometimes turn into a desire to find your birth parents so you can get answers to your questions. If you think you would like to find your birth parents, these are some of the factors you should consider before you begin the process.

Factors to Consider Before Finding Your Birth Parents

These are some factors to consider before you start looking for your birth parents, according to Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and professor at Yeshiva University.

Your Reasons for Wanting to Find Them

Before you begin the process of looking for your birth parents, it can be helpful to reflect upon your reasons for wanting to find them.

These are some of the most common reasons why people tend to look for their birth parents:

  • Building a relationship with them: Some people hope to build a relationship with their birth parents or find out if they have siblings and establish a relationship with them.
  • Finding out who they are: People often want to know general information about their birth parents. For example, they might be interested in knowing their names, where they live, whether they have any other children, what they do for work or fun, and what they’re like as people in general. They might also be curious about their parents’ lives and whether they are happy.
  • Discovering similarities: Many people are curious about whether their biological relatives share similarities with them, in terms of both physical characteristics and personality traits. They may also be curious about genetic conditions that can affect their own health and the health of their children.
  • Learning about the adoption circumstances: On a deeper level, adopted people may be motivated to understand more about the circumstances around their adoption, such as why their birth parents chose adoption, how they made that decision, and how they feel about it now.
  • Finding the missing link: Sometimes, adoptees may feel like something is missing from their lives and they want to see if reconnecting with birth family will help them.
  • Expressing gratitude: Some adoptees may want to thank their birth parents for giving them a chance at a better life.
  • Navigating major milestones: When significant changes and life transitions happen, the adoptee may feel a need to reach out and reconnect with their roots.

Your reasons for wanting to find your birth parents are likely to be complex and multifold. As you think about your reasons for wanting to find them, it can also be helpful to check in with yourself emotionally.

Are you looking for your birth parents because you’re angry with them for choosing for adoption instead of opting to raise you? Are you content with your life and want to share it with them? Do you feel like you are very different from your adoptive parents and feel the need to connect with your birth parents in order to find your roots?

Your Adoptive Parents’ Feelings

Your adoptive parents might have strong feelings about you wanting to search for your birth parents. They may fear being substituted by your birth parents or may feel protective of you if they think meeting your birth parents may not be good for you.

Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD

While many adoptive parents are supportive of their children’s search for their birth parents, some adoptive parents might feel easily replaced and unintentionally make their children feel guilty for seeking out these relationships.

— Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD

It could be helpful to reassure them that your search for your biological parents is not reflective of your relationship with them or how you feel about them.

In some cases, the adoptive parents may never be okay with it. But remember, you have the power to decide what is best for you.

The Type of Adoption

It’s important to note that the type of adoption your parents opted for can play a role in determining whether you’ll be able to find your birth parents:

  • Open adoption: The birth parents and adoptive parents meet and stay in contact during the pregnancy and sometimes even after the child is born. They may choose to keep in touch via texts, phone calls, photos, or visits. This type of adoption helps adoptees better adjust to the circumstances and develop their identity.
  • Semi-open adoption: Also known as a mediated adoption, this type of adoption is conducted through a mediator such as an adoption agency, a social caseworker, or a lawyer, who passes along information, photos, or letters between the parents, without sharing personal information such as names, addresses, and contact details.
  • Closed adoption: Also known as a confidential adoption, this type of adoption doesn’t allow for any contact between the parents. The adoptive parents are only given non-identifying background and health information pertaining to the birth parents.

The Potential Outcomes

Keep in mind that the reunion could unfold in many different ways:

  • You may not be able to find your birth parents: If the circumstances of your adoption were confidential, or even if you have some of your birth parents’ information, you may not necessarily be able to locate them.
  • Your birth parents may be unwell or deceased: Your birth parents might have serious health issues or could have already passed away. Prepare yourself for these potential outcomes to avoid disappointment.
  • Your birth parents may not want to reconnect: Some birth parents are not interested in reuniting with their biological children or may even deny the existence of them. This can be devastating to the children as it can feel like they’re being rejected by their biological parents all over again. It’s important to accept that we don’t always get the answers we want in life and that we must give ourselves closure in these situations.
  • You may learn something unexpected: You might be surprised by the history of your biological parents. There may be family secrets or gaps in your understanding that make more sense after gathering this information. For instance, you may learn that your birth parent has a criminal record or a substance use disorder. Sometimes adoptees may find out that birth parents or family want to take advantage of them or exploit them, especially if they have a history of exploiting others. Remember that regardless of what you learn, you are still the same person you were before you learned this information.
  • You may be able to build a relationship with them: You may find your birth parents, who are happy to reconnect with you. If you can get along with them and build a relationship with them, it can help you better understand your roots, develop your identity, and grow your family.
  • Your birth parents may have a new family of their own: Sometimes adoptees may find that they experience a lot of emotions seeing that their siblings are having a good life and a good relationship with their birth parents. 
  • You may be disappointed: Sometimes adoptees may feel a sense of regret searching for their family after meeting them. The idea of them may have been better than the reality.

Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD

It’s important to prepare yourself for the happy but also potentially disappointing outcomes of trying to find your birth parents.

— Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD

If you’re trying to find your birth parents, there are several practical and emotional factors to consider. As you grapple with these issues, it can be helpful to perhaps join a support group for adoptees or discuss your thoughts, feelings, and concerns with a mental healthcare provider.

3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Wrobel GM, Grotevant HD, Samek DR, Von Korff L. Adoptees' curiosity and information seeking about birth parents in emerging adulthood. Int J Behav Dev. 2013;37(5):10.1177/0165025413486420. doi:10.1177/0165025413486420

  2. Child Welfare Information Gateway. Could open adoption be the best choice for you and your baby?

  3. Grotevant HD, McRoy RG, Wrobel GM, Ayers-Lopez S. Contact between adoptive and birth families: Perspectives from the Minnesota Texas Adoption Research Project. Child Dev Perspect. 2013;7(3):193-198. doi:10.1111/cdep.12039

By Sanjana Gupta
Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness.