According to the New York Adoption Center, there are approximately 127,000 children adopted in the U.S each year. Adoption is the legal act of permanently placing a child with a parent or parents other then their birth parents. Adoption results in the severing of the parental responsibilities of the biological parents and placing those responsibilities and rights onto the adopted parents. When a mother gives up her child for adoption, she signs a legal document called a surrender or termination of her parental rights. The birth father may not be involved in the decision. In fact, the birth father may not even be aware of the circumstances.
There may come a time when adoptees may become curious of the identity of their biological parents, in order to learn about their true heritage, and even medical history. Conversely, the natural parents may decide to attempt to locate their child, for the peace of mind that the child was placed in the hands of responsible parents. Sometimes the birth mother may not even be aware if the baby lived or died.
The adoption records are located in the courthouse, usually within the jurisdiction of where the adoption took place. Unfortunately, in most states, adoption records are sealed, and the researcher would need a court order, in order to open the records. There are only eight states that have open adoption laws, allowing for identifying information, when the adoptee becomes of legal age:
- New Hampshire
Some states provide partial information, which is referred to as non-identifying information. The courts may provide information regarding the biological parents, such as:
- The date and place of the adoptees’ birth
- Age of the birth parents
- Race, ethnicity, religion and medical history of the birth parents.
- Educational level of the biological parents
- Reason for adoption.
However, even the states that do provide non-identifying information regarding the biological parents, each state has their own set of criteria that may place limitations and information, a move that some adotpees refuse to do for personal reasons.
Due to the many restrictions and limitations, and the varying amounts of laws within each state, adoption information is one of the most difficult searches to undertake. Thus, many adoptees, as well as biological parents, retain the services of an experienced private investigator, who is familiar with the different laws and restrictions within their respective state. The majority of the people who call private investigators will, most likely have only limited information, if any at all. It is the responsibility of the investigator to advise the potential client that the adoption search will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and there is no set of rules that will apply to each search. There is no database that a private investigator can use that would provide the necessary information. Even if the potential client was able to obtain a copy of the original birth certificate, the information may date back many years, and there is always the possibility that the mother may have changed her name since the time of the adoption.
Working on an adoption case can be very rewarding for a private investigator. However, the assignment may become expensive and time consuming. Prior to taking on the assignment and retaining the client, it is the responsibility of the experienced private investigator to explain all of the facts and challenges, not to mention the emotional factors involved, when working on such a case. The responsible investigator may even decide to pass up the case, if the potential client had very limited information. The client will certainly be appreciative of the openness of the investigator.