In the adoption lexicon, you’ll hear the phrase reunion registry referred to quite a bit—especially by birth parents and by adoptees. The birth parents may be seeking to find information on the children for whom they made adoption plans decades earlier. The adoptees may be desiring to meet their birth parents, searching for their biological roots, or seeking information about family health history and genetic predispositions to certain diseases. For whatever reason, reunion is sought: And registries provide answers.
Reunion Registry Defined
The term reunion registry means, essentially, a vehicle that enables birth parents and adoptees to meet for the first time since the child’s birth. In the case of adoptees seeking information about birth families, those adoptees must be of adult age (at least age 18) before they can be given any identifying information about their birth family.
A reunion registry is facilitated by many types of organizations: nonprofits, private businesses, foundations, social service organizations, and government agencies. Such registries are available only in those countries that still practice closed adoption (a process in which the full identities of adoptive families, birth children, and birth parents are not provided to one another)—or once practiced it, even though they practice it no more.
Reunion registries run by private businesses—typically managed by actual members of the adoption community—are known (anecdotally) to be more successful than government-run programs. More marketing and public awareness campaigns are done about these private reunion registries, which of course increases the odds of success. However well-run a government reunion registry might be, if it’s not advertised and word is not gotten out about its existence, applicants will be few and far between. The most successful of such privately run reunion registries is the International Soundex Reunion Registry (ISRR), discussed in greater detail below.
Some reunion registries are what is known as “passive” registries—that is, both sides of a family need to be registered in order for contact to occur.
Laws Dictating the Release of Information
Laws about information release vary from country to country. In the United States, the laws vary from state to state regarding whether information can actually be released to applicants (be they adoptees or birth families). Some states have an adoption registry—this means that both the birth parent and the adopted adult must be registered with this registry in order for the two parties to find one another through this resource. Other states do not have official state adoption registries but do provide information upon request (for example, if an adopted adult asks for information on his or her birth family, the state will then reach out to that family and ask for consent for a reunion). When both parties agree to a reunion, that’s known as mutual consent.
All provinces in Canada have some type of reunion registry. But it varies, province to province. In British Columbia, Newfoundland, and Ontario, adult adoptees can access their own birth records and adoption paperwork as long as a disclosure veto has not been filed. The remaining provinces are much more limited in terms of what information they allow applicants to obtain.
In the United Kingdom, adoption law now permits open adoptions. All individuals have the right to access their own records, and a state-run reunion registry now exists.
What Is Mutual Consent?
Mutual consent may or may not be required by a registry. It varies depending on the registry and, in some cases, state law. Some reunion registries function only on the condition of mutual consent by both parties—the registry works to find matches based solely on information provided by the applicants themselves (and, by “applicants” we mean both parties). In the case of reunion registries run by government agencies, mutual consent is not needed because the agency already has the original documents (for example, an adopted adult is seeking her birth mother; she reaches out to a government agency, who has access to the original birth records).
The costs to join such registries vary. Some are free, such as the International Soundex Reunion Registry (ISRR). Some charge fees that will then enable you to become official active members, search their site, and register with identifying information that allows others to get in touch with you and vice versa. I recommend starting with the free ones first. In the case of reunion registries, just because it carries a cost doesn’t mean it’s a higher quality search service than the free ones. Start with the free ones.
ISSR: The Largest Free Registry
Per their website, “ISSR is the oldest free mutual consent reunion registry, and the largest of its kind. Since it began in 1975, we always recommend that everyone seeking family cover ALL their bases and register anywhere that the party they seek may possibly be registered. It is difficult to know just what someone else may have heard about. So, it is best to do everything you can to let them know you are available for contact.” Check out ISSR on the web.
Other FREE Reunion Registries
Here are some other free reunion registries that can get you started on finding your birth children and/or parents. There’s even a Facebook page dedicated to reuniting birth families!
- Adoption.com’s Adoption Reunion Registry
- Find My Family Adoption Reunion Registry (this one’s unique because it’s actually a Facebook page)
- G’s Adoption Registry
- Georgia Adoption Reunion Registry (a good example of a state reunion registry—and remember, this is just one of many examples)
For More Information . . .
Have you got the bug to start searching? Look no further than the Search and Reunion section of the Adoption.com website. On this site, you might want to start with the Search and Reunion Guide—a tour through the basic steps of finding your biological relatives. From there, you can move on to more specific actions. Sign up to be part of the site’s free reunion registry. Jump into a reunion forum discussion, and connect with people in a similar situation. Read articles on search and reunion. You can even get a referral to a qualified adoption detective, who will do the work for you and help you find answers to those lifelong questions. Read stories of search and reunion by downloading Reunited: 19 Stories of Search and Reunion, an eBook filled with inspiring stories and motivation to keep going.
For adult adoptees and birth parents alike, when reunion is sought, in many cases reunion registries really do provide answers. Good luck!
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