Adoption Search and Disclosure

Catholic Charities provides search and disclosure services for adult adoptees whose adoption was planned through our agency. Catholic Charities will assist with search and disclosure services. We can also prepare non-identifying reports and offer counseling to adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents.

What are the steps I need to take to initiate a search?

To initiate a search, the first step is to file an Adoptee Application for Disclosure with the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS). This form can be downloaded from their website www.dss.state.va.us   The form should be completed, notarized and returned to VDSS, 801 East Main Street, Adoption Reports Unit, Richmond, VA 23219.  Once the application has been processed, VDSS will issue Catholic Charities of Eastern Virginia, Inc. a Letter of Appointment.  This assigns our agency to locate and advise the birth mother, birth father and adult birth siblings of the adoptee’s request for contact. Prior to beginning the search, you will receive a packet from our agency which will include a Questionnaire, a Financial Agreement for post-adoption services, a Client Intake Form and a Complaint Resolution Process form.  These forms need to be completed and returned to our office along with the fee.  Identifying information from closed adoption records cannot be released to you without good cause. Agreement from the birth family members to the sharing of identifying information is considered good cause. Therefore, the purpose of the search is to determine whether the birth family members on whom you wish to have information are willing to give consent to have information that would identify them released to you. The agency has eight months to conduct the search. Additional time can be granted to complete the search when there is good cause. Once the search is complete, the agency will send a report to VDSS with a recommendation about whether to grant or deny the Adoptee Application for Disclosure. Disclosure means that the identifying contact information is shared between the adoptee and birth relatives. This action will not be conducted until VDSS gives permission. Applications are usually denied when birth family members are not located, do not give consent, or are deceased. If a birth parent is deceased and it can be determined that an adult sibling was aware of the adoption, then the sibling can be contacted and made aware of the adoptee’s desire for contact. The same process would need to be followed. The adult birth sibling would need to give consent to have information that would identify them released to you. The adult birth sibling does not have to agree to contact.

How is my birth family contacted?

After reviewing your adoption file, the social worker will send letters to the birth parents.  The social worker will also try to contact the birth parents by phone if that information is available.  The social worker may also try to locate the birth parents through other relatives that may be named in the file.

How long does it usually take to locate the birth parents?

It varies with each situation.  This is a process that may take several weeks or months to locate the birth

parents.  In some cases, the birth parent may not respond to letters or phone calls immediately or may not respond at all.  In many cases the birth parent will need time to think through what response they are most comfortable with.  Whether or not a birth parent wants to meet depends on many circumstances. The birth mother,  for example, may not want to disclose information because she never told anyone about the adoption. There is no way to know whether a birth parent will want to meet or correspond until contact is made. If the birth parent is reluctant to meet the adoptee or agree to disclosure, the social worker will explore the options of receiving a non-identifying letter or photo from the adoptee or sending a non-identifying letter or photo to the adoptee.  This exchange is done thru the agency.

If my birth parents are located and do not want to meet or correspond with me, is it possible to learn my background and medical information?

The social worker can provide the non-identifying background information and medical information that is in the file. This information would be the information obtained from the birth parents at the time the agency worked with them during the pregnancy and immediately afterwards. Current medical information can only be shared if the birth parents are willing to provide that information.

Is there a fee for search services and what does the fee cover?

The fee for conducting a search is $300 and the fee for preparing the non-identifying information is $150.  You can choose these services together or individually. Once we have received the fee and the other completed documents we will begin your search. The fee covers the social worker’s time to conduct the search, the technology needed for the search and counseling services. The fee also covers the cost of reviewing and sorting through the file to locate the birth family’s identifying information. It also offsets the cost of technology used to locate current contact information for the birth family, as well as the social worker’s time spent contacting the birth family, facilitating the exchange of non-identifying information, medical information and the reunion. The fee also pays for the counseling that is provided to the adoptee and the birth parents throughout this process.

If I am birth parent looking to reconnect with the child I made a plan of adoption for years ago, what can I do?

If you made a plan of adoption for a child you can contact our agency.  If you would like to write a letter to your birth child, the agency will place the letter in the adoption file. Birth parents can also send letters to VDSS to be included in their child’s adoption record. If and when the adopted child contacts the agency, the letter will be shared with him/her. Many adoptees will begin the search process after reading letters from the birth family. For adoptions finalized on or after July 1, 1994, when the adult adoptee is twenty-one years of age or older, the birth parents may apply to  VDSS for identifying information on the adoptee, such as his/her current name and address. Good cause must be shown for the release of this information. Good cause means consent of the adoptee on which identifying information is being sought. Birth parents have the right to request that an attempt be made by the agency to convey critical medical, psychological and genetic information to the adult adoptee or adoptive parents. However, a physician or licensed mental health provider must certify in writing, with a clear explanation as to the reasons, that it is critical that the information be conveyed. Confidentiality of all parties will be maintained by our agency. Our agency can act as an intermediary for the purpose of exchanging pictures and non-identifying information, such as letters, with the adoptive parents. The birth parents and adoptive parents must both sign a written agreement to that effect.