For some, it is a medical need to know.
For others, it is the desire to put life’s jigsaw puzzle pieces together.
For these and other reasons, adoption information provides answers to long-held questions about lives and families.
In Texas, adoption records are confidential and court records sealed. People usually have little or no information about their birth parents, siblings or children placed for adoption.
But for those looking for information, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) offers a chance to be matched with birth family members. The Texas Vital Statistics Central Adoption Registry can reunite adult adoptees with birth parents or siblings who sign up looking for each other.
“The registry is unique in that we have the authority, without a court order, to view a sealed file and confidential record,” said Patricia Molina, DSHS program administrator for the registry. “This ability allows us to match two biologically related people. A match occurs only when an adopted person and the birth parent or a biological sibling voluntarily register.”
Once a match is made, a letter is sent to each person with the results. But before information is exchanged, everyone is required to complete a one-hour counseling session that educates and prepares them for the reunion. DSHS will help people find a counselor.
“The counseling will help identify a support system as the reunion progresses, whether the husband, wife or other children will be supportive, what they see as the best and worse outcome from a reunion and what they want the outcome to be,” Molina said.
After the counseling session, each person prepares a personal history with photographs such as baby pictures, school and family photos. The biographies are then shared with each participant at the same time that the identifying information is exchanged.
“These biographies establish a foundation for the reunion,” said Molina. “People may see that they look like their birth mother or have the same nose or chin as a sibling.”
Molina said that there are stages to a reunion, often beginning with a honeymoon phase. She said that people may need to set boundaries and outline how far they want the relationship to go. Some people, she said, may decide at some point to end the relationship.
“Adoption is a life-long process,” Molina said. “Some people may want to know more as they grow older, often starting with wanting to know only medical history but later wanting contact.”
Although the adoptive parents are not a part of the registry, adoptees are encouraged to share information with their adoptive families.
The DSHS registry, which began in 1984, has registered more than 8,100 people looking for one another, including adult adoptees, birth mothers, adult siblings and birth fathers. About three times as many adoptees are registered as are birth mothers. “We make about 20 to 30 matches a year,” Molina said.
For a person to become a part of the Central Adoption Registry they must:
n Have been adopted in Texas or have been born in Texas and adopted in another state or
n Be the birth parent or sibling of an adoptee
n Be 18 years old or older and
n Provide proof of age and identity with a copy of a birth certificate and a valid government-issued photo ID.
To get an application, write the Central Adoption Registry (MC 1966), P.O. Box 149347, Austin, TX 78714-9347; call (512) 458-7388 or toll free (888) 963-7111, ext. 7388; or download an application online at www.dshs.state.tx.us/vs/reqproc/adoptionregistry.shtm. Cost to be in the registry is $30 but may be waived or reduced.