If you are an adopted person and receive a copy of your original birth certificate, you will probably have the name of your birth parent and maybe some other information about him or her at the time you were born. Using that information, you may be able to “search” on your own and locate your birth mother or birth father.
However, if you have not been successful or if you don’t want to do it on your own, the Confidential Intermediary (CI) program is a good option. Illinois law gives a CI access to a lot of non-public information that can result in search success. The cost of service is subsidized by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services in order to make the program available to as many people as possible. Some of the ways that a CI can help you are:
The first thing your Intermediary would do is complete a “Search Assessment” that lists family members for whom you could search. The Search Assessment would list those relatives about whom information was obtained and an evaluation of the likelihood of search success for each of those relatives. To prepare the Search Assessment, the CI uses many privately held and sealed sources of information to which you would not have access on your own, including:
- Your CI is given the original, impounded Court adoption file. These documents may contain valuable information that is not on your OBC.
- If an adoption agency was involved, your CI is given the name of the agency and access to identifying information about your birth family from the adoption agency file
- Your CI is given vital records about your birth family from the Department of Public Health in Illinois and from other states across the county. For example, the CI often receives your birth parents’ birth certificate and marriage and/or divorce information.
- Your CI may also have access to vital records giving names and dates of birth for other children born to your birth mother and/or birth father, your aunts, uncles and/or grandparents.
- The Search Assessment will indicate whether your birth parent is known to be deceased, based on the vital records already received and a check of the Social Security Death Index.
Your CI can search for the relative you select and make an outreach on your behalf. There are many situations in which you might decide to use a Confidential Intermediary rather than searching on your own, including:
If you have located one relative but you would like to try to connect with others, your CI may be able to help.
- The information on your birth certificate may be such that a search will be very difficult. For example, your birth mother’s name may be very common and little other information is on the certificate.
- You may not have the time or resources to complete a search yourself. While some searches are quick and easy, others are complicated, time consuming and can be costly. Because of the Court Order, the CI has access to birth, death, marriage and divorce documents and levels of electronic database information to which the public does not have access. That means that the CI would have dates of birth, social security numbers, and other identifying information that can significantly improve the chances of search success.
- Some people who search are unsure what kind of connection they will want to have. And some “found” birth relatives may be more willing to respond to an outreach if s/he has the option to write to you a few times without exchanging identifying information. You could decide to exchange letters anonymously with your relative through the program while you both decide whether you want to have direct contact. Even if this ‘anonymous correspondence’ does not result in a decision to exchange current contact information, important medical or family history information can be shared.
- You might be concerned that making contact with your birth relative could come as a shock and do not know the best way to do so. For adoptees who feel that way, having an adoption professional make the outreach can be a good option. You would talk with your CI about your hopes for the outreach, questions you would want to ask and information you want shared with your birth relative. Of course, you would have the option of sending a letter to your relative if s/he agrees to receive it.
All CIs are adoption professionals who can provide support for you and your birth relatives during the whole process.
- You may have located one birth parent but not the other. The CI might have access to information about the other birth parent that you were not able to obtain.
- You may have located a birth parent who declines to have a connection with you. The CI may have information about other birth relatives for whom a search could be requested.
- While your Original Birth Certificate may show the name(s) of your birth parent, you usually will not know whether there are other birth relatives for whom a search would be possible. The Search Assessment would give you that information.
- Many adoptees find the emotional support provided by a CI to be helpful and comforting throughout the process of locating a birth relative.
- Many found relatives indicate that the decision to have a connection was made easier because they had a professional to answer their questions and provide support.
- The CI can help by giving suggestions about reading material which focuses on the issues of search and reunion. Adoptees and found relatives tell us that having more information about the process and the typical feelings experienced during the search is extremely helpful.