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Frequently Asked Questions

 

What does it mean to Register?

The registry is a database maintained by the Georgia Adoption Reunion Registry for the purpose of registering your choice to have contact or not have contact with your birth family member. Registration is a free service provided to birth parents, adopted persons, and siblings. Once you have registered for contact, if your birth family member is already registered or registers in the future, we will contact you.

 

Who can register?

Birth parents, adopted persons age 21 and older, and siblings age 21 and older can register with the Georgia Adoption Reunion Registry.

 

My name and/or contact information has changed since my initial registration, what do I do?

The form to update your registration can be found in the relevant Services section of our website. Please have the form notarized before you return it to our office.

 

What is non-identifying information?

This is a summary of information from a sealed adoption file potentially including birth family medical history, information about the adopted person's birth, early childhood development data, reasons for the plan of adoption, and any information about the adopted person's time in foster care, when applicable. It could also include a social history of the birth parent(s) – birth family composition, physical descriptions of birth family members, their characteristics and occupations, etc. Please note that this is not the same as opening a sealed adoption file; this will NOT provide any identifying information about who the birth family members are.

 

Who can receive non-identifying information?

Adopted persons may request the non-identifying information from their own adoption file if they are at least 18 years of age. There is a $35 fee to make this request.
Adoptive parents may request their adopted child's non-identifying information, regardless of the child's age. This is a free service provided to adoptive parents.
The children of deceased adopted persons may also request their parent's non-identifying information. There is a $35 fee to make this request.

 

What if my adoption was finalized before 1941?

Prior to 1941 in the State of Georgia, adoption records were not sealed. If your adoption was finalized in Georgia prior to 1941 you can receive identifying information from your adoption file, providing we are able to locate a file. There is no fee for this service. Prior to 1941, adoption records were retained by the Superior Court in the county where the adoption petition was filed and finalized. This generally would be the county of residence of the adoptive parents at the time of the adoption. However, some finalized adoption records were submitted to the State Office of Adoptions. We have some records prior to 1941. For other files, the court where the adoption took place would need to be contacted. You may also want to contact Georgia Vital Records to see if they can locate your original birth certificate.

 

How can I get identifying information?

No identifying information can be shared until both parties, the person searching and the person being sought, have signed and notarized Consent to Contact forms giving the Georgia Adoption Reunion Registry permission to release such information. If this is the information you are seeking, we recommend you request a search for your birth family member. Please visit the relevant section of the Services page in order to find the necessary form(s).

 

How does the search process work?

If you are an adopted person or the child of a deceased adopted person requesting a search, you must first request non-identifying information before a search can begin. Once we receive all of the necessary paperwork to begin a search, we submit your request to the state to locate the adoption file linked to the person you are searching for. Once we have that file, we will use the identifying information from the file to locate the current contact information of the person you are searching for. The Adoption Reunion Specialist working on your case will attempt to get in touch with that person by phone. Once the person's identity has been verified, the Adoption Reunion Specialist will explain the purpose of the call and read the letter you wrote to him/her. The Adoption Reunion Specialist will explain the options for contact with you – direct, intermediary, or no contact – with the understanding that he/she can take however much time he/she needs to make his/her decision. The Adoption Reunion Specialist will then try to ask for any information he/she would be willing to share with you based on the list of questions you submitted to us on your search request form. You will be contacted as soon as the phone call is completed and we will share the information that was provided with you.

 

Who can search?

Birth parents may choose to search for the child they placed for adoption once that child has turned 21 years old.
Adopted persons may choose to search for their birth parent(s) and/or any siblings they may have, once they have turned 21 and have requested or received their non-identifying information.
Siblings who were separated by adoption may search for each other. The sibling who is searching must be at least 21 years old and the sibling he/she is looking for must be at least 18 years old.
The children of deceased adopted persons may search for their parent's birth family members if they are at least 21 years old and once they have requested or received their parent's non-identifying information.
The parent(s) and/or sibling(s) of deceased birth parents may request a search for the child that was placed for adoption once that child has turned 21.

 

How successful are your searches?

Because we have direct access to sealed adoption records, our success rate in locating people is 90-95%. Of those that are found, approximately the same percentage of people agrees to some form of contact.

 

Why does the Georgia Adoption Reunion Registry have access to sealed adoption records?

A change in the law in Georgia in 1990 set up the program of the Georgia Adoption Reunion Registry. Because this is a state mandated program, we have direct access to sealed adoption records.

 

How long does it take to do a search and how much does it cost?

Searches typically take 1-6 months to complete. There is a non-refundable $300 search fee per family member to be searched for. You may submit a check or money order made payable to Families First along with your service request form(s) or you may pay with your Visa or MasterCard over the phone once your request forms have been received.

 

What if I can't afford the fee for services?

If you are unable to afford any or all of our fees, we can provide free services to you. Please fill out the Request for Financial Assistance form and briefly explain why you have a financial need for free services in order for us to waive the fee associated with your service request(s).

 

Can I get a refund for services?

No. We can only issue a refund if you have requested non-identifying information or a search and no file could be found.

 

What if the person I'm looking for doesn't want contact with me?

You may request that we begin a new search for another birth family member. If, for instance, your birth mother chooses not to have contact, you may still request a search for siblings or your birth father.

 

How do I find out if my birth family has been looking for me?

Once you have registered for contact, we will check the registry to see if another birth family member is also registered. If someone is registered, we will contact you. If not, please keep in mind that if someone does register in the future, we will contact you at that time. Please make sure your contact information is kept updated in order to facilitate this.

 

What if someone is looking for me, but I don't want contact with him/her?

Please complete and notarize an Affidavit of Non-Disclosure indicating that you do NOT want contact and that you do not allow for your identifying information to be released. Please note this does not guarantee that you will never be found. With social media becoming more powerful and prevalent, many people are found through informal means. You can find the form you need by visiting the relevant Services page.

 

What if someone is looking for me, and I do want to have contact with him/her?

Please complete and notarize a Consent to Contact form indicating that you do want to be put in contact with your birth family member and that you do allow for your identifying information to be shared with him/her. You can find the form you need by visiting the relevant Services page.

 

What does intermediary contact mean?

Not everyone is ready to have direct contact immediately with a birth family member that he/she has never met and might have only recently found out about. In this case, you have the option of choosing to write letters and maybe even share pictures with your birth family member, using the Georgia Adoption Reunion Registry as your go-between so that your identity and contact information can remain confidential. You may choose to do this until you are ready to have direct contact, choose to stop contact, or you may choose to keep doing this indefinitely.

 

Can I share important medical information with the child I placed for adoption?

Yes! In 2003, the law changed in Georgia allowing birth family members to share updated medical information when deemed critical to the well-being of the adopted person. Please contact our office and we will explain the process to you. If the child is younger than 21 years old, the important medical information will be given to the adoptive parent(s).

 

Can I share important medical information with my (or my adopted child's) birth family member(s)?

Yes! Please contact our office with the information and we will pass it along to your (or your adopted child's) birth family member(s).

 

What if I would like to know my (or my adopted child's) birth family medical history?

In this instance, you would need to request the non-identifying information from the sealed adoption file. You may also want to consider a search for birth family member(s) if the adoptee is at least 21 years old. Adoption records are not updated, so if you find that the information from the non-identifying summary is insufficient or nonexistent, you can ask the birth family member directly for this information.

 

Do I have to look for my birth parent first? Can I start by searching for my sibling instead?

While in most cases we recommend that you begin your search with your birth mother, you do not have to look for your birth parent before you search for a sibling.

 

What if the person I'm looking for is deceased?

If, in the course of a search, we find that the person you are searching for is deceased, we can share with you his/her name, date of death, and place of burial (if available). At this time, you may choose to end your search or request that we look for other birth family members.

 

Where can I find the forms I need to make a request for services?

All forms can be found on the relevant Services page. Please note that some forms will need to be notarized before you return them to us. For non-identifying information and search requests, you will also need to complete and return the Client's Rights form.

 

What if I don't know all of the details regarding the adoption?

Please fill out the form(s) as completely as you can. If we need further information from you, we will contact you for it.

 

What if I was born in Georgia, but my adoption was finalized in another state?

While your original birth certificate may be in Georgia, your adoption record will be held by the state where your adoption was finalized. Please contact the state in which your adoption was finalized for assistance.

 

What if I was born in another state, but my adoption was finalized in Georgia?

While your original birth certificate may be held by the state where you were born, your adoption record will be held by Georgia and we can provide you with your non-identifying information and conduct a search.

 

What does it mean when you say "finalized adoption"?

An adoption is finalized when a superior court judge in Georgia issues a Final Order of Adoption, whereby an adoption is decreed final and complete. Your adoptive parents should have been provided a Final Order of Adoption following the court proceedings.

 

Can you search if you're not sure if an adoption was finalized?

No, all searches are based on information provided in a finalized adoption record held by the state of Georgia.

 

How do I find out if my child has been adopted or not?

If your child is at least 21 years old, we can look for a record to confirm whether your child was adopted and conduct a search on your behalf. If your child is younger than 21, we cannot confirm his/her adoption.

 

What if the adopted person remained in foster care and was never adopted?

The Georgia Adoption Reunion Registry can only assist you if an adoption was finalized. If there is no adoption file, there is no information we can access. Please refer back to the county DFCS office where the child was in foster care.

 

What if the adoption agency I was adopted from (or that I placed my child for adoption through) is no longer in business?

Private adoption agencies that have closed are required to submit their records to the state. All Reunion Registry services will be provided.

 

What do I do if I just need proof that I was adopted?

We are unable to provide any documentation from the sealed adoption record. Depending on the agency requiring proof of adoption, the non-identifying information we provide may or may not suffice. Please refer back to that agency to confirm.

 

How do I get my original birth certificate?

If your adoption was finalized, your original birth certificate was sealed and you will have to petition the court to have it opened.

 

How do I petition the court for my original birth certificate or to open my sealed adoption file?

Georgia Law, Code Section 19-8-23, requires that certain conditions are met in order for sealed adoption records to be examined by parties at interest in the adoption and their attorneys. If the primary goal is to locate and/or learn the identity of a biological connection, the Reunion Registry needs to be contacted prior to petitioning the court, as Georgia law requires such efforts. If petitioning the court appears to be the appropriate course of action, the Reunion Registry will refer you to the DHS Social Services Administration Unit to obtain more specific information regarding this process. You may also want to consult an adoption attorney.

 

I had an open adoption, why are the adoption records sealed?

All adoption records finalized in the state of Georgia are sealed, regardless of any agreements for contact and communication made between the birth and adoptive families.

 

What if I know who my birth parent is because I was raised by another birth family member, but I want a copy of my file?

We are unable to provide any documentation from the sealed adoption record. You will need to petition the court to have the file opened.

 

What other services does the Reunion Registry provide?

We also provide free, in-depth consultations and we facilitate a monthly adoption reunion support group at Families First in Midtown Atlanta. Consultations can be in person or over the phone; please call our office to schedule an appointment. The monthly support group is open to anyone, age 13 or older, involved in or affected by adoption reunion.

 

Georgia Adoption Reunion Registry
Families First/ Office of Adoptions
2 Peachtree St N.W. Suite 8-407
Atlanta, GA 30303-3143
(404) 657-3555
1-888-328-0055