How to Find Someone Who Has Been Adopted or Is in Foster Care

Tips to Find Someone Lost Through Foster Care or Adoption

When you've been separated from a loved one through foster care or adoption, beginning a search for that person can feel like you're staring at a haystack with a needle hidden somewhere deep inside it. These searches are rarely easy, but they're not necessarily doomed to failure, either. I've compiled a list of suggestions and resources to help you along. 

Keep in mind that finding someone is only half the adoption or foster care search process. Preparation for the reunion is the other half. Assess your expectations before embarking on an adoption or foster care search and try to prepare yourself for a variety of reactions — including rejection. Prepare yourself emotionally for whatever you may find. 

Make a List

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Begin by making a list of all the things you know — or think you know — about the individual you're looking for. For example, imagine that you are looking for your half-brother. Where was he born or where do you think he was born? How old is he now? In what areas has he lived? Where did he go to school? What's his vocation, or likely vocation given his skills and interests? Dredge your memory and write everything down. These will be your guidelines as you begin your search.  

Use the Internet

Woman using laptop
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Google is always a good place to start a search. Type in the name of the person you're looking for and put it in quotation marks. If he's been mentioned in any newspaper or other publication, something might pop up, particularly if you add the region where you last knew the person to be living. Check out phone number search sites and run his name through social media sites as well. Some sites, such as Facebook, often include the person's public profile picture — you don't have to be "friends" with him to find out what he looks like and if he could possibly be your lost loved one. 

People Search Engines

Find Someone with Facebook
Find Someone with Facebook.

The Internet is crawling with people search engines. Zabasearch lets you enter a name and narrow your search to a state or even a city if you have an idea where your loved one is or was living. You can also try Pipl, Intelius or PeekYou. If you're looking for an adult who may be a professional, try LinkedIn. 

Free Public Records Searches

Find someone with records search.
Find someone with records search.

Unfortunately, there's a possibility that the person you're looking for is deceased. Check the Social Security Death Index and obituaries in newspapers in the area where you think he might have been living. Other public records searches can help regardless of whether your loved one is still alive or deceased. VitalRec will link you to state records for birth certificates, death certificates and marriage records.  

Find Someone for Volunteer Help

Find Someone with volunteer help.
Find Someone with volunteer help. Photo © Carrie Craft

Use the Internet to find a search angel to take care of the digging for you. Search angels work free of charge to locate family members who have entered foster care or who have been adopted. They may charge for expenses they incur in the search. After sharing a bit of information regarding the adoption or foster placement, the volunteer will do his best to find your loved one.  

Join a Support Group

The Child Welfare Information Gateway offers birth family and adoptee search support groups, as well as kinship, foster care and adoption support groups. You might find other similar groups on the Internet, filled with people like you who are searching and may have learned a tip or trick of their own they can share with you.