The Importance of Preserving Your Adopted Child’s Historical Documents

Holt’s records administrator, Sunday Silver, shares why Holt keeps a secure file for every child we have ever placed through adoption, including how they came into care, any medical or birth parent information, etc., and why it’s so important adoptive parents preserve these documents, too. 

One of the hardest jobs we have in the post-adoption department at Holt is to inform an Adoptee that a birth search is not possible.

By the time Adoptees come to us about initiating a search, they have given it a lot of thought.  They are searching for connection — an answer to questions about their identity, where they come from and who they look like.  Some come to us knowing that the chance of locating a birth parent is not very high, and yet, they remain hopeful. Others come with a deep yearning to fill a hole inside them that can only be filled by reconnecting with the parents that gave them life.

When we are unable to help them fill that gap in their life — when we cannot give them the answers they so desperately seek — it is heartbreaking.

I have seen so many files through the years that they have begun to run together. But I have also always understood the importance of these documents to each individual Adoptee. Recently, my awareness of the importance of these documents has become more intense.

Their Only Link to the Past

Lately, I have been working with a number of older Adoptees — providing them copies of their child materials as well as determining if a birth search is possible.  In some cases, Adoptees have never seen their child materials before. Or they want to know if there is anything new in the file that they haven’t seen or never received from their parents. In some cases, they need proof of citizenship in order to obtain social security benefits. In all cases, this information has or will have a profound effect on the Adoptee — regardless of the reason for asking for the documents.

This is their history — their only link to their past.

As I leaf through the materials on these older cases, it is often apparent that a search won’t be possible. The Adoptee may not receive any information on their past other than what is written in the file. This may also be the case for any adoption, regardless of the time period, where we have no information on the birth parents.

For those of us who are not adopted, we can sometimes take it for granted that we never have to ask where we came from or who I look like. I know that my mom is of German descent and my father is Puerto Rican. I know I look a bit like my father but take more after my mom. There are times I look at my hands and I see my mother’s hands. I know my medical history because I can just ask my parents. I have connection. It is when I look through these files that I realize the privilege I have as a non-Adoptee that most Adoptees don’t.

The papers in these files are the only connection to their past — to who they were before they came to live with their adoptive parents.


The Importance of Preserving Child Material

Holt maintains a file for every child we have placed in our past 60-plus years. All of our more than 40,000 files are stored in an offsite secure storage facility. Their care and safety is our priority as we know all too well how important this information is to the Adoptees we serve.

The child material in an adoption file usually includes how the child came into care, medical information, and may or may not include information about birth parents. It also may include the legal documents from the Adoptee’s country of birth.

Holt’s post-adoption department provides copies of these child materials to adult Adoptees and, on occasion, to adoptive parents when requested.  All this information was shared with the adoptive parents at the time of adoption.  However, as time passes, this information may get lost or destroyed.

Not only is it important for the agencies to preserve this information, it’s also important for adoptive parents to preserve it as well. In a lot of ways, more so. You are the keepers of your child’s history. You are the one they will ask what their life was like before they came home.  You are the ones that they will come to trust.


Share this information with your children early on, no matter the information. Allow your kids to ask questions and answer as honestly as you can. You are the safe place they can come to learn about their past and feel what they need to feel about it.

Even though we maintain a copy, it’s vital that you keep this information in a safe place. As you may have some information (such as legal documents) that we may not have in our files, maintaining the files becomes even more important; it may be the only copy.

Not only is this important information to your child, but how you take care of it shows that you find it important, too — and understand what it means to them.  You are showing your child that you honor and respect their history, and the value it holds to them.

Being as open and sharing as much information about their history is vital to growing a healthy identity.  Even if that information is difficult, it is still a part of their history.

Holt Supports Adoptees for Life

When we work with adult Adoptees and share copies of their file, we make sure they know that we are here to support them and help them make sense of the information. This is an important part of the work we do and of Holt’s commitment to the Adoptees we serve. It isn’t always easy, especially if this is the first time they see their information, but it is important.

As adoptive parents, we appreciate your help in holding this information, honoring it and sharing it with your child. Together, maybe we can help our Adoptees know, while we may not have all the answers they need, we can and will give them everything we have and be there to support them on this journey.

Sunday M. Silver, M.A.  | Records and Information Administrator

If you are concerned about sharing difficult information with your child and not sure how to approach the subject, Holt’s PACE program (Post Adoption Coaching and Education) is a wonderful resource for adoptive parents. We can provide tools and support on how to talk about adoption and/or share difficult information with your child.

To learn more about Holt’s post-adoption services for Adoptees and families, including access to file copies and initiating a birth search, visit!

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