By law, birth parents and adoptees may search for each other after the adoptee reaches the age of 18. Because Holt’s headquarters are in Oregon, Oregon law governs all post-adoption services by Holt, such as birth search and file copies. Oregon Statutes 109.425 & 109.455 requires an adoptee to be 18 or older to initiate a search, and has to initiate the search themselves. The release of birth parent identifying information is also covered by these laws, as well as the laws of the birth country.
In most cases, what is in our file at Holt International is the same information that your parents received at the time of the adoption, and comprises everything we are able to release. Because documents can be lost or destroyed over the decades, we are happy to provide you with copies whenever possible. Please see File Copies for additional information.
Requesting an assessment is the first step in the process. Holt International and Kaisahang Buhay Foundation (KBF) will review your file to determine if there is enough information on which to base a search. Holt will not begin a search until the assessment process has been completed.
Most frequent questions and answers
- Confirm that Holt facilitated your adoption.
- Email you the link to forms noted above.
- Wait for your request forms to arrive by standard mail.
- Retrieve your file from our off-site file storage, usually within 2-3 weeks of receipt of completed request forms.
- Conduct an assessment of your file to determine if a search is possible. This may require consulting with KBF. While we work cooperatively with our overseas partners, we cannot guarantee a specific response time frame. This process can last a few weeks to several months, depending on the time of year, volume of requests, and complexity of cases. We appreciate your understanding.
- Forward your assessment within 2-3 weeks of completion.
- If a search is possible, we will forward a link to the Assisted Search forms and other requirements (see ‘What you do next’ below).
- Complete the following forms:
- Affidavit for Identifying Information (must be notarized).
- Assisted Search Application (must be notarized).
- Petition for Disclosure form (a new form is required with each service request)
- Return the forms above by mail only to Holt along with:
- An introductory letter to be forwarded to birth family.
- A current photo of yourself.
- 3-5 photos of you growing up or with family (optional).
- Upon receipt of the letter and photos via email, KBF will attempt to locate current contact information for the birth parents. This information cannot be released to Holt International or the adoptee.
- If KBF is unable to locate the correct person, or the address on file is no longer valid, they will notify Holt International and the search will be closed.
- A closed search does not mean that it cannot be re-opened at some point. The post adoption staff will discuss if or when to approach this again.
- In the case of a married couple who relinquished their child, or an unwed woman who is currently living alone, KBF will attempt the initial contact by phone, only if they feel it is safe to call. They must proceed very cautiously as this contact could endanger the birth parent’s current relationships with family or others.
- In the case of an unwed birth parent who may now be married, or they are unsure of his/her marital status, they will attempt to reach that person without alerting anyone else in the home. This can be difficult and time consuming, and may require more than one trip to that area.
- KBF will notify Holt should birth family be found, or when the case is closed because they have received no response and have run out of resources. Holt will then notify you of the outcome.
Please be aware that a search in the Philippines can be a very long, slow process depending on the amount of information regarding the birth parent, and the current work load of the dedicated KBF staff. Searches have been completed in as little as 6 months, or as along as 3-4 years. Your patience and understanding are greatly appreciated.
Note: If a search for birth family is not possible based on the information in your files, we can provide a list of other resources should you wish to pursue the search on your own.
We recommend that adoptees gather a complete set of their documents from their adoptive parents and/or from Holt before beginning a search. If you are unsure if you have a complete copy of your child materials, or your documents have been lost or destroyed over time, we are very happy to provide you with another copy. Please see File Copies for more information.
In order to determine if a search is possible, your file is reviewed first by Holt International in conjunction with KBF if needed. This is referred to as the “assessment.” An assessment of your file is needed to determine if a search for birth family is possible. Holt will review all of the documents in your file, including any intake notes in our possession, and determine if there is enough information to conduct a search. This will depend on how you came into care, how much information was provided to Holt and KBF at that time, and several other factors. Please see File Copies for more information. You are welcome to request the assessment only, without any file copies, at no charge.
If Holt and KBF determine there is enough information on which to base a search, Holt will request you complete some legal forms, and provide an introductory letter and a couple of photos of you growing up and a current photo. Experience has shown that when birth family are contacted, the first thing they ask for is a current photo, and to know how their birth child is and what their life has been like. Only the letter and photos will be forwarded to KBF, via email. The legal documents are for our records, and are required by law.[/expand]
Search can be an emotional process for some adoptees; having a good support system of friends and family, as well as Holt, is very important.
Frequently Asked Questions
Most frequent questions and answers
Why can't my birth mother/father be found by name only?
It can be quite difficult to locate someone in the Philippines by name or name and age only. Birth parents may have moved to another district, even another island, and not left any information concerning their new whereabouts. Some birth parents may not have had a permanent address at the time of relinquishment.
Why isn't there an original birth certificate with my birth parents on it?
In the Philippines, like many countries, a birth certificate is not automatically issued when a child is born. In the U.S., when a baby is born, the hospital or clinic contact the state vital records department and the birth is registered and a birth certificate issued — basically all done automatically. Birth parents simply provide all of the information, such as their names and the baby’s name, and the rest is handled by the government. In the Philippines, to obtain a birth certificate, the child’s birth parent or legal guardian must request one from the government, and it can be issued years after the child’s birth. Lost or abandoned children may not have ever had a birth certificate, or it may be impossible to know which of the hundreds issued at that time belong to a particular child. Children who are placed for adoption must have one, so it is either created for that child by the agency/guardian or the birth parent requests it at the time of relinquishment. Abandoned children with no know birth parent information are often issued a document which states that birth parents are unknown.
How could contacting my birth mother endanger her current relationships?
Due to the stigma still attached to unwed pregnancies and relinquishment, many unwed birth mothers haven’t informed their spouses, family, or children of their history. Likewise, married couples who have relinquished a child due to poverty or other considerations may not have informed their other children, and are fearful of how they will be viewed. This doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t want contact with the child they relinquished — just that Holt needs to proceed carefully. Although attitudes about adoption are changing, this is a very, very old culture, and may be slower to change.
When my birth parent is found will I receive his/her contact information?
Birth parent contact information isn’t released without that person’s permission, just like Holt wouldn’t release your identifying information without your permission. In the case of search and reunion, it’s important that both parties are comfortable with the contact and that the new relationship starts on the right foot. Holt and KBF can help with that, and will be very happy to exchange information when you’re both comfortable and the appropriate forms have been completed. By utilizing the agencies, translations will be handled for you, but you are certainly welcome to be in touch directly when you both agree.
How long does a search take?
International searches can happen in a short time, but most are a very lengthy process. There is no set time frame, as it truly depends on the amount of information provided at the time of relinquishment. Changes within the country can also delay a search, such as when neighborhoods or villages are devastated by natural disasters and replaced by towering apartment buildings or shopping malls. Time of year, information available, and current workloads all impact the time frames. Holt and KBF are very committed to helping adoptees in any way they can.
How often will I be updated?
Depending on their current work load, Holt International may or may not receive search udpates from the staff at KBF. Although they are committed to reuniting adoptees with their birth families, resources are limited. They will update us if/when the birth parent is contacted, or when the search is closed. Holt will notify you when we receive the update. Again, this can be a long process.