Birth Family Search
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 require an adoptee to be 18 or older to initiate a search, and the adoptee 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 here 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 Holt Vietnam 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.
Please read the sections below regarding Documentation and Frequently Asked Questions for additional important information.
This is the typical process for requesting the assessment and the search. Not every case is the same, and a search is not always possible.
What you do:
- Complete the Request for Services online form and submit it.
- Receive an email in 2-5 business days that confirms Holt facilitated your adoption, with a link to the Request for Services form(s).
- If your adoption was not facilitated by Holt, you’ll receive an email explaining this, and a list of possible U.S. agencies that may have been your placing agency (see File Copies).
- If an assessment has already been completed and you are now ready to begin the search, please proceed directly to the Request for Services (see red button below).
- To request an assessment of your file only:
- Print, complete, sign and return the Request for Post Adoption Services form by mail only.
- There is no fee for this service, and may be combined with requests for U.S. child material and international child material (fees do apply to file copies).
What Holt will do:
- 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 Holt Vietnam. 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).
What you do next:
- Complete the following forms:
- Affidavit for Identifying Information (must be notarized).
- Assisted Search Application (must be notarized).
- 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).
What Holt will do next:
- Forward the letter and photos to Holt Vietnam by electronic mail only.
- Request the search and notify you.
What Holt Vietnam will do:
- Upon receipt of the letter and photos via email, Holt Vietnam will attempt to locate current contact information for the birth parents. This information cannot be released to Holt International or the adoptee.
- If Holt Vietnam is unable to locate the correct person, or the address on file is no longer valid, Holt Vietnam will notify us 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 with you 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, they 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 if 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.
- Holt Vietnam will notify Holt should your birth family be found, or when the case is closed because they have received no response or have run out of resources. Holt will then notify you of the outcome.
Please be aware that a search in Vietnam 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 Holt Vietnam 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.
Please scroll down to read more about file contents and the process in general.
To begin the process of determining if a search for your birth family is possible, we must first confirm that your adoption was indeed facilitated by Holt International. Once this has been verified, you’ll receive an email and further instructions enabling you to request an assessment.
We do 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 of whether 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 Holt Vietnam if needed. This is referred to as the “assessment.” 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 Holt Vietnam 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 Holt Vietnam 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 of the adoptee, and to know how they are, what their life has been like. Only the letter and photos will be forwarded to Holt Vietnam, via email. The legal documents are for our records and are required by law.
Here are a few things to think about before and during your search (click here). 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.
Why can’t my birth mother/father be found by name only?
It is nearly impossible to locate someone in Vietnam by name or name and date of birth only. Many Vietnamese names are common, accounting for a large percentage of the population, so locating one person amongst hundreds with the same or similar name can be difficult.
Why isn’t there an original birth certificate with my birth parents on it?
In Vietnam, 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 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 Vietnam, 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 have never had a birth certificate. 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 known 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 children they relinquished; just that Holt needs to proceed carefully. Although attitudes about adoption are changing, Vietnam 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 out on the right foot. Holt and Holt Vietnam 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, 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 neighborhoods or villages that no longer exist in post-war Vietnam. Time of year, information available, current workloads all impact the time frames. Holt and Holt Vietnam are very committed to helping adoptees in any way they can.