DSHS Helps Reunite Adult Adoptees with Birth Parents, Siblings

Department of State Health Services, Jan 11, 2008

In Texas, adoption records are confidential and court records sealed. People usually have little or no information about their birth parents, siblings or children placed for adoption. But for those looking for information, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) offers a chance to be matched with birth family members. The Texas Vital Statistics Central Adoption Registry can reunite adult adoptees with birth parents or siblings who sign up looking for each other.

“The registry is unique in that we have the authority, without a court order, to view a sealed file and confidential record,” said Patricia Molina, DSHS program administrator for the registry. “This ability allows us to match two biologically related people. A match occurs only when an adopted person and the birth parent or a biological sibling voluntarily register.”

Once a match is made, a letter is sent to each person with the results. But before information is exchanged, everyone is required to complete a one-hour counseling session that educates and prepares them for the reunion. DSHS will help people find a counselor.

“The counseling will help identify a support system as the reunion progresses, whether the husband, wife or other children will be supportive, what they see as the best and worse outcome from a reunion and what they want the outcome to be,” Molina said. After the counseling session, each person prepares a personal history with photographs such as baby pictures, school and family photos. The biographies are then shared with each participant at the same time that the identifying information is exchanged.

“These biographies establish a foundation for the reunion,” said Molina. “People may see that they look like their birth mother or have the same nose or chin as a sibling.”

Molina said that there are stages to a reunion, often beginning with a honeymoon phase. She said that people may need to set boundaries and outline how far they want the relationship to go. Some people, she said, may decide at some point to end the relationship.

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