Searching for contact with birth relatives: Search angels and search facilitators

Amanda L. Baden, Elliotte Sue Harrington, Ebony White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Summary: Reunification or post-adoption contact between adoptees, birth families, and other adoption stakeholders has become a normalized developmental trajectory, yet the process of seeking contact after adoption placement varies greatly depending on numerous factors including access to original birth certificates, openness of the adoption, and systemic and institutional challenges that may aid or hinder contact. In this study, 101 post-adoption search facilitators responded to an online survey comprised of scale items and open-ended responses. Findings: Respondents reported that most had no formal education or training to prepare them to assist with searches, they were primarily self-taught and utilized workshops and conferences as a secondary source of preparation, and only about one-quarter required counseling as part of the search process. Findings also indicated that formal education was rated as not helpful and office training (for those who had it) as neutral in its helpfulness. The primary theme identified in the data was that search facilitators must recognize emotions, particularly the grief and loss, associated with the search process to be effective. Applications: Social work educators can prepare social work practitioners to effectively assist with post-adoption searches and reunions for adoptees and first/birth parents. Best practice will include training social workers to anticipate both the logistical and emotional needs of searchers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)476-496
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Social Work
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Social work
  • adoption
  • best practice, search, reunion
  • birth parents
  • counseling
  • social work practice


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