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A History of Helping Babies and Building Families

Catholic Charities Adoption Services & Searches

By Laura Long, Adoption Search Specialist

 
Adoption procedures and laws have come a long way since Catholic Charities’ beginnings more than 135 years ago. But one thing remains constant: our mission to provide babies with the most stable and loving homes possible.

 

Our History

Kansas City was a hub for maternity homes from the late 1800’s through the mid 1970’s. Young women came to Kansas City from all over the country to deliver their babies and receive assistance placing their children for adoption.

In 1899, St. Anthony’s Children’s Home opened to care for orphaned infants in Kansas City. By the time the home closed in the 1970’s, thousands of children had received care there until they were placed for adoption or returned to stable families. With the closing of St. Anthony’s, Catholic Charities became the holder of the adoption records. Today, Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph continues the mission to help women with their pregnancies regardless of whether they plan to parent or place for adoption.

 

Adoption in Missouri

As an adoption search specialist, I work with many adoptees who want to know more about their birth families.

In Missouri, an adoptee over the age of 18 (or their lineal descendent if the adoptee is deceased) can make a request of the Court for both non-identifying and identifying information. The county court where the adoption was finalized holds the file and is the court to contact.

Every court has a slightly different procedure for making a request, so it’s a good idea to contact the court to see if it has a special form or process. If the agency that handled the adoption is still operating, it can also be contacted for non-identifying information without court involvement.

Non-identifying information is the birth parents’ social history obtained at the time of birth or placement. It can be obtained by request to the court or the original agency that holds the adoption file. Non-ID information usually consists of the birth parent’s age, education, occupation and family history. Some files have pages of social history information and some files have none. Generally, this information is not updated after the adoption, unless the birth parent takes the initiative to do so. In most cases, there is no way to obtain more information without contacting the birth parent directly. That requires court permission. We call this a full search.

 

Conducting a Full Search

The court can release identifying information to an adoptee or their descendent when certain conditions are met. The court must have either the birth parents’ written consent or proof they are deceased. Since the court doesn’t know if the birth parents are alive or deceased, the original agency, the court or a court-authorized searcher will perform a search for the birth parents.

There is usually a fee to the agency or searcher to cover the time and expenses of the search. The searcher will use the biographical information from the court or agency file to try and locate them. They have to find the exact person and their death information.

If the birth parents are found alive and provide consent, the court can release identifying information. The searcher can help set up the first connection, usually by phone or email. If the birth parents are deceased, they can release identifying information. If there are living relatives, they can be contacted, and it’s up to them to make a connection or not.

If birth parents do not provide consent or cannot be found alive or deceased at all, the court cannot release the information. The adoptee can return to the court after three years to have them contacted again.

 

Reunion Registries

Another resource in the adoption search process is mutual consent registries. A birth parent, family member or adoptee can register their information and interest with a reunion registry. When the registry receives a registration form and finds the information matches another registration, they will provide the information to connect the two parties. The state of Missouri maintains a mutual consent registry. The International Soundex Reunion Registry is another resource.

Beginning an adoption reunion search can be the start of an emotionally difficult, yet rewarding journey.

Understanding how the process works is the first step. Catholic Charities can help.

To learn more about our services for birth mothers and adoptive families, contact Jamie Batschke at jbatschke@ccharities.com. If you have questions about St. Anthony’s or the adoption search process, contact Laura Long at LbLongci@gmail.com.

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