Finding and contacting family
I'd like to find out about my family
People decide to find out about their family history, and the family members they have been separated from, for many reasons. Before starting a search, many people find it helpful to talk through their reasons, expectations and emotions.
If you are looking for a family member whose whereabouts is unknown but this is not as a result of forced adoption policies and practices, you can contact:
- Open Place on 1800 779 379
- VANISH (Victorian Adoption Network for Information and Self Help) on 1300 826 474.
Obtaining adoption records is the first step
The Victorian State Government Department of Justice and Community Safety provides Adoption Information Services (AIS) to help people separated by adoption who want to obtain adoption records or contact one another.
If eligible to do so, you can apply to AIS for adoption records. This might include:
- records created by past adoption agencies and courts
- copies of the adopted person’s original birth certificate.
The AIS website has information about their services and their contact details.
If you are living in another state and are looking for support or information, you can contact the Forced Adoption Support Services in your state on 1800 21 03 13.
Searching official records
Once you have received the adoption records, you can start to search official records (such as births, deaths and marriages records and electoral rolls) for information about your family member/s.
People often find that asking friends and family for support is a great help when dealing with the emotional and practical issues encountered during their search. In Victoria there are specialist services and peer support groups who can help as well.
How long will a search take?
While searching can be straightforward, this is often not the case and it can take a long time – many months or even longer. Records may be incomplete or inaccurate, and family members may be hard to locate as their names may have changed or they may have moved interstate or overseas.
If you are successful in finding current information about the person you are searching for, it’s important to take time to carefully consider how to go about making contact.
Contacting family members
Once your search has produced a possible address of the family member you’re seeking to contact, we recommend that you think carefully about your next steps.
This can be a very emotional and confronting time for everyone involved and seeking advice and support from a specialist service is wise.
It’s also important that the person you are contacting has time to process your contact request and his or her emotions and expectations. You may have been thinking about a reunion throughout your search, but for the other person, contact may be completely unexpected. For this reason, a letter is often used to make first contact, as this gives the other person time to deal with their emotions and consider their response.
It’s important to respect the privacy of all people involved during this time. Victoria’s Adoption Act prohibits the publication of any identifying information about people involved in an adoption without their consent. This includes mentioning names or tagging people on social media such as Facebook.
To find out more, talk about how our service can help you or to make an appointment:
Forced Adoption Support Services are funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services.