Q. Do the laws of the state of Hawai'i allow an adopted person to seek and identify their biological parents? If yes, how or where does one begin?
A. Yes, adult adoptees, their natural parents and adoptive parents can try to find each other, but those being sought can have their identities kept confidential.
How you go about it depends on where you were adopted from and how much information you have.
If your adoption was handled by the state of Hawai'i, as in the case of foster children who have been adopted, your records might be on file with the state Department of Human Services Child Welfare Division.
In that case, you can ask Family Court if you can inspect your adoption records.
That's not an automatic process, however. The court sends a notice to the natural parents or adoptee, who then have 60 days to submit an affidavit asking that identifying information be kept confidential.
If the notice is undeliverable, the person asking for the information can hire someone to conduct a private search for 180 days at his or her own expense.
If the search is unsuccessful or the person is contacted and does not ask for the information to remain confidential, you will be allowed to inspect the adoption records. Be warned, however: Not all records include the biological parents' names.
Since not all adoptions go through the court system, you might have to go through the private agency that handled the adoption.
If you're not sure about the agency, but know the adoption was conducted in Hawai'i, you might want to check with Child and Family Service, which handled a good portion of domestic adoptions in Hawai'i until 1994.
Lisa Barber, a program supervisor at Child and Family Service, said people call and ask not only for help identifying their biological parents, but also to find out their parents' medical histories. Initiating a search starts at $80.
Barber can search closed records to compile a nonidentifying informational report and can send letters to the biological parents through the Social Security Administration, leaving it up to the birth parent to decide whether to make contact.
If the Social Security Administration does not have updated contact information, parents can sometimes be found via Internet searches, at AdoptionRegistry.com or through companies such as OmniTrace, but Barber pointed out, "It's hard if you don't know the names of your birth parents."