Searching for Family

It is very natural and common for adopted people to wonder about their origins, and for mothers and fathers (sometimes called birth parents or natural parents) to think about their child who was adopted. Adult adoptees may want to know if they look like their parents, about the circumstances of their adoption, or about their medical history. Mothers and fathers may want to know if their child is alive and well, and see the child who has now become an adult. Adoption also impacts other family members, such as the children and siblings of adopted people, who may also have unanswered questions or feel a longing to know about or meet their separated relatives.  

Every adoption experience is different, so people have different reasons and timing for searching. Some people come to the decision after years of deliberation. Sometimes the decision is prompted by a specific event, such as the birth of a child or the death of a parent. Some people only discover that they are adopted later in life.   

If you have decided to start a search, VANISH can help you and provide ongoing support and guidance throughout the process. VANISH’s team of experienced search workers can answer search enquiries and provide confidential search services including:

  • Information about your rights to information about your natural family – your mother, father, donor, adult child, sibling, or other family member. 
  • Assistance with applying for adoption records, state wardship records, hospital records and other relevant documents. 
  • Help in searching for a relative. We can do this on your behalf, or we can guide you if you prefer to do it yourself. 
  • Suggestions of how to make contact with a relative if you wish to, or advice on how to register your contact details and/or preferences in case someone looks for you.

What to expect

Searching is a step-by-step process. Some searches may be relatively quick and straightforward, while others can be long and difficult for a range of reasons. Searching can also bring up unexpected emotions as you come to terms with new information, so it’s important to take your search at your own pace. VANISH offers ongoing support and guidance along the way. 

Each search is different but here is a basic overview of the process:

Contact VANISH to discuss your search


Apply for your records if necessary


Search for a relative if desired


Receive search outcome


Discuss next steps including further search or contact if desired

Ongoing support and guidance

How to get started

Please contact us if you would like VANISH to help you with a search or if you have any questions about searching.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I access information about an adoption?

If you are eligible to access records about an adoption in Victoria you can apply directly to Adoption Information Services or we may be able to assist you to apply. Once an application is received, Adoption Information Services will advise you of their process and waiting times. Applications can be prioritised depending upon the circumstances.

I have just received my adoption records, what do I do next?

If you would like to proceed with searching for a relative, VANISH may be able to assist you. If you find your relative, you are not obliged to make contact.

I’ve got my DNA results – what do I do now?

Read the advice notes available regarding the best steps to take (and what to avoid) and how to find a specialist to assist you with your research. VANISH can provide information and support for interpreting your DNA results and making contact with your matches. 

What if the adoption took place interstate or overseas?

VANISH may be able to refer you to the appropriate agency to apply for adoption information. Feel free to contact us to discuss your specific situation.

Can VANISH search for relatives interstate or overseas?

VANISH can undertake searches in other states and in countries where we have reciprocal search arrangements with partner organisations, for example NZ and the UK. Contact us to find out if we can assist or refer you to the most appropriate services.

Who should I search for first?

It is your decision who to search for first. Most adopted people search for their mother or father first but some start with looking for a sibling or other relative.

Are some people difficult to find?

Yes, for a range of reasons some individuals can be difficult to find. This could be due to a change of name, or records not being accurate. If we can’t find the person you’re looking for, we can try to find another living relative, if you wish.

Will I be able to meet my relatives if I want to?

This will depend on whether they wish to meet. Once your relative is found, VANISH offers guidance on the best ways for you to make contact. Meeting your relative will depend on their wishes as well as yours.

What if my relative does not want contact?

It is not uncommon for the person found to initially say they do not want contact and then change their mind after a period of time. Whether your relative wants to connect or not, many people benefit from receiving information about their parents and family or their adult child.

Is there any obligation to meet with my relatives?

No, any decision to meet your relative will be entirely your own. If you are only wanting to obtain information about your relative it is best to make that clear when accessing your records and undertaking a search. If you have been contacted by a relative wishing to meet, VANISH can support you to make the right decision for you.

How will I feel if I find my relative(s)?

Adoption and reunion are uniquely personal experiences so each individual feels differently. Finding family can be more emotional than people expect so VANISH strongly encourages getting professional support along the way. Some people do not feel those strong emotions and find the process surprisingly ‘normal’. 

How did my relative find me?

The Adoption Act changed in 1984 so that adopted people could apply for their records, including information about their natural mother and, if stated, their father. In 2013, the Act was amended for natural parents to access information about their adult child.  

Some individuals locate relatives using this information and some seek search assistance from organisations like VANISH.  

Sometimes individuals find relatives through DNA testing, including those who had not known that they are adopted or donor conceived.

Get in touch with our helpful team

Contact us to find out more about our services or have a chat about how we can best support you.