Michigan's adoption law has changed over the years, but many adoptees still have to use a third-party called a "confidential intermediary" when trying to find their birth parent or learn more about their background.
Yesterday, we talked with Michigan Radio listener John Stempien about his experience as an adult adoptee in Michigan, and his frustration at not being able to access his birth records or his birth parents' medical history.
Tina Caudill is a birth mother who reunited with her child and now works as a confidential intermediary. She's also the Michigan representative for the American Adoption Congress.
Her attempts to reconnect with her child began with a letter to the birth parents that resulted in no response. So she reached out to her child instead, and they replied.
"That was the beginning of what's been a 25 year relationship now," Caudill says.
Caudill says adoption is often seen as a one-time event, but people are now beginning to understand that it is a lifelong journey.
Daryl Royal is a confidential intermediary who was reunited with his birth parents. He began his search by hiring a confidential intermediary. But he got few results, and decided to teach himself and continue his search on his own.
"I remember the first time I met my birth father. I had never had any kids so at 40 years old here I was faced with the first birth relative I'd ever been in the presence of in my entire life, and it was huge," Royal says. "Every time he'd look the other way I'd study his face to see if I could pick out similarities."
Caudill says the state still often sees adoptees as young children who don't have the capacity to make their own decisions about relationships in their lives, but withholding information about birth parents can affect them long into adulthood.
Royal says confidential intermediaries are not a permanent solution. He says many states have much more open adoption laws than Michigan.
For himself, Royal says knowing about his birth parents has had a profound effect on him.
"I have so much comfort and self-confidence because I know who I am now," he says.
Local Michigan education, support and search assistance can be found at Michigan Searching.