Pennsylvania Act 101 can help adoptees and biological families reconnect

Openness law assists adoption parties to reunite
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HARRISBURG, Pa. (Dec. 9, 2014) – The holidays are a time for reconnecting. However, for adoptees and their birth families, a joyful reunion might be only a dream.

Yet Pennsylvania’s Act 101 can help turn that dream into a reality.

Act 101 of 2010, which amended the Adoption Act, made it easier for adopted children in Pennsylvania to stay connected to people and information relative to their biological families.

“For parties to adoption, the holidays tend to amplify emotions around birth family connections,” said Brenda Lawrence, executive director of the nonprofit Family Design Resources. “Adoptees want to feel like they belong, and family members separated from a child through adoption want to know the child is okay.”

Act 101 may satisfy those concerns through:

  • The option for post-adoption contact agreements that allow children and older youth planning to be adopted to maintain relationships with both their birth and adoptive families;
  • Creation of the Pennsylvania Adoption Information Registry (PAIR) where social and medical history information and consents for contact are filed;
  • Authorized representatives who aid parties to adoption with access to medical and social history information and making contact with the sought-after relative.

In conjunction with Act 101, Family Design Resources offers confidential fee-based adoption search and reunion services to individuals and agencies. Lawrence said the opportunity for search and reunion is unfamiliar to some families affected by adoption.

“People just don’t know that some infrastructure now exists to help them if they want to reconnect with their birth relatives,” she said.

Family Design Resources will conduct searches on behalf of individuals, who otherwise might take to a search engine or social media or, if they have the resources, engage a private investigator.

“There are ways that people go about it but without someone to assist them who knows the potential pitfalls,” Lawrence said.

Calling a birth mother out of the blue, for instance, can lead unintentionally to an awkward or even negative encounter.

“Family Design Resources provides support from start to finish, from an initial consultation potentially to a reunion,” Lawrence said. “We prep both the person seeking and the person sought each step of the way, make calls and connections for them, so they maintain control of the situation and have as positive an experience as possible.”

For more information, call 717-236-8570 or email

Harrisburg-based Family Design Resources ( provides consulting and training to agencies and institutions that serve children and families. Family Design Resources partners with Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries to manage the programs of the Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network (SWAN).