Half of all adult adoptees have searched for birth information

© Hollandse Hoogte / ANP
Half of all intercountry adoptees who are now adults have ever searched for information on their background. Slightly under one-fifth are planning to do so in the future. A small number have been able to find all the information they were looking for. Adoptees from China are less likely to search for birth information than those from other birth countries. The search was also less successful in the case of adoptees from China and from Bangladesh. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this on the basis of new research.

Over the first six months of last year, CBS surveyed the living situation, well-being and search behaviour of adults in the Netherlands who were adopted from other countries as a child. This survey was commissioned by the Committee Investigating Intercountry Adoption. Altogether 3.5 thousand people participated in the survey who were adopted from a foreign country between 1970 and 1998. The report elaborates on the experiences of adoptees from Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, China, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and South Korea. More information on the survey is provided in the final paragraph below.

Actively searched for birth information, by country of birth
Bent u zelf op zoek gegaan naar meer informatie over uw achtergrond?Searched actively (%)
Sri Lanka55.8
South Korea51.6

Fewer searches in China

Fifty-one percent of the adult adoptees have searched for information on their background, while 18 percent intend to search for this information in the future. The number of searches is varied, depending on the country of birth. Adoptees born in China are least likely to search for information (26 percent). The share is roughly 50 percent among other adoption countries.

The most common objectives for people to set out searching for information by themselves are: finding out more about their roots (82 percent), their birth relatives (69 percent), a resemblance in appearance and character (61 percent), and finding out whether there are any siblings (56 percent).

Fewer than 1 in 4 searches were completely successful

The quest for birth information is not always successful. On average, fewer than 1 in 4 participants said they had found all the information they were looking for. In China and Bangladesh, a mere 8 percent of the searches were successful. Among all surveyed adoption countries, the shares were relatively the highest in Colombia and Sri Lanka, both 23 percent.

Of all people searching, 20 percent have indicated they came up with nothing (yet) and an almost equal share of adoptees say they had to give up searching due to lack of results.

Found all relevant information, by country of birth
GeboortelandFound all relevant information (%)
Sri Lanka23.0
South Korea14.6

Accurate information for 1 in 3

One in three searchers indicate that all the information they found, e.g. their birth certificate or the names of their biological parents, was accurate. This share is lowest among adoptees from Bangladesh (3 percent), followed by China (15 percent). The share is relatively high among those adopted from Colombia or Brazil: 34 and 44 percent, respectively. Part of the searchers say their attempts were thwarted by institutions in their own birth country: this was most often the case in India (20 percent), Bangladesh and South Korea (both around 10 percent).

Representative study

For this study, CBS conducted a random sample survey. This means people were selected at random for participation in the survey; they could not register themselves. This makes it the largest representative study on intercountry adoption in the Netherlands, providing a clear picture of the well-being of adoptees and their need for information about their origins.

The Netherlands does not have records showing whether someone was adopted. In order to conduct the survey among adult adoptees, CBS compiled a list of people who were likely to have been adopted. These are people who were born between 1970 and 1998, in countries where adoption of children was relatively common, with at least one of the registered parents born in the Netherlands and neither of the registered parents born in the child’s birth country. In addition, the effective date of legal parenthood - if known - was taken into account and whether this was different from the child’s date of birth. Then, random samples were drawn from the group. As part of the questionnaire, respondents subsequently had to indicate whether or not they had been adopted.


The privacy of the respondents as well as the protection of their personal data are guaranteed by CBS’ standard working procedures. This means that any identity-revealing personal characteristics are removed as soon as the data have been received by CBS. At any stage in the statistical process does CBS have access to information about the identity of the survey respondents, nor are the outcomes traceable to individual persons.