The Search Process

You provide your search information via our form. That includes answering all the questions (“see documents” is not an acceptable answer) and providing a Google Drive link to ALL your files in every language. You may wonder why we have so many questions on our form. The reason is that it is hard to piece together your information from documents alone. You know the story of your adoption better than anyone. We want to hear your interpretation of events and your priorities for the search. Don’t worry – our team in the USA and Ethiopia will also go through your documents. Please follow the instructions, as we are volunteers and whatever you skip means more work for us.


Andrea will review your case info and documents. A general plan is prepared taking into account location, data provided, expenses, and time estimation. This may involve some questions to you through email or phone.  A proposal for your search will be sent to you. The proposal quote will cover the following things:

    • Comprehensive planning and pre search consultation, printing, posters if agreed upon, travel to the location of the search, travel within the location, social worker expenses such as food and bed, social worker time, PPE as needed, case preparation, reports, and phone follow ups.

The Search

When it is your turn, Andrea will spend 1-3 days preparing and organizing your case, creating bullet point instructions, and sending your search data to one of our social workers. Your search data includes the information you provided: documents, photos, letters to birth family, possibly posters created by us, etc.

When the social worker receives your data, he begins his task with at least one day spent reviewing and studying all the documents, printing and translating posters, and preparing for travel.

Next, the social worker begins work in the field. This usually includes travel to the location of your search. The social worker will personally investigate your child’s background in Ethiopia and search for their family. Fieldwork can last from a few days to weeks over the course of a few months depending on the complexity. Note that we never use sub contractors.

Post Search

The completion of your search will include a detailed report written by the social worker. These take at minimum one week to write due to their length and the fact that they are being written in the second or third language of the social worker. Our reports are typically 8-15 single spaced, typed pages. Your report will also include contact information of every significant person talked to, 200+ photos, and (usually) videos of significant people and the area in which the search takes place. GPS coordinates for significant places visited in the search are also included. Essentially, your report is an hour by hour, day by day, accounting of your search. In addition to taking a long time to write, our reports take hours to upload. One report and all its photos can take more than a week, with multiple tries, to upload from Ethiopia.

When your report is received by the USA office, it will be reviewed for comprehensiveness and quality. This process itself takes several full days and involves editing for grammar, clarifying details with the social worker, explaining context specific information or language, and following up on various issues with the social worker. If our Executive Director is not satisfied with any aspect of the report after viewing through the eyes of an adoptive parent who has experienced searches personally, the social worker will redo or follow up on that piece of your search, though this does not happen often. Our social workers are professional and we have worked together a long time. They understand well what we on the adoptive side expect and the kinds of things we want to know as adoptive families.

Timing: It can take up to six months from when your social worker starts your search until you receive your report. Some searches have multiple legs and can take longer. Occasionally there are parts to a report which come at different times, for example if the search involves multiple areas in Ethiopia.

Your report with come with a detailed FAQ on how to manage future communication with folks in Ethiopia, mitigate unrealistic expectations on both sides, understand commonly experienced cultural differences, and how to gift in a meaningful way. Your report may also contain the recommendation to get a DNA test done. If that is the case, we can facilitate that.

After you’ve received your report, you will have the opportunity to ask questions which we will follow up on by phone.

Concluding Comments

As you can see, a lot of work goes into each search. Every search is treated as if it is our own. Andrea, the social workers, and our volunteers work together to provide thorough, honest, and ethical searches with full disclosure of all the information we gather. We understand that the information gleaned from a search belongs to the adoptee, and the adoptee deserves every bit of information possible about his/her life in Ethiopia.

A sample report is located here. Note that this is a made-up case and some of the files are placeholders. While it is not a real report, the photos are real people our team interacted with in the field and watermarks have been added to discourage sharing.