Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Adoption, search and reunion: when and how is right to trace birth family members

Over the years I have had contact with hundreds of adopted people, birth family members and adoptive parents, and it never ceases to amaze me how unique each adoption, search and reunion experience is. What is really important however is that adopted people who are about to embark on a search for birth relatives have time to prepare and think about their motivations and possible outcomes.

Before adopted people begin a search for birth family members, it is important to think about their motivations. Their life and those of others may be changed forever. It is vital they ask themselves a few questions at the start. For example, what do they want to achieve by tracing and contacting the birth family? Is it to satisfy curiosity, to complete a family tree, to clarify the past? Do they want to establish or renew a longed-for relationship?

It may be a combination of these questions and others. Sometimes motivations are hard to put into words, but it is helpful to be as clear about these as possible. By thinking things through in advance, the adopted person will be more prepared for what may lie ahead .

People also need to think about, and prepare themselves for, the range of positive as well as negative outcomes they may encounter. For example, how will they feel if the person you find does not respond or does not want contact? What if they learn that their birth relative has died or cannot be located? What if the birth relative does not want contact or not as much as the adopted person would like?

The majority of search and reunion stories have generally positive outcomes. Even when the contact and reunion has not worked out, it is not unusual to hear adopted people say that they are glad that they searched. Often they will have gained more background information and are now living with a reality, not a fantasy.

It is vital that adopted people have support when they are searching for birth family members. Such support can be provided by the adoption agency that was involved in the adoption. Alternatively the adoption team at the local authority where the adopted person lives can help. Adoption workers can be a good source of support when the search is frustrating, or leads to sad or disappointing information. They can help the adopted person talk through their hopes and fears, as well as the decisions they may need to make along the way. They can also act as an intermediary and make the initial approach when the birth relative has been located.

BAAF’s Adoption Search Reunion website has lots of helpful information for adopted people as well as for birth and adoptive relatives. Tomorrow we’ll be back with some handy tips for adopted people who want to locate and make contact with birth relatives.

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