It seems inevitable that at this time of year some adopted people may start to think about tracing birth relatives. People have all sorts of reasons for doing this: maybe you want to chase away some old ghosts; feel a part of you is missing; or you’re just curious about your origins.
If you are an adopted person and have been thinking 2012 will be your year to start searching, then here's some handy tips to get you started.
The reason people decide to trace can vary enormously. It can be helpful to think carefully about what you want to achieve. Do you want to complete your family tree, or are there some events from the past you want to know more about? It can sometimes be hard to express your feelings. Talking to a friend or an adoption advisor is helpful in getting your thoughts clear and thinking about some of the issues involved.
Most searches and reunions have a positive outcome. Welcomed and happy reunions can be exciting and consuming. Many people describe tracing birth relatives as an emotional roller-coaster. For some it gives a sense of satisfaction that they finally know. Others may find out things they weren't expecting, which can be challenging and unsettling. It's important that you prepare for all potential outcomes the positive as well as the negative, for example finding out the people you are searching for have died. It’s important to consider that you and your birth relatives may have led very different lives, and possibly may have little in common. If you are just looking for information this may not be an issue, but if you are hoping to rekindle the lost years and build a relationship then you may be disappointed.
Be aware of the impact your search mayhave on other family members. You may bring up events from the past that some would rather have left forgotten. It’s important to respect the privacy of others and try and understand their perspective.
Many people have started using social networks, such as Facebook or Genes Reunited, when tracing birth relatives. While we understand the ease of using these platforms, we urge caution. They can deliver information quickly, but may not be the best way to reach out to someone you haven't had contact with for several years. Contacting birth relatives 'out of the blue' can be exciting but also unsettling and nerve racking. Instead, you should always consider the advantages of using an intermediary, details of which can be found on our website.
Look after yourself
Your search is likely to take you through many different emotions. Sometimes it might be frustrating, at other times rewarding. Make sure you have emotional support and start at a time and go at a pace that feels right for you. Whilst all people affected by an adoption reunion are likely to have a mixture of feelings about the event, that may alter over time. Remember it can take time to get it right and comfortable for everyone. Be patient and kind to yourself.
The Adoption, Search & Reunion website has a range of helpful tools to help you in your search, including advice on finding and using an intermediary, information on what documents you will need and how to get started. You may also be interested in watching the short video below about using social networks when tracing birth relatives.
For more information about search and reunion via Facebook, please visit the BAAF bookstore.
Join BAAF for a live Twitter Chat on the pros and cons of tracing birth relatives online Wednesday, January 25 (7-8pm).