Supporting adopted children in the search for birthparents
My husband and I adopted an infant 19 years ago. Several years later, we divorced and I raised our son to adulthood by myself. My child is now 19 and is interested in searching for his birth father and birthmother. I have a number of concerns about this and I’m seeking advice on how to support him. Your ideas would be appreciated.
Did It All Alone
Dear Did It All Alone,
Congratulations for raising your son to adulthood and being open enough to back his need to find a birth father and a birthmother, he never knew. This situation requires a lot of maturity and wisdom on your part. You may be wondering whether your son will still love you as much as he did before, or what kind of reception he might get from the birth parents, 19 years later. Your own feelings must be complex and I would suggest you seek the help of an experienced counsellor for yourself.
Your son no doubt shares a lot of the same issues as other adoptees who were placed for adoption upon birth or shortly thereafter by birth family who could not raise a child at that time. Your local Children’s Aid Society social workers, the Ontario Adoption Disclosure Register staff, or counsellors at Parent Finders Ottawa, might be of use in helping your son get started on the search. An Ottawa Private Adoption Practitioner such as Linda Corsini, Sandra Forbes or Helen Dawkes-Brown are great choices as well, to coach you and/or your son through this journey from start to finish.
I suggest you encourage your boy to read adoption literature about finding birthparents and the experiences of others with adoption and adult reunions. Lori Rosove, an Ottawa social worker and educator, has recently published a powerful book entitled ‘23 Voices of Adopted Youth’ which could be a good read for your son at this juncture. In the book, he will read stories written by young adult adoptees in their own words. He will read about feelings of abandonment, feelings of confusion, feelings of anger, feelings of understanding and acceptance, feelings of surprise, feelings of curiosity, and feelings of love, support and gratitude, among many multifaceted reactions to being an adoptee. I think the experience of reading about other adoptees might be helpful for your son to look at his own feelings about his adoption, why this search for his birth parents is important to him and what expectations are realistic.
My three children were adopted and all three have had reunions with their birth family. All were 25 years of age or older before they were ready for the meetings despite having open opportunity to search from age 18.
In one case, my daughter connected with her birth mother through Parent Finders Ottawa. A reunion was held in my family home for the birth mother, her husband, her sister and her mother. We celebrated with a reunion cake and spent a wonderful afternoon together going over old photograph albums, answering assorted questions and sharing anecdotes and past life experiences. It was amazing to see biological family resemblances, common mannerisms and even similar inflections in speech patterns. However, ongoing contact petered out after a few years, much to my daughter’s regret.
In the second case, my daughter connected with her birthmother with the help of a Search Angel in California. She nervously met her birth mother in a hotel in Vancouver, and began a relationship journey which has evolved into warm ongoing contact, including phone calls and visits. This birth mother was a special guest at my daughter’s wedding and is a third active and proud grandmother for her son.
In the third case, my son met his birth father and birthmother with the assistance of the Adoption Disclosure Register staff. He met them separately at their homes in another major city. In this case little contact was pursued by any of the players, although my son respectfully attended his birth parents’ funerals with his wife and daughter.
I tried to encourage all three children to meet their birth families. I hoped and prayed that the matured birth parents would be positive additions to their lives. I knew the children had the need for explanations. I knew they wanted to know where they had come from. I therefore totally supported the reunions. I prepared a life book for each of my children to take to their birth parents which included all kinds of photographs with anecdotes about the children’s growing up years and a thank you letter for allowing my husband and me, the privilege of raising their progeny.
Although each child’s experience at the reunion was positive in so many ways, the resulting relationships were different in all three cases and not all exactly as hoped for or planned. However, all three adopted adults are happy to have met the people who gave them life and to have had their queries answered.
It is always wise to take these things slowly and to be sure the person on the other end is ready and prepared for a reconnection. When both parties agree to communicate with each other online, or on the phone, the potential for a meeting and a mutually satisfactory relationship going forward can be established.
I wish you well Did It All Alone, in supporting your son through his search and reunions with his birthparents. May he find peace, insight and closure about his adoption experience.
I’m looking forward to your questions! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and please put Heart to Heart in the subject line. Note that all columns will remain anonymous.
Photo: Phillip Sierra, Pixabay