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Adoption Reunification: Questions to Consider Before Beginning the Search for Birth Parents

Adoptions today are frequently open or semi-open with continued communication after placement between birth and adoptive parents, but adoptions 20 years ago often looked much different. Many birth and adoptive parents consented to closed adoptions, but with recent widespread availability of genetic testing, ancestry searches, and open adoptions becoming the new normal, many adoptees born in the 1990s and 2000s are turning 18 and beginning to search for their birth parents, and in the age of technology this can create challenges with adoptions remaining confidential.

But this raises several important questions for all parties in the adoption process. A birth parent may have signed an agreement to release their contact information should their child begin looking for them once they reach adulthood, but a lot can happen in 18 years. A birth parent may be experiencing other stressors in their life that might cause them to feel unprepared to begin communication with their child after all these years, or they may have started their own family who may or may not be emotionally prepared to begin a relationship with the child. The birth parent may have other children who may not yet be aware of having a half sibling, or their children could be at an age where they may not yet understand. Although a birth parent may have signed a consent for communication at the time of placement, they may be in a different frame of mind now regarding what they are capable of coping with emotionally, or what they feel would be best for their child or family.

Adoptees also have several questions to consider regarding their emotional readiness for reconnecting. Is the adoptee prepared if their birth parent is unable to be located, or if they do not feel comfortable reconnecting? If their birth parent is prepared to begin a relationship, has the adoptee considered the frequency or type of communication they are looking for, and what types of boundaries all parties may want to discuss in the development of their relationship? Is the adoptee ready to meet their birth parents in person, or would they prefer to continue messaging or talking on the phone for a period of time while getting to know each other? What level of connection would the adoptee like if they discover they have half-siblings? The adoptee may also want to discuss their plans with their adoptive parents, and consider how reconnecting with their birth parents may affect family dynamics.

With genetic testing now available that can connect people with others who share their DNA, confidentiality in adoptions has become more complicated, and sometimes impossible, to maintain. Many adoptees who complete genetic testing have been connected to half siblings, cousins, and grandparents, and therefore discover the identity of their birth parents. With this in mind, families who have been involved in the adoption process may want to begin considering how completing genetic tests may lead to unintentional connections to biological family members.

For those interested in pursuing reunification with their biological parents, considering these questions may be important before beginning the search. But despite the emotions and anxiety that may surface during the process, reunification can result in meaningful connections that can be a positive experience for all involved. Biological parents may have been thinking of their child frequently over the years, wondering about how they have grown, and they may be holding out hope that their child will one day reach out to them.

If you are interested in beginning the search for your biological parents and you have worked with Hausmann & Hickman, please feel free to reach out with questions about your specific situation. For Florida birth parents and adoptees who have not worked with our office, the Florida Adoption Reunion Registry can provide an opportunity to reconnect.