Adults Finding Their Birth Parents
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Adults Finding Their Birth Parents
In this last week's recommendation newsletter, somebody asked
for recommendations on resourced for finding birth parents, to
which someone replied ''knowing who your birthmother is will add
a richness to your life that makes navigating all the new
emotions worth it.'' This statement really brought up some
questions for me. As an adoptee who has never really had any
interest in finding her birth parents, it seems like I'm in the
minority. Does anyone else feel the same way I do? If you think
it's important to find them, why is it so important to find
these people? I appreciate them and am grateful for their
generosity, but I know who my mother is and it's the woman who
raised me. I am estranged from my adoptive father (he left us
when I was three) who I tried to reconnect with some years back
but it has only confused thing for me. He was not part of my
growing up, so I find it difficult to relate to him as a
father. We have nothing in common and now I wish I had never
made contact. What kind of relationship can I have with someone
with whom I have nothing more in common than some DNA? How does
this enrich my life? Am I missing something? I already feel
that my life is so full, what can knowing who this person is
add? I'm not judging, I just want somebody to provide me with
some new insight.
I look forward to reading the answers on this topic. I, too, am
adopted, and I also have not been interested in finding my
birth parents. Sure, I was mildly curious, and if you handed me
an envelope with the info I would open it, but the benefits
didn't seem worth the trouble and emotional strain.
Recently I have been starting to feel differently. Mainly, I
think, because my mother died a year and a half ago. Not only
does this mean that I could look without hurting her or making
her anxious, but it also brings home that the window to find my
birth mother will not be open forever -- she is getting older,
Also, as my kids (biological) approach adulthood and I see the
ways we are connected, not just in shape of nose, but in
personality traits, too, I wonder what traits I share with my
For now, the thought of opening a new emotionally trying
chapter when I am really just recovering from my mother's death
and the complicated aftermath still does not seem worth the
possible benefits. But I am wondering about it more and more.
-- getting more curious
I am a 35 year old adoptee and have found myself interested in
searching at different points of my life but never really
actively pursued it. When i was in my 20's and in therepy we
explored part of my desire to seach as possible part of a
greater issue with abandonment. After finishing my therepy
the ''need'' to search was one of the things that ''miraculously''
dissapated. When i started to have children I became
interested again for reasons of medical history and the
usual ''who do they look/act like'' questions. Again I never
went further that getting my non-identifying info from the
adoption agency. From this i learned what my biological
parents physical stats were, their interests (during college
years) and my heritage which i always sort of knew but it was
affirmed. It lingers in the back of my mind, but mostly for
the medical reasons and curiousity- I really have very little
desire for an emotional relationship - that's what my ''real''
not searching now but maybe???
I don't have any personal experience with this but my closest
friend (whom I've been friends with since childhood) was
adopted through an open adoption and her biological mother is
also a distant relative of her mother. I have witnessed the
pain and confusion that knowing her biological parents has
caused her and she had remarked to me many times that she
wishes that she didn't know them. And I wanted to ad, perhaps
more significantly, that, from reading your post, you seem to
have the insight that you seek. You seem to know your truth.
You ask alot of important questions about finding one's
birhtparents, and I'd like to respond based on both my personal
experiences as an adoptive mother and sister of someone who
relinguished her daughter for adoption many years ago, and as a
psychotherapist working with adoptees, birthparents, and
I think the primary risk of not knowing one's biological family
is the secrecy that often accompanies unasked questions, and the
subsequent shame that one feels as a result of the secrecy. The
developmental tasks of childhood and adolescence which shape
identity formation and self esteem can be impacted by doubts and
mystery about one's origins. In my own limited expereince,
adoptees from closed adoptions frequently wonder about the
circumstances of their adoption, e.g.,''why was I placed for
adoption?'', and even harbor worries about being somehow
different or less lovable, without really understanding
why. ''Finding someone I looked like'' was one of the compelling
reasons my sister's birth daughter searched for her biological
parents. And, of course medical history is always good
information to have for you and your children.
On the other hand, I've met several adolescent and adult
adoptees who have very little curiosity about their birth
families, and do not seem the least bit burdoned by such
In your e-mail, you presume that you have very little in common
with your birthparents other than DNA. How can you know this?
Its entirely possible that you have alot in common with them
including siblings, personality traits, talents, hobbies, and
interests. Such things have genetic underpinnings. You also
say , ''my life is full,'' as if knowing more people who love you
would take away, rather than add to your riches. Of course, its
not always so easy or simple. People are sometimes disappointed
with who their birthparents turn out to be. And, there's no one
answer for everyone.
I hope you follow your instincts on what's right for you, and in
the meantime, if you need more information, or support, there
are many resources available. One place to start might be PACER,
an organization that provides information and support for
adoptees looking for their birthparents, or those who simpy need
to understand what's involved in this process. Their number is 1-
888-746-0514. Best of luck!
I'm an adoptee who sought out and found my birth mother fairly
late in life (at age 34). I never felt a burning desire to know
my biological parents, but was somewhat curious and wanted to
know my medical history before having children. In any event, I
met my birth mother and two full, biological sisters in person
several years ago. Even though I didn't realize it until later,
the meeting was one of the most difficult and emotionally
draining events of my life. Significantly, I had not given any
thought to what type of relationship, if any, I would have with
my birth family after our initial meeting. As it turns out, my
mother and sisters think of me as a long-lost relative and tried
hard to integrate me into their family for several years after
our meeting, whereas I do not view them as being part of my
family. I felt no kinship with them when I met them even though
I certainly thought I would. My family, as far as I'm
concerned, is the family that raised me. I did learn about my
medical history and am grateful for that info (turns out I am at
significant risk for colo-rectal cancer and have started early
screening), but some of the info (family history of mental
illness and epilepsy) I cannot do anything about and don't know
if I'm glad to know about it. The long and the short of it is
that I probably would not seek out my birth family again knowing
what I know now. I agree wholeheartedly with your statement
that you may not have anything in common with your birth family
solely by virtue of your shared genes.
Also an adoptee
You're not alone. I'm not interested in finding my birth
parents either. It helps that they (if even alive) live on the
other side of the world. I wouldn't mind having their medical
Dear Adoptee Ė
I am someone who decided in my mid-20ís that I wanted to
find my birth parents, or more specifically, I wanted to find
out who they were. Many factors went into this: 1) learning
my genetic medical history, 2) learning my genetic cultural
history, 3) finding out what the state knew about me that I
didnít (that was a big one for me), and 4) finding out the
story of my conception and birth. Also, there is something
very satisfying in figuring out a mystery Ė I felt like a private
investigator at times, and there was a sense of excitement
and accomplishment as I grew closer to discovering my
birthparentsí identities. Why some people choose to search
for their birthparents and others donít may have something
to do with why some people are interested in genealogy and
some arenít. For the former, knowledge of how they came
to be in the world helps them find a place for themselves,
and gives them a sense of who they are. For others, the
information has no relevance. For me, I think my interest
has been sparked by the information not being available. I
am way more into genealogy than my biological
half-siblings are (who have always had the information
available to them). I remember telling my half-brother, donít
you think itís crazy to think that if so and so wasnít born we
wouldnít be here? His response: ďI guess so.Ē
Also, even if itís only on a completely cellular level, to some
degree our genetic make-up does tell us something about
who we are. In my case, my birth mother has a possibly
genetic type of cancer and I am really glad I know that and
can watch for it. But the satisfying thing for me is knowing
where my ancestors came from and how I came to be here.
When people say, ďAre you Scandinavian?Ē I have an
answer. However, I should point out that information is
different that having a relationship with people. I never for a
moment regret that I have information about myself and how
I came to exist; however I donít feel a strong need to have a
relationship with my birth parents. I do NOT feel that they
are my parents, more like extended relatives, while they,
especially my birthmother, think of me as their daughter. Itís
a bit uncomfortable, but manageable. And to me, worth the
information. I believe in England (I am thinking of that
wonderful Mike Leigh movie) and some states the
information is open to adoptees when they turn eighteen,
without contact having to occur. To me thatís the best
solution, but itís not available to everyone. But if youíre not
curious anyway, I say let it go.
An Adoptee Who Searched and Found
I know many adoptees who, like you, never wanted to search. I
get the sense that they feel like their lives are the way they
want them to be, they have families and friends and no reason to
seek out birth family. I too have a wonderful family, and ave
never felt like my life was lacking anything that meeting my
birth mother could fix, but I have always been curious. I wanted
to meet someone who looks like me. WHen I met my birth mother,
our physical similarities was probably the thing that moved me
least. I discovered connections that I had never even thought
about but so validated my who and how I am. We are both artists
and healers. There are ways that she just gets me that nobody
else in my life does or can. That doesnt mean she fills anybody
else's role, because I have space for her in my life too.
Meeting my birth mother did not make any part of my life less
rich or full. It just seemed to make things make more sense.
It was very interesting to read the repsonses from adult
adoptees about finding birthparents. I wanted to add my own
experience to the mix, but qualify it by saying that searching
is a highly individual experience and any decision an adoptee
makes should be supported.
I first thought about searching at age 23, prompted by my
adoptive mother for medical reasons. But it took me seven
years to really convince myself to do it, I think mostly
because I wanted to do it in my own way without the government
interfering. And I was afraid they would either be dead,
wouldn't acknowledge me, or had kept me secret from their
families and loved ones. And I was afraid of upsetting my
parents, even though my mom was in favor of my search (albeit
for medical reasons only at the time).
Finally, when I was sure that I could accept whatever outcome,
I signed the papers and waited. I should say at this point
that I enlisted a therapist who specializes in adoption issues
and is an adoptee herself to help support me through the
process. If you decide to search I think it would be helpful
because it's hard for non-adoptees to really understand our
point of view, even close friends who would see us through
So what happened was something more amazing and wonderful than
I could have ever imagined. My birth mother and my birth
father responded immediately and enthusiastically. They had
been waiting for me to contact them -- my birth father had even
signed papers in anticipation of my 18th birthday should I ever
decide to search. My birthparents, although not married, have
kept in touch and been friends all these years. And not only
did I discover important medical information (family risk of
asthma, migraines and osteoporosis), but I have been openly
welcomed by my birthparents and their extended families. I am
in contact with aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, half
brothers, and all are wonderful, interesting people. My kind
of people, really. And the stories you hear about similarities
was really true for me. My birthmother and I are uncannily
alike -- same type of college, same graduate degree, same kind
of favorite pen, same favorite soup recipe (ginger carrot soup
from Moosewood), same way of asking questions, same habit of
staying up too late at night and volunteering for too many
things. My birthfather and I traveled to the same countries,
pursued the same sports and prefer the same type of birthday
cake alternative (apple pie). Things like that.
My family has really been wonderful, my mom especially. She
was the one who first encouraged me to search and she has since
met my birthparents. My dad was slower to accept the series of
events, but has exchanged letters with my birthparents,
thanking them for giving him the opportunity to be a dad. My
brother, who is also adopted, has no desire to search and after
some conversations, he understands that my decision to search
is in no way tacit encouragement for him to do the same.
If you decide to search and have concerns about your family's
reaction and acceptance, there is a great booklet that I gave
to my parents that really helped. It's by Carol Demuth from
the Aries Center in Garland, TX at (214) 414-3639.
Good luck to you.
A different story...A very close friend of mine [Kim] sought her
birth parents soon after she turned 18 yrs old. With some luck
and a helpful person at the DMV she found her birth mother
first, who had prayed for the day her daughter would try to find
her. My girlfriend's mother had her at 17 years of age, and was
forced to give her up for adoption. She never had the
opportunity to have more children. ''Kim'' and her birth mother
bonded right away, and Kim was able to meet the rest of
her ''family'', who she still remains close to. Kim's adopted
mother was very loving and encouraged Kim to find her birth
parents, then soon after died of cancer. Kim was able to learn
about the circumstances of her birth, her medical history and
her cultural background. To this day(she is in her late 30's
now) her birth mother is a part of her life. I know that many
people do not have a happy outcome to their ''reunions'', but
Kim's was, and her story has always touched me.
I did not see the original post but I think I understand the
basic question - feel free to contact me directly if I don't
respond to your issue. At the age of 25 I found my birth-
mother, not to mention an entire family. Her first words to me
were, ''I've been waiting 25 years for you to call me.'' That
phone call was the most difficult, and the most rewarding call
I've ever made. The outcome was also emotionally devastating.
What I realized is that for 25 years I had been fantasizing
about who/what/where she was. The truth was very difficult to
handle...however, it was the truth - not particularly bad or
The reason to find your birth-mother is to put to rest all
your questions about who she is, who you are and why you
exist. Isn't the most basic question of all, ''why am I
alive?'' Your birth-mother can answer that question. It may
not be particularly exciting, it may cause you to feel sadness,
anger, or happiness, but it will make you feel something. I
can't tell you the incredible emotion that I felt when my birth-
mother sent me a picture she had taken of me in a foster home
when I was three months old. She had written my birth name on
the back of the photo and a dress she had given me (later
returned to her) had been wrapped in tissue - she had kept both
in the back of her dresser drawer for my entire life. She
never stopped thinking of me as her baby.
Thirteen years after that first phone call we still have a
very good relationship. However, it took a lot of work...we
were both determined to make it happen. I realize that our
relationship is not the norm, and that most adoptees are not
interested in that type of outcome. Keep your expectations
low, and your goals clear. Expect to go through some emotional
turmoil, even if you never had any prior emotion about your
adoption. Get involved with ALMA - they can provide support
groups and information as to how to go about doing a search.
I saw an excellent documentary on PBS a few years ago called ''First
Person Plural'' about a woman adopted from Korea, raised by a white
family here in the Bay Area. She journeyed to Korea as an adult and
met her birthmother and siblings, which whom she did not share a
language. It was a powerful movie for me...
I was raised by my mother and stepfather, and looked for and met my
birthfather when I was 25. I have known him for 20 years now and it is
definitely a confusing relationship for me. I have been able to
past feelings of shame: that he picked his other daughters/family
instead of me, and that has been a great relief. l have a rich family
history and have met many of my relatives. I know my health history
(pretty insignificant). I feel that my children benefit more from this
relationship than I do, as he is another grandfather to them, and that
is a gift from me to my children.
I rarely feel completely relaxed around him and always carry the
question of what is family. Knowing him has raised lots of
uncomfortable feelings for me, yet has also given me more insight into
I am looking for some help. My birthmother contacted me for the
first time a few weeks ago and I am feeling everything from
thrill to fear. I would like to join either a formal support
group or just have a few phone numbers or email addresses of
adopted people who have been through the process of connecting
with birth parents to help me navigate this stretch of my
journey. Do you have suggestions? Have you been through this?
Please, help me. I am excited and scared and overwhelmed.
Oh my god, this is actually happening!
Years ago when I was going through the roller coaster of search
and reunion, I was on a list-serv called the ''Adoptees Mailing
List'', ran by a guy named Jeff Hartung out of UCSD. I just did
an internet search and they are now called AIML, Adoptees
Internet Mailing List. Here's a link
Good luck with this journey.
Hi. How exciting for you. Let me first share with you my
story. I was adopted at birth and raised on the Peninsula
(near San Mateo). About 12 years ago my sister (all of us
adopted at birth) tracked down her birth mother. After awhile,
after my adoptive parents got used to the idea of the birth
mother in my sister's life, I told my dad I was interested in
tracking down my birht parents. He put me in touch with an
attorney at the firm who handled my adoption who shared with me
some information that had been shared with my parents at the
time I was adopted (in 1962). I got access to enough
information to allow me to track both birth parents down.
Amazingly my birth mother lived very closeby. Anyhow, although
I've made contact with both, only my birth mother has remained
close to me and is today a close personal friend. My adoptive
parents have accepted her (and her husband) as part of the
family. It's been a very fulfilling experience.
There are a number of adoptee websites around such as (pardon
the name) Bastard Nation (bastards.org) and Adoptees.com. Best
of luck to you. Feel free to contact me directly if you want.
I'd be glad to share with you more information if you're
The adoption alliance group, PACT http://www.pactadopt.org/
is definitely a resource you should utilize!
I connected with both of my birthparents in late 2000. I can
share my experience with you as well as some really great books
on adoption that I read during this very exciting but scary
Congratulations! No matter what happens with this new
relationship, knowing who your birthmother is will add a
richness to your life that makes navigating all the new
emotions worth it.
does anyone know of any good agencies that can assist in looking
for ones biological parents.
Any adoption agency would be able to give the information you
need. I was told, from an adoptee who works at Pact (an adoption
facililtator located in Richmond), that it is relatively easy to
locate birthparents. Their number:510 243-9460. Anyone there can
help you. They are all wonderfule people.
Here's a great page full of links:
And I recommend you check out ALMA. They've been very helpful
preparing some of my friends for the first encounter experience:
Searching for bilogical parents:
In response to person looking for resources to locate
biological parents---This is such a difficult and painful area
for many to delve into. I worked in the adoption field for many
years and I usually referred people to Bastard Nation at
www.bastards.org. Apparently, they can be quite helpful in
this area. You may also want to contact NACAC (North
American Council on Adoptable Children) at
www.nacac.org. I found them to be very helpful to many of
the families I worked with. Best wishes on your search.
Make sure you have a lot of support around you.
I have recently started this process for myself. I was adopted
in Missouri and got some help from a lawyer friend of mine who
directed me to someone at the juvenile court in the county that
has my records. I would start there if I were you; most likely
a phone call to the court if you know the county where you were
adopted. Also, there is a resource online that I found that
gives state by state information for getting access to records,
which are called ''non-identifying'' records (such as medical
information, etc.) and ''identifying'' records which include names
and numbers. Identifying records in most cases can only be
released if your biological parents consent. Lots of people
everywhere are working to change these access laws, but that's
the way it is for now. Here's the site:
You scroll down to your state and there will be a contact
address and phone number; usually a state social services
department. In some cases, as is in my case, you will have to
obtain the consent of your adoptive parent to get these
records. For me that's not a problem, but I understand it is in
other cases. If you would like to discuss this further, please
send me an email. Best of luck to you.
My husband was adopted and for medical reasons is interested in
finding his birth mother (family). Do we need to hire an
expensive private detective or is there another way? Any
thoughts or suggestions would be greatly apprectiated.
I have searched for and located my birth mother and father in
the past few years, and I would say not hire a private
detective. At least not until you do some work on your own first.
Adoption laws vary drastically by state...In Oregon, you can get
your birthmom's name just by requesting it (new legislation) ...
In Ohio (my birth state), you could get it ONLY if you were born
1964 or earlier (I was born in 1965) ... and so on.
Things to do:
1) Register with the free International Soundex Reunion Registry
(www.isrr.net). It's a non-profit, run by volunteers. I suggest
a donation for good karma. This is the best registry out there.
They ultimately hooked me up with my birthmom, even though my
first registration with them didn't turn up anything.
2) Read Jean Strauss' Birthright. It has lots of good, practical
advice on how to search for and find people. It was the best
advice I found.
3) Collect information from his adoptive parents. They might
know a lot more than they've said, maybe even a name or a
location or hospital.
4) Contact the adoption agency. Everyone is entitled to ''non-
identifying'' information. Depending on your luck, you could get
a sympathetic social worker who might give a little more
information than they are supposed to. Even non-identifying
information such as hair & eye color, age, etc, can be very
helpful in hooking you up. Best case, you get a name. If the
adoption agency seems unresponsive, put your request in writing.
People's personal beliefs can really affect how they handle your
5) Keep a notebook with all the information you gather, requests
for information, etc. It helps to be organized.
Once you have a name and state, it can be surprisingly easy to
find someone. Within minutes of getting my birthmom's name, I
had her address & phone number (thanks to Yahoo).
This is just dealing with the practical side. There's also the
emotional side to deal with...there are so many issues involved!
Even if your husband is looking just for medical reasons, some
other issues may come up.
There's a lot more that can be done, and feel free to contact me
if you want more information. I am very glad I did it, and only
wish I had done it sooner. Although parts of the search were sad
and painful, overall, it has brought me a lot of peace and
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