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Adoption: Looking for Your Birth Family

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Once you have made the decision to search for your birth parents, you may have mixed feelings about it. You may feel excited, relieved, scared or anxious.These feelings might change over time.

For some people who search for their birth families, the search may be fairly straightforward and quick, especially if the person they are searching for has put their name on an adoption registry, or if your adoptive parents know who the birth parents are. In most cases, however, it is more complicated. It’s important to be prepared for all kinds of scenarios – there are no guarantees about whether you will be able to find the person, or what will happen when you do.

It’s great to keep a positive attitude, but try to be ready for any type of unexpected situation.

Once you have the address or phone number of a member of your birth family, think carefully about how to approach them and what you might say. Being sensitive to their feelings will give you a better chance of establishing a lasting relationship with them. It might not be the best idea to turn up on their doorstep, because people need time to digest information, and you don’t want to shock them.

Three popular methods of contacting birth families are by phone, by letter, or through an intermediary.

Reactions from birth parents. Like you, it is possible that your birth parents will have a variety of reactions about being contacted by you. They may feel excited, nervous, guilty or surprised. It might take them some time and space to manage these feelings. You have given your decision to find your birth parents a lot of thought, but it may be new for them. It is possible that you are ahead of them in the process of working through how they feel. They may have unresolved feelings and might need time to work through what it means to have you contact them. Try to be patient.

You might find that your birth parents do not want to be contacted. This means that even though you know who your birth parents are, you are not allowed to contact them. It is not uncommon to feel hurt, angry, or shocked. Managing these feelings can be hard. Talking to someone you trust can help you work through these feelings. Remember, their decision not to be contacted by you does not mean they feel negatively about you. There are many reasons why parents might not want to be contacted, including the emotional consequences it would have on both you and them.

Acknowledgement: This fact sheet was originally developed by youth and staff at ReachOut.com, a website that helps teens get through tough times. 

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