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The Impact of Adoption on Birth Parents, pg 4

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When Your Child is an Adult

Your child is an adult when he or she reaches age 18. If you've been tempted to search all along, you may get an even stronger urge once your child reaches adulthood. The thought that you could approach your daughter or son as an adult is appealing. At this age, he or she might be able to understand more fully what it was like for you when you were faced with the placement decision.

In the past, it was assumed that birthparents would never search for their adult adopted child, and certainly not their minor child. After all, they were expected to forget that the birth and the placement ever happened. But birthparents don't forget, and at least nowadays some do search.

Voluntary Registries

One route to take, short of an all- out search, is to register with voluntary registries for birthparents and adult adoptees. This lets your child know that you would like to be "found." A registry works like this: You leave the information about the birth of the child along with your address and telephone number. You must keep your address and telephone number current. You can register at any time, even years after the child is born.

When your child is an adult, he or she can call or write this registry. If what the child knows about his or her birth matches the information the registry has about you, the registry will release your current address and telephone number to the child, and you could be contacted.

Should You Search?

According to leaders of national search and support organizations, more people are searching now than in the past. However, you may still wonder if you should search. You worry that your child may not be interested in hearing from you. You worry about the adoptive parents. How will they explain who you are to their family and friends? What about your own family members? What will the effects of a search be on them? How will they deal with a long lost sister, brother, stepson, or stepdaughter, and how will he or she fit in with your family?

While you may want to take other people's feelings into consideration when deciding to search, your own feelings are also important. In cases where you felt forced by others to place your child and thus felt a lack of control over your and your child's futures, searching is a way for you to get back some of that control, fill in missing pieces, and move on. If you have a strong urge to seek out your adult child, many adoption therapists say you should follow it, as long as your actions are within the law and you undertake the search with some understanding of how your son or daughter might react. If you have a supportive spouse, adult children, friends, a therapist, or a birth parent group, they can help you deal with the reaction you get, whether it is positive or negative.

You may be worried that intruding into your child's life might harm the child, but research shows that a reunion often brings adoptive parents and children closer together.1 The child learns that all the parent figures in his life care about him and his happiness. It can be quite beneficial.

Goals of Searching

If you do search, your goal should be truth. You must be willing to face whatever you might find out, even if it's the death of your child. The information you learn may be painful; however, peace of mind most likely will come with the pain. If you search for your child only to find that he or she won't take your calls, answer your letters, or send a photograph, at least you tried. Others before you have found that the process still helped them set aside their fantasies and accept their current life situation with a more positive attitude.

Reunions

If you do find your child and have a reunion, you will finally get the answers to your most pressing questions. You can be sure that your child knows why you placed him or her for adoption, and you will learn how the child turned out. But finding a son or daughter doesn't solve everything. It will not magically restore self-esteem, erase the guilt you may have felt through the years, or make up for the time you didn't spend together. These issues still need attention. And practical matters need attention, too. Deciding how to spend time with your child after finding him or her, and how to combine that relationship with your other family relationships, can be tricky.

Not searching is also okay. Searching is presented here as one way that some birthparents have dealt with their feelings.

Dirck Brown, Ed.D., a nationally known leader in the adoption reform movement, a reunited adult adoptee, and a therapist, says, "Reunion promises no happy endings, only new beginnings, each with the promise that those involved may become more fully themselves."2

Credits: Child Welfare Information Gateway (http://www.childwelfare.gov)

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