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Before you start your search

If you are looking for your birth mother, birth father or birth relatives, here are some things you should think about, including how intensely emotional it will be.

Adopted persons

Not all adopted persons feel the need to seek information or make contact. However, many people who were adopted want information about their origins to gain a better understanding of who they are.

Often adopted persons decide to search for their birth parents at times in their lives which intensify their curiosity and interest in their family history. These occasions include:

  • late adolescence, when an adopted person’s feelings about identity become more intense and questions increase
  • engagement or marriage, which often creates a desire for knowledge of the biological link which connects an unknown past to an unpredictable future
  • pregnancy or birth, which raises concerns about possible hereditary illnesses and birth complications. Doctors often ask patients about their mother’s pregnancy. The child may be an adopted person’s first contact with a blood relation and the desire to establish a child’s genealogy may be felt acutely
  • the onset of a medical condition, when doctors often ask for a family medical history which can assist in a diagnosis or method of treatment
  • the death of one or both adoptive parents, which results in sorrow and bereavement which may trigger grief for the loss of the birth parents and a yearning to find what was lost
  • middle age, when an adopted person may feel it could be the last opportunity to find their birth parents before they pass away. It is also a time of concern about the birth parents’ need for comfort and support.

The decision to seek information may create feelings of disloyalty toward the adoptive parents. Fear of hurting the adoptive parents is extensively documented and fear of rejection by the adoptive family can also be a concern. Many people face the dilemma of searching now and perhaps hurting the adoptive parents, or waiting until later – when it may be too late. Some search and have contact without telling their adoptive family.

Sadly, many adopted persons who are keen to learn about their backgrounds leave their search until after their adoptive parents pass away. They may then find that significant members of their birth family have also died, closing the door on a valuable means of obtaining information.

Some adopted persons in their late teens and twenties have little or no desire to seek information or search for birth parent(s). It is typical for people of this age to be more interested and involved in establishing their own adult lives and identities. Often they are furthering their education, establishing a career and enjoying a growing independence from their adoptive families. They may be scared or feel that the addition of a second family is an unwanted complication at this time in their lives.

Unfortunately a small number of people do not know that they are adopted. Discovering this in later life can be a tremendous shock and give rise to complex and intense emotions. Some of the ways people find out are:

  • being told after the death of an adoptive parent
  • when applying for a birth certificate or passport
  • from a relative or friend
  • by coming across the adoption papers
  • when an approach is made by a member of the birth family.
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Last updated: 24 Sep 2019