13 Reasons Adoptees Don’t Search for Their Birth Families

There are many reasons that people search for their birth families - and just as many reasons that they don't.

Stephan Petryczka December 25, 2017

Every person whose life story includes adoption is different. Many adoptees wonder about their birth families throughout their childhoods and begin searching the moment they’re old enough to do so. Others feel perfectly content with the information they already have about their origins and are never inclined to go digging around for their roots. Others fall somewhere in between these two poles. There are many reasons that people search for their birth families – and just as many reasons that they don’t. Here are a few things that might be holding you back from starting your own adoption search.

Readers, if you’ve completed an adoption search, what advice would you give to someone who’s on the fence about looking for their birth families?

 

You're not ready.
1. You're not ready.

The first step in the search process, which is to decide to search at all, requires an enormous confrontation with your adoption. Not everyone is comfortable bequeathing control over their story to a new set of strangers. Searches are not for the faint of heart; it takes strength. After all, your life as an adoptee was not your choice to begin with.

You feel resentment.
2. You feel resentment.

You might feel that your birth parents don’t deserve the satisfaction of knowing you or knowing that you’ve successfully made it to this day. The thought of them infuriates you. Aside from carrying you for nine months, your birth parents have never provided you with anything.

You're afraid of what you might find.
3. You're afraid of what you might find.

Not every story ends happily. Perhaps you’ve heard a story about someone else’s search that ended in disappointment or even tragedy. What could be worse than enduring an agonizing search and then finding an ugly story about your origins? Maybe you’d rather not risk associating yourself with anything but your adoptive family.

You afraid of being rejected, again.
4. You afraid of being rejected, again.

Perhaps most obviously, there is always the risk that your biological parents are uninterested in pursuing a relationship with you. If rejection is the result of your search, you might expect to have your self-esteem set back enormously. You might imagine the damage to be permanent.

You believe the story you’ve told yourself your whole life.
5. You believe the story you’ve told yourself your whole life.

Some adoptive parents tell their children a made-up story about their birth parents to fill-in the “black box” missing background story. Other times, adoptees themselves invent a story to help cope with the great mystery of their origins. When I was growing up, for example, I thought maybe my parents hard perished in the midst of Ukraine’s transition in post-Soviet chaos. My trust in my story was so strong that I was able not to think about them for most of my adolescence.

You don’t know where to begin.
6. You don’t know where to begin.

When I first made the decision to search, I had no idea where to begin. I was not connected to any adoption groups and did not know anyone who had ever conducted a search. I spent hours searching the internet and consulting strategies with my friends and families. I felt completely lost.

You don’t have enough information to work with.
7. You don’t have enough information to work with.

Let's say maybe you are actually interested in finding your biological parents. Have you taken a look at the information available to you? Are the attorneys and agents that helped your adoptive family find you still working in the field? Are you able to find their locations, emails or phone numbers? While there are dozens of paths to finding your biological family, some preliminary information will be necessary to get things started. Not every adoptee has that information. Some adoptees will never have that information and need to live with that reality for their whole lives, despite their curiosities.

You’re from a developing or war-torn country and assume the worst.
9. You’re from a developing or war-torn country and assume the worst.

Another thing I told people when asked about my adoption was that I wasn’t interested in searching, before I did, because of the language barrier. I didn’t speak Ukrainian or Russian and I didn’t expect my bio parents to speak English. You may also anticipate disorganized record keeping or a lack of social media presence to use in your search. It’s also difficult to respect different cultures and subsequent decision-making. Being raised in the United States, I inherited our country’s disdain for Russians without even knowing many. Without an open mind, how might you expect to accept the decisions that your birth parents made when you were placed for adoption?

Your state won't give you access to your adoption records.
10. Your state won't give you access to your adoption records.

Your right to seek additional information about your adoption is determined at the state level. Consequently, some states grant access to information while others do not. Fortunately, times are changing and many advocates are in favor of open adoptions, working to grant adoptees with unrestricted access to original birth certificates. Please see here for the American Adoption Congress’s breakdown of current state-by-state legislative statuses.

Hiring a third-party searcher costs too much money.
11. Hiring a third-party searcher costs too much money.

Even if you have access to adequate information about your biological parents (names, birth dates, contact info, etc.), there are additional obstacles in the way for some adoptees. One such obstacle is financial. Searching for your birth parents can be quite costly, depending on the information available to you and the depth of searching necessary

You’re protecting your adoptive families’ feelings.
12. You’re protecting your adoptive families’ feelings.

Another huge obstacle might be that you’re afraid of how your decision to search might impact your relationship with your adoptive family. Even if they don’t voice their feelings, some adoptive parents are prepared for the date you finally decide to search. Reciprocally, some adoptive parents may guilt their children for their natural curiosities. No matter what, your relationship with them will inevitably change. It’s important to share your curiosities and concerns with them however, and to tell them that your search is not a rejection of their parenthood.

You don't know what the new relationship will look like.
13. You don't know what the new relationship will look like.

You’re unsure of what sort of relationship is even possible to form or how you might integrate this extended family with your adoptive family. Life after the reunion is unclear and will be tumultuous, almost certainly. There is a chance you’ll remain in touch, and there is a chance that things will fizzle over time. Either way, it’s impossible to know without completing a search.

You just don’t need to.
14. You just don’t need to.

Maybe you’re really doing all right without knowing. You already feel like you belong somewhere, you’re content, and you don’t feel a strong inclination to learn anything more than what you already know.

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Stephan Petryczka

Stephan was born in Ukraine, adopted by an American family, and raised outside of New York City. After meeting with his biological family last summer, he has taken steps toward becoming involved in the greater adoptee and orphan service communities. Stephan recently began coordinating programs for the FRUA young adult group. He is currently studying for his Master's of Urban Planning at New York University.


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