Reunification is becoming more and more common as laws throughout the United States and other countries are being reformed. More and more birth records of adoptees are being opened to allow for the search and reunion of those who have wondered for so many years about their roots. Opponents to allowing access to birth records often cite the confidentiality promised to birth mothers as a reason to keep records closed. While this is a valid concern, many birth mothers (even those who never had an inkling that their child might eventually find them) have welcomed reunification. But that doesn’t mean it’s been easy.
Australia’s Post-Adoption Research Centre (PARC) offers search and reunion counseling. According to Margaret Watson, a counselor with PARC, counseling is valuable through all stages of reunification. Because not all birth parents want to be found, there can be great trauma involved as adoptees search, find, then try to reunite. “What we find is often older ladies who have had a terrible experience may not have told their husbands or other children that they did have a child taken for adoption. A lot of women continue to live with terrible shame and guilt and trauma from that experience and often may not want to revisit those emotions,” Watson told ABC reporter, Kim Lester. Thus, adoptees may end up feeling twice-rejected if their birth parent refuses reunification. Heartache and trauma, in these instances, are felt by both the adoptee and the birth parent who has been found. This is why counseling, before even beginning a search by an adoptee, is recommended.
As an adoptive mother I was supportive of my son searching for his birth parents. We knew that curiosity and possibly a desire to have a relationship with his birth parents would eventually happen. So, in his early twenties when he announced he wanted to search, we supported him and helped in the search. His birth mother was found and she experienced happiness that he had searched. The reunification was tender, but clearly painful for his birth mother. During their time together, our son was given information about his birth father, including his name. His birth father has yet to respond to our son’s reaching out. Although our son does a good job of hiding emotions, we see and feel his pain at the rejection. So I know first-hand that search and reunion can be both sweet and bitter.
For more from counsellor Margaret Watson on the effect of search and reunion, visit PARC’s website and the ABC interview.
For additional guidance in your search, visit the new search and reunion website for adoption training.