Thinking about calling a birth parent for the first time can seem incredibly nerve-wracking. There has likely been a lot of work put into your search so far, and you don’t want to do anything to mess things up. With a little forethought and planning, you can feel organized and somewhat collected while making initial contact with your birth parent.
Every situation is different. While there are guides that you can use, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. When at all possible, you should contact the birth parent directly. It’s likely that other members of the family don’t know about your adoption. One sure way to get started on the wrong foot is to reveal your parent’s secret to others. If you hope to have a successful reunion, I suggest proceeding with caution. You want to tread lightly, even if the excitement is overwhelming.
Before you sit down to place the call, you should write a script. It will help you to stay focused and on point. You will want to ask some identifying questions to make sure you have the right person, especially if his or her name is a common one. You can ask about the state she was born in or where he went to school. You may want to confirm a previous job or a relative’s name. It really just depends on what information you have available.
Here’s an example script you could write-up:
“Hi, my name is ______. I’m working on my genealogy. I’m looking for ______. Maybe you can help me. Is this a good time to talk?”
That question is important. The word genealogy may have tipped her off to the purpose of the call, but she may have family around and might be unable to talk. Always give him the opportunity to take down your number and call you back. If he says yes, then you can proceed.
“Is this ______ of city/state, born on ______?” If she says yes, then continue, “I think we may be related. Does xx/xx/xx (your birthday) mean anything to you?” Give some time for her to process what you are asking. Where the conversation goes at that point is up to you.
Let’s say you reach out to someone who is not your birth parent. Do not reveal anything to a third party. “Hello, my name is ______. Do you know ______ of city/state, age?” If he says no, leave it at that. Thank him and end the call. If he says, “Oh, that’s my sister-in-law, what’s this about,” then say, “I would like to speak with her, can you give her my number to call me?” Or you could say, “She is a friend of my mother’s. I’m having a party, and I’d like to invite her. Can you put me in touch with her?”
Write down a script that fits the way that you speak and the information you have. Practice it until it flows naturally. When you are comfortable, get a pen and paper ready. Go slowly and write down everything that he or she says. Pause between questions. If you get a voicemail when you call, leave a message. Say, “Hi, this is ______. I hope you’re having a good day. I’ll call back later.” Don’t be the creepy person who calls ten times and then doesn’t leave a message. You don’t want your conversation to start with your birth parent being annoyed.
Be ready for anything. Your birth mother may get so excited she hangs up, or she could say it’s not her even if you know differently. Just remember that you have had plenty of time to process emotions about a reunion. This is likely coming out of the blue for them. Be considerate and patient.
Some adoptees choose to have an intermediary place the call for them. It can relieve some of the pressure on both parties. For birth parents, sometimes there is a knee-jerk reaction to protect their secret rather than a response based on authentic emotions. Using an intermediary can feel less threatening to them. For an adoptee, you won’t have to worry that the future of your relationship rests solely on this phone call.
Others are of the thought that the phone call absolutely must be made by the adoptee. You must weigh those options and make a decision about what way feels appropriate to you. There are many support groups and forums online to help you before and after contact is made.
Your first step in your search and reunion journey is to register in Adoption.com’s Reunion Registry.