How to Make Your Adoption Reunion the Best it Can Be

You can't control all aspects of your reunion, but there are a few things you can do to make it as positive an experience as possible.

Jennifer Mellon December 16, 2017
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The journey to an adoption reunion can be a long one filled with lots of emotions from both parties. You may have contemplated searching for your birth relative for many years before the process even began. You may have spent much of your time and treasure finding your family member. As you prepare for the reunion, you might be anxious about making it perfect.

The truth is, you can’t control all aspects of your reunion, but there are a few things you can do to make it as positive an experience as possible.

Minimize Time Spent Searching

The search for birth family or an adopted child can range from a few weeks to decades.  Many individuals believe their reunion would not have been tainted with as much stress if it did not take as long as it did. One way to mitigate against a long search process is to hire a search professional. Connecting with a private investigator, a search angel, or a genealogist can be very beneficial in making the process go quicker and smoother. Although there is often a cost involved, the amount of time it will take them to get you the answers and connection you are seeking may far outweigh doing it yourself over many years (which will also cost some money).

Carefully Plan Your Initial Contact

Some people regret the way they first made contact with their biological family member. Whether it was on social media, in person, or by phone, some wish they had said something different or reached out in a different manner. The American Adoption Congress has a wonderful document walking through how to establish contact. If you’ve already made contact and the reunion didn’t go as planned, you still have the ability to make the outcome the one for which you hoped. Reach out again, acknowledge what you wish you had done differently, and ask for forgiveness (if appropriate) or for the chance to start again with clear and healthy boundaries (if that was an issue). Each day is a new chance to make things right.

Set Realistic Expectations

Setting realistic expectations for yourself can save you from any disappointment or other feelings of anxiety, sadness, or stress from the reunion not being as good as you would have liked. So prepare yourself for all scenarios. Consider some of these possibilities: The initial contact may be brief. Your birth family member may not be open to being contacted at this point. You won’t get to discuss all the things you want to during the first meeting. The reaction of your birth family member is different than you expected. The person you’re meeting is different than you expected. Setting expectations that are healthy and realistic and opening yourself to any scenario can allow you to experience a reunion without the stress of it not turning out the way you envisioned.

Focus on the Future

Regret can be an emotion that comes to the surface for many individuals during an adoption reunion.  The regret of being placed for adoption and missing out on the life with your biological parent. The regret of placing your child and missing out of so much of their lives. Regret can come in the form of wishing you began the search process sooner or did not close the adoption. Regret can come afterwards in thinking about what you could have said differently or in a better way.  Maybe you regret being emotional or not emotional enough. Just remind yourself that you have the gift of today. You can begin a relationship from here on out in any way you both choose.  Focusing on the future and what you want to experience through the new relationship you are building will help alleviate any negative emotions.

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Jennifer Mellon

Jennifer Mellon has worked in the child welfare field for more than a decade, serving in varying capacities as the Executive Director and Chief Development Officer of Joint Council on International Children's Services (JCICS) and the Corporate Communications Program Manager for the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI). Jennifer has served on the Board of the Campagna Center, which provides critical educational services to children and families in the DC Metro Area and on the Development Committee for the National Council for Adoption. She is the mom of three children and resides in Alexandria, Virginia.


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