Statics tell us that 1 in 8 Americans are directly affected by adoption and that a large majority of these adoptees and birth parents have, at some point, actively searched for their biological parents or children. But, these eight words, “I want to search for my birth parents” can make an adoptive parents’ heart drop.
My husband and I had the privilege of adopting three wonderful children and I can tell you, we love our adoptive children every bit as much as our birth children.
So, is it easy when a birth parent arrives on the scene to meet your child?
In our case, we received our children when they were school age and didn’t finalize the adoption until they were preteens. Our children, all three of them, knew from the start that they were adopted. In fact, the birth families were encouraged to be a part of our lives.
That is right, we left the door open and to avoid too much confusion, our children, both birth and adoptive, grew up calling one of these birth mothers, Auntie.
Okay, so we had it easy, we were able to make our situation work and the children grew up with the understanding that there can be times in a mother’s or a parent’s life when they no longer have the option or the means to parent a child and that is when adoptive parents step on the scene.
Adoptive parents are men and women who have a desire or are willing to become a parent, but are either unable to have their own or just have a desire to adopt a child and raise them as their own. Becoming an adoptive parent is an amazing experience and for all practical purposes the child that comes into their home becomes their own child. Children are either birthed from the womb or from the heart. To an adoptive parent there is no difference between a child they give birth to or adopted.
So, when a child expresses a desire to find his or her birth parents, this can cause an adoptive parent to question their relationship with their adoptive child. They immediately feel a loss, they feel their child being ripped from them and they begin questioning it all. “Did I invest 18 years of my life to be kicked to the curb? What did we do wrong?”
But, that shouldn’t be the case. It is possible for an adoptive child to completely love their adoptive parents and yet still have a strong desire to seek out their biological parents. Why? Well, the most common reasons given, is genetic curiosity – a desire to find what a birth parent or child looks like, their talents, and their personality. The second common reason is that an adoptive child has this compelling desire to find out why they were given up.
As uncomfortable and as heart wrenching as this reality is for an adoptive parent, it is a reality and should not be ignored.
In the past, it was assumed that a healthy, well-adjusted adopted person would have no desire to find their birth parents, but this is not always true. Those who insisted that they needed this information and access to their birth records were considered to be ungrateful and selfish. But, that is not the case and research has concluded that, in fact, it is normal for adopted persons to want to know more about their genetic background and to meet their biological parents.
It is important for an adoptive parent to realize and to understand that it is not the end of the world if your child does approach you with this request, and what a wonderful gift you can give them if you can help in their search.
But, finding a birth parent is not always easy and anyone who has embarked on this journey will tell you it becomes an emotional roller coaster once the search begins.
The search process is not for the faint of heart, but it means so much to the adopted child to have their birth family help them in their search.
Not only that, but as Kellie Walls Sharpe, a birth mother from Maryville,Tennessee says, “To be reunited with a birth child that you were forced to give up as a teenager brings immense joy.”
Kellie Walls Sharpe got pregnant at the age of 17, but her father a strict Baptist Christian, forced her to give up her baby for adoption. Kellie spent years living with the hurt of losing her child to an adoption that she did not want. She spent a lifetime loving her child from afar and hoping that one day the two would be reunited. Well, Kellie got her wish and was able to locate her daughter Hannah when Hannah was 25 years old. Kellie has now dedicated her time to helping other adoptees and birth parents find one another.
There are no guarantees that a search will be fruitful or that it will even be a positive experience, but it will mean the world to your son or daughter if you can be open enough to the idea and understanding enough to realize that this isn’t a betrayal. Searching for a birth parent does not mean that an adoptive child is pulling away, it simply means they have a desire to seek out their lineage.
So how can a birth parent help in this search? There are hundreds or organizations out there to assist. Kellie suggests that an initial search should not begin until a child is at least 18 years of age. If a child makes a request prior to the age of 18, that would be the time for the adoptive parent to have a dialogue with the child and to share with him or her their willingness to help them find their birth parent when the time is right.
To adoptive children like Hannah, it can be a wonderful experience finding a birth parent. It is like having your cake and eating it too. To know her birth mother never forgot her and was looking for her, brought a peace into her life and gave her an opportunity to meet the woman who gave her life.