An Adoption Search: Preparing for a Variety of Possible Outcomes

Anyone who decides to embark on a search for their biological family should first consider the variety of outcomes that are possible. Chances are high that your outcome won’t go as planned or as expected. But if you take the time to consider each of the following scenarios, you will definitely be better prepared for what could happen.

My Biological Family Has Welcomed Me With No Limitations

Finding a wonderful and welcoming family at the end of your search is what every adoptee hopes for. When the circumstances of your birth and adoption are shrouded in secrecy and unknowns, it’s easy to create a scenario that is the easiest for you to accept.

This is natural.

Perhaps your hope is to learn that your birth mother was simply too young to keep you. She and her parents decided together that it was best to place you for adoption so as to give you the life they felt you deserved, one they couldn’t provide.

Or maybe you’ve always daydreamed that your birth mother was too poor to give you what you needed and had no other choice but to give you a life she couldn’t give.

Whatever your own personal hope or daydream has been, it likely includes some form of justification that makes you feel better, one that lessens the blow that your birth mom “gave you up”.

You might be an adoptee who cares less about the reason you were placed for adoption, but more about the well being of your birth mother. Is she still alive? Is she healthy? Is she happy? Maybe you just want her to know that you’ve lived a happy and healthy life yourself and all you want is to be able to provide that relief of knowledge to her. Give her the joy of knowing you turned out just fine.

Whatever your own personal journey has been and whatever your thoughts and expectations are about your search, it makes sense that all of us would love to uncover a biological family that is kind, loving, and accepting of us.

This hope comes true for many adoptees. But for others, it doesn’t come this neatly packaged with a pretty bow on top. It is sometimes much more difficult.

Every Path is a Dead End

Whether you are conducting your own search or hiring someone else to conduct a search for you, the reality is that you might never find your biological family. It might never happen for you.

This is a really tough situation, but not every adoptee has enough information to really even start a search.

Luckily, DNA registries are becoming more and more popular every year, so if you are one of those adoptees who has virtually nothing to go on, there still could be hope for you. Register your DNA with all the major databases. If you don’t get any hits at first, be patient. Your day might come.

I Uncovered a Name But No Identity

You might have your birth parents’ names from paperwork your adoptive parents kept. Or maybe your adoptive parents just remember their names. Maybe you live in a state that gave you a copy of your original birth certificate and you got their names from that. (For a complete list of state adoption laws, click here).

It’s very exciting to have the name or names of your birth parents. But some names are so common that it can be virtually impossible to track down the right man or woman. If your birth father’s name is John Smith, you’re not going to be much closer to his identity without other bits of information about him as well.

Women change their names (sometimes many times in a lifetime) because of multiple marriages, divorces, deaths of spouses, or other reasons. So your birth mother might have been Mary Jones at the time of your birth, but you don’t know that she married a Kroger and became Mary Kroger in the 70s, then divorced him and married a Williams in the 80s. When her Williams husband passed away in 2000, she later married again and is now Mary Knight. You get the picture.

My Birth Parents Are Deceased

You might have searched for years for your biological parents only to one day get lucky enough to identify and locate them. But when you locate them, you discover you’re six months too late. They are both deceased. You will never meet your birth mom or your birth dad.

This is a hard blow. This is especially difficult if you don’t consider the possibility.

If you’re searching for biological parents who would be in their 80s, to discover they are deceased is not as difficult as discovering that your birth mom died when she was only 42 and has been gone for 15 years.

You must consider this possibility no matter your age and no matter the ages of your biological parents.

However, as with most difficult things in life, there can still be a silver lining. You might discover that your birth parents are gone but you also might discover that you have three biological brothers and two biological sisters you never knew existed. Or maybe you have aunts, uncles, and cousins who are eager to meet you even though your birth parents are gone.

My Biological Family Isn’t What I Expected

To uncover the identity of your biological family is exciting and scary. This is true because you sometimes have no idea what you’re getting yourself into.

What if your birth mom is a drug addict? What if your birth dad raped your birth mom and that’s how you were conceived? What if your biological half brother pumps you for money after you make contact and becomes nothing but a thorn in your side? What if uncovering your roots brings embarrassment and shame to your previously well put-together life?

It happens. You must be prepared for the worst. If you’re not ready to face whatever your search may uncover, you might hold off on your search until you’re ready to cope with whatever it may bring.

My Biological Family Doesn’t Want Contact

You must try to place yourself in the shoes of your biological family. I’ve contacted birth moms before who confirm their parentage, but request no contact from the child they placed for adoption. They choose no contact for a variety of reasons you can read about here.

It’s pretty easy for most of us to sympathize with adoptees who are just looking for answers and a more complete identity for themselves. It’s harder to sympathize with those who placed a child for adoption. But this shouldn’t be ignored just because it’s harder.

Adoptions are complex. People are complex. Life is complex.

My Biological Family Is Denying My Existence

I have worked one case so far in my career where the evidence has been irrefutable and the birth mother still denied her parentage to my client.

This is probably the most difficult scenario to imagine. It is for me.

Many adoptees feel some level of rejection from their birth parents. So when that parent denies or rejects their child for a second time, the pain can cut deep, deeper than most of us can imagine.

The good news is we can all find love and acceptance in other people. We just have to find the right people. If our families reject us, it doesn’t have to be the end. It is not our only chance at being loved. It does not mean we have to go through life alone. Love is not bounded by familial or biological connection. Not at all.

I’m Disappointed

Once you make a connection with your biological family, you might find yourself feeling a little down and depressed about it. You might not even know why, especially if they have welcomed you with open arms.

It’s okay to feel disappointment. It’s okay that your biological family doesn’t meet your expectations. It’s okay to still feel a sense of loss. Whatever you’re feeling, it’s okay.

Adoption is a beautiful, painful thing. If you are an adoptee, you didn’t choose it for yourself. Someone else made that choice for you. You might be mad about it. You might be grateful. You might be resentful and restless or you might be peaceful and feel blessed about it.

However you’re feeling now, it can change with time. It can.

Meanwhile, the best thing you can do is consider all of the possible outcomes before you search. Only you know what you can handle. The unknown is a scary place but we all live it every day in one way or another, adopted or not.