Overcoming the Six Most Common Challenges of Adoption Searches

Deciding to search for a birth parent or biological child is a gigantic step for most people.  Following through with that decision can be even more daunting.  In fact, many clients who hire me to find a birth parent or biological child experience some level of panic when I find their family member.

For many searchers, they feel that contacting their family member or even just discovering information about them could drastically alter their life.

Imagine growing up as an adopted child, always wondering who your biological parents are - what they do for a living, why they chose to place you for adoption, whether or not you have siblings, where they live, what their personalities are like, who you look like, where certain traits you have come from.

The questions that have been burning in your brain ever since you can remember are about to be answered.  The images you’ve created of your biological parents are about to be revealed.  What if they reject you?  What if you’re disappointed?  What if they’ve passed away?

Adoption searches come with their own very unique challenges, and no two cases are alike.

When I face a challenge, I want to know what I’m up against so I can be as prepared as possible for all possible outcomes.

It doesn’t have to be any different for you and your adoption search.  You should know what you’re up against.  You should be prepared for all possible outcomes.

I’m a private investigator who specializes in adoption searches.  These are the six most common challenges clients face and tips on how to best overcome them.

1.  Initiating a Search

Everyone has their own reasons behind their adoption search.  Curiosity.  Health concerns.  The death of an adoptive parent.  Marriage.  Birth of a child.  Personal discovery.  A sense of loneliness.  A feeling of emptiness, that something is missing.

Whatever the reason or combination of reasons, deciding to undertake a search is likely the culmination of years of questions, contemplations, and a gamut of emotions.

Only you can decide IF, WHEN, and HOW to initiate a search.

Don’t let others dictate how you feel.  Don’t let others determine if you should or shouldn’t attempt to find a birth parent or biological child.  It’s a great idea to let those closest to you weigh in on your decision so they can be there for support, but don’t make a decision solely based on what they think you should or shouldn’t do.

Don’t ever think it’s too late, that too much time has passed.  It’s never too late, even if you discover your biological parents are deceased.  You might miss out on brothers and sisters you never knew existed.  You might have a plethora of aunts, uncles, and cousins who have photographs, mementos, and memories of your biological parents.

If you aren’t sure how to begin, do a little research.  There are several options available to you once you decide to follow through with a search.  You can attempt a search on your own, contact a genealogist or private investigator, find a court liaison to help, or hire an attorney to unseal your adoption records through court action.

You can also check out how an adoption search can have a higher chance for success for more tips.

Always remember, you are the captain of this ship.  Even if you decide to initiate a search, only to change your mind in the process, nothing says you have to finish to the end.  You might even hire someone to complete a search for you, only to request that they hide the results from you until you are ready.

2.  Managing Expectations

Managing expectations is probably the trickiest, but most important step in the process.

Of course you have expectations.  Of course you have imagined your birth mom, from the freckles splashed across her nose to her favorite summertime drink.  And your birth dad, curious if he tinkers with his car in the garage or has two left thumbs and prefers reading the latest George Clancy novel in his recliner instead.

It would be impossible to completely quash a lifetime of daydreams, musings, and thoughts about a birth parent or biological child you’ve never known. This is why learning to manage your expectations can be so difficult.

When the decision is made to pursue a search, it is often accompanied by a rush of emotions, excitement, and nervousness.  This is why it is very important at this stage to take a step back and work through a number of very different potential outcomes.

It’s necessary to take a hard look at what your reality could very well look like.  You might find a birth mother who has been searching for you for years.  A birth mother who was just too young to care for you, but has led a successful and happy life.  A birth mother who is ecstatic that you tracked her down.

Or you might find a birth mother who is strung out on drugs, has led a very hard life, gave you up because she didn’t want you, and still doesn’t want anything to do with you today.

Will you be devastated if you uncover your biological child’s identity only to discover he passed away six months ago?  How would you handle a birth father who denies your very existence?

You must work through possible scenarios such as these and decide if you are ready to face whatever unknowns you may discover with a search.

3.  Attempting Contact

As a private investigator, it is my policy that I initially contact the searchee myself.  I do not just pass contact information on to my client without the searchee’s express consent.

This means that if I find a birth father on my client’s behalf, I will contact the birth father initially and let him know that my client is his biological child who wishes to either contact him or glean information through me.  If the birth father wishes to remain anonymous, I will not breach that trust and will inform my client that his birth father desires continued anonymity.  Of course, I do everything I can to facilitate communication between the two, but I will not pass along a person’s private details if they don’t approve.  Not every private investigator practices this policy.

Even though I practice this policy to protect privacy, I have never had a case in which the searchee has completely shut down the searcher.  I have had adverse initial reactions to news that a biological child or birth parent has hired me to find them, mostly due to shock and surprise.  But every one of them has eventually come around and agreed to at least some form of communication or information sharing.

If you are going to hire a third party to find a birth parent or biological child, it is important to hash out the details of initial contact procedure when or if the time comes.  You don’t want any surprises or upsets, so be diligent and don’t be afraid to discuss this in great detail before you ever hire someone to conduct search for you.

If you are going to complete a search yourself, it’s equally important for you to decide beforehand how you are going to handle attempted contact if this is where your search leads you.  If you do wish to make contact yourself, here are some tips:

  • Before identifying yourself, tell them you have sensitive information to discuss and ask them if they are in a position to speak to you for several minutes.
  • Understand that your news is probably going to be very shocking and unexpected for them.
  • Be prepared for a negative initial reaction.
  • Give them time.  Don’t bombard them with too much information or too many questions at once.

4.  Facing Rejection

Unfortunately, rejection is always a possibility.  You could spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars and countless hours of your time only to face rejection and disappointment at the end of your search.

This can be especially painful for adoptees who have already spent their lives struggling with feelings of rejection concerning their adoption.

If you don’t feel that you could handle rejection at the end of your search, you should probably either hold off on searching until you can come to terms with this possibility or you should cease searching altogether.

This is a tough reality to face, but it must be considered.  Only you can decide if you’re up for it.

5.  Accepting Circumstances Out of Your Control

We all like to think we are in control of our lives.  But there are just certain aspects that prove time and time again that we are very much not in control of every aspect of our lives.

We cannot control others.  None of us can.  So anytime circumstances dictate the participation of others in our lives, we have absolutely no control over their thoughts, decisions, actions, etc.

If you are adopted, you had no choice in the matter.  Your birth mom, birth dad, adoptive parents, and even others all had a say.  But you didn’t.

If you are a birth parent, you might not have had much of a choice either.  Maybe your parents pressured you into relinquishing your baby at birth.  Maybe your child was taken away from you.  As a birth father, maybe you weren’t even aware of your child’s existence until years later.

Still now, there are circumstances that are out of your control during the search process.  Maybe you’ve hit a brick wall upon discovering the adoption agency’s records burned in a fire years ago.  Perhaps you are quite certain you have found your biological child, but they are denying it, denying that you even exist.

You will likely run into some circumstances during your search that are completely out of your control.  If you can accept this, then keep moving forward.

6.  Finding Peace

At the end of your journey (or rather, the beginning of a new chapter), something that can be most difficult is finding peace.

But you can find peace, no matter what this juncture in your life holds for you.

Even if you discover your birth parents are deceased and you have no other living biological family.  Even if you are cussed out over the phone by a birth mother who rejected you at birth and is rejecting you all over again as an adult.  Even if your search ends with a big, fat unknown because there isn’t enough information to uncover the identity of your biological family.  Even if your biological son wants nothing to do with you.  Even if you uncover horrible family secrets and wish you had never undertaken a search in the first place.

Even if you uncover two biological parents who love you and have prayed for this day to come since you were born.  Even if you are able to begin a treasured relationship with the child you relinquished at birth who you thought you’d never see again.  Even if you have five incredible biological brothers and sisters who are ecstatic to reunite with the sister they never knew existed.  Even if…

You can find peace.

For more information on conducting an adoption search, check out An Adoption Search - Part I and An Adoption Search - Part 2.