Search FAQ

Frequently Asked Search Questions

When adoptees begin a search, which parent do they search for first and why?
Our experience has shown that the overwhelming majority of adoptees search first for the birth mother. Adoptees feel confident that the birth mother knew of the pregnancy/birth whereas there is much uncertainty of birth father's knowledge of the event.

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Who searches? Those from happy homes? Unhappy homes? Separated homes?

Yes to all of those. Searching is not about finding a different life. It is about discovering the truth about your very existence. The best analogy about adoption was a female adoptee who described it this way: "Adoption is like walking into a movie theatre and the movie has already started. You enjoy the movie very much and applaud at the end. But you still want to see the beginning."

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What motivates adoptees to search?
A search is often triggered by life events or the calendar. Life events include turning 18, getting married, pregnancy of adoptee, having a child (or for birth parent having a subsequent child), death of adoptive parent(s), etc. The calendar events are primarily: right after New Year's, Mother's Day, Christmas, Thanksgiving and Father's Day.

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Is there "imprinting" at birth to the birthmom?
Many experts believe so. For further reading we would strongly encourage reading some of the work of Nancy Verrier, author of The Primal Wound, a ground-breaking work on this issue.

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Do those that find their birthmothers go on to search for their birthfather?
Many do, but usually not immediately.

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What percentage seek out their birthfathers?
One of the difficulties with statistics is the fact that it was only in 1972 that the US Supreme Court granted rights to birthfathers. Often ORIGINAL birth certificates and adoption records do not indicate the birth father's identity. If the birth certificate was issued prior to 1972 AND a father is listed, it often is the legal father (birth mother was divorced, separated or married) instead of the birth father. Social workers from that era claim that they were encouraged to have birthmothers NOT name any birth father so that the adoption paperwork could be completed more quickly. (Note: AMENDED birth certificates are documents that are issued by the state of birth, upon completion of the adoption, that read as if the adoptive parent(s) gave birth to the adoptee.)

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Can we measure the degree of effort expended in searching?
Two factors come to mind. Searching in Kansas, Alaska, Delaware, Oregon, Tennessee, Alabama and New Hampshire is much easier than in other states as adult adoptees have the legal right to their own birth information. Search and reunion can still be done in other states; it is just more difficult, but certainly not impossible. Secondly, it is quite common for adoptees and birth family members to put a tremendous effort into search, get some information and then stop the search process for days, weeks or months. This process lets us strengthen our spirit so that we are healthy enough to process the truth, whatever it may be.

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After a birthmother is found, does the relationship develop in a satisfactory way?
The literature shows stages to the reunion experience. The books Birthbond: Reunions Betweeen Birthparents and Adoptees by Judith Gediman, Joan Dunphy and Linda Brown and The Adoption Reunion Survival Guide by Julie Bailey and Lynn Giddens are excellent resources. Briefly, in reunion, there is the initial "honeymoon" period when neither adoptee nor birth family member can do no wrong. There is a euphoric high and the relationship can be so intense that other relationships may suffer. This period may last several days, weeks or months and is similar to the manic highs experienced with bipolar depression. And, just like bipolar patients, the highs give way to lows. Birth relative and adoptee may feel guilt, remorse or anger. As with the "high", the time spent in this phase varies greatly. But after that stage is acceptance; this is when the relationship "settles into" a more reality-based framework.

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What are the craziest questions that people ask about adoption?
One birth son's first words, when he was reunited with his birthmother, were "I just want to know if I'm going to keep my hair?!". Those of us who live adoption often joke that "you don't LOOK adopted," a comment often heard by adoptees of all ages.

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How do adoptive families react to a search?
Most adoption support groups encourage adoptees to include their adoptive family in their search. Sometimes the adoptee does not realize that his or her parents possess information about the birth family. Many adoptive parents want to emotionally support their adult child as they pilot the search process.

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What are the characteristics of a successful search?
The person has prepared for the search/reunion process by extensively reading on the topic, attended support group meetings and/or conferences, established reasonable expectations for the post-reunion period and received accurate information.

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Why are some searches unsuccessful?
A search can be unsuccessful for a number of reasons, including inaccurate information about the person being sought, not organizing and archiving information as it is received or not thinking beyond the search aspect (what do you want from the person once they
have been "found")?

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If I want to adopt, what does the AAC recommend?
We recommend that you first do extensive reading and research. A good start would be a general book on adoption issues such as Adam Pertman's book, Adoption Nation or Joyce Pavao's The Family of Adoption. There are some who financially profit from adoption but do not offer sound advice and may advocate illegal methods; you do not want to utilize these individuals or groups. Be aware that this multimillion dollar industry has attracted some whose only concern is that of financial profit. Secondly, join an adoption support group in your area so you may meet other adoptive parents, adoptees, birth parents and adoption professionals. There is no such thing as having too much information when making an adoption plan.

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How do I find a local adoption search/support group?
AAC has representatives in almost every state in the USA. If your state does not have a representative listed, we suggest that you contact the Regional Director for your state and obtain a listing. NAIC (National Adoption Information Clearinghouse) website also lists support groups around the country.

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What can the adoptive family do during a search to guarantee that the family unit is not damaged?
Support the adoptee in his/her quest for self knowledge. Help the adoptee understand that it is perfectly normal to want to know how s/he came to be in existence. Acknowledge that the adoptee is NOT looking for parental replacements but for the source of her/his life, for the beginning of her/his story.

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