‘I Want to Search for My Birthmother’

When an adopted child expresses interest in searching for his or her birthmother, adoptive parents can experience a range of emotions, from enthusiasm to betrayal. “Searching for a birthmother is part of what makes it hard for some adoptive parents to be as open as they should about adoption,” says Ronny Diamond, director of post-adoption services for Spence-Chapin, a New York-based full-service adoption agency. “The feeling is that information is consent. In other words, if we talk about birth control, I’m telling you that you should have sex. Here, if I’m telling you about your birth parents, then it’s OK to search.”


“Sometimes adoptive parents take it personally,” Diamond says. “It’s easy for them to tell their children that their birthmother’s decision to put them up for adoption has nothing to do with them, but then it’s harder for them to understand that their adopted child’s interest in searching for his or her birth parents has nothing to do with them. It’s a totally separate issue.”


Diamond says searching is best initiated by the adopted children when they are adults and able to do it on their own. “A lot of parents feel this is such an important event for their child and want to get involved,” she says. “They’ll say, ‘Here’s the name, address … ’ I don’t know if that’s always best. You don’t want to give your adopted children too much permission to search, because they may feel like you are trying to push them away. You can say, ‘I respect your right to search, and I’m available in any way you’d like me to be, so let’s talk about it. But it has to go with your time frame and your schedule.’”

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