Blog

Archive for Useful Information

Why not do your own search?

Judy Sellin, Lead Searcher

Judy Sellin, Lead Searcher

I suggest that people shouldn’t do their own searches for the main reason they are too close to the search. It’s difficult for them to be impartial; even if they have direct information and they know 100% they have found their birth family, to make that initial call when you’re the adoptee or the birth parent, is very, very critical. People that do their own searches often don’t think of the issues, like privacy. For example, if an adoptee is looking for their birth mother and they find her and phone and start talking, they don’t consider that perhaps she has not told the other children she has gone on to have that she surrendered a child. So it can be very sensitive.

A search has to be done with a lot of sensitivity, and this is usually best done by a professional who has experience and who is impartial. Having said that, it’s difficult even for a professional to do a search unless you really do it with your heart and soul and determination – and more than determination, dedication. But for reasons of just being too close to a search, it’s very difficult to bring about a reunion or handle a search the way it should be handled if you’re doing it on your own.

I’ve had searches where people have told me I will never find their birth family – and they’ve been searching for fifteen or twenty years. Sometimes, they’re searching perhaps not as diligently as I search, or perhaps they don’t have the information they need to do an effective search. Without realizing it, often they get caught up in the search – like getting caught up in the chase – and don’t realize the end result of a successful search is always that you have to make that contact, and it’s usually a phone call, to finally connect with birth family. Also, most people don’t know the methods of searching. There are techniques and there is perhaps maybe a gift and a little bit of luck, but there is a certain way to search and to close that search.

Those thinking of doing a search should get as much information as they can from the province where the adoption was finalized. Some provinces are open with identifying information, which will include a first and last name. Non-identifying history can be very vague, but if that is all that is available, you should certainly obtain that information. Often, even that contains clues or hints that can help a professional searcher close a search. If you do receive a last name, I suggest that one does not search for themselves, by using that last name — instead, it’s best to turn over that information to a professional. Also consider obtaining information from your adoptive parents, too, if you’re an adoptee who is searching.

Posted in: Useful Information

Leave a Comment (0) →

What to expect from a search

Judy Sellin, Lead Searcher

Judy Sellin, Lead Searcher

Before I commence a search, I tell the person I am searching for that they should accept what they get and let it grow from there. The sometimes sad reality is that virtually anything is possible in a search outcome. Sometimes the person being searched for is deceased, sometimes they’re critically ill, or have other health issues. Sometimes the outcome of a search is much better, and a wonderful reunion takes place. Often, the reality is somewhere in between the extremes.

Upon concluding a search, there are some good pieces of advice that I like to give. For example, I always caution adoptees before a reunion, that they should never ask their birth mother, on the first chat or a first visit, who the birth father is – give her time to digest everything and process, and give her time to tell you on her own, if she knows or doesn’t know. Take what you can get, accept what you can get.

Also, everyone needs digesting time, be it a birth mother being found or an adoptee being found, because there’s that emotional roller coaster ride that everyone goes on. They need digesting time to process everything the search has revealed.

For example, if a birth mother only wants to talk to you on the phone for a couple of months, accept that decision. Try to develop some form of a relationship; now that we have e-mail, I’ve had people that I’ve found where mother and daughter or mother and son have e-mailed for a while to get to know each other, and sometimes e-mailing is a really good thing, opposed to talking on the phone. E-mailing first can be good, because you’re communicating in all the ways before meeting. When you write, you often write what your heart is feeling, and you get to know each other that way, then you can do a phone call.

I often say that if you are the one that is searching, then you will probably be the one who has to compromise the most with the birth family that you find – it should be their call on where to take the relationship, because perhaps they weren’t searching for you. So, accept what you can get. And don’t expect this flamboyant mother and daughter or mother and son relationship, even though it does happen where the birth family and adoptee have fallen deeply in love like they’ve been together forever. Remember, they are strangers, and have different lives, so accept what you are given.

Even if a reunion doesn’t turn out how you had hoped, a successful search still gives you another chapter to your life. You still have more information than what you had before you began the search, to pass on to your family and children. So, I never think any search is really in vain, even if it doesn’t turn out to be a long-lasting relationship — you will still have knowledge you never had before you began your search.

Recently, I did a search for a birth mother who wanted to find the child she surrendered. When we located the child, she was in her forties, and basically said “thank you very much, I’ve had a wonderful life with my adoptive parents, and I have nothing against my birth mother, but I’m just not interested in a reunion.” And that is a good example of why when a professional searcher is doing a search, there’s so much more that we can say than if someone is doing their own search. So, for example, I quickly give my e-mail address and phone number and tell them that if at any time they change their mind, that I’m there and can pass that information on. If you’re searching for yourself, that’s a little difficult to do. I’ve not had that happen often, thankfully, but it’s a good example of why a professional searcher is often needed to bring about a reunion. And in that case, it was actually only a few hours later that the adoptee e-mailed me. Within weeks, a beautiful, in-person reunion was reached and a wonderful relationship was established.

In another search recently, the adoptive parents were a bit of a unique situation. They had adopted four children and wanted each of them to know their birth family and birth parents. The adopted mother was referred to me. Years prior, she had located the birth mother for her adopted son through the government, and the birth mother had written a letter saying she wasn’t interested in a reunion. Then, recently, the adoptive mother contacted me and asked if I would search. They didn’t know where she was then they had made contact, because the letter was without an address, and had been processed through the government. I did the search, found the birth mother, and spent a half an hour with her on the phone.

The birth mother still did not want to meet the son that she surrendered for adoption. I believe her decision was probably because she had not told her other children that she had went on to have, although she had told her husband. She also said she had vowed to her now deceased parents that she would never look for the child she had surrendered. I did give her my e-mail address and phone number – but also felt that I needed to come out of the search with something for the son that she had surrendered. Therefore, I asked her, if she didn’t want to have a reunion with her son, if she would give that opportunity to the birth father. Thankfully, she was willing to give the identifying information about the birth father to me, and I was able to locate him. He was willing to at least begin communications, and possibly have a relationship with the son that was surrendered. The conclusion is that sometimes there is some compromising possible, and again, from doing searches for decades, a professional will sometimes think differently about that than someone doing their own search.

Posted in: Useful Information

Leave a Comment (0) →

How do you know if you are ready to search?

Judy Sellin, Lead Searcher

Judy Sellin, Lead Searcher

To be honest, I haven’t met anyone in all my searches that was ever completely “ready” to find their birth family or conduct a search. It’s like anything in life, if you’ve never been married before, you don’t know what it’s like; if you’ve never had a child, you don’t know what it’s like. Everybody’s experience is different, but to say that I’ve ever found anybody that was totally prepared to search, they may think they are, until they find their birth family… then everybody goes on this emotional roller coaster ride.

I’ve also been asked many times by adoptees if they should tell their adoptive parents they are conducting a search. If they’re not supportive, it can be a really tough situation — they are your parents and have raised you. Often, there’s even grandchildren involved. I know that some adoptive parents will even say they’ll “disown” you, if you search for your birth family. They feel it’s a sense of betrayal, I suppose.

What can be helpful is if you can include your adoptive parents in the search. You can’t always do that immediately, but it really is a triangle — you have the adoptee, the adoptive family and the birth family. If they can come together after a search, that is really good. If during a search, you can tell your adoptive parents how the search is going, that is wonderful. If you can’t, then you have to make a decision and understand that the “untruths” of adoption are now “truths,” and they’re going to have to adjust to it.

Ultimately, you have to do what you feel is right for yourself, regardless of what your adoptive parents feel. But do try to make them understand that they’re still going to be loved. We can love a number of people at the same time; everybody does it. It’s no different when you find a birth family member — you’re still going to love your other family members in the same way.

Right and wrong reasons…

I’ve always said that I will not just search for anybody – first of all, there’s an age, and most everyone who’s adopted, when they know they’re adopted, they go through a time, sometimes years, where they are angry and have feelings of rejection and alienation. And, the younger they are, the less time they’ve had to deal with those emotions. When I hear that they say they are no longer angry — especially if they admit they have had feelings of resentment and are over it — then that’s a good thing.

But if someone says, “I just want to know what they look like,” even though that is a very key reason for wanting to meet your family — if that’s the only reason, I won’t interrupt or disrupt any birth parent or adoptee’s life. There has to be more to it – that you’re willing to have some kind of communication or reunion if that’s open to you from those that I locate. So, a wrong reason is to search just to see what they look like.

Other times, people will use health reasons as an excuse to look – as it justifies the feeling of betrayal that so many go through. They’ll sometimes say “I’m just looking for health reasons, and really don’t care,” but deep down inside, there’s often a sense of longing — sometimes they don’t realize that until they find birth family.

Posted in: Useful Information

Leave a Comment (0) →

Preparing for the emotional roller coaster ride

Judy Sellin, Lead Searcher

Judy Sellin, Lead Searcher

The emotions in a search are like any emotion in life – there’s a process. In a sense, the emotional roller coaster ride — is kind of like a grieving process or a healing process. Even though your adoptive parents are your parents, there is a process to go through – some people feel a sense of betrayal to the adoptive parents because they are happy they have found their birth family. Others feel maybe even disappointed in their birth family, because for example, there’s sometimes scenarios where there’s birth siblings like half brothers or half sisters who are not totally accepting. Sometimes they even find full siblings – and that can be harder to digest, that your parents remained together after you were surrendered.

Another aspect is that it’s shocking – your emotions fluctuate from day to day – and it takes time to stabilize and digest the results of the search. Again, I think it’s just part of a process, and another part of that is you discover who you really are for the first time. When you meet birth family, you really see a reflection of yourself. For the first time, you’re meeting someone who gave you life. Even though your adoptive parents may have been the best parents ever and have brought you up in life, it’s the birth parents who gave you life. And that’s something difficult for adoptees to even describe, but they go on this ride of emotions day to day — or even hour to hour in the beginning — it’s a combination of healing and acceptance. They also require a lot of reassurance that it’s okay to have found their family, even if it didn’t turn out how they thought it would.

When we look at adoption – I don’t like to call it a lie, but adopting is an “untruth” in some aspects, because you take a child and adopt it — and bless those who adopt these children — but the name they were given at birth and their identity has been taken from them. Only sometimes will adoptive parents keep the birth name, or shorten it or keep the middle name. Often the birth names are discarded completely. So, as an adoptee, you go into a new family. Everything about your birth history is an untruth in a sense, unless your adoptive parents have really told you a lot, until the time you find your birth family.

Say, for example, you’re forty years of age, and you always thought your name was Martha Gale Smith, and then you find out your birth name was Jane Evelyn Jones, and your adoptive parents were Italian but then you find out you were of Norwegian ancestry. Just examples like that, which don’t always seem like huge significance for people who are not adopted, can become part of the roller coaster ride for the adoptee.

When we’re talking about emotional roller coaster rides, I think it’s very important, especially for adoptees searching for birth parents, to also consider another aspect of searching. Many times, of course, adoptees are married and their spouses are not adopted. I often find that although spouses can be initially supportive, sometimes they don’t always remain that way.

There are a few reasons for that; number one, it’s a situation they don’t understand themselves – they’re not adopted, so they don’t understand that void or the need to have a sense of belonging. And, I’ve seen in my own searches where spouses actually get jealous; they’ve known their spouse’s adoptive family, but all of a sudden there’s birth family coming in. Therefore, for the spouses too, there is adjustment. I think that’s something that needs to be talked over with adoptees contemplating a search. And even with birth mothers — going over that, asking their spouses “are you going to support me all the way through this?”

That’s one of the reasons I’m always there after a search. I’m there to talk, and have spent hours talking with many I have searched for, even after completing a search, because there is that emotional roller coaster ride they are on, and they need someone to ride it with them for a time.

Posted in: Useful Information

Leave a Comment (0) →

It’s okay to be found

Judy Sellin, Lead Searcher

Judy Sellin, Lead Searcher

Often birth mothers carry a horrendous guilt for surrendering their child. It’s perhaps getting a little lighter for birth mothers, now that adoptions are more open, and that we can watch television shows of reunions. Many topics that were considered secret and private are becoming more open and more accepted by society. But, I still have to tell birth mothers that it’s okay to be found — that you have not committed a crime, but have in fact given a gift to families that perhaps couldn’t have their own children or could but wanted to take in another child. And, it’s okay to be found, because the child I am searching for that you surrendered has spoken to me, and they’re no longer angry, and they really care to meet you and want to be a part of your life in any way you choose to allow them.

I try to give birth mothers options, too – that they can communicate through me, for example, or don’t have to tell their husband or other family for a time until they can go through the adjustments and digesting they need to go through after being located. And it’s alright. For many birth mothers, it’s really a relief to be found. I recall decades ago where I found a birth mother who happened to be at a family reunion, and she was just so happy that I found her, that she was going to tell everyone at the reunion about the child she surrendered. It’s always okay to be found, regardless of what happens, and I always give that reassurance to the birth mother, because I’ve been speaking with the child that has been looking for her.

When it’s the birth parent looking for the adoptee, I think it’s a little more frightening, because the child has been surrendered, and there’s that fear that the child they surrendered, even as an adult, still holds resentment. And, it does happen. They’re afraid they’ll be inquisitive. And, they can be. There are questions of “why did you give me up?” But, these questions are answered a lot more differently because of my searching, because I’m talking to the adoptee and telling them how the birth parent feels, and sometimes I can even relate bits of information as to why they were surrendered, and so on. Sometimes adoptees do know a bit about the circumstances, too, via the identifying or non-identifying histories they’ve obtained from the government. But, coming indirectly from the thoughts of the birth parent to the adoptee can make it a much easier process.

Posted in: Useful Information

Leave a Comment (0) →