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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.

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