Searching for Birth Parents
Talking about birth parents or about searching for birth parents is often an emotionally fraught topic in adoptive families. Some adoptees show absolutely no interest in their birth parents, while others periodically or even often, talk about their birth mothers from about the age of 7, though they might not start vocalizing that they want to find them until they get older.
Some adoptive mothers may be open to talking to their children, while others feel that their relationship to their adopted child is threatened by the child’s primal bond with the birth mother. To be fair, most adopted children have used the “You are not my real mother. My real mother would let me do this,” when they are denied something they want.
Usually the adoptee’s desire to find out more about their roots is not related to how attached they are to their adoptive family – it is about them trying to fill a gap in who they are.
Adoptive parents should always talk about the birth parents respectfully and compassionately, even if the circumstances that led to the child being adopted were horrendous. Children often spin imaginative stories about their birth parents and need to be able to have open conversations to ground them in reality. Sometimes adoptees hide their anguish from their adoptive parents to protect their families from pain. It is indeed very hard to listen to your child’s heartbreak about being given up for adoption and sit with them in their grief, all the while knowing you can do nothing to fix it. However, it is important for the child to know that their adoptive parents will be there to support them in their pain and that they will always have them in their corner.
Domestic adoptions in the U.S. are sometimes open or semi-open and it is generally considered to be most beneficial to the adoption triad – adoptive parents, birth-parents and adoptee. There are many references to help navigate the complexities of open adoptions.
International adoptions, for example from India, are closed. However, in the Indian Adoption Regulations (2017), Regulation 44 specifies what Specialized Adoption Agencies (SAAs) are responsible in case an adoptee requests a “root search.” An adoptee over the age of 18 can request records and the SAA has to facilitate the root search. The privacy of the biological parents supersedes the right of an adoptee to connect with them. The SAA needs to obtain permission from the biological parents before connecting them with the adoptee.
A few adoptees from India have been able to trace their birth mothers (documented in several blogs and movies), with some experiences being positive, while others being quite traumatic. The extreme cultural divide between an adoptee from India raised in the US and a rural, impoverished, Indian woman is almost unimaginable. The main challenge with India adoptees, however, is that SAAs often do not have sufficient information to locate birth parents or family. The child may have been abandoned or have become separated from their families in a crowd, or even worse, kidnapped. It is very hard for an adoptee to come to terms with the void of information regarding their birth, and some need the help of their adoptive parents and therapy to make peace with the situation.
- Book: “The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child” – Nancy Verrier (1993)
- Book: “Coming Home to Self: Healing the Primal Wound” – Nancy Verrier (2010)
- Many blogs and articles e.g.