Things to consider
This page helps you to look at some of the key considerations you might want to make before you set off on your journey to connect with your history, personal story or birth relatives.
If you’re looking at this site there’s a good chance you’re an adopted person considering searching for documents relating to your personal or family history or making contact with your birth parents or siblings. You might choose to take this momentous step for a variety of reasons.
Here are some of the reasons some adopted people have given as their reasons for searching, although you may have different ones:
- Filling in the blanks in “their story”
- To find more about their origins and where they and their family come from
- To understand the reasons why adoption had been necessary and the circumstances leading to the adoption.
- Having some idea of their past to inform the future
- Finding out their medical history so they have something to tell the doctors when they ask.
- Settling lifelong thoughts about what their birth parents may look like, whether they resemble them and what they might be like.
- To see if they share interests, traits or skills with their birth parents.
- To build new relationships with members of their birth family and to develop a close new bond with them
- To fill a void you feel is within them.
- To make contact and establish a relationship with a birth parent or sibling.
Is it the right time?
All of the above are valid reasons to start a search, but it’s important that you’re in the right frame of mind to do so. Regardless of the outcome of your search, it’s likely to be an emotionally stressful time for you, so you should aim to approach it at a time when there are as few other complications and stresses in your life as possible.
If possible, you should also aim to have support in your search. This can be from friends, family, an adoption advisor or another professional. This may be a difficult time and regardless of how committed or enthusiastic you are, once you commence the search you need to be prepared as you could be opening a “Pandora’s box” whose contents may be surprising, joyous, upsetting … or anywhere in between. It can be helpful to have someone to talk it over with.
It is also worth considering that your life and those of your family may be changed forever by the outcome of your search. Consider how you may feel, but also consider your partner, children, adoptive parents and siblings. This is not a reason not to pursue your search as it is your legal and ethical right, but don’t be surprised by the range of reactions of those close to you.
Ultimately, only you can decide when the time is right to commence a search but there are some steps you can take beforehand to prepare yourself, such as:
- Talking to friends, family and those you trust about the pros and cons of doing so. Remember though that however enthusiastic or negative they are about it the decision to search is yours and yours alone.
- Splitting the search and reunion process into three separate steps – getting information about your records, finding birth relatives, and making contact. Remember that you can take each step as slowly as you like. You may never wish to take steps two or three and that’s fine.
The legal age you can start a search for a birth relative
You must be 18 or over to apply for information that enables you to receive a copy of your birth certificate or access your Adoption Agency Records.
What do you want?
It’s important to consider what you want to get out of the process. It may help to sit down and write out your expectations, hopes and fears. Try to separate what you want to know from the things that are absolutely essential. If you are aiming for a reunion with your birth family remember that, for many different reasons, your first meeting may be the only time you ever meet them. Outright rejection is rare, but even so it helps to imagine that you will only ever get one meeting to ensure you use the time optimally… what do you NEED to get out of the experience? Write down your hopes, fears and worries so you’re prepared.
Also, think about what your birth parents or other birth relatives might want to get out of the reunion. They will undoubtedly have their own expectations – think about what you’re comfortable accepting. Do you want an ongoing relationship? How involved do you wish to be in the future? These are all questions it’s worth considering before you start your search in earnest.
Don’t be surprised if your expectations and wishes change over time – particularly after meeting.
As mentioned above, it is important to identify a source of support in your search. Family and Friends are often many people’s “go-to” solution, but there are a variety of organisations and individuals who may be able to provide support, which include, but are not limited to:
- Adoption Advisors – Also sometimes called Counsellors, these are specialists who work for Local Authority adoption teams, Regional Adoption Agencies and Adoption Support Agencies. They are experienced in helping people prepare for accessing information from adoption records and those who are seeking a reunion with birth relative, and may also act as intermediaries, which can be helpful when an approach to a birth relative is being made. They are also a good source of ongoing support and advice. For more information on where to find adoption counsellors visit our support pages.
- Support groups for adults who have been adopted and online forums – although these groups are unfortunately not common, there may be one locally. You can find out by checking with Adoption teams and Adoption Support agencies in your area. These are a great way to get support and advice and share your experiences, as well as hear from people with a range of experiences relating to the reunion process. For more information regarding support groups visit our support pages.
- Intermediary Services – these are immensely valuable following the initial information gathering stage when you’re considering initiating contact with your birth family. Find out more about intermediary services here.