Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Why We Should Find Birth Families

In a few of the comments on my last essay on interviewing birth parents, as well as in private e-mails, several families have implied that the search for birth families is best left to the adoptee, and should not be undertaken by the adoptive parents. Additionally, and more importantly, a few writers indicated that asking in-depth questions about the abandonment is not the primary reason to search for birth parents; rather, it is so that adoptees can have a relationship with them.

I understand the idea that adoptees should be empowered to search, and as adoptive parents we face a difficult challenge -- be ready when questions arise, yet allow our children to establish their own identities, identities which may or may not involve a knowledge of their birth parents. I discussed this concept in my "What to Tell & When" article. While many assumed I implied that no discussion about birth families should be instigated by the adoptive parents, in fact I believe I clearly indicated that the pace of such conversations should be controlled by the adopted child.

But what purpose do we have in searching for birth parents? Is it to provide an extended family to our adopted child? Or is it to obtain important information that will allow us as adoptive parents to accurately and definitively answer our child's questions about why they were abandoned? I firmly believe that the information about our children's history should be the primary impetus in any search.

In discussing birth parents with my own children and other adoptees, the primary "unfed" need appears to be the simple knowledge of why they were given up by their birth parents. Thus, this question must be the most important reason adoptive parents conduct searches. Although the establishment of a relationship may become more important down the road, at this point my girls express only curiosity to know the answer to that one question: "Why couldn't my birth parents keep me?"

In most cases, the answer to this question will be complicated. It may involve a gender preference, or medical issues, or premature deaths. But it may also involve money, Family Planning coercions, and deception on the part of the orphanage and others. The reality is that the real reasons our children were relinquished may have nothing to do with what we think were the reasons.

And obtaining the truth will require carefully asking difficult questions. It will require fighting back the fear we all have as adoptive parents of learning a truth that contradicts a fundamental belief we had regarding our adoption. But ultimately, knowing the truth should be our goal. We should keep that goal in mind as we do our research. As we talk with the foster families of our children, we should ask them questions about abandonment, incentive programs, Family Planning, etc. And as we search, and hopefully locate the birth parents of our child, instead of basking in the afterglow of our success, we should realize that the pursuit of our child's truth is just beginning.


Elizabeth said...

I think finding siblings would be a motivating factor. I wonder how difficult this search would be?

Knowing the truth..sure, if you can get to it. There are so many obstacles. Relinquishing a child in China seems to be for a lot of (in my opinion) sad reasons. Maybe processing the anquish around the abandoment is really where our girls (and boys) will find peace.

Snowflowers Mum said...

I am motivated to finding out as much as I can about my daughters(both of them)birthparents because I believe this is a link to their identity that could help them as they encounter all 'those questions' throughout their lives.

I am not naiive enough to think that if(million dollar, needle in haystack if) we were to locate their birthparents that a 'relationship' would be welcomed or even possible, but I will soldier foward in the hope that some contact would be possible and some questions would be answered.

I am not the 'owner' of my children, they belong to themselves and they have two families, her birthparents are the link to her culture and heritage, and race...and us, her adoptive parents are the ones who provide love, nurture and encourage them to strive for happiness and success in life.

I believe that each and every circumstance and each and every child and family will have different dymamics and will approach the search, the possible finding and the possibility of contact with different motivations and results.

For us, it is a link, a connection, and knowledge...and if the stars align...a relationship that allows my children to understand the whole picture from all sides.

Our family works with a transracial, Asian adoptee Therapist(yeah we are that lucky!), and she has herself met her birthparents in Asia and accompanied many clients who have found their birthparents...each story is different, some go well, some dont...but the key is that there is almost always some kind of 'coming to terms' with the story of their adoptions.

Anonymous said...

I am an adult adoptee.

I was well into adulthood when I reconnected with my birth family.
There is a lot to be said for just knowing what happened, for better or for worse. One thing I always wondered, and which is echoed by my daughters, is what our birthparents looked like. We go through our entire lives never seeing anyone who shares our features.

It sounds hollow if this is all that we are able to find, but it does provide a surprising level of satisfaction. If they are ever able to obtain even this, it will be of great value.

cheryl Ades said...

Thanks for all who support our quest for the truth. I recently went to Qujiang and found all the paperwork was fabricated the girls were bought by the orphanage. My quest for truth for my child is not over...it is just beginning! Thanks like minded families for supporting each other and supporting our girls need to know. Especially, thanks to Brian and Lan. Love to you both!!