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There are approximately 18000 parents registered with CARA, while the number of children in the Government's adoption pool is less 1800.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Searching for birth relatives (Part 6)

Reunion Issues

Reunions between long-lost birth family members have been the subject of books, articles, and television shows. Two important themes emerge from these accounts:

1. Participants should be emotionally prepared for the reunion experience. Adopted persons and birth parents may carry a picture in their mind of the perfect family, but the reunion experience may not live up to that ideal. In preparing for contact and reunion, adopted persons (and birth parents) should prepare for a whole range of realities, including rejection. Although most birth parents are agreeable to further contact, research indicates that a minority, perhaps 9 to 15 percent, reject any contact (Muller & Perry, 2001b).

2. Pacing the contact can be key to having a successful reunion and relationship. In a small study of adopted women who experienced reunions with birth kin (Affleck & Steed 2001), it was found that successful reunion experiences were associated with (1) preparation with a support group and (2) a slower pace between initial contact and actual meeting, involving letters and phone calls. This interval between contact and meeting allowed information to be exchanged and gave the "found" relatives some time to become accustomed to the idea. Such an interval can also give the found relatives time to share the news with spouses and 2. children in their family, if they desire.

Some factors that may increase the possibility of a successful longer term relationship include (Muller and Perry, 2001b):

  1. The establishment of limits regarding each others' lives
  2. Support from adoptive parents
  3. Minimal expectations
  4. Similar lifestyles and temperaments
  5. Acceptance by other family members

In many cases, a successful reunion with a birth mother may prompt the adopted adult to continue the search process for the birth father. Meeting with birth siblings also may occur, and each reunion experience requires preparation and time to evolve.


Each search for a birth relative is guided by a unique set of circumstances. The outcome is uncertain and, even when the birth relative is located, the reunion experience does not always turn out as expected. Nonetheless, many adopted persons and birth parents have conducted successful searches and built successful relationships with their new-found relatives. For those who are just beginning the search, the best preparation may be finding out about the search experiences of others. To that end, a list of resources has been included below. In addition, support groups for adopted persons and birth parents across the country can be found in the online National Adoption Directory on the Information Gateway website.

[Click here] to read frequently asked questions on searching for the birth families.

This is the concluding part of this topic and it is made available by the Child Welfare Information Gateway and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Sciences. We hope you've enjoyed it.

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