Meet the biological parents
I was asked earlier this week whether I would encourage our children to search for their birth families later in life.
The question was prompted by one of the seeming myriad of television programmes dealing with adoption that appear on our screens at the moment. This one followed the searches of a number of adoptees, now adults who were looking for their birth families.
Each described the longing they had to understand their origin. Seek an explanation for their abandonment. To fill the whole in their heart created by ignorance of who their genetic family were.
I gave an answer which I think does credit to me as a politician. I told the person asking the question that I would provide our children with all the facts about their past and then support them in whatever they decision they made. Search for the birth family. Or leave well alone.
If I'm completely honest, I hope very much that the children leave well alone. Knowing not only their own personal histories with their birth parents, but also the incredibly sad, tortuous, dysfunctional web that forms their family history.
Confirmation that in the case of their parents history was repeating.
A cycle repeated. A cycle with hope of being broken by their adoption.
In our son's case I will be surprised if he ever wants to search for his birth parents. Now eight, he retains a terror of them that has sustained, undimmed for over six years. Although unable to elucidate the reason for his fear it remains primordially strong. Alive. A constant presence.
Our daughter is different. She has no memory of her birth parents. To her they are characters in a bed time story that justifies her being. Her new family. And yet sometimes I see glimpses in her of the same primordial fear exhibited by her brother.
But if the children did decide they wanted to seek out their birth families what would we do?
My answer to the question provoking this blog was entirely truthful. We'd support them as best we could. And would continue to support them through whatever might transpire were they to find their biological family members.
Anecdotally I'm led to believe the split between those adoptees who seek their birth families and those that don't is 40:60 respectively. Sadly, additional anecdotal evidence and our own experience suggests that for the vast majority of those who do choose to seek out their genetic parents the outcome is often disappointment, pain and even further rejection.
Certainly we know of a brother and sister, adopted together. Upon both reaching their twenties the brother chose to search for their biological parents, whereas the sister chose not to know. Indeed, she chose to remain deliberately ignorant of the search.
The brother found their birth parents relatively easily. The reception he received was initially positive. Things turned sour relatively quickly however. The biological bond was insufficient to bridge the social and cultural chasm between the two parties. Requests turned to demands turned to threats. Contact was broken off.
The sister, remaining aloof says, privately "I have never and will never tell him 'I told you so'. But I did. I knew this would be the outcome." And she now helps heal the pain the search caused her brother.
Returning to the programme that prompted the discussion. In most cases the searches prove positive and successful. Siblings and half siblings are discovered. Occasionally a remaining parent. Tearful reunions and reconciliations are recorded by the cameras. Truly sad and, to our ears, horrifying tales of prejudice and societal rejection are told to explain the loss of a child, the abandonment of a family.
There is one commonality to so many of these stories however. The adoptees searching for their birth families are older. They were adopted at a time when so many adoptions came about as a result of socially unacceptable pregnancies.
The families from which the children were taken were so often not dysfunctional. Too often part of the mainstream. So sadly similar to many of our own today.
That increases enormously the likelihood of a happy outcome. That the birth family discovered is not that dissimilar to the adoptive family in which the adopted child grew up. That the adopted life lived was not that dissimilar to the one from which the child was too often torn.
Today's adopted children come from very different backgrounds. Their adoption has been sanctioned by the State after an exhaustive process to attempt to ensure they can stay with their birth families.
The families from which they come are so often in crisis. Unable to cope. Unable to care. Unable to keep safe. So when the adopted child finds that family again, the chances of discovering them to be so very different to the one in which they have grown up are high.
High too are the possibilities that the encounter may net hurt, pain, rejection.
For that reason I truly hope our children chose not to look. But if they do we will be there to help them. To support their search and to support them through outcome, no matter how positive, no matter how negative.
We feel that is the very best we can offer.