First Contact

“We all live in the protection of certain cowardices which we call our principles.” – Mark Twain

There are many potholes that a mother can fall into during her search for her child. One of those potholes contains the question of whether or not contact should be made to an adult adoptee (adult is considered age 18 or over) first or should contact be made to their adoptive parents.

I have had adoptees (over the age of 18) go freaking ballistic at the suggestion that their parents should be contacted first.

I have had adoptive parents go equally ballistic over not being contacted first.

What say you?

I tend to look at situations like this as if I was in them. I try to imagine the other persons point of view and how they would feel. With this in mind, my position is that contact with an adopted adult aged 18 or above should be made directly to the adoptee. If they can enlist in our military, marry, divorce, vote, and more, they can certainly make a decision on their own for contact or not with their first family.

Yet, many adoptive parents (and two in the past week) greatly objected to contact being made by the mother to her adult child.

Why is this?

My personal suspicion is that it is a control issue. I believe adoptive parents want to continue to control (preserve, protect) their illusion of family. They hide that control grenade under a nice soft blanket of “protecting the adoptee” or “knowing the adoptee better and knowing the adoptee is too immature, not interested, not ready to handle contact”.

Are they really protecting the adoptee or are they protecting themselves or is it a combination of both?

Vote and then leave comment if you wish.

28 Thoughts.

  1. I think this one is a no brainer, you contact your now adult child yourself or go through a mediator so that it doesn’t overwhelm them.
    Why is it an illusion of family? My daughter’s family is very real to her.

  2. OK, now I would have preferred being notified first, not to protect, but to ease her though it all and help make the transition for her reunion a smooth and happy one.
    It’s a big adjustment for any adoptee’s meeting their natural mother after so many years. And yes Suz, a good adoptive parent does know if their child, (adult or not) is ready.
    Yet, there is no way to find out if their child is still living with the adoptive parents, or out on their own. Deb told me that all she had was a list of names born under Tara-ann’s date of birth, why letters go to adoptee’s.
    Now, there is a bad point to all of this as well. What is the child was raised by one of those jerks, who never told them they were adopted, or worst still, made up stories of having a horrible, evil natural mother – what then??? They would flip out for sure.
    So, no matter which way you try to handle it, it can still be a total shock to the adoptee’s. In other words, your screwed no matter how hard you try to do the right thing for your child.

  3. Kim – Of course your daughters family is her family. I was referring to the adoptive parents definition of family. In many cases, that does NOT include the first families and as such they prefer to keep the first contact to themselves and not tell their adopted adult that contact was made.

  4. Ah first contact – the delicacy with which I approached it. I waited a long time because I could not figure out why my son wasn’t living with his adoptive parents. (You can figure that out.) Turned out they had thrown him out of the house and gone to Europe.
    When he told them I had written to him, they said “We are going to call our lawyer.” It was worth every minute I spent in the law library to have my son reply “My [birth] mother is a lawyer.”
    With respect to how well the parent knows the child…I always think that if my son had found my parents (as adoptees often do) they would have said, leave her alone, she has gotten on with her life. She’s married she’s happpy. etc., etc., I, of course, felt the exactly opposite.
    I’m sorry Mo because you sound like one of the good ones but I think it is a control thing pure and simple on the a-parents’ part. And it sets a very dangerous precedent.
    Funny that you should bring this up. Someone in a friend’s family has located their child and is worrying whether or not the child knows he/she is adopted. Wondering whether she should contact the parents first.
    I have advised against it. I said this – “I say this with love, but tell the person, that is just an excuse because first contact is terrifying. Once you know you are in a position to make it it scares the bejesus out of you.” I also said “If you have a child that was adopted in the mid 80’s and the A parents have never told him/her that he/she is adopted. That speaks volumes. I’d get in there.”
    Unsigned Masterpiece aka Kris

  5. My opinion: I think the news should be shared. Reunion affects everyone in the family. 18 is still very young (to me) and adoption is an adult issue. Adulthood is based on experience, not necessarily the number of years a person has lived. I waited until my son was 29 to contact him. I wanted him to have some life experience and an understanding that life isn’t some fairy tale. I wanted to relate to him as an adult, not a child. If there had been any medical reason to contact him sooner, I would have, but I would have gone to his mother first in that case.

  6. Kris – Ahh, the lawyer threat. I always enjoy that one. Where EXACTLY is the statute that says it is against the law to find and contact your adult child? How much time does one get in prison for contacting your child? Or do we pay a fine?
    It is clearly a scare tactic used by adoptive parents who assume the first mom is going to be ignorant enough to believe it. (Sadly, I think some do)

  7. I think that is because the adoptive parents believe as do many other people that there was an agreement , ie, a contract made, that the mother would never attempt to contact the child.
    One of the requirements of a valid contract is that you are ad idem – of the same mind. I don’t think many of us were. It was imposed on us. Not something we negotiated (ha!) for.

  8. My daughter was 29, married had one child and another on the way when I first contacted her. Her a-parents went ballistic. They did the rant about how important their children and grandchildren were to them. And insinuated I had other grandchildren, why did I think I had to steal theirs.
    We finally met at their request. It was our daughter, myself and both of them. It was a night to remember. Amom cried many times and at one point told me ‘You have ruined my life!’. I was told, ‘If I could have what I want, you would go away and never come back again.’ Strange but I thought they were the ones that got to raise MY DAUGHTER.
    I’m not sure what they really wanted out of the meeting, but I left feeling that the purpose was make either myself or my daughter feel guilty and discontinue our relationship. That was over six years ago. The memories of that night are burned in my mind.
    It has been a long time in coming and totally unexpected, but they have sent an apology and would like to meet again. They assure me, this time will be a positive experience.
    I’m still processing that information….
    So in response to your question, I would say ALWAYS CONTACT THE ADULT CHILD. It seems that many times the aparents have a need to keep the birth mom as some hidden, secret unknown — even if the child knows they have been adopted. Also given everything that has been written about the issues the adopted child deals with and feels they have to keep hidden from their aparents, why would one think the aparents are in the best position to determine ‘how the child will handle this’? It is important to remember, my experience was with a woman, no longer a child.

  9. Reunion is typically a shock to the found party with the rare exception being both parties are searching. But all adults have the right to chose who they will take support from or if they want it.
    If my mom had contacted my arents first I would not have replied. I only reply directly not through a middle man. If someone else is asked to make contact then they should do it and then let the two parties decide and then but out. The problem is that party shouldn’t be someone who could potentially have an agenda.
    If the adoptee is an adult, its no business of the adoptive parents to know who the adoptee associates with, if they are searching or if they reunite, unless the adoptee makes it their business.

  10. I think first contact should be made directly to the adult adoptee. My situation was different than most, I think. My son’s amother called me after he found my number (he was too afraid to call me). She told me that he always had a longing to know me. I imagine that many adoptees feel the same as my son- a need to know, but unlike my son, are unable to express that to their apars. I am very glad my son’s amother made that call, though I know that she did NOT expect my son and I to have such a connection with each other.
    I also think that as Suz says, if a person is considered old enough to join the military, vote, or sign relinquishment papers, they can certainly make the decision to have a relationship with the people who gave them life.

  11. Woops…I made an error.
    A mother doesn’t have to be an adult to sign relinquishment papers……it’s okay for a minor to make such an important decision on her own in that instance.

  12. As an adoptee I’d have to side with our group. My Amom is really overly sensitive about the whole adoption subject, and I know for a fact that if my Bmom contacted her, my Amom would do everything possible to cover it up and hide the evidence. I think most adoptive moms would do the same.
    I have several friends who are adopted. One found her birthmother and it irrevocably ruined her relationship with her Amom (which says a lot about the relationship). But the shoe was on the other foot last year when the Bmom died. The husband didn’t want my friend at the funeral because many of the family members “didn’t know”. My friend was devastated.
    I think with Amom’s is a similar thing. What you don’t know can’t hurt you, and leave well enough alone. I’m certain nearly every Amom out there is terrified their child will be better bonded to the Bmom and choose B over A. I know my mom says all the time she’s a bad mom, and I’m certain that is uppermost in her mind when it comes to our birth parents (there are 4 of us adopted in one family).
    This subject raised emotion in me. Thanks for bringing it up!

  13. Can I just say respectfully that I wish you would address these situations for what they are, individual situations.
    Not ALL adoptive parents behave in this way.
    I think the last few posts have contained the tone of being very generalizing of all adoptive parents, and that is unfair.
    While I agree that the people mentioned have huge issues, and have done a poor job of supporting their adult child’s right to pursue their own relationships, that does not speak about me, or many other adoptive families out there.

  14. Perhaps its all about the adoptees wanting their freedom. The freedom to know an identity which is theirs alone. So, is there a prescription for all of this searching and reuniting? With respect to what age should the adoptive mom think her young adult child is truly capable of thinking beyond her? Isnt it really another excuse to control.
    The mom who wrote she found they had thrown son out of house and went off to Europe. Then wanted to see a lawyer when they found out about her. What does that say about control? I would be p…off I dont believe in throwing kids out at any age. And I dont believe in tough love either. I say if an adult person wants to meet his or her bp then what– go to chatechism classes first?

  15. If teenagers are considered old enough to deal with being viciously disembabied — the industry and/or adopters taking their babies straight from the hospital and the mother being told to “get on with her life” and thus in effect being tossed aside like garbage (and in 99% of infant adoptions this century, this is the case) — then an 18 year old is OLD ENOUGH to deal with reunion.
    At age 17 I was tied down prone to a delivery table and my baby stolen away without a WORD of sympathy or concern being given to me. If i can survive that, my 19 yr old son could survive a gentle and loving contact.
    Just as disembabyment/separation is a private emotional and personal event dismembering a mother-and-child relationship, in the SAME manner, reunion is a private event concerning ONLY the mother and her lost child. ALL other parties are secondary. Other relationships will come in time. The adoptee needs time to get to know his or her mother and the mother, her child.
    Reunion between mother and child, as a personal event between the two, acknowledges and respects the importance and significance of how the two of them were separated.
    IMHO it is VITAL that at least the first in-person reunion “meeting” be private, to allow the two most affected parties to meet and begin to heal their severed relationship.

  16. Yes, contact should be between the mother and child with no interference from the adoptive parents. I have found my son’s aps to be extremely controlling not only of our relationship, but of his life.
    They found me – well not really, apparently, they thought it was more appropriate to search out my mother first and meet her first before the met me! My mother certainly didn’t give birth to my child – nor did she support me when I was pregnant. However, she was the first contact they had, first alone (the 2 adoptive parents), then with my son. So before I had even met my son, they introduced him to my mother! This type of stuff is just fucked up beyond belief – it was as if they were still treating me as the young woman who had no rights when I lost my son, and they continued to “dis” me 22 years later.
    I’m also concerned that it was way more important to them to meet me than it was for my son to meet me – in fact he told me so. I doubt we would be in reunion at this point if it were left up to either of us – and yes, I am conflicted on that because I love him so much – but at the same time at least one of us would be further along the path of growth had the search and reunion been left up to either of us.
    I feel that the reunion was very much for the adoptive parents – they were simply way too involved. The amom is a big supporter of adoption and I think that she only sees one side of it, that is – if I help my son find his “bitch”mother he’ll love me all the more.
    I’m not a big fan of aparents these days. I truly think it was done to make themselves look like the good guys and hopefully get closer to my son. Whatever.

  17. We have openess we 3 of the 4 first parents of our children. The 4th broke off contact 8 years ago, by mutual agreement.
    If he decides to contact our daughter I would prefer he give us a head’s up, because I think it’s going to be a lot to deal with- plus she’s only 16- but ultimately the relationship is between them. If contacted her now (without talking to us), I wouldn’t stop it, but it would worry me.
    Certainly when she is 18, it will be totally up to them to figure out what kind of relationship they are going to have it.

  18. This reminds me of the old-fashioned practice where a man wanting to marry a woman asked for her father’s permission before proposing. Surely he already has a good idea that his intended is going to say yes. This is a courtesy, a sweet custom, certainly more appropriate for a young bride, making the parents feel good about the man’s intentions. Although I’ve heard of couples in their late 20’s and 30’s doing this, much to the joy of the girl’s parents.
    Having given that analogy… and now I have no idea why I did, because this reeks of the belief that children are possessions, like wives to husbands. It is not the same as an adopted person’s decision to connect with their first family! Indeed, they can marry, vote, join the military, etc., without parental permission.
    Minor children, yes. The adoptive parents should be involved, since they are still legally responsible for the child’s well-being. But once the adoptee is an adult, contact should absolutely be directly with them. (The older the better, from what I’ve heard, because it’s been said and I believe it’s true that today 25 is the new 18.)
    Yes, there are aparents out there who are open to their adopted child reuniting with their family of origin. But for the most part, I believe there is a lot of fear — for their own sakes, not necessarily the child’s. Fear that they will lose their child (oh man, come on, so did we! We get that!). And maybe control as well.
    Children are not possessions, not ours or theirs. They are human beings, who had no control over their fate as infants. Contact without interference (and that means heavy sighs, pained looks, and tears) gives them back that control, to decide whether to reunite or not, at least to know where/why/how they got to where they are now.
    For crying out loud, give them the chance to make their own decision.

  19. I think an adoptee who is 18 years old
    should be contacted directly.
    In my opinion it is not right to have to go through any type of barrier or mediator.
    18 years old is considered an adult, one can vote, get married, go to war, so why can’t they get direct communication with their family?

  20. Generally speaking, I would say that adoptees should be the ones to make contact with their birth families when and if they are ready. Many adoptees are not ready as young adults. For example, they may reject their birth family at 22 years old if found, but if left alone, they may be ready at age 30 (many potentially happy reunions have been ruined by overly aggressive birth parents who can’t bide their time). A pretty big percentage of adoptees were taken away from their birth parents due to abuse and neglect. The idea of these potentially abusive parents showing up at their door at age 18, when many people haven’t even yet graduated from high school, would be more than shocking.

  21. Susan –
    Where do you get this data from? Are you suggesting that the massive #s of children taken from their mothers during the BSE fall into this category?
    A pretty big percentage of adoptees were taken away from their birth parents due to abuse and neglect.
    I believe you are talking about an entirely different demographic than most of us in this thread are discussing. You might want to read a bit more about the reality of adoption in the US.

  22. I didn’t realize that your poll question referred only to children born in the BSE. This would put the youngest considerably over the age of 18 and even 30, so it’s almost a moot point as to whether their parents should be contacted first. I would consider rewording your poll question so readers of your blog are not confused and think that you are talking about all adoptive situations. I would offer that an adoptee is an adoptee, regardless of why or how they were placed for an adoption. There are going to be voluntarily relinquished adoptees who don’t care to reunite with their birth families and there may be adoptees who were involuntarily taken from their birth parents who want that connection. The most important thing, to me, is that adoptees are the ones who get to make the choice and no one else. I don’t think that even a woman who had her child taken from her in the BSE has the right to contact that child unless it’s a dire medical situation. It’s a good way to get rejected instead of waiting for it to be the adoptee’s choice (perhaps the first adoption related choice they are able to make)

  23. Susan – You were correct. My poll question is in relation to all adoptees regardless of era. I mention BSE not in relation to the poll but in your statement that a large percentage of adoptees are taken due to abuse and neglect. I was curious where you got your data from that supported that statement.

  24. About 50,000 American children a year are adopted out of foster care. I am just assuming that is a large percentage of total domestic adoptions.

  25. Susan:
    About 50,000 American children a year are adopted out of foster care. I am just assuming that is a large percentage of total domestic adoptions.
    I dont know the source so I dont know if that number is correct or not but as a new commentor here you should know my discussion here is generally limited to DOMESTIC INFANT ADOPTION in the USA.
    If you are interested in researching or know more about it, OriginsUSA has a good research collection.
    Again, I dont know your angle (adoptive parent? Domestic or international?) but this reseach is good stuff regardless.
    I prefer to quote reputable sources and studies when making broad general statements. Hence why I asked where your data was from.
    If you adopted out of foster care, I can understand your POV (on the abuse issue, statistics, etc.)
    Read Origins Research Here

  26. Susan wrote: “I don’t think that even a woman who had her child taken from her in the BSE has the right to contact that child unless it’s a dire medical situation. It’s a good way to get rejected instead of waiting for it to be the adoptee’s choice (perhaps the first adoption related choice they are able to make)”
    So, in other words, natural mothers are NOT full citizens under our constitution and do not have the right to Freedom of Association?!? That is what you are saying.
    The mother who was coerced into surrender her baby deserves that adoptee back as her child. Morally, the whole adoption should be annulled and rendered void. If a natural mother wants to contact her child, it is up to them. I found my son when he was 19.
    Young age is often the BEST for adoptees as they can reconnect and re-join with their natural families more easily then, and incorporate their original identities as children of their natural parents into their developmental growth. My son did — he changed back his name and then i legally adopted him back upon his request. As the surrender was coerced, i was morally within my rights to do this. His ab/dopters had NO right to a stolen child!!

  27. As an additional comment: adult adoption and contact between adoptees and their natural families is a decision between these two parties: not the business of anyone else, adopters included!
    If an adult adoptee chooses to reject contact with their natural family, that is their right. Same with a natural mother if she chooses to reject contact. In both cases, it is tragic but a fact that we ALL have the right to Freedom of Association!

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