3. Hope for the best prepare for anything

Holding a flower. Hope for the best Prepare for anything when searching for your relatives

The journey of searching for your relatives.

We advise you to hope for the best but be prepared for the unknown when searching for your birth relatives.

You are contemplating the first steps towards searching for your birth relatives. Our service is available to help with counselling as this event unfolds. Whilst we know there are often positive outcomes, we do have to prepare you for the idea that the relative you are tracing may not wish to be in contact with you. We want to help you to hope for the best but prepare for any disappointment or barriers along the route so that you can make the journey as safe and comfortable as possible for everyone concerned.

The processes that you have to go through will be explained to you as you go along. For example there will be technical steps to take along the way before a search can be legally undertaken, such as contacting the adoption agency involved in the original adoption for the file and also the General Record Office. This can take months. Jo North has been involved in research to help speed this process along for adopted people…..see our Adoption Research with the University of East Anglia about increasing access to adoption records.

If we suppose that all the legal procedures are completed, generally most people want some form of direct contact, and would consider this the best outcome. (Of course, that may not be your specific aim. Sometimes people just want health information). Sometimes direct contact cannot happen, and, if this is the case you may need support from us to understand why this is. Occasionally the relative you are searching for is deceased which is always upsetting, and we are here to help with this. But occasionally the relative concerned does not wish to be in touch. We try to help people to understand that this is not a response to you personally, but it will be based on the circumstances of that person’s life at this current time. Sometimes people choose not to think about their birth family or getting in touch with their past, and they have every right to be in this position. As an Intermediary Agency we have a legal obligation to protect both the searcher and the subject of the search. We will write to the subject up to three times to try and get in touch, but sometimes they choose not to respond, or they write to say they don’t wish to be in touch. We have to honor their decision, and legally we have no right to push anyone to change their mind. Sometimes our clients get cross about this and want us to push further, but we need to prepare you in advance that we have a legal and ethical responsibility not to try and make people change their minds. We will however do all within our power to help you if this occurs.

What we can do if your relative does not want to be in touch:

Firstly, we provide counselling to help you understand and give meaning to the refusal.

Secondly, we will put a note on the adoption file (where possible) to say that you have tried to be in contact and leave your contact details.

Thirdly we will remind the subject of the search that, if they don’t want to be in touch now, they may be in touch at any time in the future and that we will be pleased to hear from them.

Fourthly we will keep your file so that if they are in touch with a change of mind, we can connect with you immediately.

And finally, we will try to convey simply the message that you have been in touch.

The most you can hope for under such circumstances is that your relative will know you went to efforts to find them, and this may be of some consolation.

What we Cannot do if your relative chooses not to be in touch:

We cannot pass their data to you. This would break the law.

We cannot push them for a response beyond our three letters.

We cannot tell you who they are or where they live.

Regardless of success or failure what you should know is that we will be running through a legally specified process in order to find your relative. This is labor intensive and takes up a lot of time. We always counsel people that they may have to face disappointment at the end of an extensive search.

Dr. Joanna North.

Consultant Psychotherapist Adoption.

September 2024.

Holding a flower. Hope for the best Prepare for anything when searching for your relatives