15. Keeping you safe

Seedling in hand. Keeping you safe

This advice leaflet is written from our experience and also with advice from research (Trinder L. Feast J. and Howe D. 2004 The Adoption Reunion Handbook published by Wiley).

Keeping You Safe and Acting with Care at the Start of your Journey.

How to Make the Best Decision for Yourself.

You may wonder why we spend a lot of time thinking with you about whether or not this is the right time for you to search. We think of this as a three stage process of which the first step is the biggest. It is said ‘The journey of one thousand miles begins with the first step.’ We want the first step to be as safe and secure as it can be.

Three Stage Process.

  1. The big decision to start.
  2. Applying for access to obtain details of your adoption agency.
  3. Finding information to help us find your birth parent or relative.

Everyone has their own reasons for searching. You may want to answer lifelong questions that will have been with you as an adopted person. For example:

  • Where have I come from?
  • What does my birth family look like?
  • Am I like them?
  • Why does nobody in my family (adopted) look like me?
  • What sort of people are they (birth parents) now?
  • Have they thought about me?
  • Why was I adopted?

Until the 1970s the way we worked on adoption in Britain was on a closed basis, with the idea that all links with the birth family should be cut, meaning that your adoptive family are your only family. But you will be aware that the law changed, and now an adopted person has a legal right to access information about their family of origin. Even if you had a wonderful and happy adoption and you have no issues about this, many people who are adopted have been left with the question about who they are and their origins in life – information that most people can take for granted. Research shows us that three quarters of people would have learned about their adoption by the age of 5. Only about 3% of people have never been told they had been adopted (we have a separate advice leaflet on this). Even if people have happy adoptions, the adoptee might find the issue of their birth family hard to raise with adopted parents for fear of upsetting them. Many people report to us that they have no information about their background even though it has always been important to them.

When is the time right to Search?

We don’t know the exact number of people who search for information although an estimate suggests about half of adopted people search for their family or origin. If you do start a search, it is so important that the time has to feel right for you. There may or may not be a best time, but the advice from research indicates that it is best to avoid searching during stressful times when things are more difficult. How ever the reunion turns out – it will always cause some stress – even if it is positive stress.

We strongly advise our clients to ensure that they have support around them. This may be from family or friends or a counsellor. We stress this because we know that the search can be anxiety provoking. Sometimes we don’t know what is at the end of our search and, whilst it is often good, we have to warn people that sometimes we can find difficult information such as a deceased person (we also have a leaflet on this situation), although this does not occur often. But we can also find that the person you are searching for does not wish to be in touch, and this may cause you some dismay, especially if you have spent time and money on a search. Of course, if this does occur, we will spend time with you on resolving your feelings on this.

We particularly advise that you do not search if you are going through any of the following life stressors, but that you hold off until life is settled.

  • Moving House
  • Coping with Physical or Mental illness.
  • Experiencing anxiety or depression or taking medication.
  • Feeling suicidal or despairing.
  • Going through a divorce or separation.
  • Expecting the birth of a baby.
  • If you are in financial difficulty.
  • Going through a period of family conflict.
  • If you have been made redundant.
  • If you have just lost a close family relative or friend.
  • The death of an adopted parent.
  • Stress at work.

People feedback to us that these times cause stress anyway, and they do not need the added stress of a search going on in the background where you do not know what the outcome may be. We advise people to wait until their period of adversity is over and then embark on their search.

All sorts of positive life events might trigger your final decision to make a search:

  • A t.v. programme about long lost families.
  • Speaking to Adopted People.
  • Reading a book or novel about adoption.
  • The birth of your own child or Grandchild.
  • A health scare or near-death experience that you survive.
  • Or a combination of the above.

Our Best Advice.

Go Ahead if you are feeling strong and secure about the search:

  • Take a look at your life and make sure that you don’t have anything difficult (as far as we can ever know) about to occur.
  • Engage with our Counselling service if we can support you or if you want to reflect on this.
  • Make sure you have family and friends who wholeheartedly support you.
  • Write down a list of reasons for your search and share them with another person so that you get feedback on your decision.
  • There may not be a best time to search, but there may be a worst time to search and these times are listed above.
  • Give yourself time to think about the various steps forward – especially the first step.

Please ask us for advice – it is what we are here for.

Dr. Joanna North.

Consultant Psychotherapist Adoption.

September 2024.

Joanna North Adoption (Ofsted registered)

Seedling in hand. Keeping you safe