Should I search for my family?

Challenges in family reunions

While family reunions between adopted children and their biological parents are much anticipated, they can be emotionally intense, says Mr Wong Wei Lei, senior social worker at Touch Adoption Services.

"While a successful reunion can bring much healing, connection and closure to both the adopted person and the birth parents, there are many unknowns and a search will also bring to surface again the grief over the loss of the relationship and the 'lost years'," he says.

There are also other challenges in the process, such as a sense of disillusionment, he points out.

"The adopted person may also learn that he or she has very little in common with the birth family, and none of the fantasies he had about them were even close to the truth.

"Sometimes the person who is found is not as ready to meet as the searcher is, and may refuse a reunion which leads to more rejection and, for the adopted person, a second 'abandonment'," he adds.

Nevertheless, there can be happy endings.

Strengthened family relations

Successful reunions have the potential to strengthen ties within the adoptive family, because the process dispels fears that the birth parent, once found, will somehow steal the child's love and affection for his adoptive parents, explains Mr Wong.

"Having found healing and closure, the adoptee can now expand her circle of love to members of both families - adoptive and biological," he adds.

Mr Wong clarifies that it is common for adopted children to look for their birth parents to fill in the missing pieces in their lives, but for every person, the intensity of this need varies.

"Many want answers - why were they placed for adoption? Were their birth parents sad when the separation happened? Are there other siblings in the family?

"Others may be satisfied perhaps with just a photo of their birth family," he says.

Providing support

Mr Wong points out that it is important for adoptive parents to know that it is healthy for children to have questions or a desire to search for their birth parents.

He adds that the adoptive parent can play a crucial role in supporting the reunion process, should it happen.

Asking questions about the child's motive for looking for his birth parents, while keeping an open attitude towards the issue is useful, he says.

"If the adopted person wants to see his parents, ask what he hopes to gain from it.

"Parents can say, 'You know, I've read or heard about people who searched for their birth family, and I know there can be many different reactions. Sometimes, birth parents are not ready to have contact. How will you feel if that happens?'"

He advises biological parents looking for their adopted children to wait for him or her to initiate the search.

"Let your placement agency know that you are happy and ready to be traced should the child want to look for you.

"Keeping the agency updated with your current contact details would help them to put the two of you in touch should there be a chance to meet," he says.

If members of the public know of the family members mentioned in the stories, please call the Crime Library at 6293-5250


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