By Jacob LaBau
Many children who are part of a closed adoption are left with unanswered questions about their birth parents, such as who or where they are. Most adopted children attempt to locate their birth parents once they are of age to explore their “roots” freely. The birth parents may or may not be the person the child believes them to be. But, it is an opportunity for a child who grew up without knowing their birth parents to fire off questions and receive closure. The curiosity about who their birth parents are and why they chose adoption will cause them to seek out their birth parents inevitably. Take Tom Gelles as an example.
Tom is one of four brothers and sisters, and out of those four, he was the only child placed for adoption. In 1969, the year of Tom’s adoption, many were seen to be religious and traditional. This meant that terminating was off the table. Tom’s birth mother was 13 years old when she became pregnant with him.
“My birth mother really wanted to keep me. She was in the South Miami area at the time. She thought the guy that got her pregnant loved her. He was a teacher and would have been arrested in today’s world. I have no desire to meet him, not something that was important to me at all. My grandparents insisted she give the baby up for adoption. She had horrible nightmares and hated her parents for giving him up. At that point, she wanted out of South Florida. She ran off at 16-17 with the first guy who promised to take her out of South Florida. The thought of running into me on a Miami street someday tore her apart. I’m thankful that she gave me up, I would never tell her that, but I truly am thankful,” Gelles said.
Tom understood that his birth father was not the kind of guy he cared to meet. His birth father lacked morals and wasn’t the type of person Tom wanted in his life. Fortunately for Tom, he finally met his birth mother and believes it was a positive experience.
“For me, it was a great decision. When I was in my 20s, I rebelled pretty hardcore. I did my own thing, and it may have been a little bit rooted in that curiosity. There were always these looming questions where I would think about them at night,” Eventually, through searching on both sides (mother and Tom), they met. “I flew her out, and I asked a million questions. In my eyes, it was strictly for closure,” Gelles said.
Gelles does not have an overbearing desire to find his birth mother, but his curiosity stuck with him. For him, it was a positive experience. But this may not always be the case, and some adopted children have no interest in meeting their birth parents.
“While 66% of adopted women search for their birth relatives, only 34% of adopted men do so. According to the study, whether or not an adopted would look for his birth parents depended on how much affection the adoptive mother showed him: Only 9% of non-searchers felt unloved, compared to 23% of searchers who said they didn’t feel loved or weren’t sure whether their adopted moms loved them. However, it is worth noting that 77% of those who searched—the overwhelming majority—did feel loved by their adoptive mothers” (Howe, 225).
An adopted child who feels loved by their adoptive mother may not be as inclined to search for their birth mother.
Amy Bryant is the director of Adoption Choices of Kansas and has adopted two children of her own. When asked if she had notified her two daughters that they were adopted, Amy had this to say, “Yes, absolutely. It was a part of the dialogue even before comprehension of the topic. We made sure we brought up the topic a lot. We explained what it meant to be adopted, and it helped her understand why. We didn’t want it to be a secret or anything she would be ashamed of. We wanted it to be a part of her life story.”
Ms. Bryant also detailed her professional work experience where she worked closely with foster care children, “I have other experience working in a foster care situation where I can’t speak for my own child, but I do know that it is beneficial and helpful to know where they came from. My daughter is very grateful for the relationship that she has with the birth mother. It’s nice to not have a lot of mystery surrounding where she came from.”
Amy approached the adoption topic early on with her children and helped them embrace it. Instead of refraining from talking about the topic, it became a part of who they are. Amy has noticed positive effects stemming from the overall openness of communication between her daughter, the birth parents, and herself.
The key takeaway from this article is that it may not always be a positive experience for an adopted child to meet their birth parents, but it will provide closure. Amy took this one step further by including the birth parents early into her children’s lives, which in her case, has proven to be beneficial for everyone included. Even though the statistics suggest that adopted children will feel loved by their birth mother, it will vary from person to person. An adopted child who is loved by their adoptive parents will have less interest in finding their birth mother. All in all, adopted children should examine their relationship with the adoptive family and can make a decision for themselves. For pregnancy resources, contact any of the numbers listed below.
Abortion Services: Southwind Women’s Clinic: (316) 260-6934
Adoption Services: https://www.adoptionchoicesofkansas.org | (316) 209-2071
Crisis Pregnancy Center: A Better Choice: (316) 685-5757, Birthline, Inc.: (316) 265-0134
Citations: D. Howe, “Age at Placement, Adoption Experience and Adult Adopted People’s Contact with Their Adoptive and Birth Mothers: An Attachment Perspective,” Attachment & Human Development 3, no. 2 (2001): 225, 230.