Beacon Hill Training

“Where knowledge meets experience”

Adoption and Tracing - Finding Your Birth Family

What is Tracing?

Tracing is in a way simple, to find out more about your past and where you came from!  A lot of people go off and do it without thinking too much, this often gets them in to trouble.
Unfortunately, there is a lot more to it than that, it can be dangerous, it can be traumatic for you and your adopted family, there are lots of feelings around rejection and hurt that can so easily be avoided.   If you do things right a lot of the problems and risks can be avoided.

Have you thought about limiting the amount of contact you decide to have with your birth family initially?  Have you really thought about what information you give them when you meet?  Maybe once you have met them you might not want to see them again, if they have lots of information about you, or even a little, will they be able to hassle you, post things on your Facebook wall maybe? …..  Will they take no for an answer? 

There are plenty of cases where birth family members haven’t!

If you’re thinking about it you need to know as much as possible about it all to make it less risky, this includes reading up on it and having the right amount of help and support around you. 

Finding out you are adopted

You might have always known your adopted, which makes things easier, but some people find out by chance, or were never told much about their adoption.  Tracing can be hard enough when you know some information, when you are faced with hearing ‘everything’ about where you came from and about your family history at once it can just be too much to handle. 

Unfortunately, when some people find out they are adopted it’s a horrible shock, it can make people angry and reject their adoptive families for not telling them and to completely ‘re-think’ who they are and what they want, this is especially true if there is information about the birth families that is disturbing or distressing.  Often people are angry at not being told, the worst time for this to happen is in the teenage years, people just ‘go off the rails’!  I have seen it happen.  

The worst thing is that the anger and rejection of the Adoptive family leaves people cut off and without support.

Who am I?

It's a question everyone has problems with, adopted or not.  For someone who are adopted the answers are usually a bit more complicated.   Most adopted people know who they are as they are growing up, but there are always questions.  If your tracing there will be lots of information you just didn’t know about, lots of information that might change your views of who you are and where you come from.  Sometimes there is information that is hard to hear and might be really disturbing.  It takes time and support for someone to think about information like this.  Tracing will have an impact on how you think of yourself.  People also need time to readjust, you might think you are ‘hard as nails’ and will ‘be fine’, but it will affect you!   After all its ‘rewriting’ how you see your family history and yourself.

Looking for your birth family

You need to be prepared that it might not be a happy ending, you might not like or be like the people you are tracing.  They may not be happy that you don’t want ongoing contact and they might not take no for an answer.  Have you thought that these might be people you really would not want to know or to have in your life at all!  You need to expect the worst and plan for it!  If it works out and everything is good, then you haven’t lost anything!   To put it simply…  plan for the worst – hope for the best!...

The big thing you need to be prepared for is that your idea about what people might be like could be totally wrong, it might be a huge disappointment for you.  It doesn’t matter if all you wanted were answers or information you will, despite how sensible you are, have built up a picture, often it simply doesn’t fit with the reality.

It might also be that your birth family may not want to hear from you, this is something that can be frustrating, hurtful or upsetting.  You again need to be prepared for this too! 

Most people just want information and to know where they came from, it is often the case that once this is found out they do not decide to maintain contact.  You need to keep this in mind at all times and be very careful in what information you choose to share.

I hope this article has been helpful, here are some useful links that will help you gain a better understanding of adoption an of this difficult and complex area:

For general information about adoption please see this useful guide.

For a practical guide to adoption and tracing for teenagers click here.

Further information

Comments? Questions?