FAQ – Adoptees
Do I have the right to search for my birth parents?
Yes, by law you have the right to search for your birth parents when you turn 18.
Do my adoptive parents need to know or be part of the process?
You are not required to inform your parents after you are 18, but it is advisable that you discuss this with them and are open with them about your needs. Some adoptive parents may find it difficult to deal with – especially at first – but most are able to support their child through the process.
How do I go about finding my birth parents?
When you decide to search for your birth parents, your first port of call should be contacting the organisation that handled your adoption. The second-best alternative is to contact the Registrar of Adoptions at the Department of Social Development in Pretoria (012 312 7593) where all adoptions done throughout the country must be registered. You could also contact an accredited adoption social worker or organization. If you have access to your birth parents’ contact details, we would urge you to still make contact with the help of an intermediary (i.e. a social worker or counsellor) to avoid hurt and possible rejection. Social networking forums should be used with the support of above mentioned practitioners.
I have a need to connect with other birth relatives to see the people I’m related to by blood – am I allowed to do this?
Birth mothers don’t always share information about siblings and extended family. Where this information is made available to the adoption agency, they will attempt to respond to enquiries by an adopted child.
I need to know my medical history – how do I go about finding this information? Can I do this without meeting my birth parents?
If you have a pressing requirement for this information, the adoption organisation that assisted in your placement will be sensitive to your needs and attempt to trace the information on your behalf. For the most part and where possible, comprehensive genetic information is kept on family, the father, siblings etc. on an ongoing basis
What if I find that I was abandoned?
Mothers who abandon their children often do so because they are in a desperate situation and are unaware that other options exist. Information may be available on the circumstances around the abandonment. Counselling will help you work through the emotions attached to this discovery.
What if I find that my birth mother is no longer alive?
The adoption agency will often have this information on file and will share it when you enquire.
What if my birth mother does not want to see me?
At the time of the adoption, birth mothers have the opportunity to put on record their feelings about being contacted when their child reaches the age of 18. Some birth mothers may only make this choice later on. As difficult as this may seem, her choice should be respected. A social worker or psychologist will be able to help you work through the feelings such a situation evokes and understand the circumstances that led her to make the choices she did.
What if my birth mother is disappointed in me? What if I’m disappointed in my birth family?
You will have spent a lifetime forming an emotional connection with your adoptive parents, your siblings and extended family, so you may find that on meeting your birth mother/parents that the bond you expected is not there. Many children and birth mothers experience a lack of connection when they meet, despite all their hopes and expectations. It is impossible to predict how two people, even while sharing similar genes, will respond to each other being exposed to different influences and experiences that shape who you are. Once again, it is important to manage your expectations and understand your feelings given any of the potential scenarios that will come from meeting your birth parent/s. By mutual consent, you may choose to invest in and work on improving the relationship over time.
What questions should I ask myself before seeking information about my birth parents?
This is likely to be a highly emotional journey so it is important to understand what your reasons are for finding your birth parents. You should also ask yourself what your expectations are and what you would like the outcome of the meeting to be. It is impossible to predict the response that you will receive from your birth mother. It may be that she does not wish to be contacted, or cannot be traced. You are encouraged to talk to someone, such as a social worker or psychologist, who can help you to manage your expectations and to deal with the feelings you have before the search begins, and before and after the meeting.
What support structures are there?
We have listed a number of support groups and counselling services that could be of help to you as you embark on this journey of self-discovery. Remember… it can be an emotionally draining experience, so don’t hesitate to ask help when you feel you need it.