Families in Reunion

Families in Reunion

When adoptees and birth families find each other, it can be a wonderful thing. No matter how prepared the parties feel they are for a first meeting, it can be quite daunting. Adoption-Link has worked with families over the years to assist in ongoing family relationships as well as first-time reunions.

Search and Reunion Services

Adoption-Link believes that adoptees, biological parents and adoptive parents form a triad that lasts forever. The level of openness in any adoption can, and likely will, change over the years. Such arrangements can be clarified between families at the time of adoption, but are not enforceable by law in Illinois.

Adoption-Link strongly supports openness in adoption and starts by inviting the biological family to choose the type of relationship they would like to have with the adoptive family and child. This is a fluid agreement and requires the understanding and cooperation of the parents involved—adoptive and biological. As the adoptee grows and matures, this openness is likely to be extremely important to their development of identity and discovering their place in the world.

Sometimes life events cause the original plan to evolve or stop. Communication ceases and families lose touch with one another. The adoptee may begin to ask questions about their birth family as they come to terms with their own identity. How did this happen? Do I have other sisters and brothers? Who do I look like? What about my Dad? Did they want me? What is my medical history? Why me? For some adolescents and young adults, these questions can become a gnawing wound that begins to dominate their world.

Meanwhile, birth parents can also yearn to know how things have worked out for their children and adoptive families. They often have some emotional words or experiences they would like to share before the opportunity is lost in time passing. Whatever the details are of each individual’s life, it is safe to say that these feelings have a potential emotional impact on themselves and others around them.

For those of us who work with these families, we are supportive of open adoptions in the hope that there won’t have to be painful mysteries to add to the universal condition of defining an adoptee’s identity as they reach adulthood. But if families have lost touch, we support the option to pursue an adoptee/birth parent search and reunion, if that is their desire.

Adoption-Link keeps all adoption records for all of our families as required by Illinois law and DCFS. We are happy to share the content of your file, with the exception of identifying information, which requires consent. By law, we cannot share that information without the consent of each party. We honor all requests for pictures and letters and are happy to serve as the link between adoptive and biological families to share this information. If a party is not easily found through information in the file, we can begin our Search and Reunion Services for the interested adoptee or biological parent.  Over the last 22 years, we have developed a steadfast and successful process for this service.

Adoption Search and Reunion Service Process

Adoption-Link approaches adoption reunion through the following scenarios:

  1. Adoption-Link Families
    • Fees included with initial adoption service fees—donations to Adoption-Link are welcome!
  • When birth parents and adoptive parents are matched through Adoption-Link, we are able to help both sets of parents establish the beginnings of a relationship and support their efforts to explore the extent they wish to remain in contact.

Sharing of letters, pictures, email addresses, phone numbers, and visitation arrangements are some of the means by which openness is achieved. Adoption-Link will facilitate this process with our families as long as all parties remain in contact with each other. We are happy to provide a neutral meeting place and a committed adoption professional from our staff to join your meetings.

Expanded Search and Reunion Service 

  1. Service for all members of the triad–Adoption-Link placement not required
    • Initial consultation and first hour of service free; $100 per hour thereafter
  • Registering with the Illinois Adoption Registry. We recommend that this be the first step for any search. By law, birth parents are given information and forms so that they can register here. Adoptive families are also advised to register. This request may yield information, although this is not guaranteed because registration is voluntary.
  • When years have passed and contact has been lost, it’s possible to re-connect with the help of Adoption-Link’s Search and Reunion Service. Adoptees and their families and biological parents may have pertinent information about the party they are looking for but need help deciding whether search and reunion is appropriate. This is when you may choose to involve an experienced agency. Adoption-Link provides an initial consultation and review of the searching party’s information and expectations. At this time, Adoption-Link will take the opportunity to provide a road map for the search and prepare the party for possible outcomes. Your search may include:
  • Consultation with the professional social work staff at Adoption-Link. Our staff is experienced in facilitating search and reunion efforts and will work with you along the way.
  • You may choose to pursue leads on your own. You can work with Adoption-Link to arrange a service agreement that meets your needs. We are here to support your efforts.
  1. Illinois Confidential Intermediary Service

Visit www.ci-illinois.org for requirements and fee information

  • Illinois Confidential Intermediary Service uses the courts to subpoena information. They have many databases at their disposal. This is a service you may use in conjunction with Adoption-Link or on your own. We will be happy to help you with any recommendations based on your individual situation.

A word of warning about social media and adoption reunion: Proceed with the utmost care! Our experience has shown social media to be an amazing avenue to find others and continue communications. But this can have unpleasant consequences when adoption search and reunion is part of the mix. The act of connecting with another person thought to be a biological relative can be so emotionally charged that without preparation and a safe, respectful environment, people may be overcome by fear and withdraw or shut down. The result can be the exact opposite of what is desired and it is very difficult to “start over.” Parents should always be aware of what their children are doing on social media—whether they themselves are doing the searching or whether someone may be contacting them.

Adoption-Link believes people have the right to know their families and be respected. There are boundaries that are appropriate and need to be understood so that everyone in the adoption triad feels safe. This is a process that can proceed in defined stages and is worth the investment of time and professional guidance.

To discuss your family’s interest in Adoption Search and Reunion,  contact Noreen Davidson, LCSW, Executive Director. 708-534-1433 or Noreen.davidson@adoption-link.org.