By Nancy Kato & Amy Newman, FMNFS
(Please see Preparation article and do the homework before making first contact!)
- A registered letter that can be opened only by the addressee is best. If you are an adoptee, it’s possible your parents never told anyone about you, so you need to respect their secrecy.
- Avoid using Facebook for first contact. Keep your Facebook private for now so you can dole out information about yourself when you and your parents/child are ready. Check your privacy settings on Facebook and Google your name and see what shows up.
- Do not use the person’s work email for first contact. If you have mailing addresses, send handwritten letters. It’s something tangible for them to hold and re-read.
- Be brief, one page max. It’s to your advantage to not give your life story – leave them something to be curious about.
- Include your birth name, date of birth, current name, contact info, and that your adoption file gives their name as ____; you have evidence to believe that he/she is the correct person. Don’t put the father’s name in the letter to mom.
- No sex, religion or politics which would be a distraction from the main purpose of just connecting. After they respond you may be able to read between the lines about their beliefs and values. Test the waters first. If you are Gay/Bi/Trans do not disclose your sexual orientation or same sex marriage in the first letter.
- Acknowledge that it will be a shock, you want to respect their privacy, don’t want to intrude etc.
- Include pictures of yourself – as a baby, the same age as when b-mother was pregnant and a current one. Use photos of you alone, not with others. Put them in a separate envelope (marked “photos”) so they can open it when they are emotionally ready. Having them fall out of the letter could be too much to handle.
- Put the ball in their court and invite them to contact you in whichever way they feel comfortable with. But don’t say that you won’t contact them ever again. Say that if you don’t hear back from them in one month, that you will contact them again.
- First impression: The first and last paragraphs of your letter will stand out, so craft them carefully.
Don’t dump too much in their lap right away. Letting them know you have children is okay but not much more.
- Ask a question – see homework below (You need to do the homework and have your one question ready, in case the response will only give you that one opportunity).
- Tell them a bit about your childhood, hopefully positive, i.e. you have had a good family upbringing (if true), a pleasant childhood and stable life and would like to share that with them. Don’t disclose negative experiences at first..
Example of an adoption reunion letter
I have been researching my family history and recently received information that leads me to believe we are related, ie, you are my (birth mother/father; child). I /You was/were born on [date] at the ———— Hospital in ————-. My/your birth name was ————— (and my adopted name is ————.)
(If you are an adoptee:) Throughout my life, I have felt that a small part of me has been missing. I would really appreciate it if you could help me fill in the blanks, including any relevant medical information, genetic history, other family members, and anything else you think I should know. (If applicable – I have children of my own, and they often ask me questions about their heritage that I am unable to answer.)
(If you are a birth parent:) I want you to know that I have never stopped thinking of you. Society told me that I should forget about you and get on with my life. Although I did the latter, I could not forget and I feel that now is the time to search for you.
I understand this letter may be a surprise to you and that you need time to process. It is not my intent to intrude on your life but simply to add value to both of our lives. I also want to respect your privacy and am open to communicating in any way that works best for you.
I am including my contact information and look forward to hearing from you. I have not been doing this journey alone – if you would like more information, you could contact the Forget Me Not Family Society at (give my name/number if you wish). If I don’t hear from you within a month or so I will write again.
[add your mailing address here, in case the envelope gets lost]
phone, email, [any contact info you feel comfortable with.]
FIRST PHONE CALL
“Is this a good time to talk?”
“Can you speak privately right now?”
Don’t hit them with an emotional bombshell when they have company over, or are with someone who doesn’t know their secrets.
If you reach a relative, friend or co-worker of the person you seek: When someone asks “Who wants contact?” Be DISCREET- without giving the secret away to others or causing a sudden emotional reaction from mom (crying/fearful no).
Some ideas (for contacting a birth mother):
Mysterious: “Someone she knew in ____ / Someone she was close to in _____ who would like contact with her.”
“She had a strong influence on who I am today.”
Direct: “……………. ” (your birth name) would like contact.
Provide a preferred method of contact (phone/mail), best times to call etc. to the person taking the message.
Homework: 100 questions
Brainstorm a list of 100 things you would like to know about your parents/child. Do this by hand – it’s way more cathartic. Once you are satisfied with your 100 questions, then narrow it down to the 10 most important. Once you have satisfied with these 10, then narrow it down to one question. This may surprise you. But you need to have it in case it is the only thing you get to ask of the person you are seeking.
Advice from Nancy Kato
With respect to the 100 questions, I ask people to do this in order to break through some of the barriers they might not know exist around their adoption and potential reunion. When you write them out, it becomes quite cathartic and perhaps opens doors you didn’t know were closed. Once you write out a minimum of 100 questions, we then ask you to review them and get it down to the 10 top questions. And then finally, bring it down to the top 1 question. This is good to do while you are waiting for a response. If things don’t go favourably, it may be the one and only question you will get to ask. Is knowing that they thought of you really the one and only question you want the answer to?
As a birth mother, I can tell you that you were thought of. In my over 25 years of working in reuniting families, I have never found a birth mother who did not think of her child, even when to do so, scared the crap out of her; and the existence of a child was still a deep secret. It is impossible not to think of you on your birthday, mother’s day and a gazillion other times. Please understand that we were told to forget about you and get on with our lives (impossible to do as a whole person) and that my child would be “as if born to the adoptive couple”. We tried to believe that we would forget, but they lied – we don’t forget.
Please read Reunion Tips and Preparation articles before making first contact!