I am fortunate to have contact with several hundred adoptees, so when I am curious about any one aspect of adoption or adoption search, I always have a ready list of accommodating folks who are willing to either answer my questions or offer advice.
Last week I asked the following questions:
1. Adoptees, how old were you when you started your search?
2. Adoptees, how old were you when you completed your search?
3. Adoptees, how many of you said at one time, "I will never search" - and then did and what changed your mind?
4. Adoptees, how many of you have never search and don't intend to?
I had always been of the opinion that female adoptees start their searches at a younger age than male adoptees; however the replies I received proved that we can never assume to know the answers to these questions. Of the ninety or so who responded, the youngest adoptee to go in search was 16, the next oldest was 18, and then the answers varied from 21 to 70. Many adoptees did not find out until the death of their adoptive parents that they were, in fact, adopted. Of the original mothers who answered my question, they indicate that they started the search for their child when the adoptee was age 18 to 21. This may explain why many of the first mother’s registered at ReunionRegistry.org are so surprised to receive a match 20 years after they initially registered. However I figured out many years ago that while both sides may go in search, they tend to do so like ships passing in the night, at different times and in different places.
The average time spent on a search ranges from 2 weeks (located match on registry) to 40 years, with many of the respondents still in search after decades of trying to discover their family search answers. Many indicated that they started a search, stopped for a while, and then picked up the search at a later date. This seems to be very common in the adoption community,
Of the 90 respondents, on question 4, one emphatically states she will not search for her birth mother, but she and her sister were placed at an older age and have always known ‘who’ their birth mother is. Many of the group indicated that they did not go in search until after the death of their adoptive mother, out of respect for the relationship they shared. Question 3 brought up several comments from folks who stated that they had not intended to search, but as they grew older they realized that family medical history for themselves as well as their children was the primary motivator for their search. The next most commonly listed motivator was the need to know who we, as adoptees, are. Thrown into the mix of answers was basic curiosity about why brought us into the world, who we may look like, and do we have any siblings.
Of the 8 million or so adult adoptees (not counting step parent adoptions) in the United States, answers to the above questions are going to be as individual and varied as each and every one of us are.