Should adoptees meet their parents

Adoption: Most want to get to know their birth parents

Even the youngsters who grow up sheltered in their adoptive families feel that something is missing in my story. They want to get to know their birth parents - and have to be prepared for a long search.

Meet the birth mother for the first time

The conversation felt perfectly normal. They chatted about their hobbies and Katja talked about school. As if two friends had made an appointment. The 17-year-old was sitting across from her birth mother for the first time.

The most popular teenage topics

They met at the Düsseldorf youth welfare office, in the office of Erika Becker-Scharf, who works for adoption agencies and who found Katja's mother. She was there at the first meeting. Just like Katja's adoptive parents. Such support is now common. "Young people generally know that they have been adopted," says Becker-Scharf. In many cases, the offices even mediate letters and photos between the birth and adoptive parents.

"In puberty you wonder who you are"

Katja also knew early on that she "grew in a different stomach", as her family had explained to her as a small child. But she didn't have any letters or photos. At the age of 16, her desire to find the missing piece of the puzzle grew.

A typical point in time. "In puberty you ask yourself who you are," explains the Dresden social worker Peter Kühn. For his doctoral thesis he researched the search for origin and knows: look for adoptees because they want to complete their lives. They want to know who they look like and know their own story.

"Everyone was happy to have found their birth parents"

He found one thing in common with all the seekers whom Kühn interviewed for his work: "They were all happy to have found their birth parents." Even those who had a much worse meeting than Katja. "This dissolves an extreme tension," says the teacher, describing the feeling.

"The search is a long way"

Katja was lucky, she and her mother were very similar - and prepared well for the meeting. Helene Brune knows how important that is. She is the spokeswoman for the Federal Association of Adopted People from Bremen, an association of self-help groups. "The search is a long one," she says. Some carry the phone number of their birth parents with them for a year before they dare to call.

Meet in a neutral place

"Others write a letter asking them to get to know each other," says Brune. In their opinion, this works best in a neutral place and with the support of a trusted person. The adoptees should write so as not to make any claims so as not to frighten off the recipients of the letter.

Don't frighten your birth parents

Becker-Scharf from the youth welfare office also advises restraint. She experienced a young person looking for her birth mother on Facebook. She published a lot of private data. The birth mother was shocked and did not want to see her child.

At first, Katja's mother felt the same when she received a letter with Katja's request for a meeting. She had repressed the past. Since Katja chose the official way through the youth welfare office, Becker-Scharf was able to talk to the woman carefully and introduce her to her child a month later.

The youth welfare office must provide information

"We are the first point of contact to look for," says Becker-Scharf, "because the youth welfare office is obliged to provide information." Adopted persons have the right to inspect files from the age of 16. When they are younger they can come with their adoptive parents. The office publishes the names of the birth parents and the address at the time of adoption. Then the search continues alone or together. Becker-Scharf plans one to three meetings on neutral ground in the youth welfare office. "We're proceeding carefully," she says. "It would be bad if there were disappointments at the beginning."

Prepare the first meeting well

That's why she also moderates the meetings. She slows down those who talk too much and advises not to tell too many details. "You can bring stories, pictures of children and mementos with you, but you shouldn't show them until you can," she says. In addition, young people should not disclose all of their personal information at the first meeting.

Understand the reasons for adoption

But even if you prepare well for the meeting, your birth parents may remain strangers. Even Katja, who got on well with her unknown mother, rarely speaks to her.

After all, she has a family. She just wanted to find the piece of the puzzle and answer the question why. She now knows that her mother was younger than herself when she became pregnant. "This knowledge is beneficial for the seeker," has found out researcher Kühn. "They have overcome the feeling of not being wanted and can often understand the reason for the adoption."

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