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10 Things to Think About When Opening a Closed Adoption

July 5, 2010

A few days ago, I received an email from a blog reader in Mississippi asking about resources to help his kids reunite with their birth mother/first mother.

I encouraged him to check out two books in particular:

Birthright: The Guide to Search and Reunion for Adoptees, Birthparents, and Adoptive Parents by Jean Strauss

How to Open an Adoption: A guide for parents and birthparents of minors
by Patricia Dorner

Opening up a closed adoption can be scary, exciting, exhilarating…any number of adjectives could appropriately describe the emotions involved. It’s a good idea to get the help of a counselor or therapist savvy in adoption related issues before the reunion takes place, as well as after. Some of the things a good counselor should encourage you to think about are:

  • What are some fantasies you had about your birthparents while growing up?
  • What do you think your birthfamily/mother will be like?
  • What if they don’t live up to those expectations?
  • What are some of you expectations for future contact?
  • What if your expectations is different than theirs?
  • What is the “best case scenario?”
  • What is the “worst case scenario?”
  • What are some of your hopes for the meeting?
  • Are you prepared to set and enforce limits or boundaries?
  • How will roles and identities need to redefined after the reunion?

I have had the opportunity to hear many about many successful reunion stories- but unfortunately I have also heard about reunions that didn’t go as hoped. It’s impossible to enter into a situation like this without hopes, dreams, and expectations. Recognizing those expectations- both positive and negative- may help the reunion go more smoothly.




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Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.


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