Not only is it difficult to anticipate the emotions that reunion will induce in you, it is also important to remember that you will be forging a new relationship with someone whose life experience is likely quite different from your own. Some adoptees and birth parents will have strong opinions about confidentiality and desires about the direction of the relationship. It is vital that you both respect the wishes of the other while also setting your own boundaries.
It is normal to feel some fear and guilt when going into a reunion. Both adoptees and birth parents will often find themselves afraid that they will not live up to the expectations of the other or that the other will be angry at them or because of them. The best way to address these completely normal fears is to talk with your adoption professional or social worker and see if they can put you in touch with (or provide you with testimonials from) other adoptees or birth parents who have completed reunions. Educating yourself about what to expect is the best weapon against fear.
As for feelings of guilt and anger, birth parents can often feel lingering doubt about their decision to place their child for adoption. They may be worried that the adoption placement may not have been the best option for their child, especially if they learn about some of the difficulties the child lived through, whether they be adoption-specific issues or the sorts of tribulations common to all childhoods.
Adoptees too can feel guilty. They may feel that they are betraying their adoptive parents by seeking reunion with their birth family at all. These feelings are natural, but it is important to remember that it is not a betrayal to seek more information about your origin. More difficult to address can be the way that reunion can trigger old abandonment issues that the adoptee may have considered long ago laid to rest.
The best thing you can do is take it slow and be ready to stop and re-evaluate your feelings and desires at every step of the way. And remember, there is no imperative to seek out reconnection. Many adoptees never feel the need and that too is perfectly normal and healthy.
After the adoptee’s 18th birthday, the adoptee may apply for post adoption birth information (PABI) from the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services. This package will include the original statement of live birth (showing the name of their birth mother and birth father if he was named). They may also file a No Contact Notice, a Disclosure Veto or a Notice of Contact Preference at this time if they have specific wishes about how or if they would like to be contacted.
After the adoptee’s 19th birthday, the birth parents may similarly apply to receive PABI. The reason for the one year gap is to give the adoptee adequate time to file the No Contact Notice, Disclosure Veto or Notice of Contact Preference if they wish to do so. Please note that the applicant must be named on the original birth registration to be eligible for this information
Sometimes, the information provided will be sufficient to initiate contact immediately. Other times, one or both parties may have to rely on the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services’. Adoption Disclosure Register (ADR) (adoptees and birth parents) or turn to an adoption search service. For information and applications for the Adoption Disclosure Register, Non-identifying Information and Post Adoption Birth Information please visit: https://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/en/mcss/programs/community/records/index.aspx
Please note the ACO is not an adoption agency and does not have access to adoption disclosure records of any kind.
Most attempts at locating or contacting an adoptee who is under 18 years of age are against the law in Ontario. In some cases however, if all parties are amenable, there may be a route to opening a closed adoption early. The only advice we can give on this matter is to contact the adoption professional or Children’s Aid Society that originally facilitated the adoption.