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How to Prepare for an Adoption Reunion

Updated on November 24, 2017

Adoption Reunion Steps

Adoption reunions are a multifaceted extraordinary life event. The impact of a reunion is similar to giving birth or getting married. Mothers plan nine months to prepare for a baby. Engaged couples plan a wedding for a year or more. Friends and family from afar bring provisions, offer advice and rally around these milestones.

But what about reunions?

The planning and personal preparedness for reunions usually develop as the reunion unfolds. With modern technology and the ability to connect easily through social media, some reunions can happen as fast as sending and accepting a friend request.

Evidence supports those who prepare for reunions and get support during the reunion process will integrate the reunion experience in their life better.

A reunion is similar to a dropped rock in a still pond. The ripples make waves in every ordinary aspect of a person's life. Not only that, the rock that was thrown into the pond sinks. There is a weightedness of emotional undercurrents that gets stirred up during the reunion process. Once the rock hits the sandy bottom, sediments stir while the ripples above continue to move.

No doubt, reunions upspring the most solid people. Feelings of joy, anxiety, peace, depression, excitement, fear, tenderness, and a knowing of finding 'home' in a newly found family member are often experienced during a reunion period. Many of these feelings coexist at the same time.

Reunions are not one-dimensional. Even the most positive reunions have complex emotions. There is a necessary integral piece that happens in all reunions.

The adoptee and his or her adoptive family as well as the reuniting birth parents and subsequent siblings are all a part of a reunion process.

Before you reunite there are some steps you can take to enable a favorable experience.

Adoption Reunion Recomendations

The Adoption Reunion Survival Guide: Preparing Yourself for the Search, Reunion, and Beyond
The Adoption Reunion Survival Guide: Preparing Yourself for the Search, Reunion, and Beyond

If you are planning an adoption reunion it is recommended that your read and gather as much support as you can.


Adoption Reunion Documentary

First Contact

How would you like to be contacted by a long lost relative?

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How to Make a First Contact in an Adoption Reunion

Once you have found your long lost relative there are several ways to proceed with the first contact.

1. Send e-mail- It is not recommended to send an email because there could be a glitch with technology and the person who is being found may not get the email. The person seeking may take this a rejection and never contact again, without ever knowing the other person did not receive the e-mail. The email may of went to the wrong person, or it went into a spam folder that was never seen. The first contact is a big deal and e-mails are too risky.

2. Send a Facebook Friend Request- This can be a bit scary, since you are sitting and waiting for the other person to either accept you or reject you. You might be waiting hours, days and even weeks for a response. The person you found may not check their friend requests often and may involuntarily neglect to accept you. A Facebook friend request is not a recommended first contract because there are so many variables that might be misunderstood due to technology.

3. Write a letter- An old fashion stamped letter is a good choice to make a first contact. You can take your time to write out exactly what you want to say. Handwritten letters are special because you see and hold someone’s handwriting instead of text. In a letter you can leave information on how you would like to be contacted including your phone number, address and email.

4. Call- A phone call might be startling since they are not expecting to hear from you. You will need to consider your name and number showing up on caller ID. What if no one answers and you are prompted to leave a message? You would need to consider how and if you would like to leave a message. What if they answer and hang up on you?

5. Show up on the doorstep- This is not recommended, since you really do not know your long lost relative. You do not know what kind of day they will be having or even if they are willing and wanting a connection with you. A rejection to your face may be unbearable. Your reunited family member needs time to prepare for a first encounter just as the seeker has been preparing all along. Giving someone time, space, and an opportunity to integrate what the reunion is for them as much as it is for you will help the reunion experience for all involved.

6. Connect with a neutral party to be a mediator- A neutral party could be an adoption agency, therapist, friend of the family, or anyone who would like to mediate the reunion. Having a neutral party can benefit the one who is seeking and the one who is being found. The neutral party can relay messages until both are ready to converse without a mediator.

7. Send a text message- It is not recommended to send a text message because they may perceive the text message as a prank. Text messages are informal and can be easily misunderstood. Is there an abbreviation for I-am-your-long-lost-relative? IAYLLR?

A Letter is a Good Choice to Make a First Contact


Know What You Want

As you prepare for an adoption reunion, you must be real with yourself. Know why you are seeking a connection and what you are hoping to find. There are many reasons why people search and find long lost relatives due to adoption.

  • Wanting to know more about who they are
  • Wanting medical history
  • Wanting genealogy information
  • Looking for a family connection
  • Wanting answers
  • Needing confirmation the person is doing well
  • Wanting information surrounding the birth and adoption

If you are seeking any or all of the above information know it may or may not be offered to you. Reunions are complicated.

Be Prepared for Rejection

There is a lot of hope and fantasy surrounding reunions. Most have a positive ending, however some do not. It is important for all involved to be prepared for the possibility of being rejected. The pain of being rejected will be significant, however, it does not have to define you or hurt forever.

Sometimes the rejection comes months after the first contact. During the reunion experience one or both may find they are not compatible or the reunion is not going in a healthy direction. Sometimes the reunion is so overwhelming one may ask for distance.

It is hard when the dream of the reunion experience of being enfolded in family love is not the reality.

Genetic Sexual Attraction


Be Prepared for Genetic Sexual Attraction

One study on adoption reunions estimated that half will experience genetic sexual attraction or GSA.

GSA is a very real complicated phenomenon that happens when two family members are separated during their developmental informative years and reunite in adulthood.

When these ‘strangers’ finally meet, their brain does not register a family member, they register a stranger that has a title of ‘brother, sister, mother or father.’ As a result, sometimes, unexpected appealing desires, an attraction to a kin member that is involuntary and becomes overwhelming with intimacy initiates GSA. If people are educated about GSA before they reunite and supported through the adoption reunion process, then the tragedy of GSA destroying family bonds, which frequently happens, can be eliminated.

Be Kind to Yourself

Adoption reunions are emotional. They pull at your core issues of abandonment and intimacy. It is extremely important to take care of yourself throughout the whole process. If you are experiencing GSA or further rejection a therapist is highly recommended. Sometimes having a therapist to support you through your experience can benefit the integration of the adoption reunion experience.

© Copyright Carly Sullens 2013. All Rights Reserved.


Submit a Comment

  • shiningirisheyes profile image

    Shining Irish Eyes 

    5 years ago from Upstate, New York

    Excellent viewpoint and very interesting. Our immediate family has enjoyed a positive aspect toward adoption. You provide a helpful insight.

  • CarlySullens profile imageAUTHOR

    Carly Sullens 

    5 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

    Jo, I hope this information does help when that day comes. I support a lot of adoption reunions so when you need someone, please call upon me when that time comes. Thanks for reading, voting up and commenting.

  • Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image


    5 years ago

    This is such a great and informative article. I am so glad that I have this information for when the day comes for me, and I am reunited with my loved ones. I shared, voted this up! :)

  • CarlySullens profile imageAUTHOR

    Carly Sullens 

    5 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

    Janine, I appreciate you reading and posting. I hope I can support others in their adoption reunions. It is an intense experience. Thank you for sharing.

  • Janine Huldie profile image

    Janine Huldie 

    5 years ago from New York, New York

    Wonderful tips on preparing for adoption reunions and so many can truly benefit from your wise advice. Have voted and shared, too!


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