Q: I'm a birth mother and have forgotten my son's/daughter's date of birth.  Is this unusual?

A: No, it's not unusual.  Immediately after delivering their babies, many birth mothers were injected with a potent drug cocktail intended to erase all memory of the birth. While some birth mothers did, in fact, forget the painful memories associated with their child's birth thanks to this outrageous practice, others forgot the day of their child's birth, the child's sex, whether or not they had named the child, and other vital information. Birth mothers who do not recall the date of their child's birth are urged to sign up with the Illinois Adoption Registry and Medical Information Exchange; as of 1/1/2004 the Illinois Adoption Registry will release the adoptee's exact date and place of birth to a birth parent named on the original birth certificate upon request (providing he or she has agreed to exchange medical information through the state Registry). Click here to download the forms you'll need to sign up with the Illinois Adoption Registry.

Q: When is the best time to search?

A: The timing of a request for contact can play a major role in the outcome of your search. Although there are exceptions, in general, there is no optimal time for an adoptee to initiate contact with a birth parent (though right after the death of a spouse or other close family member is not usually a good idea). A birth parent's reaction to a request for contact can be impacted by his or her marital status, number of children, social status and "generation" (baby boomer birth parents have higher reunion rates than those born during the Depression) and whether or not his or her parents (the adoptee's birth grandparents) are still alive. For birth parents, the "best time" to initiate contact with an adoptee varies depending on the adoptee's sex and age. Female adoptees are usually most receptive to a request for contact when they are between the ages of 28 and 40. Reunion rates for male adoptees are highest among those in the 35-50 age bracket. Here again, though, there are several criteria which can positively or negatively impact the adoptee's decision with regard to contact; adoptees with children are far more likely to be in interested in contact than those who are single and/or childless. Many adoptees feel that initiating contact with a birth parent while their adoptive parents are still alive is "disloyal" and, for this reason, may be more receptive to contact from their birth families after their adoptive parents' death.

Q: I wrote to my birth mother/son/daughter and requested contact over a year ago, but there's still no response (or they declined to meet me).  What do I do now?

A: This is one of those situations where less is more...and good things really do come to those who wait. Once contact has been initiated between an adoptee and a birth parent, that adoption has, for all intents and purposes, been "opened."  As with "open" adoptions finalized from the late 70s on, these "opened" adoptions will make the transition to an actual reunion once all parties involved feel comfortable doing so. Reaching that juncture can take hours, days, weeks, months, years...and sometimes decades. And, more often than not, impatience and assertiveness are not only counter-productive, they can often close things down indefinitely.

Q: My birth mother has declined contact, but I know I have a sister/brother out there who may want to meet me. Is it OK for me to initiate contact with my brother/sister? (Or my birth son/daughter has declined contact...Is it OK for me to initiate contact with their adoptive parents?)

A: The jury is still out on this one. If there has been no contact with the birth parent/child for two years or more and/or there's a medical emergency, it may bring you some measure of closure to make contact with other family members. However, if your primary goal is to connect with your birth mother or surrendered child through this family member, you may ultimately compromise your chances of reuniting with them at a later point in time. On the other hand, many adoptees have found in their siblings or aunts and uncles the close relationship they initially sought with a birth parent who was unwilling to meet them.

Q: My birth mother/father/son/daughter died before I was able to locate him/her. Is it OK if I contact surviving family members?

A: Of course it is...if for no other reason, to learn what the cause of this premature death was. Keep in mind, though, that birth family members who were unaware of the adoption are less likely to be receptive to contact than those who were "in the know." But, even when the birth parent managed to keep their secret from other family members, it is rare for birth aunts and uncles to turn down the chance to meet the long lost son or daughter of a deceased brother or sister...

Q: I can't afford the search fee involved to find my birth mother/son/daughter. Would it be a good idea for me to write to one of those talk shows and ask them for help?

A: Not really. "Coming out" to the entire world as a birth mother...or seeing a biological family member for the first time...on national television can be a fairly traumatic experience...and is not always the best way to "kick off" a reunion. Furthermore, talk shows generally rely on a well-known national search company that rarely lives up to its boastful TV ads. One birth mother came to us for help five years after being told that her son "just couldn't be found" by one of these talk shows ( the one hosted by an adoptive mother who often sported oversized red glasses)... For five years, this birth mother believed that, if this well-known talk show host couldn't find her son, then no one could. Yet, the information she possessed regarding her son's birth was sufficient to allow White Oak to locate him in a matter of minutes.  Unless you're dying to appear on national television--and are convinced your birth mother/father/son/daughter shares your affinity for the limelight, the talk show route is not one we'd recommend.

Q: I attempted to make contact with my birth mother/father/son/daughter and he/she threatened to have me arrested.  Can they do this?

A: Threatening to have a biological relative arrested because they've initiated contact via phone or letter is a bit extreme...and pure rhetoric. Like all citizens, birth family members can file a "restraining order" if they wish to prohibit someone from making contact with them; if a restraining order is filed against you, you'll be among the first to know. In the meantime, if a birth family member has formally declined contact, your best option is to accept this (probably temporary) verdict in silence...anything else you might do would probably only hinder, not help, the situation.

Q: The agency that handled the adoption has refused to help me search.  What can I do?

A: If you're an adoptee or a birth parent (or a surviving relative of an adoptee or birth parent with important medical information), you can petition the court for the appointment of a confidential intermediary (click here for additional information on this option). The intermediary will request that the agency forward all pertinent details regarding the adoption to them, though, needless to say, there are even a few agencies that don't respond to court orders!

Do you have a question we didn't answer here or anywhere else on the White Oak Web site? E-mail us at ILtreesurgeon@aol.com and we'll include your query and our response in the next update of this section of the Web site.