When it comes to adoption reunions, emotional moments are bound to happen. But can adoption reunions be successful? Can there be peace and happiness for all involved, or could it end up in disappointment? In this article, you’ll read about successful adoption reunions, what to do when a reunion is unsuccessful, and learn how to help the adult adoptee keep an adoption reunion harmonious for everyone. 

What is an Adoption Reunion?

An adoption reunion happens when an adoptee is of age and wants to find their biological family members, which most often happens in closed adoption cases. With open and semi-open adoptions, the reunions are more familiar to everyone in the adoption triad after seeing everyone so often. For this article, I’ll focus on closed adoption reunions. 

What Exactly Are Adoption Reunions in Closed Adoptions?

An adoption reunion usually occurs in closed adoptions when an adult adoptee reunites with their biological family members. An adoptee can meet with their birth parents, birth grandparents, birth siblings, or other birth family members. Although reunions do occur with open and semi-open adoptions, reunions are much more frequent due to the multiple visits and updates between the adoption triad. For this article, we’ll discuss closed adoption reunions and what an adoption reunion would look like

The adoptee can’t find anything about their biological parents with a closed adoption until they age. Once they’re old enough, the adoptee can discover their birth parents or other family members through an adoption registry. The adoptee can also choose to have the assistance of an adoption detective to help them on their search. Once located, the adoptee can contact the birth parents by phone call, text, or email. Be aware that some birth families aren’t willing to meet with the adoptees, but most often, birth parents would love the opportunity to meet their children. If the birth parents are eager to meet the adoptee, an adoption reunion will take place. 

How Should an Adult Adoptee Prepare for an Adoption Reunion?

One of the first things an adult adoptee should do is prepare for any feelings a reunion can bring. After all, the adoptee is getting ready to meet their biological family, bringing many emotions between both parties. The important thing is not to go into a reunion with high expectations; that way, the adult adoptee won’t be let down when meeting their biological family members. Here are some more tips when thinking about preparing for an adoption reunion. 

Location: For the first reunion, meeting in a public place like a park or restaurant would be more natural. The adoptee is meeting the birth family for the first time, so meeting at home may seem like a great idea, but that could set off some harbored feelings. At either home, photos could be seen and can be triggering. Noise from other house members can also be a distraction and can have new family members feel overwhelmed. Meeting in a public place can allow both parties to take things slow to get to know one another. 

Don’t Share Too Much Information: Sure, adoptees’ can share their phone number, hobbies, and favorite things, but don’t share private information. Birth families can take advantage of adoptees giving out their home address, school information, and even financial income. Let your adopted child be aware and keep their information private. 

Offer to Go With Your Adult Adoptee: Your adopted child might want to meet their adopted family by themselves, but you should also stay cautious. Yes, your child is now an adult; however, the adoptee’s birth families are still strangers to them. Offer to go with them, and if they decline, offer to at least be close. I’m not saying to be helicopter parents; just assure them that you’ll be there when the adoptee needs you. 

Talk With Them About Their Feelings: There will be many entirely normal feelings when meeting birth families for the first time. Let your adopted child know you’re open to talking about any feelings they might have. Are they nervous, excited, sad, or indifferent? Whatever feelings they might have, let them express them without fear of judgment. 

Remind the Adoptee Not to Have High Expectations: While the adoptee might have fantastic ideas of what their biological family is like, they might feel completely let down once they meet them. Talk with the adoptee about how you understand they’re excited, but the birth family might not be all that great. Once the adoptee meets the bio family and accepts them for who they are, it will be a smooth adoption reunion. 

Think About Things to Talk About: Both the adult adoptee and the biological family will most likely be nervous at first, but having a casual conversation can make things easier. You can help your adopted child develop topics they’d like to ask their biological family members. They could ask about their hobbies, interests, other family members, plans for the future, life updates, etc. 

What If the Biological Family Doesn’t Want to Meet the Adoptee?

After waiting for so long to meet the biological family, the adult adoptee might find out that the birth family refuses to meet them. Sometimes, biological families don’t want to meet the adoptees. The adoptee might feel disappointed and let down by this, and it’s important to reassure them that it’s not their fault. Biological families have many reasons why they don’t want to meet. One reason could be for the adoptee’s protection. The biological families might be dishonest and wrong people, and they don’t want to inflict that onto the adoptee. Another reason could be that the birth family values their privacy. After all, the adoption was closed, and birth parents might want to keep it closed even after the adoptee reaches adulthood. 

When Reunions Go Wrong

The day of the adoption reunion is an exciting time for the adoptee. After all the preparation and anticipation, the adoptee finally gets to meet their biological family members. Once the time is here, the adoptee is let down. Why? Well, many things could go wrong. Here are some things for the adoptee to look out for and ways to approach a problematic reunion

The biological family isn’t what the adoptee expected: I wrote about this above as an essential tip to prepare for the reunion for a reason. High expectations from the get-go lead to disappointment. Maybe the adoptee thought their biological family were these perfect people but then came to find out that they’re either putting on a show or just straight-up bad people. If the adoptee sees this and decides they don’t want to meet their biological family again, reassure them that that’s perfectly okay. 

The biological family seems fake or out to get something: The adoptee might notice their birth family looks contrived or out to get something from them, whether it be money, personal items, housing, etc. It’s essential to notice the red flags and not to give them anything. The birth family’s top priority is meeting the adoptee, getting to know them, and never asking the adoptee for handouts. 

The biological family doesn’t show up: It’s not unusual for the birth family to be a no-show when it comes to an adoption reunion. There are many possible reasons why, but the biggest reason could be fear of disappointment. The birth family may want to meet the adoptee first, but then the adoptee finds out their biological family doesn’t want to meet once the day comes. Let the adoptee know not to take it personally, and the issue has to deal more with the biological family than with them. Be empathetic and understanding of how they feel when it comes to a no-show. 

You and the adoptee can read more about true reunions gone wrong in this forum: reunion has gone bad

Stories of Successful Adoption Reunions

Now that we have the bad stuff out of the way, let’s focus on positive and successful reunion stories. I’ve interviewed a few adoptees and asked them to share the stories of their adoption reunions. (Some names have been changed to protect the privacy of the adoptees and the birth families.) 

Brandon was both anxiety-ridden and elated to finally meet his birth sister. He was 19 at the time when he received a notification from his sister via Facebook. Brandon spoke with her and asked about his birth parents. His sister said that although his birth parents didn’t want to meet him, she was more than happy. Brandon and his sister set up a day, place, and time to complete. Here’s his story about how it went. 

“Although I was a little sad that I couldn’t meet my parents, I was excited to meet my biological sister. I met her at a local cafe, and I remember seeing her smile as I looked her way. We sat down and talked about our parents, school, hobbies, and future plans. She’s a nice girl, and I’m happy to have the chance to get to know her more. We still keep in touch, and she’s even coming to my college graduation.” – Brandon.

Marissa was 18 when she went searching for her birth parents with the help of her adoptive parents. She used her state’s adoption registry to find her parents, and once she found their contact information, she wrote them a heartfelt letter, hoping to one day meet them. Here’s Marissa’s story about how her reunion went. 

“What started with a letter now reunited me [with] my biological parents. My adoptive parents and I drove a few states to meet them at a park. On the drive there, I kept thinking what they’d be like and if they missed me after all these years. Once we were at the park, I [saw] an older couple sitting at a picnic. They noticed me and said my name. I told them who I was and noticed I looked exactly like my birth mother. We hugged for quite some time, and all three of us cried. I introduced my adoptive parents to my biological parents, and we all talked about our lives. My parents have thought of me every day and were glad I was placed with a great family. I even found out I have a younger sister, and I hope to meet her one day soon.” – Marissa. 

Birth Parents Who Are About to Meet Their Birth Children 

I’ve discussed adoptees meeting their birth families, but what about the birth parents going to meet their birth children? How can you make sure the reunion is successful? 

Be Yourself: One of the most critical things for you as a birth parent is to genuinely be yourself. The adoptee wants to meet you and get to know who you really are, so be honest. Accept them for the person that they’ve grown up to be too. 

Don’t Pry: Sure, you want to know more about your adopted children, but don’t try to pry into any personal details of their lives, like what their school schedule is or their home address. 

Be Welcoming and Warm: Reunions can bring feelings of uncertainty, and it’s okay to let your child know that you’re nervous too. Be welcoming and try to make an effort to get to know them, and don’t be standoffish. 

Be Cordial: When you decide on a time and place, keep your word about being there for your children. If something comes up like traffic or bad weather, call to let your children know of delays. They’ve waited all this time to meet you, so being cordial shows them that you actually care about reuniting with them.

I hope this article has answered any questions you may have about adoption reunions. Reunions can be a touchy subject for some biological families, but yes, adoption reunions can be successful. To biological parents that are about to meet their child, I wish you happiness. To any adoptees thinking of or about to meet their birth family members, I wish you the best of luck and hope your reunion is excellent.

Are you ready to pursue adoption? Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to connect with compassionate, nonjudgmental adoption specialists who can help you get started on the journey of a lifetime.

Kandice Confer is an adopted twin, wife, and mother of two girls who loves spending time with her family and two rabbits. She loves reading and writing inspirational works of literature and loves telling stories.