Adoption has been around since at least the time of Moses. In the 1930's adoption law codified adoption practice, including search and reunion. The laws closed access between the birth family and the adopted person and her parents. In time, thinking changed and now most professionals and many other people believe that everyone had a right to their own past, including their heritage, health, and religious backgrounds. In addition, opening access to the original birth certificate in now seen as a civil right.
Assisted Reproductive Technology is a much newer way to build a family, in the United States it appeared in 1978 for the first time. Family building has gone through a revolution and sex and reproduction no longer are necessarily paired. There are many more types of families than ever before and children wonder about the motives and experiences of both their genetic and legal parents. They want to know if they have siblings and how many. Some children want to meet their biological families. They do not want to reduce any parent to just a sperm or an egg.
All people need a cohesive personal narrative in order to feel grounded. They work to fill in missing pieces with real or imaginary stories. When there is a lack of basic information, many people live with ghost families that stand in for their original families. Curiosity builds from as early as five to ten years of age.
Holding off disclosing about adoption or assisted reproductive technology damages the child's sense of trust. Many parents feel threatened by their child's curiosity, but it is a mistake to think they can or should stop the process. Social media, ancestry, and DNA sites have made reunions easier and more commonplace. Parents need not be alone in guiding and supporting their children. Good counseling is available and can help to strengthen the family unit.
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Judith Gringorten, LCSW, DCSW — Executive Director Robin Halpern, LCSW, DCSW — Assistant Director Special Projects Coordinator: Leslie Goldstein, LCSW, BCD Articles &... Editor: Robin Halpern, LCSW, DCSW