This interview is with an adoptive mom - I’ll call her “M” -- who reached out to me via email after reading the post on How to Search for Your Child’s Guatemalan Birth Siblings. I thought it would be interesting to share the experience and perspective of a mom who has done several birth sibling searches and she was generous enough to answer my questions and allow me to share those responses here.
How old is your child?
Our daughter is 9 years old.
How old was she when you did your birth mother search?
She was just 10 months old when we did the birth mother search and made contact. We had always wanted an open adoption and we wanted to be in contact as soon as possible.
How old was she when you searched for her birth siblings?
We were aware of one sibling who had been adopted when we accepted our daughter's referral, we then learned of two other adopted siblings when we met with the birth family in Guatemala. Our daughter was the fourth and last child placed for adoption by their mother in Guatemala. She was 9 when we searched for her siblings.
What made you decide to search for the birth siblings?
We wanted to know where these siblings were. Their biological mother in Guatemala was very anxious to know where they all might be (we were and are the only adoptive family to make contact to date). She was very worried and wanted to know if they were alive and ok. She had heard terrible stories. We said we would do what we could to let her know if they were alive and well.
What was your biggest fear before searching?
Our biggest fear was that we would not be able to locate a sibling and there would forever be a gap in our daughter's life, a wondering about a sibling and a worry for them.
How did you go about your sibling search?
We hired F and she liaised with the biological mother in Guatemala and then obtained amended birth certificates which had the adoptive parents’ names for all three siblings. Thankfully all of the names were not very common ones (e.g. Smith or Jones) and we were able to track the siblings to American families in three different states using online search engines and creativity.
How did you approach the siblings’ adoptive families?
We sent very respectful and cautious emails, explaining who we were and why we were contacting them.
How have you approached relationships with the other adoptive families?
We made repeated attempts at contact with all three adoptive families but then had to accept that they simply did not want contact and that while the children are children the parents have the last say in matters like this. We hope we have left doors open and perhaps contact may happen in the future.
What surprised you about the outcome of your search?
Sadly we were surprised when all three adoptive families (in various parts of the USA) either did not want any contact or simply did not respond to our emails at all.
Since you do not now have contact with the sibling families, how do you know you found the right people?
With the first family we got confirmation we had the right family when they responded telling us not to contact them again!
With the second family I found Google images of my daughter’s brother who looked exactly like my daughter as a toddler! I was also able to match dates of birth and the names of the adoptive parents (unusual names). The brother also looks very much like the father's side of the family in Guatemala!
With the third family I was able to match the adoptive parent’s names and their daughter has the same first name and date of birth listed on the birth certificate for my daughter’s sibling. In pictures I found of her she also looks like paternal aunties we met in Guatemala (perhaps the advantage of having actually met family in person and being able to see family resemblances).
We are 99% sure we found the correct families , but of course there is always a 1% chance we could be wrong!
What was most difficult about the search process?
The most difficult part was worrying that the other adoptive families might not be interested in contact with us.
How did you share the results with your daughter?
We shared her whole family tree with her as part of her Life Story book. We explained to her who each of her siblings is, where they live, what their names are and ages - we said that different families believe different things and that sadly their families did not want to be in touch 'right now' and that may change in the future. We think that the fact that we have direct contact with her biological family in Guatemala and her other siblings there may help lessen the impact of this situation at the moment.
How did your daughter react to the news?
She is still only 9 and so she was quite matter of fact about what she has heard. As she grows older she will probably have lots of different feelings about the situation. We will support her if she wants to make direct contact herself with her adopted siblings once she is older.
What advice do you have for other adoptive parents thinking about searching for birth siblings?
Our advice would be to do it for sure - we are very glad we know the names, ages and locations of these adopted siblings. It helps make our daughter's story a complete one and their biological mother has been deeply reassured by this knowledge (that they are all alive and well and loved). People are always harder to find as time goes by, we feel we have opened all the doors possible and remain hopeful that perhaps contact between adopted siblings may happen at some future point.
Thanks for reading!