' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: DNA reveals a mother who rejected contact. Maybe.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

DNA reveals a mother who rejected contact. Maybe.

Dear Lorraine:

"Through DNA I have a close 2nd cousin match and with help from a search angel, I found my first mother. I have a younger brother from her. My problem is she said no contact when the Children's Home Society in Florida found her back in 2007. At that point I learned that she had not disclosed my existence to her family, but now with the DNA tests results and my tree on ancestry I won't be a secret any more for long.

"Trying to figure out what to do next--should I try to contact her again through a direct letter to her, with a few pictures? We look a lot a like.

"Mainly I was looking for siblings and I have one a brother four years younger and quite a few cousins. I am open to having a cordial relationship with her if she is willing. What now? I have such mixed feelings."--Carol, 52, the married mother of a grown son.

First of all, everybody has a right to know where and who they came from, no matter who it may embarrass. You have no desire to hurt your mother's feelings, hope for a meeting with her, and would like some sort of relationship with her. But if not with her, what about your brother and cousins? You have a right to know the people who are related to you. They are your kin as well as your mothers. They are your blood relatives. They do not have to have a relationship with you, but you have a right to let them know of your existence. 

By moving forward--and leaving the information on the family tree where you found second cousins--your mother may have no choice but to acknowledge you. It is not your responsibility to stay hidden because that may be her preference. You have no obligation to not use DNA profiling to find blood relatives. You are a free agent in the world.

I am assuming from your email that you received the "no contact" information about your mother from the agency. But since Florida is a closed-record state--and there is no information about agencies in Florida contacting birth parents at the behest of the adoptee--what you were told may be a convenient lie. When I wrote to my agency--then called Hillside Terrace--in Rochester, New York, requesting information about my daughter, I received three letters, all assuring me that she was fine and happy with her new family. That turned out to be malarkey. Beginning at about age five or six, she began having grand mal seizures and her doctor was trying to get more information about me from that very agency at the same time I was writing to them, desperate to offer my whereabouts and any help. "Fine and happy" are actually two words that were used in one of the letters.

Any information about your mother that came through the agency should be taken with a grain of salt. That may be the answer they give everyone, because who's going to survey the adoptees who contact them? Can't be done without the agency participation, and obviously they are not going to do that. Your mother may never have been contacted. She may want to know you. 

Carol's choice--and as a follow up email stated--was to write directly to her mother, using the sample letter and advice we have a link to on this page, and enclosing a few photos. 

DNA is beginning to have a huge impact on search and reunion, and mothers who reject reunion need to be aware that many familial connections now are being made through the DNA. A mother may not have told her new family about her earlier child, but DNA may find her anyway. A mother or father does not have to submit one's own DNA for this to occur. Aunts, uncles, first and second cousins--any of their DNA and a little sleuthing may reveal the obvious candidate for one's father or mother, depending on which side the DNA trail leads.

It is human nature to want to know who one came from, what one's story is, and adoptees are not immune to the same natural curiosity as the rest of us. Many of them have just had that curiosity beaten out of them by custom, by awareness that their original birth records are sealed, and by guilt that doing so is disloyal to the parents they know and love. But that sense of forbidden may not stay with any one adoptee forever. One day, everything changes and someone decides to go forward. I've seen it happen many times--even from people who are compelled to write letters to publications or be interviewed as to why they don't want to search. Something gives, and everything changes and they move forward to a search.

Some birth/first mothers feel they have no right to search for their child, no matter how many years have passed. Instead they desperately wait to be found. So we have both sides of the equation--mother and child--feeling that they have no right to find the other--but still waiting to be found.

Birth mothers who deny the existence of their child lost to adoption may be in for a nasty revelation of their secret by others. The obvious solution is to stir up some courage, and tell the truth to their children--that you have a sister/brother out there. But human nature being what it is, a certain percentage of women will do nothing, live in fear of being discovered, and pray that their son or daughter doesn't find them. 

Yet I repeat, the information of birth is shared between mother and child; it is only because the child is too young to collect the information for later use that adoptees do not grow up with the knowledge of their birth and who their mother is. I often quote the words below because they ring so true--in fact, without realizing I'd be writing about this subject, I put them up in the sidebar the other day. In 1980, after numerous hearings around the country, the then U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare proposed a Model Adoption Act stating:
“There can be no legally protected interest in keeping one’s identity secret from one’s biological offspring; parents and child are considered co-owners of the information regarding the event of birth….The birth parents’ interest in reputation is not alone deserving of constitutional protection.”
Needless to say, the legislation did not pass, with an adoptive father in the Senate, John Tower of Texas, leading the way to removing this passage.*We wish both Carol her and her mother reunion and acceptance. If I am allowed to know the response, I will let readers know. Let us all send positive thoughts to these two women for the best outcome.--lorraine
Letter to Birth Mother or Sibling

*The story of what happened to this good bill is told in some detail in Hole In My Heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoptionThis is my story of loss, reunion, and loss again, told in the context of the history of adoption and its ramifications. It it both memoir and journalism.

Destiny's Second Chance (fiction)
by Kate Vale
From the author:
"This story is an homage to my mother, herself a foundling, back when that term was frequently ascribed to children first cared for in an orphanage and later adopted into a family. Her story and those of other women and men who claimed two sets of parents--one left behind, the other joined sometime after birth--refused to let me go. I wondered what it might be like to want to know one's birth parents, to feel pulled in different directions by the knowledge that one's birth parents were not the same family that raised her or him.

"The emotional ties that link these people often are misunderstood. How they might be reworked into acceptance and even love was something I chose to explore." 
PS: I'll be reading this soon myself.--ld 
To order anything through Amazon, including the books, click on the links or the book jackets. Did you remember us when ordering back-to-school stuff? We'd appreciate it!


  1. So glad I did not use a mediator when I was searching. Is the brother grown and out of the house? You could try contacting sibs if mom says no. Also, maybe mom has had some time to mellow and wants contact although I guess she could contact the CHSOF and track you down that way.

  2. As some of you know, I am both an adoptee and a birth parent. I found my mother years ago but the only information they could give me was "His name was 'Red,' he was in the military, and he went off to the war (WWII) and died." For most of my life this information led nowhere. A few months ago I took a DNA test. I haven't found my father, but I think I've found the family. I probably know his last name. There is something so important in knowing even this, about getting an email from (3rd) "Cousin Dave" on Ancestry. I have a cousin! Lots of them!

    I'm going to find my father and it won't be too long. Adoptees are a big part of the DNA companies' business and lots of people (and many nonadoptees) who understand DNA want to help. DNAAdoption has classes in searching. Reunions through DNA happen daily.

    How this affects birthparents in hiding - I don't think like that and I've known my daughter for over 20 years - but if I were a birthmother still hiding in shame out there and reading this, I'd think I'd better tell my husband and children now rather than after I am found. You will probably wish you had done it long ago.

  3. DNA is everything, and for anyone in our society to deny its importance is just continuing the cycle of lies the 'adoption secrecy' perpetuates.
    I have recently been contacted by my First son's biological father, after waiting for over a year. One of the first questions he asked was, "so you did the DNA tests?". Thank goodness for DNA & the tests that are available now, or I would still be spinning my wheels, because DNA doesn't lie, and I've been told nothing but lies since the beginning of my involvement with a 'Christian Crisis Pregnancy Center'(what a nightmare). The sad truth is he lost his son too. He has never been married nor does he have other children. He comes from a wealthy family and one of the topics he talked about was giving our son an inheritance. I didn't have the heart to tell him that our son has an adoptive family. He is not going to see this 'adoption' situation in the same way that I do because he didn't get a say in the matter, and he didn't sign anything. In his eyes, his son is his son. Whether raised or not, DNA counts. I'm hoping that he and his new son (31 yr old) get to form a relationship, perhaps with a lot of patience. The cat is out of the bag now and there is a new reality for everyone, including our son's AP's. As scary as opening these doors has been, it is well worth it, no matter what the outcome!

  4. I just looked up Missouri's birth parent contact preference form.

    The last sentence of the first section of page 2 says, "Note that even if you complete this form and indicate no contact, the adoptee may contact you based on information received from other sources.

    Kudos Missouri for putting that fact out there.

    If I was a mother in hiding filling out that form I'd probably chuck it in the trash upon reading that and say, 'what's the point then?'. Cause really, there isn't one.

  5. Lorraine, thanks for the reminder that what agencies tell people ain't necessarily so. We have all heard these stories so many times about the blatant lies. And, of course, their is now the movie "Philomena" to point to as a prime example. I remember contacting the agency about my youngest son and, of course, they have closed records and would tell me anything. However, they did encourage me to leave a letter in his file. They told me that if we both gave consent, then information could pass. But I'll never know if that is true. I will tell you this, the social worker who I spoke with AFTER I found my son was stunned and kept asking how did I find him? Really, some of these people still don't have a clue what's going on.

    1. We have to remember that agencies are run by people who have different ideas about contact. It's possible that older workers--not steeped in 'birth mother privacy' baloney are more likely to understand the right and need to search--as many apparently did in the olden days before search became so common and legislators got the hots about it happening. Who you reach one day at an agency may be gone when your child gets there...Frequent updating with addresses is a good idea, because it indicates a long trail of desire for contact.

      On another note: You are missing the negative here..."and would tell me anything." I'm sure you meant would NOT tell me anything.

  6. Sadly, while I agree - contact is up to the people involved, I have reservations because I have seen some horrible things..... I have lived through horrible things.... created by my own need to know my daughter. I regret contact - fully.

    I doubt, seriously, that my daughter would have bothered had I not contacted her. It would have been a blessing. I could have continued to believe the lie that she was adopted by educated, intelligent people that raised her to be a good person.

    However, the thing I regret most - that she contacted my family and abused them too.....

    I don't know... I think that we, as members of this insane issue, should make sure that we get therapy and work out some of our crap before we contact anyone.

    As for DNA, yeah, it helps find people, so does the internet, but does it prepare you for the things so come?

    1. I know you have been through hell with your daughter, Lori, and my relationship with my daughter was not easy though there was never a moment I was sorry we reunited. There were plenty of good and long spaces in our 26-year relationship. (For those who don't know, my daughter died in 2007.)

      My relationship with my first granddaughter--who was given up for adoption--is now non-existent. I reached out to her, we had a good visit at my home--if a few days too long--but now, considering the racist screed she wrote about White Liberal Women (WLWs as she framed them), I prefer to keep it that way. Am I sorry I contacted her? I think not. Life is what it is and I prefer to live with reality. Your own case is quite different from mine, and I understand your feelings and, considering the aftermath, they are reasonable.

    2. Lorraine, you were blessed with having long times of peaceful reunion. I have never had that. The only time it was ever "peaceful" was when my daughter was setting me up for something and usually only lasted a month or two at most, followed by a year or more of abusive behavior.


      Don't take this wrong, but truthfully, it feels like you and other mothers and adoptees would like me to not feel that way. I do. Reminding me that others have had good relationships won't change my feelings about my daughter and this insane soup that created the problems that exist.

      I am delighted that others had something or have something worthwhile with their children - I do not and I have told my daughter not to come back into my life until she can stop playing games and until she gets some help with her issues. She has a full medical background (I even got the genetic testing for cancer so that she would have that), from me. She stole her father's death certificate and identifying information from my home, so I know she has all she needs. I wish her well - and do not want anything more to do with her.

  7. You obviously hate her your daughter so why even keep talking/slandering her/rejecting her again. Seriously you apathy towards adoptees is astounding.

    1. Anonymous, obviously you really don't know me or the situation. Also, I don't have issues with adopted persons....they are people, period. I don't judge people that way. I think that you seriously are judgmental about me because I won't think or feel the way you seem to think I should. I wish my daughter well, but if a "friend" or anyone else had done the things my daughter did - you would be one of the first ones on the "get rid of the toxic person" bandwagon.

      This is what I meant about trying to force me not to feel my own feelings. I respect yours, why can't you respect mine?

    2. Apathy?
      Antipathy, surely.

    3. Lori I would like to tell you to not feel bad about the way you feel or what you have written. I am an adoptee and have so many good friends from sites just for this. I also know there are many people that are bitter and think there way is the only way of thinking. They will think nothing of hurting people that don't agree with them. I have wrote many times that life is not black or white but mostly great.

    4. I believe that life is all about feeling and being able to express whatever you want. I am an adoptee and have so many good friends from adoption sites. But I have also been cut down on other sites for things I have said. I believe that some adoptees are any angry and life is black or white. I have found it to be gray most of the time. Please feel free to express your self and ignore all comments

  8. Given that my agency had gone out of business -- with their records somewhere in the prairie winds (IF they went to the state as the law says they should have, no one at the state knows where they are. It's not like state archives are well-funded.) -- I'm glad I had other options. I got lucky and didn't need DNA, as my first mom went 31 years after my birth without getting married and had an unusual surname.

    Things turned out very well on one side, very badly on the other, and I regret nothing.

  9. As much as I despised the worker at the "social welfare agency" that placed my son, I have to admit that she did assist me in one way during my search.
    When I contacted her in the 1980s, she told me , in multiple letters, multiple times, that my son" had not returned his contact waiver form"...this information was not something she was even supposed to offer me.

    By telling me this, she let me know that he had contacted her and requested a waiver form.

  10. Lori's personal story is only that - personal. She talks about her daughter's behavior, but in my view it is expressing sadness and disappointment (as "regret"), not hate. It seems that if any family member is making threats, either legal action should be taken or they should be otherwise stopped. It is wise to take threats seriously; there is no such thing as an empty threat.

    Anonymous and Anonymous, I hope you will revisit your interpretations of what Lori has expressed. She has the right to her point of view based on her experiences, and does not have to defend herself. As far as apathy (?) antipathy (?) - it just is not there, in my view.

    1. Thank you - The truth is that I still cry myself to sleep some nights. I love my daughter, but I can't possibly ever allow something that toxic into my world and remain sane. Love is not the question - never was... the question is how far do you let things go before you realize that there is only love on one side and that the other side simply wishes you ill....and then you have to make hard choices.

      I chose to give her life - to fight for her even for that.... but I can't fight her.

  11. There are reunions that do not work out and all involved wish they were not attempted. Contact and relationships among adoptees and their biological parents are all over the map, with many choosing no contact at all. This forum advocates contact strongly but it's no always a success. It just gives a viewpoint not encouraged in many settings with information and examples where it could be a good choice

    1. I know many people who have had a reunion and some have not gone well. However, I've never met a natural mother or an adoptee who regretted attempting a reunion. Knowing is better than not knowing.

      Referring to "reunions that do not work out" is misleading. Relationship change over time; some mothers and their children become close initially; others do not. Some remain close; others drift apart. For some, a reunion is successful if they just get to meet the other party once. For others it's not successful unless their families become close.

      FMF encourages mothers and their children to search if they are interested in doing so. We also encourage mothers and children to respond to the other, at least meet once and answer questions. We don't insist people have continuing relationships if they don't desire to have them.

    2. Amen to Jane's comment. We encourage those who wish to search--adoptees or mothers--to do so and initiate contact if that is what they wish. My 26-year relationships with the daughter I lost twice was difficult but never ever regretted.

  12. I wanted to update you on my journey. Lo wrote this for me. I did send the letter and it came back because my first mother had moved and the forwarding address had expired. My search angel has encouraged me to call her instead of trying to resend the letter. I do have a number to try and I am working on getting the courage up to call her. I figure the call won't go well given her perevious attitude. Since the information the agency gave us was used and verified as being true in my search and find I have to believe they told me the truth about what she said to them and her attitude being a bad one. I believe you can't cherry pick the non id information. I keep grappling with what do I want to accomplish with the call/contact? We think we know who the bio dad is but only she can verify that plus I need/want updated medical information. I would love to know the story of how I came to be plus I would like to know how her life can gone since then. I mean her no harm. I have found things out about her online like clubs she belongs to etc, and I think I know where she is living now. I guess because she thinks her identity is safe with the sealed records law she is out there online for all to see. The only thing I haven't found is a social media account. Anyway, you asked for a update this is it such as it is right now. I will write again after I make that call and let you know how it went wish me luck!

    1. Susan, I urge you to post this on the current blog. You will find more support there, where people are currently reading...You don't need to delete this one, and the beginning is pretty self explanatory. Good luck! I'm awfully busy right now with writing my talk for Minnesota conference at end of month, plus other writings that are due!

  13. Let me speak from the other side of this issue. Several members of my family have been the victim of relentless attacks from a woman who claims to be the biological daughter of someone twice removed from myself and my siblings. This woman has made ridiculous, contradictory and absolutely slanderous claims about her alleged birth mother online. Her birth certificate doesn’t even match the name of the birth mother—it’s only close by the first couple of letters. But, she claims she obtained a DNA test from Ancestry.com that proves she is related to us. In fact, she claims that Ancestry.com matched her to someone who may be a third or fourth cousin of ours. Let me tell you, unless you have a DNA match from a 1st or 2nd Degree relative, you are more likely to find your birth mother by standing in the middle of Times Square and picking someone that looks like you.

    A third or fourth cousin has less than ½ of 1% of shared DNA. Virtually anyone that has a relationship to a distant ancestor can share that percentage of DNA. With large families migrating from Europe at different times and to different areas of the country, that basically means that you can’t tell what relationship you actually have or what line of a family you fall into—if at all. In our case, this woman may or may not be distantly related to us through a European ancestor, but she is no more my cousin than George Washington’s cousin (who, by the way, likely also shares .015% DNA with me--statistically speaking) Yet, Ancestry.com touts this test as definitive and this has somehow convinced her that she is my 1st cousin (?!?) What this woman doesn’t know, and what we’ve tried to explain politely to her, is that her alleged “birth” mother wasn’t even in the US during the entire year she was born and the year after. So, unless this woman was hatched in an incubator, she is not the daughter of this alleged “birth” mother.

    And, I'm sorry to burst some bubbles here, but some people just do not want to be contacted by people they don't know, regardless of the "blood" relationship. No matter who you are or what your relationship is, you should respect the privacy of others. That means that when you contact "family" members who weren't even alive when you were born to "surprise" them with the news of your existence, and they tell you they don't want to have contact with you, you should leave them alone. Period. Disrupting other people's lives so that you can extract your pound of flesh is unwarranted and, in some cases, harassment.

    I’m not saying that Adoptees shouldn’t try to find their birth parents if they want to do that. But, please don’t think that you are entitled to become part of your birth parents’ families. Our experience is sad but, unfortunately, not unique. I share this information with you because I don’t want anyone to experience what my family has experienced. In our case, we believe this woman will not stop until we agree that she is related to us. We’ve already taken legal measures against this woman and we are about to embark on a federal lawsuit for a restraining order, which will probably be very painful for her. But since multiple requests and warnings to cease and desist have gone unheeded, we have no choice.

    Please make sure you have accurate information before you act and be respectful of others when and if you do reach out.



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