Your Guide to DNA Reunion Etiquette

For adoptees and birth parents who once had little to no leads about their family of origin or the child they placed, DNA kits have become the answer they’ve been looking for. Kits from services like Ancestry.com and 23andMe have made it easier than ever to learn about your origins and biological relatives, so it’s not surprising to see how this new technology has taken off in recent years — especially when it comes to adoption.

But with the advancement of this type of technology, there are some important questions to ask yourself before delving into DNA testing, along with some etiquette that’s important to follow when you do finally find your birth family.

The Ethics of DNA Testing and What to Consider Before Reaching Out

If you’re searching for your family of origin, that almost always means that it’s because of closed adoption. In some cases, a birth parent may decide that a closed adoption is the best way to heal and move forward after the adoption and will choose to stay anonymous. The decision to place a child for adoption is already painful, selfless and life‐changing and a relationship could be something that they’re not looking for. Likewise, an adoptee could be reluctant to start a relationship with their birth family, and may not be ready for what the introduction of this new relationship could mean for the life they already have. At this point, it’s not just about forging a new connection with your birth family, but about consent and privacy.

One of the biggest shortcomings with DNA testing is that the person you’re looking for may consider it an invasion of their privacy and wish to remain anonymous. Although you may be hopeful that the person you’re seeking and their family will be just as open to the idea of a reunion as you are, if they chose a closed adoption, they may not react so well to being contacted. Even so — there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to looking for your family of origin through DNA testing, as it really depends on your unique circumstances.

Tips and Etiquette for Making Contact

If DNA testing is the best path for you and you’re ready to find your biological family, here are some tips and etiquette to remember when reaching out:

Be prepared for any outcome.

Your first conversation may not go as planned. While you may be excited to get to know someone that you’ve been envisioning for so many years, for them it can come as quite a shock to find out who their birth parent or the child they place for adoption is. Like any new relationship, remember to ease into the situation and take things at their pace.Although you should always hope that your first conversation with your birth family will go positively, they may not react to being contacted like you would hope.

During the search and reunion process, it can be easy to daydream about what your first meeting will be like. But, the truth is that any reunion could end in disappointment, so be prepared for some setbacks. Being realistic about this process can help alleviate some of these feelings if they do occur. Even so — that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try or that you should give up your reunion search.

Remember to ask for support.

Your family and friends care about you, so don’t be afraid to lean on them for help during this difficult time. Searching for your birth parents or adopted child is going to uncover a lot of feelings that you may be processing for the first time — and it can difficult to cope under the weight of your expectations. In addition to family and friends, consider reaching out to those that have already used DNA testing to learn more about commons dos and don’ts.

Think about what you want from the relationship.

Even after you connect with your birth family, you might not be ready to have a full relationship right away. You might have to stick to emails, texting, or phone calls at first until you’re ready to meet face‐to‐face.

Life after DNA Testing

If you do manage to establish contact with your birth family, there’s no doubt that it will be a life‐changing experience. Finding that missing piece of your family puzzle after many years of searching is one of the best feelings that you can experience. If you’re not sure what to do after you’ve managed to establish contact, take time to learn more about building a relationship with your birth family or adopted child. You can also reach out on adoption forums where other adoptees and birth parents talk about their experiences with DNA testing and reunion. Remember, once you’ve received the information from your DNA test, you can take as much time as you need to prepare for the next steps.

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