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What if the Child You Placed for Adoption Doesn’t Want Contact?

It may be hard to think about — but in a closed adoption, there is the chance that your child may not want or be able to reconnect with you later on in life. When that happens, your dreams and expectations for a happy reunion could end in disappointment — and feeling as if you’ve lost a connection to your child not once, but twice, can be extremely painful to cope with. While there isn’t a cure for what you’re experiencing, here is some helpful information on why your child might not be ready to cultivate a new relationship with their birth parents and tips for how to handle their decision.

­Why Would My Child Not Want to Get to Know Me?

While there are many adoptees who have always dreamed about what it would be like to reunite and build a relationship with their birth families, the truth is that every adoptee’s situation is different. Sometimes, especially among older adults placed in the era of closed adoption,  adoptees feel angry at their birth parents for choosing adoption or, in some cases, even abandoned and unwanted — especially if they have other biological siblings that weren’t placed for adoption. Oftentimes, these feelings come from outdated perceptions and misunderstandings of adoption; fortunately, most adoptees today share an open relationship with their birth parents from the beginning, and they are raised understanding the thought and love that went into their birth parents’ decision. However, older adoptees who haven’t had that openness do sometimes have complicated feelings about their adoption. An adoptee who feels hurt by their birth parent’s decision to place them for adoption may be reluctant to start any kind of relationship with them. Other adoptees have no such feelings toward their birth parents, but may still be anxious about what this new relationship could mean for their lives. It may raise feelings of loss, thinking about what could have been if they’d never been placed for adoption, or they may be worried they’ll find out information they might not have wanted to know. In some cases, they may fear that a relationship with their birth parents won’t work out or will end up being a disappointment when it doesn’t meet all of their expectations. In these situations, an adoptee may feel that it’s better to not start the relationship at all. The possibility of reuniting with you, their biological parents, can create a myriad of complicated feelings that they might not be ready to handle right now. If your child is not prepared to get to know you or they’re not open to a relationship, remember that it’s not because of you as a person — it’s because of what the adoption experience represents in their lives.

Preparing for Every Outcome

If you reach out to your child and they either don’t feel ready for a relationship with their birth family or they don’t respond to any of your messages, it can trigger feelings of loss, anger, grief, and abandonment. While it’s easy to get carried away when envisioning your reunion, doing so can make it worse when a reunion doesn’t end up the way you hoped. Every adoption situation, and every adoption reunion, is different. While there is a chance that your child will, at some point, be ready to start a relationship with you, it’s important to be prepared during your search.

How to Cope with Reunion Disappointment

In the event that your child does not want to start a relationship with you, here are some tips and advice on how to cope moving forward.
  • Remember that it’s okay to grieve: You may have already gone through the grief and loss process after placing your child for adoption, but trying to start a new relationship with your child when they’re not ready to reciprocate can open up old wounds. Remember to lean on family and friends for support and to talk through what you’re going through.
  • Respect your child’s decision, even when it’s hard: At the end of the day, the decision to have or not have a relationship with you is completely dependent on your child’s feelings. It can help to put yourself in your child’s shoes when you’re questioning their decision to not have a relationship at this time.
  • Reach out to an adoption counselor: It can be hard to process your disappointment on your own. In that case, we recommend reaching out to a professional for support. Not only can this help ease your feelings of disappointment, but it can be cathartic to speak to someone who can give you advice on adoption rejection.

Moving Forward

It’ll take time to process your grief and the loss of a relationship with your child. Of course, there is always the possibility that your child could change their mind and decide that they’re ready to embark on a relationship with you later on in their life — but that’s completely up to them when and if they’re open to it. Depending on the situation, they may need more time to process the idea of this new relationship. Always remember that, even if your search ends in disappointment, there are still plenty of people who love and cherish you in their lives.

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2 Comments

  1. This article hit home for me. One year ago I was reunited with my 25 year old son I placed in a closed adoption out of pure love and numerous factors that weighed against my being able to keep him at that time. My life ended up working out differently than I expected when I made the decision to give him up for adoption and I have lived with enormous regret for years. The reunion was like something out of a dream. Even meeting his parents and siblings went beautifully. In the past year we’ve (myself and my husband and our three sons) have spent several weekends together and he fits right in! He sends me really mixed messages about what he wants from our relationship and I often feel extremely confused and rejected. I’ve been patient and very sensitive towards his relationship with his dear mom who is a wonderful person and I have nothing but gratitude my heart for her (Her and I have spent some time together as well) and would I never dream of trying to replace her. It’s just been difficult to figure out what it is my son wants and needs from me and there aren’t a lot of resources to help me with all the difficult emotions.

    1. Hi, Holly – Congratulations on your reunion with your son! Navigating those relationships can be tricky, and it sounds like your son could be struggling with some conflicting emotions, as well. Reaching out to a local counselor or support group might help. This article offers some advice about finding a support system that will understand what you’re going through: https://birthmotherthoughts.com/life-after-adoption/birth-parent-support-groups-and-resources/ Best of luck!

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