Results In: Reunion Perspectives for Natural/First Mothers in Closed Adoption

Who and What is Adoption Surveys? About


The survey was entitled “Reunion Perspectives for Natural/First Mothers in Closed Adoption.” A link to the survey (through Survey Monkey) was shared on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and this blog between October 12, 2018 and November 25, 2018. In all, there were 194 respondents. Once parameter filters were applied, there were 38 respondents removed, leaving a total of 156 respondents. There were no respondents manually removed for revealing private information.

The parameters:

  1.  The respondent must be 18 years old or older
  2. The son/daughter placed for adoption by the respondent must be 18 years old or older
  3. The son/daughter placed for adoption must have been 1 year old or younger at the time of placement
  4. The adoption had to be closed/confidential
  5. There was no contact between the respondent and the adoptive family and/or son/daughter until after the son/daughter was 18 years old or older
  6. The reunion consisted of at least 3 interactions between the respondent and the son/daughter

There were a total of 88 questions and a free-form response. The free form responses will be posted in a separate and subsequent post. Of the 88 questions, 52 questions offered an “other” option. There were 639 “other” comments that were taken into consideration and will be shared as they relate. There were 51 questions skipped by at least 1% (1 respondent) of respondents. There were 13 questions skipped by more than 1% of respondents. There were no questions skipped by more than 5% (9) of respondents.

A link to the survey results will be posted at the end of this summary. We encourage you to follow us here at the blog as well as our Facebook page, Twitter account, and on Instagram.

Margin of error calculator (provided by Survey Monkey)


Parameters and Housekeeping

As stated previously, the first 6 questions set the parameters for the survey. Additional questions asked respondents about their age at the time of placement, in which country they lived, what year they placed, etc.

The majority of respondents placed a child for adoption over a 3 decade span; 32% (50) between 1970-1979, 29% (46) between 1960-1969, and 26% (41) between 1980-1989. The majority (63%, 99) of respondents were between the ages of 15-19 years old at the time of placement. There were no respondents who placed a child for adoption when they were 30 years old or older. There were 7 (4%) respondents who placed two children for adoption at different times (single births). There was 1 respondent who placed more than one child due to having multiples and 1 respondent who placed 3 or more children (single births).

The majority (96%, 149) of adoptions were domestic; meaning the child was placed in the same country as the respondent lived. The majority of respondents (83%, 130) lived in the United States of America at the time of placement. Other countries included Australia (5%, 9), Canada (5%, 8), United Kingdom (3%, 6), New Zealand, and Greece.

There were 15 (9%) respondents who were married at one point to the father of their son/daughter who was placed for adoption. There were 15 (9%) respondents who had additional children with the father of the son/daughter who was placed. There were 111 (71%) respondents who had children or went on to have children in addition to the son/daughter placed for adoption.


There were many questions asked about the search that ultimately led to reunion. A search is often required for reunion in closed/confidential adoptions.  Historically, it was common practice to alter a birth certificate and seal the original birth certificate indefinitely. This practice often included keeping identifying information away from all parties; the natural/first mother, adoptee, and adoptive parents. The practice of altering and sealing original birth certificates indefinitely is still used in much of the United States where the majority of respondents reside.

plan searchRespondents were asked if they had always planned to search. There were 82 (52%) who responded affirmatively. Responses included, “He knew how to contact me and that I was willing to be contacted.” Another respondent said, “I had been promised by A-parents that all identifying information would be available to her if she asked. They lied. I waited until she was almost 30 thinking she would find me first. When I realized that wouldn’t happen, I reached out.” Other respondents said, “I was told I would be breaking the law if I searched” and another, “I was told I could never search, that it was illegal and would do her harm, then I found the online search community, from then it took me 2 months to find her. She was 36.”

A follow-up question asked if the respondent was told not to search for their son/daughter by anyone. There were 98 (62%) respondents who answered affirmatively. Responses included, “I was told to treat the loss as a death” and another, “My family who forced me to give them both up!”

It was asked of the respondents why they searched for their son/daughter. There were 45 (28%) respondents who never initiated a search. Of the 111 (72%) respondents who did search, the most frequent responses were to have a relationship (58%, 91), to know that they were well (53%, 83), and to fill a missing piece (41%, 65). Additional comments included, “To let him know he was loved and very much wanted” and “I don’t know if it was any of these; I just was always, inside, searching for him.” Another said, “Fulfill a promise to him” and “we belong to each other and we belong together.” Lastly, “I loved him.”

Of the respondents who did not search, the most frequent answers given as to why were that it might disrupt my son/daughter’s life (25%, 37), I felt it was up to my son/daughter to search (20%, 30), and fear/shame (19%, 28). Responses included, “I was told in the hospital that he was so sick he probably wouldn’t leave. I was scared to find out if he hadn’t made it. It was a lie.” Other responses included, “I didn’t want him to hate me and say hurtful things to me” and “Unsure what to tell him about his conception.”

There were 66 (42%) respondents who said that they did search and locate their son/daughter. There were 45 (29%) respondents who said that they did not search, but were located instead by their son/daughter. There were 26 (17%) respondents who said that they did search, but were located first by their son/daughter. Another 8 (5%) respondents said that they and their son/daughter located each other at the same time. There were 52 (33%) respondents who had their name listed on an adoption registry.

There were 99 (63%) respondents who said that at some point they did initiate a search for their son/daughter. Of those who initiated a search, most (50) did so when their son/daughter was between the ages of 18-25. Of those who initiated a search most (39) found their son/daughter within a year. Some respondents said, “I gave up then was introduced to a search angel.and [sic] it took her a week to findy daughter,” and another said, “I searched for 22 years then he found me!”

successThere were a number of entities used in order to search. The most used were adoption registries (33%, 52), social media (15%, 24), and the adoption agency that facilitated the adoption (14%, 22). The entities that proved to be most successful in search were social media (11%, 17), a volunteer representative such as a search angel (10%, 16), and an adoption registry (10%, 16). One respondent commented, “google, god bless google.” Very few respondents used a commercial DNA kit to search (8, 4%). Of those, Ancestry was the most used (6, 3%).

When it came to records, there were 96 (61%) respondents who said that their state/country did not have open records available at the time of search. Whether or not a respondent searched, there were 71 (45%) who were found first by their son/daughter.

  • 7% (11) of respondents were given identifying information about their son/daughter prior to them turning 18 years old
  • 42% (65) of respondents said that prior to reunion, their son/daughter had been kept a secret from family/friends
  • 61% (96) of respondents were either told or under the impression that birth records would be sealed at the time of placement
  • 92% (144) of respondents personally did/do not want birth records sealed so that their son/daughter could/can not access them
  • 100% (156) of respondents believe that adoptees should have a right to their Original Birth Certificate

Initial Contact

Many questions on the survey touched on initial contact with the respondent’s son/daughter. This section covers the first interaction in reunion.

  • 47% (74) of respondents made the first direct contact in reunion
  • 2% (4) of respondents waited for DNA confirmation before pursuing/accepting contact
  • 99% (154) of respondents said that they were welcoming to their son/daughter at first contact
  • 92% (144) of respondents said that they perceived their son/daughter was welcoming to them at first contact
  • 98% (152) of respondents said that after initial contact, they felt the need to have more contact

Respondents were asked that if they were the one who located their son/daughter, did they pursue contact immediately. Most (69) did pursue immediately while others waited (30). There were a variety of mediums used to make first contact. In descending order the mediums used were snail mail (26%, 42), phone calls (23%, 36), email (20%, 32), social media (19%, 31), and face-to-face (2%, 4).

first contactRespondents were asked what word would best describe their emotions after the very first contact with their son/daughter. There were many answers to choose from with the 3 most frequent answers being elated (85%, 134), hopeful (56%, 88), and terrified (39%, 62). One respondent described her emotions as “I felt like I had put a wet finger in a light socket. It was electric.” Another respondent said, “Completely swamped with emotions — I was so distracted that the day I heard, I accidentally caused my father’s death by not noticing that he was having a reaction to medication. Joy, and something that I had no words for.” And another said, “Overjoyed, surreal feeling – can’t believe this is happening! Deep, deep gratitude that he looked and found me.”

Respondents were asked how they perceived their son/daughter’s initial response to reunion. As before, there were many answers to choose from and the 3 most frequent answers were elated (58%, 92), hopeful (50%, 78), and content (28%, 44). One respondent said, “Happy and he said he was relieved. However he remains cautious and we are moving very slowly although he expressed a desire for our relationship to grow.” Another said, “Relieved to know his parents loves each other and later married. Again, terrified feels too strong, but my perception was he was fearful of how his adoptive parents would react.” And lastly, “He was grief-stricken when realising what he had missed.”

adoptee responseRespondents were subsequently asked about the initial response of others in their lives upon learning of contact. Respondents were asked about their significant other’s response whereas most were said to be receptive (97). One respondent said, “Cautious and fearful but happy for me.” Another said, “Married birth father 30 years after relinquishment and found daughter together.”

Respondents were also asked about the responses from other children that they parented. Most were also receptive to reunion (87). Responses included, “One was receptive, one was indifferent but willing” and “Mixed. She found her brother, but had some jealousy.” And lastly, respondents were asked about the responses from friends and colleagues. They too tended to be receptive (113). Responses included, “All of my friends had the same feelings as my husband, they wanted me to be cautious and go very slow.” And another, “Many friends did not know, but many that did expressed concern over how his adoptive parents would feel while also failing to understand why I couldn’t just be happy knowing he was alive.”


This section covers the successive interactions after initial contact was made. Parameters required that the respondent had at least 3 subsequent interactions with their son/daughter in order to answer comprehensively. Most respondents said that they had 11 exchanges or more with their son/daughter (88%, 138), while the other respondents had between 3-10 exchanges (12%, 18).

  • 90% (141) of respondents have met their son/daughter face-to-face
  • 42% (67) of respondents said they felt rejected by their son/daughter at some point in reunion
  • 7% (12) of respondents said that they did reject their son/daughter at some point in reunion

honeymoonThe Honeymoon Stage is something often spoken about in adoption. It is a stage in reunion characterized by excitement and great optimism. There were 135 (86%) respondents who said that they did experience The Honeymoon Stage with their son/daughter. Responses included, “Honeymoon stage began five years after reunion.” Another said, “It’s been a nine year honeymoon.” And another, “Given my daughter was 6 months pregnant when we met, and felt frightened I said let’s do this together, so she came to live with me for 5 years after my grandson was born.”

Reunion and Beyond

The remainder of the survey questions centered on established reunions and their ensuing developments.

  • 97% (150) of respondents said that their son/daughter is still living
  • 80% (125) of respondents are presently in reunion with their son/daughter
  • 47% (74) of respondents have had contact with the biological father of their son/daughter since reunion
  • 81% (127) of respondents said that the biological father of their son/daughter is aware that he is their father
  • 79% (124) of respondents said that other family members have been in reunion with their son/daughter

establishedWith a reunion being established, the respondents were asked how they would best describe their emotions. There were many answers to choose from, but the 3 most frequent responses were elated (67%, 104), hopeful (64%, 100), and sad (52%, 82). Responses included, “Relieved but also angry that we had been separated, brought up a lot of old feelings, I never wanted to give her up.” Another said, “All of the feelings apply; they ebb and flow depending on the circumstance in each of our lives.” And lastly, “Anxiety it might end if I did the wrong thing.”

A number of questions were asked about certain situations that may have occurred at any point in reunion. First, it was asked if a respondent’s son/daughter had been kept a secret from family/friends at any point in reunion with 19 (12%) respondents answering affirmatively. One respondent said, “Not specifically kept a secret but didn’t always volunteer the information either because the reaction was largely sympathetic toward his adoptive parents and because it was hard to explain why if we had a son did he never come to visit us.” Respondents were then asked if they had been kept a secret by their son/daughter at any point in reunion with 51 (32%) respondents answering affirmatively. Overall, 130 (83%) respondents said that their family/friends have been supportive in reunion. There were 67 (43%) respondents who said that it appears that their son/daughter’s family/friends are supportive in reunion.

There were 83 (53%) respondents who said that at some point, reunion had caused strain with their family (spouse, additional children, etc.) There were 94 (60%) respondents who said that their son/daughter had been integrated into their family. Respondents were then asked if they had been integrated within their son/daughter’s family (spouse/children). There were 73 (47%) respondents who answered affirmatively.

Respondents were asked if at any point they had “thanked” their son/daughter’s adoptive family for their care. There were 49 (31%) respondents who answered affirmatively. Responses also included, “Wanted to, but was not provided the opportunity.” Another said, “I would never. They are a farce. He was down graded. They disgust me.” And another, “I had hoped to, but my son said they wanted no contact with me.” There were 48 (30%) respondents who said at some point their son/daughter has “thanked” them for placing them for adoption. Responses included, “my son thanked me for not aborting.” Another said, “She thanked me for giving her life, but I myself am pro-life, and would never have aborted her. I was planning to keep her all along.” And another respondent said, “No, but she told me [sic] was glad she was raised by her adoptive mother rather than me.”

thankedAs a follow-up question, respondents were asked if they have ever wanted to be thanked for placing their son/daughter for adoption. There were 122 (78%) respondents who answered in the negative. Additional responses included, “i [sic] was pressured to surrender her being only 17 years old and was forced to do so. i did not want thanks for doing so” and another, “My daughter’s adoptive mother has thanked me several times, publicly, with much emotion. It makes me uncomfortable and slightly angry.”

  • 1% (3) of respondents said that they regret being in reunion with their son/daughter
  • 19% (30) of respondents perceive that adoption provided a “better” life for their son/daughter
  • 60% (93) of respondents have met members of their son/daughter’s adoptive family
  • 76% (118) of respondents have met their son/daughter’s significant other, spouse, or children
  • 15% (24) of respondents feel like their son/daughter’s biological and adoptive families have blended into one family

Reunions can come to an end and a number of questions were asked concerning closure. Two (1%) respondents said that their son/daughter has passed away since reunion began. Another 14 (9%) respondents said that reunion was ended by either them or their son/daughter. Some respondents added, “It is more of an “off and on again” relationship.” And another, “We have little contact, but it has not totally ended.”

who endedIf a reunion had ended, respondents were asked how long the reunion had lasted. The most frequent response was a reunion that had lasted 11 years or longer (12). Responses included, “One reunion lasted about 17-18 years before he cut off contact. I still send holiday cards & gifts, hoping he well return. My second reunion stays open and has always been the much easier reunion.” And another said, “20 years, then she stopped contact.”  It was asked of respondents that if their reunion ended due to personal choices (not death) who chose to end it. For most, reunion was ended by the respondent’s son/daughter (16). One respondent ended reunion and another 3 said that their reunion ended mutually.

For those that are still in reunion, it was asked how long reunion had lasted through today. The most frequent answer was 11 years or longer (53). It was also asked if respondents had received counseling at any point specifically for reunion. There were 60 (38%) respondents who answered affirmatively. Of those, 52 respondents said that counseling had been beneficial to them. There were 143 (92%) respondents who said that reunion did stir up unresolved emotions for them.

  • 10% (16) of respondents would describe reunion as being “easy”
  • 86% (133) of respondents would recommend reunion to others
  • 36% (56) of respondents believe that they were emotionally prepared for reunion
  • 27% (43) of respondents perceive that their son/daughter was emotionally prepared for reunion
  • 9% (15) of respondents said that their son/daughter has lived with them during reunion
  • 3% (5) of respondents said that their son/daughter changed their legal name to include a biological family name
  • 1% (2) of respondents said that they have legally adopted their son/daughter back into their family

If was asked of respondents if they perceive that nature or nurture played a bigger role in their son/daughter’s life. There were 69 (44%) respondents who said both nature and nurture whereas 66 (42%) respondents said nature. Respondents were asked a sensitive question about GSA (Genetic Sexual Attraction; a term for an overwhelming sexual attraction that may develop between close blood relatives who first meet as adults). They were reminded that the survey is anonymous, but to answer according to their comfort level. The question was skipped by 1 respondent with another 14 (9%) respondents answering affirmatively. Responses included, “Have not met in person, but can understand due to the intense emotion that there could be confusion of emotion that might be mistaken for GSA.” Another said, “I felt an attraction but it was not sexual in nature, more of a deep longing to be with my baby, learn his features, his mannerisms, everything about him, much like any new mother.” One respondent said, “I don’t think so, but some feelings are definitely confusing.”

Respondents were asked how they would best describe contact between them and their son/daughter as of today. The most frequent response was often (42%, 65) closely followed by occasional (39%, 25). Responses included, “we are extremely close, speak to each other several times a day and see each other often.” Another said, “We have a strained relationship because of his mental illness and drug addiction, but remain in contact at least twice a month.” There were 52 (33%) respondents who said that their son/daughter does refer to them as “mother”, “mom”, or another maternal title. There were 132 (85%) respondents who answered that they wish they had raised the son/daughter who was placed for adoption. There were 133 (85%) respondents who answered that they regret that their son/daughter was placed for adoption.

The final question of the survey, as with all surveys, was a free-form response asking if there was anything the respondent would like to add about how reunion with their son/daughter has affected them. These responses will be available to view in a separate post to follow in the coming days. Please check back soon for those.

Further Reading

For a full view of the survey, it can be found here: Reunion Perspectives for Natural/First Mothers in Closed Adoption

Thank you to all respondents. Your voice is greatly appreciated. It is important to the Adoption Surveys team that respondent voices are elevated and shared. If you found this survey to be adequate and necessary, please consider sharing it on social media. Also, please follow the Adoption Surveys social media pages for upcoming surveys and weekly polls. We can be found here, Facebook, Instagram, and on Twitter.









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