What to say in a request for identifying information letter
August 23, 2017 2:36 PM   Subscribe

My state allows adoptees to request the names of their birth parents, but the adoptee is required to include a statement with the request. There are examples online of what to include in a non-identifying request, but what should I put in my identifying one. What should I say to make the most effective letter? One important note: I'm not allowed to include that might identify myself.

The reasons I'm interested in getting the information is for my personal information, to try to figure out my own genealogy and potentially contacting birth parents via letter.

As an adoptee, all non-identifying information about my adoption is available to my in my state at my request.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm confused by your question, because I don't understand the context. What is the letter for? Who does it go to? Is it like an application, where someone judges it and that determines whether you get to learn the names based on the letter? Do you have to prove your worth? Or is it a simple thing where you could just say "Please furnish me the names of my birth parents, so I can look into my background?" If you could maybe get the mods to update?
posted by Stewriffic at 4:59 PM on August 23, 2017

I'm going to go ahead and answer on the assumption that what you're asking is what to put in a letter that one or both of your birth parents might see; a letter that might convince them to make themselves known to you, either through the agency or else directly, and that could possibly lead to a relationship with them.

As a person who did not meet one parent until I was an adult, and who has known both people whose birth parents welcomed contact with them when their identities were revealed and those whose parents never agreed to reveal their identities, I think I can say that the parents are likely to feel the way they feel about contact no matter what you say in the letter. If they're still full of shame and anger about the circumstances of the adoption (which is possible, I have just heard about a case like this), they will not release their identities no matter what you say. And if they are eager to identify themselves, it doesn't matter what you say, either -- they'll just be totally thrilled that you're initiating contact.

So go ahead and write what you have here, that you're interested in finding out more about your background and that you might be interested in initiating contact, and see where that leads.

May it be a good experience.
posted by nohattip at 5:28 PM on August 23, 2017 [7 favorites]

I am glad you are reaching out for advice but this question is both very sensitive and critically confusing. It is unclear if you are writing a letter that will be seen only by a state employee or also by your birth parent/s. Please clarify this because it will make a huge difference to the informed answers you get to help you write the most effective letter you can. (For example, if this is a letter going to a birth parent to potentially open direct contact between you, I would at all costs avoid referencing genealogy. I would instead mention genetic history.)
posted by DarlingBri at 5:48 PM on August 23, 2017

I helped a client write one of these letters once. I don't claim any expertise in this specific area (adoption), but I approached that writing like I would any written advocacy: facts, facts, facts. No characterizations.

So for instance, I would not write: "This is important to me. I'm a good person, and I want to know because this is a big deal. I'd be upset if I couldn't know." No characterizations.

Instead, I might write something like, "I volunteer weekly with a children's organization, so I've seen what a difference can be made by these introductions. I recently graduated from college and am getting married next June, and I would like to make this introduction a part of this chapter of my life." You might not be able to include identifying facts—like the name of the school, or the neighborhood where you live—but you'll be surprised how richly your life can be painted through non-identifying facts.

It's like writing a novel, in a way, inasmuch as you're using prose to introduce the reader to a new person. You wouldn't write, "James is a great guy." You'd tell the reader, "James wakes up at 6 am every morning to walk his elderly neighbor's dog. He teaches adult education classes in his spare time. James won a public service award last year."

Good luck. For what it's worth, I think my client presented an excellent letter (with more specifics than you're allowed to include, because our jurisdiction's rules were different)...but the anonymous family member decided she didn't want to open that door. I helped the client discover a previously unknown branch of her family, which turned out wonderfully for all involved—but this particular letter was unsuccessful.
posted by cribcage at 9:41 PM on August 23, 2017 [8 favorites]

I could imagine that in their situation, they might be concerned that
(A) you have had an unhappy life and meeting you would make them feel terrible guilt, or
(B) you would want more contact than they would want, or
(C) you might want money or make their lives over dramatic.

So I think you could set them at ease by explaining you're happy, not desperate, -and open to any level of contact.

Perhaps saying something like, "I will respect whatever level of contact is comfortable for you. If you'd ever like to meet in person, I would be happy to do that- but if you would prefer not to meet, I accept that decision too.

My life has been good, I am financially stable, and my adoptive parents are great- my adoptive mom is a teacher, dad is an electrician, and I work in marketing and love to hike and cook- my chili is famous!

I would really love to know more about my background- even just general details- so I would be very grateful for any information you feel comfortable sharing with me."
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:01 AM on August 24, 2017

I would recommend you say what it is you're interested in learning. Basically, what you cited in your ask here. Will your request go to your bio parent, or to an agency or gov't person? Think about what you would like as an ideal reunion-do you want to meet them? Talk on the phone? Or just email or letters? Would you be interested in a relationship with one or both? Another point is, any non-identifying health info you (may) have had since birth may be wrong or need updating so def. go heavy on that angle, it's vital that you know the health of your bio family as it may affect your own health care today and tomorrow. Include a photo of yourself if the letter is going to your bio parents.

Would you be willing to remain anonymous as far as their very possible other children? I wouldn't include that in a letter, but it is something to think about. I would just write from the heart, be as honest as you can and cross your fingers. Also let me say it sickens me that we adoptees have to beg for our rightful information. It's wrong on so many levels. I hope you get a good response. And if you end up in reunion, I hope that goes well too, it can be fraught and there's a lot to process. Memail me if you'd like to chat about reunion from someone who has been in it for over 20 years.

If you don't get anywhere with your letter, you can consider dna testing. I did it and corresponded with a 2nd cousin. There are search groups that help with using the info you get from a dna test to circle in on close relatives. Also, consider joining ALMA, they are were indispensable when I searched, I literally couldn't have done it without their assistance. http://almasociety.org/

Good luck!
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 9:43 AM on August 27, 2017

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