Finding a long lost sibling
July 22, 2007 11:40 PM   Subscribe

Seeking out a biological sibling, given up for adoption when she was born. How? Bad idea?

First: I know her birth name and her adopted given name. I know she made contact with my mother about 10 years ago, but I don't know the details. Based on this, is it possible to find someone in Canada? Do I have to ask my mother for more details? Second: Is this a bad idea? My reasons for doing so are 1) curiosity; and 2) to let her know about a medical issue that arose subsequent to her meeting with my mother. Honestly, though, I'm motivated by curiosity.
posted by smorange to Human Relations (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
No comment on the issue of this maybe being a bad idea. I have nothing to base any theory I would make on. No experience, anecdotal or otherwise, means i'm abstaining from an opinion.

However, it never hurts to try The Stalker's Friend.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 2:02 AM on July 23, 2007

Ah, shit.
You're in Canada. (zabasearch, as far as I know, is US-only.)
I'm just of no help then, aren't I?
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 2:04 AM on July 23, 2007

curiosity is a pretty terrible reason for potentially bringing up a lot of raw issues for someone. do you know if she knows about you? has she asked your mother about you?

if you wanted to know her, that's different. but curiosity could make her feel like a circus freak.

one word of warning though, i read a blog called the thin pink line. it's an adoption blog among other things. it's password protected these days... but i think the author wouldn't mind me passing on a sentiment of hers...

basically that she struggled when her biological family wanted her to be happy and cool with the fact that she was adopted, when she was not in a happy placement and resented/struggled with her biological half-sister's chance at happiness with her biological father.

she felt like she was supposed to put on an act and that she was a curiosity. and her biological family kept mentioning who she looked like in the family. it weirded her out.

she's subsequently put the brakes on her biological sister's attempts to reunite, simply because her biological sister "doesn't get it".

i think i've summarised some of her thoughts. i hope i've done them justice, she's a lot more articulate than i am.

so... based on what i've read...on some really raw, profound, painful adoption blogs.... i'd be very nervous if i were you. this should come from your mum.

whatever you do, good luck with it.
posted by taff at 3:07 AM on July 23, 2007

I am in a similar situation to you, in that I was raised as an only child with no awareness of my biological half-sister (from my dad's first marriage, given up for adoption) until I was a teenager. I didn't meet her in person until I was 18 & she 20, and neither of us really had any idea about the other. I think we were both equally nervous of hating each other. But even though we were raised apart & our backgrounds are quite different, by coincidence or biology we share a lot in common & in the decade since we've met we've become very close. (I often think it's precisely because we weren't raised together that we get along so well...) However, even if we had hated each other, I would still have been relieved to finally know who my sister was & what she was doing with herself. (There was about a 6 year gap between my knowledge of her & our meeting, during which time I often wondered.) So, in sum, I think it's a great idea.

Unfortunately I can't help out too much with the "how" as I am in Australia. Depending on your age & assuming your mother is the biological link between yourself & your sibling, I do think your mother is probably your first point of contact in arranging this... My father had his contact details on record with the adoption agency, so my sister was able to get in touch with him when she decided to investigate her origins. He had met with my sister a number of times before arranging for the 2 of us to meet & from there it was more or less left up to us to keep in contact. If my sister had never felt the need to meet her biological parents, and if my father hadn't been so keen on reuniting his offspring, our meeting would never have occurred. Since your sibling has met with your mother in the past that does make me wonder why more meetings haven't taken place, or why you haven't been contacted directly - that is, if your sibling knows of your existence. (Also, maybe talking with your mother more might resolve some of your questions about who your sibling is without the need for contact.)

Finally - I can empathise with your curiosity, but also would second the comment above that you need to be cautious. You & I can only imagine how it feels to have been adopted, and however much we yearn to be reunited, we did have the advantage of being closer to our biological parents. It might seem difficult to be left wondering who your sibling is, but I don't think it equates to the difficulty of being adopted.
posted by hgws at 3:47 AM on July 23, 2007

If your mom is on board with this and your sister's adoption took place in Ontario, the fairly recent Adoption Information Disclosure Act might be of use to you. Note, however, that as a mere sibling you can't request the records - the adoptee or biological parent must.

If it wasn't in Ontario, it looks like this site has some useful links, especially towards the bottom where it lists the ministries responsible for adoption records by province.

I'd definitely get your mom's opinion before you embark on any of this, though - you'll likely need her help at some point, and she might be able to tell you how receptive your sister would be to contact. (If your sister has clearly expressed her desire not to be contacted, I think you should respect that.)
posted by AV at 5:52 AM on July 23, 2007

Do you have a facebook account? Try searching there.

I just saw something on a Toronto news station about someone doing this with a long lost sibling. A ton of Canadians have Facebook accounts.
posted by safepants at 7:41 AM on July 23, 2007

Response by poster: Actually, Facebook is what spurred my curiosity, though every now and then I think about it. I accidentally stumbled upon a profile that may or may not be hers, but I have no way to know for sure because I don't know her last name.

if you wanted to know her, that's different. but curiosity could make her feel like a circus freak.

Maybe I put it badly. I'd like to know her if that's what she wants, but I don't have any sort of expectations here. If she just wanted to have coffee, I'd respect that. If she didn't want even that, I'd be disappointed, but I'd respect that too.

More detail: I know that she was placed with a good family, and I know that she knows I exist. I don't know any more details of her contact with my mom, but I think it went well enough. I was quite young at the time, though.

My mom has been diagnosed with delusional schizophrenia (after years of PPD) since their meeting(s), which is the medical condition I hinted at, and it could explain why the communication between them stopped. That part's just a guess. But it's also why I'd rather not ask my mom about it. I suppose I could try my dad, or my grandmother, but neither of them have ever volunteered any information.
posted by smorange at 9:15 AM on July 23, 2007

Adoption is a bit of an emotional minefield from all side of the "triad" (the baby, birth family and adoptive family). You should at least read a book or two. Of course you should take her feelings into account as you should in all your relationships. Furthermore, she may not want to have a relationship with you, and that is her choice.

But she is your sister and you have every right to make contact with her and see what happens. Be open.
posted by shothotbot at 9:17 AM on July 23, 2007

Finding your sister, especially since she made some previous contact, is a very good idea. Finding out more about adoption in general and what to expect from reunion can also be helpful.

There is a group called Parent Finders in Canada that can be helpful.

Parent Finders National Capital Region
P.O. Box 21025, Ottawa South Postal Outlet
Ottawa, Ontario KlS 5N1
Tel: (613) 730-8305 Fax: 613-730-0345

E-mail us now

Also, Canadian Council of Natural Mothers

Bastard Nation
They have a Canadian rep and don't be turned off by the name:-)

Concerned United Birthparents

Good luck with your search, you have every right to reach out to your sister. As adults you and she can decide where the relationship goes from there.

Hexatron's Wife, reunited birthmother
posted by hexatron at 10:00 AM on July 23, 2007

I'm n'thing talk to other people in your family first, in case there's somethings you don't know. And n'thing that I don't think curiosity is necessarily enough of a reason to get in contact. But I do think you do have a good reason to get in contact with her - your mother's health. You've speculated that you think that might be why they've stopped communicating - does your sister know about your Mum's health? Even if she does, has anyone kept her updated? Would she like to know?

It gives you a way to approach her that isn't just about your curiosity (that she might not share).

My Dad was adopted, and he met with his biological family he only once, and he's never really spoken about them since. I haven't pushed it. But I want to someday, because somewhere out there I have aunts and uncles and cousins I've never met. I'd love it if any of them got in contact with me.

On my mum's side of the family, one of my cousins has tracked down my great aunt's ex-husband's second family (teenagers+internet=messy), which has revealed all sorts of things that my great aunt knew but never passed on - including significant medical information. She now has dementia, and we are all wrestling with what to do next, and how much to tell her of what's going on.

There are no easy answers - and you know your family better than we do. Good luck.
posted by Helga-woo at 3:23 PM on July 23, 2007

Adoptee says: go for it. And if it doesn't work out, leave information and make it very clear that it's not a time-limited offer. Do those things on your initial contact, not later.

(Adoptee also says: logically, given the nature of the medical condition, it is possible that there has never been any contact with your mother at all.)
posted by genghis at 6:17 PM on July 23, 2007

Response by poster: Good advice, all, especially the warnings!

genghis, that's a good point, but she told me about this before her medical problems, so in this case, it's not something I'm worried about.
posted by smorange at 10:42 PM on July 23, 2007

I'm adopted; I have a brother or a sister (7 yrs older than me) floating around somewhere, whom I've never met, and I'd LOVE for them to find me.

Do it.
posted by exlotuseater at 5:50 AM on July 24, 2007

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