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Preparation; Keys to Reunion Success. Jean Provance, LCSW, DAPA American Adoption Congress National Conference April 13, 2013. Goals.

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preparation keys to reunion success
Preparation; Keys to Reunion Success

Jean Provance, LCSW, DAPA

American Adoption Congress National Conference

April 13, 2013

  • Those who are searching will be offered tools to help them better prepare for search and reunion.  Professionals will gain an understanding of the importance of preparation for the search and reunion process.
  • Participants will understand methods for coping with common issues that arise during search and reunion, such as adoptee loyalty, being torn between families, “rejection”, and anger.
before anything else preparation is the key to success alexander graham bell
“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”- Alexander Graham Bell
  • Why do I need to prepare and be ready anyhow?
  • What does it mean to be ready to search?
  • Why am I making a big deal out of preparation?
ribbon exercise
Ribbon Exercise
  • Black- Actively mourning a loss, recent loss, feeling rejected “ I’m struggling. I’m having a difficulty time”
  • White- “I’m shy, I’m afraid”
  • Purple- I’m searching
  • Blue- In reunion
  • Green- I’m healing and I can be a support, soft shoulder, listening ear
what happens at reunion
What happens at Reunion?
  • Is reunion different for Birth/First/Natural Parents and adoptees?
  • Will everything you prepared for come to be at this point in time?
  • What will the found party be going through?
  • What happens when I am found?

“Litany Against Fear”

“I must not fear.Fear is the mind-killer.Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.I will face my fear.I will permit it to pass over me and through me.And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.Only I will remain.”-Frank Herbert’s Dune Series

  • What are people commonly afraid of in adoption?
  • On the 10 scale what is the scariest possibility you can think of?
  • Is there anything adding to your fear?
  • How can you be helped to work through the fears? What has helped in the past?
  • How do you face your fears?

“It is wise to direct your anger towards problems -- not people; to focus your energies on answers -- not excuses.”- William Arthur Ward

  • What is a trigger for you?
  • What makes you angry? frustrated? rageful?
  • How do you cope when someone takes their anger out on you?
  • When you are angry what does it look like?
  • Do you think you are angry? Do you think you are not angry?

Guilt is anger directed at ourselves - at what we did or did not do. Resentment is anger directed at others - at what they did or did not do.

Peter McWilliams

  • How do we forgive ourselves? What was done to us? What did we do to others?
  • Is guilt useful?
  • Is it healthy to hold onto this feeling? Is there anything I can change?
  • If a person does not know you can they reject you?
  • If they “reject” you and they don’t know you, is that really about you?
  • What else do you think might be going on there?
torn loyalties
Torn Loyalties
  • Expression of the conflict between having two families resulting from adoption separation without contact or only minimal contact.
  • Unable not unwilling to do two opposing things at the same time.
what do i need to consider
What Do I need to consider?
  • Everything! You cannot be over-prepared.
  • The more you consider the better prepared you will be
  • The better prepared you are, the better you will be able to cope with the results.

“When that rock is lifted, the earth is lighter; the hand that bears it is heavier. When it is thrown, the circuits of the stars respond, and where it strikes or falls the universe is changed. On every act the balance of the whole depends.” -Ursula K. Leguin “The Farthest Shore”

so when do you need therapy anyway
So when do you NEED therapy anyway?
  • When something in your life becomes so overwhelming that it begins to interfere with your functioning.
  • When you start to see that your relationships, work, family etc are being affected.
  • When you get a sense that a support group or online forums are not enough.
cheaper than therapy
Cheaper than Therapy
  • Watch for your trigger points! ( “slut”, “bastard”, “birth parent”)
  • If you are having a reaction that is big without the stressor just imagine what may be with a stressor in place!
  • The story that you know to be true may not be and 20,30, 40 plus years later you may be confronting a “new truth”.
searcher smarts
Searcher Smarts
  • 0. Prepare and when you think you are ready, prepare some more.
  • 1. Do no harm to yourself or others with or without intent.
  • 2. You will be surprising someone.
  • 3. Get your own emotions and thoughts in check.
  • 4. Make no assumptions or judgement that are not based in facts.
  • 5. Be Open.
  • 6. Self confidence, self esteem, and speaking up!
  • 7.Reunions often act like a magnifying glass.
  • 8. Be Respectful.
  • 9. You are allowed to take time and space but not run and hide.
  • 10. The rules in reunion change and they can change without warning.
the worst case scenario
The Worst Case Scenario
  • Death, Suicide, Endings
  • Rape, Incest, Violent Conception
  • Abuse and Neglect after adoption
  • Genetic Attraction
  • “I’ll Never know my_____” ( father, grandmother, sister etc.)
  • Drug Use and Addictions
  • Mental and Physical Health Problems
  • Fakers, Liars, and Cheats
  • The Black and Grey Market
  • He/She won’t meet me
  • Legal Troubles and Prison
  • “But they told me...”
but they told me
“But they told me...”
  • I named my child and was told they would not change his/her name and I find out they have a new name.
  • I find out I am not the nationality that I thought I was.
  • I find out that my mother did name me and I was told I only had one name
  • I find out she didn’t name me but I was told she did.
  • I find out she didn’t hold me.
  • I find out she tried to keep me and I was taken.
  • I find out my child grew up poor despite the fact they told me she would got to a family that was well off.
  • I find out that the non-identifying information I received was made up.
  • I find out my child was placed with a same sex couple or a single parent despite the fact I was told my baby would go to a married two parent home.
  • I was told my child would be raised as an only child or with siblings and that was not true.
  • The birth father tried to get me back. He never consented to the adoption.
so you think you re ready to search
So You think you’re ready to search?
  • Write down all of the reasons you have for starting your search.
  • Can you distinguish between what is a thought and what is a feeling? Explain
  • Do you know what you are feeling at all times?
  • Are you aware of why you feel like you do, at all times?
  • Do you know what triggers you to have intense emotional reactions? List your triggers.
Are you sure you can keep your feelings in check, even when you feel triggered?
  • Do you have a plan for what you will do if and when you do feel triggered? Write out your plan.
  • Are you in control of your actions and behaviors at all times? If you have lost control of yourself in the past what is different now that you will be able to maintain control of yourself?
Will you be able to deal with not having your expectations met?
  • What are you looking for? Explain in detail.
  • Is what you are looking for within reason?
  • Are you in a place where you know that you can begin this journey without assumptions, judgments and preconceived ideas about what and who you will find?
Have you been to a support group, met real live adoptees and birth mothers, or gone into any online chat rooms?
  • Do you know where to get help if you need more help than friends or family can give to you?
  • Do you know what your worst-case scenario is?
If the worst case is true, are you 100% positive that you can handle it no matter what?
  • Are you ready and willing to enter into a relationship?
  • Are you prepared to be the adult party 100% of the time? Are you prepared to be the one that no matter what does not run and hide from this relationship?
Are you willing to work through tough times, hard patches and difficult or troublesome issues? Have you read up on adoption?
  • Do you have supportive people in your life that you can get help from?
  • Will you be able to tolerate little to no contact for a period of time?
  • Are you okay being told “No” for now?
Are you aware of having expectations? List them.
  • Is it possible you forgot to think about something? Do you think you can cope “on the fly”?
special cases
Special Cases
  • Are there times where you shorten or skip preparation for search and reunion?
  • What is a high risk case?
  • What about "other" reunions, I.e. reunion after foster care or foster to adoption, reunion after a closed open adoption?
boundaries limits space and breaks
Boundaries, Limits, Space and Breaks
  • What can I tolerate? What can’t I tolerate? What is a limit/boundary?
  • How do I communicate this to others?
  • What does a break or space mean?
  • When do I need to take a break? or have space?
  • How is this different from ultimatums?
okay professionals what do you need to know
Okay Professionals, what do you need to know?
  • How do we help our clients find balance and success in adoption search and reunion?
tools for preparing
Tools for Preparing
  • Mutual support group ( online and in person)
  • Have a support system that "gets it"
tools for searching
Tools for Searching
  • People in Reunion
  • Registries, intermediaries, search angels, OBC access, private investigators
  • Reading materials
  • Online forums and support groups
  • Therapy with an adoption knowledgeable therapist
tools for groups
Tools for groups
  • The ribbon exercise
  • Resource list
tools for professionals
Tools for professionals
  • Letter never sent
  • Gestalt empty chair work
  • Go to conferences!
  • Rutgers Certificate in Adoption (continuing education, NJ)
professional ethics and considerations
Professional Ethics and Considerations
  • Is it the job of a therapist to provide search help? What about support?
  • Are there situations where a therapist should not intervene and help search?
  • Are there times when we would skip preparation?
what is the focus of the work
What is the focus of the work?
  • Setting reasonable goals and objectives
  • Processing the past?
  • Teaching new coping skills
  • Success in the future

Freundlich, M. (2007). For the records; Restoring a right to adult adoptees. New York, NY. Evan B. Dolnason Adoption Institute. Retrieved from research/instituteresearch.php.Henderson, D.B. (2007). Psychologists’ self-reported adoption knowledge. In Javier, R.A., Baden,A.L., Biafora, F.A., & Camacho-Gingerich, A. (2007). Handbook of adoption; Implications for researchers, practitioners, and families. Thousand Oaks, CA.: Sage Publications.Henderson, D.B., Sass, D.A., Carlson, J. (2007). Adoptees’ and birth parents’ therapeutic experiences related to adoption. In Javier, R.A., Baden,A.L., Biafora, F.A., & Camacho.Gingerich, A. (2007). Handbook of adoption; Implications for researchers, practitioners, and families. Thousand Oaks, CA.: Sage Publications. Herman, E. (2012). The adoption history project. Eugene Or. Retrieved from http://, J.L.(1990). Adoption and identity formation. In Brodzinsky, D.M., Schechter, M.D. (1990). The psychology of adoption.(pp 144-166). New York, NY.: Oxford University Press.Howard, J.A., & Smith, S.L. (2010). For the records II; An examination of the history and impact of adult adoptees access to original birth certificates. New York, NY. Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. Retrieved from instituteresearch.phpMartin, S. (2012). Reunion guidelines. Retrieved from rules.htmlNational Association of Social Workers. (approved 1996, revised 1999). Code of ethics of the     national association of social workers. Washington, DC: Author.Soll, J. (2001). A,B,C’s of search. Retrieved from’S.htmSoll, J. (2012). How you can know you are ready to search. Retrieved from http:// %20to%20search%20%20%28Adoptee%20version%29.htmSorosky,A., Baran, A., & Pannor, R. (1989).The adoption triangle; Sealed or opened records; How they affect adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents. (pp.221-223).San Antonio, Tx.: Corona Publishing Co.