Catholic Charities Social Workers Handbook


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The Catholic Charities began conducting paid search and reunion services back in the late 80\\’s early 90\\’s. Because of the new service they were providing,they also needed new specialized training for those who worked for them,to inform them how to conduct such services for the paying few.This file is a copy of the handbook provided to the Social Workers in training to become a certified intermediary for their searching adoption clients.

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Catholic Charities Social Workers Handbook

  1. 1. Table of Contents Monday, May 17, 2010 10:16 AM TABLE OF CONTENTS SECTION I Introduction Training Considerations for Agency Personal Defining Non-Identifying Information Protocol for Handling Inquiries The Role of the Professional in a Search Personal Characteristics of the Professional Doing Searches Who May Search The Preparation Making Contact with the Sought Party Mediating Contact Legal Release Forms Establishing Direct Contact Stages of the Relationship Establishing Fees The "How To's" of Searching Conducting a Search SECTION II Case Studies SECTION III Sample Forms Table of Contents Page 1
  2. 2. Sample Forms © 1997 by Catholic Charities USA Manual prepared by Patricia Martinez Dorner, MA, LPC, LMFT ADOPTION SEARCH: AN ETHICAL GUIDE FOR PRACTITIONERS "To forget one's ancestors is to be a brook without a source, A tree without root…." ------ Chinese Proverb Pasted from < dLg/CCTriad%20Social%20Worker%20Handbook/A%20.Table%20of%20Contents> Table of Contents Page 2
  3. 3. Introduction Monday, May 17, 2010 10:22 AM INTRODUCTION The practice of adoption has undergone dramatic changes in the last 20 years. An explosion of evolving understanding has influenced practice and philosophy throughout the United States. Instead of secrecy and barriers to contact, there is an increased emphasis on openness and knowledge. The voices of those impacted by the adoption journey have clamored to be heard. Adopted persons, birthparents and adoptive parents have educated professionals about the complexities of living with adoption. What was believed to be a simple journey has instead, resulted in being a highly complex life experience. The beliefs guiding adoption practice from the 1930's to the 1970's, are well documented in books such as Dear Birthmother, which detail typical myths. In keeping with societal norms of the time, facilitating an adoption with a veil of secrecy was considered vital for the well being of all concerned, especially the adoptive family. Secrecy would prevent the birthparents from intruding and would allow the family to integrate into the larger community as though the children had been born to the adoptive parents. Thus, an adversarial model was created where in order to join a family by adoption, one had to obliterate the family by birth. Making this very feasible was the belief that birthparents forgot the children they birthed. Society emblazoned birthparents with symbols of shame, removing them from the ranks of the worthy once an adoption occurred. After all, what caring parent would give away her child? Supporting the sanctity of the adoptive family, was the belief that adopted persons would have no need to know about their birth families. If and when they did, it became a sure sign that they didn't love their adoptive families and were demonstrating a lack of gratitude. The rise of the adoption movement in the 70's began to erode these popularly held beliefs. Adopted persons began to openly acknowledge a profound need to know their birth families. They expressed a love and loyalty for their families by adoption. The need to know in no way denied the adoption ties. The search for self was identified as central to the quest. Birthparents came out of the closet, joining ranks to belie the "forgetting" myth. No matter what their personal story, the thread that joined them, was a love of their children and a need to know of their welfare. The honoring of the adoptive parents was consistently expressed while identifying their own need to know. Adoptive parents gradually joined the voices, exhibiting a heightened understanding of their children1s needs. Where the fear of birthparents had previously guided their experience, increased empathy and awareness now brought their participation. In growing numbers, they seek changes in the laws and practice areas which would allow their children access to their birth families. Little by little, agencies began to offer services that were Introduction Page 3
  4. 4. responsive to the expressed needs of their clients from the past. The challenge was to identify~ the nature of the services in light of "promises" of the past. The "promises" tended to revolve around confidentiality and ownership issues. Adoptive parents were often told that the child would be theirs with no chance of intrusion by the birth family. Withholding information about identities of all parties sealed the possibility of paths crossing by chance or on purpose. Whether birthparents asked for it or not, they were bestowed with secrecy. Many will state that they never were, in fact, promised secrecy nor did they ask for it. The process of adoption involved professionals making decisions for all involved. The conviction being, that this was the desirable way to create families by adoption and respond to a crisis in the birthmother's life. Because adoptions of the past left the majority of the decision making in the professional arena, feelings were created within the participants of not being in charge of one's own life. Birthparents accepted it because that was the norm at the time. The stigma of bearing a child usually born out of wedlock was such, that it stripped them of the right to make most decisions pertaining to the child. The social climate was very punitive often forbidding the birthmother to even see her child. Adoptive parents invariably were willing to turn the controls over to the professionals because their family unit was created as a result. They were typically left with the belief that a family brought together by adoption was no different from any other family. The issues of infertility were not yet understood. The search will often bring about the resurgence of infertility issues, sometimes blocking the ability of adoptive parents to support search efforts involving their children. The changing of the "rules" can be both unnerving and joyful to clients from the past. How their reactions are handled will set the tone for the delivery of post adoption services. No one ever imagined that these would even exist, much less that they would tear down the walls obstructing contact. The goal becomes to help these persons understand the changes being empathic to their concerns and fears while serving those who can't wait to participate. Mental health services are intended to respond to the expressed needs of the population being served. It seemed appropriate to maintain the status quo while there was no feedback from the participants about the effects of closed adoption. Once the awareness grew about its impact on all parties, adjustments in practice became reasonable and necessary. Given the new knowledge, it would be inexcusable and unethical not to develop new professional standards. When the focus is on the expressed needs of the client, services become more easily defined. The creation of responsive services then, does not give more importance to one party over the other. Instead it allows for connections to happen whenever it is mutually desired. Birthparents seek to make themselves available to their children. They ask about the welfare of these children. Adopted persons seek information about their heritage contained in agency files and ask for contact with their birthparents. Agencies are custodians of adoption files. As such, barring state laws prohibiting the use of these files, services can be offered while maintaining appropriate confidentiality. The guiding concept is that, without revealing identities until permission is granted by the adults involved, agency personnel can respond to clients through a wide range of services. Instead of assuming that these adults wish no contact, a proactive agency stance allows them the capability of determining for themselves whether to Introduction Page 4
  5. 5. stance allows them the capability of determining for themselves whether to participate or not. This model addresses client self determination responsibly. The professional turns over decision making capabilities to the persons affected by the adoption. It is vital to stress that the need to connect through a search is totally normal. The development of search related services creates avenues for triad members to respond to this need when they choose to search through the agency. As such, caution is indicated so that there is not a prolongation of counseling requirements or of involvement on the part of the professional that might suggest that there is anything maladaptive about searching. The focus of this manual will be the search. It is intended to provide guidelines regarding this area of post adoption services. Among the subjects to be covered will be: * training considerations for agency personnel * defining who may request a search * preparation and support issues for those involved * sharing non identifying information * the role of confidentiality in a mediated contact * the how to's of searching * sample cases Pasted from < sYwM2wO2aZMLJwFaTWNyRA/CCTriad%20Social%20Worker%20Handbook/B.%20Introduction> Introduction Page 5
  6. 6. Training Considerations for Agency Personnel Monday, May 17, 2010 10:36 AM TRAINING CONSIDERATIONS FOR AGENCY PERSONNEL To successfully provide a search service, support is necessary from administrators and board members. The more they have an understanding about adoption complexities and the many layers of a search, the more they will be supportive of all the ramifications. Educational efforts would include these persons who may otherwise only get feedback when there is a problem. It is not enough to provide the service and only train those who will be searching. The support of the administration and the board is of vital importance especially when any facet of the service is challenged by former or current clients. The nature of post adoption services involves balancing the needs of triad members. These needs are not always complementary and as such, require a clear vision regarding the legitimacy of the services themselves and how to best provide them. While the characteristics of a search will have many similar components, there will always be new angles to consider that require a discerning practitioner. It is virtually impossible to anticipate every scenario that may arise during the course of a search and contact. Building in a case management and supervision model allows for dialogue regarding complexities within cases. It will also expand the knowledge base of other staff and supervisors not directly involved in the direct provision of these services. Furthermore, it will guard against the isolation of post adoption staff and exclusively unilateral decision making. Needless to say, in order to maximize positive outcomes in a search, it is vital that the professional handling each request be trained. This includes training for support staff so that there is a clear awareness that searches can be requested and what the surrounding issues are. A sensitivity to every inquiring telephone call and letter validates the normalcy of the need to pursue a search. Support staff such as secretaries are often the first point of contact. Determinations will be made internally as to what their role will be in providing information. Of major importance is a non judgmental stance regardless of which triad member approaches. Major courage is required to request a search. Even an initiating phone call or letter is an expression of this ingredient. Typically, the expectation is to be rebuffed by the agency. There is a tremendous mental health benefit when there is a warm and understanding reception. Oftentimes, an inquiry does not lead to a request for services immediately. Pursuing a search involves a readiness to risk rejection which is uniquely and personally timed. Only Training Considerations for Agency Personnel Page 6
  7. 7. involves a readiness to risk rejection which is uniquely and personally timed. Only the person involved can determine when the right time to search has arrived. Searching is not an impulsive act; it is usually preceded by a great deal of thought and trepidation. Thus, any communication with adoption triad members is of significance and should be documented and promptly placed in the appropriate file in order to maintain an updated record. As the Adoptees Liberty Movement of America (ALMA is a search & support advocacy organization) sticker reads, "THAT'S NO FILE, IT'S MY LIFE!". As more people make their approaches, there will continue to be growing numbers where both parties have contacted the agency. Documentation would include full name, address, home and work telephone numbers, driver's license number, social security number, spouse's name and whether this person can be contacted, openness to contact, and any other notes deemed appropriate. The value of this information is significant in the event an approach is made by the other party. There is a tremendous impact when triad members learn that there has been an inquiry. Pasted from < njcr7ExJovjpXVflOQ470LiIkVXHkoJmd2EASLx_CiA-2Q/CCTriad%20Social% 20Worker%20Handbook/C.%20Training%20Considerations%20for% 20Agency%20Personal> Training Considerations for Agency Personnel Page 7
  8. 8. Protocol for Handling Inquiries Monday, May 17, 2010 10:43 AM PROTOCOL FOR HANDLING INQUIRIES Agencies receive a multitude of calls from persons whose adoptions they handled. The most typical callers are adopted persons, birthmothers and adoptive parents. There are also inquiries by birthfathers, relatives and helpful friends. Establishing a protocol for handling these different parties will protect the confidentiality of triad members. General information about services can safely be given to anyone. Procedures for confirming any given adoption would include a written request with proof of identity from the requesting party. It is appropriate to confirm and provide information to adopted adults, birthmothers and birthfathers who are named within the file. The agency will define how to handle inquiries from other parties where special considerations must be taken into account. Inquiries from Adoptive Parents and Siblings Adoptive parents of adults have a right to receive information contained in the file about their children's birth family. As agencies have become less secretive, more information is being shared that was not available before. There are many adoptive parents that obtain non identifying information for their adult children. However, it is not appropriate to share search related information with them unless their children have included them in the process. Many adopted adults choose not to tell their parents about their interest in, or involvement with, a search. It is their right to determine when, and if, they tell. This consideration will also apply to siblings who are adopted within the same family. Sometimes decisions are made to keep the matter private and this needs to be respected. The professional may provide search assistance for more than one family member, maintaining privacy for all involved. Eventually, most people do share this major life event with their family members. The timing is determined by them and usually done from a more adult and stronger posture. That is, sharing happens without being reduced to childhood status; without asking for permission. That is the appropriate way healthy adults handle their personal matters. It is not appropriate for the agency to have requirements about telling adoptive parents about the search. However, the professional is able to help in the identification of the blockages to telling, in assessing when there is readiness to tell, and with the management of others' reactions. Birthfathers Who Are Not Named in the File When a birthfather inquires about an adoption, it is necessary to establish if he is named in the file as the identified birthfather. One would gather data about him as well as the birthmothers name and the date or year of the birth and adoption. If his name does not appear in agency records, no confirmation about the agency involvement or the adoption should occur. Birthfather inquiries are best handled by indicating that a search will be made to determine if his name appears in relation to Protocol for Handling Inquiries Page 8
  9. 9. any adoption the agency has handled. This avoids jeopardizing the privacy of any birthmother and does not confirm any adoption related to the birthmother he has identified. It is important to underline that this procedure is not meant in any way to discriminate against birthfathers but rather to protect the confidentiality of the birthmother. An option open to him would be for him to locate the birthmother and get verification that he is indeed the birthfather. Sensitivity to the frustration of these birthfathers is vital. Many have already felt and indeed been, discounted throughout the adoption process. Verbalizing to him that there is empathy for his predicament can assist a birthfather as he makes subsequent decisions about his quest. Options are then left open for the provision of future services. When Relatives and Friends Seek Information There are triad members who are hesitant or fearful of inquiring about any aspect of their adoption themselves. Sometimes they will turn over the inquiry to relatives or friends. Information about services can certainly be provided to these individuals. However, encouraging direct communication, even when providing general information, can be empowering for the triad member. Typically, the fear of rejection of one's needs, even from the agency, intimidates many. The rejection can even be felt in the expectation that seeking services is not normal or that services are not available. Birthparents' relatives that inquire about services the most frequently are spouses, parents and offspring. If it is documented within the file that they know about the adoption, then with proper documentation of identity, a range of information may be shared. For example, grandparents may want to learn about the child's welfare and whether there has been updated information. This type of inquiry may later lead to a search. It is not recommended that services be offered to a spouse or a friend in the absence of the triad member. While these parties can be support sources during a search, they are not identified as candidates for direct services. A spouse who takes over the search for her mate, often is guided by her need and timing, and it is not always matched with her spouse's need and timing. By requiring authorization and documentation from the principals, (adoptees and birthparents), control is left in their court as to when they wish to include others. When Both Parties Have Come Forward It is increasingly common to find that a birthparent and her child have contacted the agency, sometimes leaving authorization for release of information and identity. Defining a protocol for handling these situations is important. It is recommended that each party be contacted to determine if there is still a readiness to proceed with direct contact. When addresses and phone numbers are no longer current for either party, it may be necessary to redefine the case as a search with funding covered by the interested party. Experience has demonstrated that life changes can create a situation whereby contact may no longer be timely. Furthermore, to release information without notification can be unbalancing to those involved because it is unexpected. Paying attention to these elements diminishes agency liability and vulnerability. Additionally, it is desirable to set a minimum requirement when the agency facilitates contact when both parties have come forward. This would include release forms and a preparation session with agency professionals or an adoption professional in the community. Agencies may define an alternative to the preparation session. This may include written materials, a video or Protocol for Handling Inquiries Page 9
  10. 10. alternative to the preparation session. This may include written materials, a video or some other pathway that helps the participants prepare for the complexities of search and reunion. Proceeding in this fashion, addresses professional accountability as the participants enter a complex life experience. It also diminishes liability for the agency. Pasted from < 4U1R2cMwZTI4jnycYwnw4lFlVpTUW6B2_KMpf0RQUMopw/CCTriad%20Social% 20Worker%20Handbook/D.%20Protocol%20for%20handling%20inquries> Protocol for Handling Inquiries Page 10
  11. 11. The Role of the Professional in a Search Monday, May 17, 2010 10:45 AM THE ROLE OF THE PROFESSIONAL IN A SEARCH The professional who provides search services will be immersed in one of the most significant life events for the participants. His role will include the search itself, the preparation of the searcher and the found relative, as well as the mediation, processing and facilitation of the contact. He will also be a support source over time for the principals. As an intermediary, he will extend an invitation for contact in the most caring and safe manner possible. He will be respectful of the needs of those he serves and not pressure either party to do that which is not comfortable or timely. He will be watchful so that he does not create a conflict of interest since the requesting party is the one who funds the quest. It is not his place to force anyone's participation. Respectful of boundaries, he will communicate options that are available. He will share his expertise as he interrelates with those he is rejoining and those who are not able to accomplish the desired goal. Recognizing his limits, he must know when to exit Every search has a point in time when the adoption professional is no longer needed. Allowing the clients to move on without him is part of the process of mental health services. Many clients are fearful of losing the connection to the professional; he represents the sought triad member. The delicate balance involves being available while encouraging the principals to recognize and deal with their fears and displacements. When additional resources are needed, the adoption professional will refer to other professionals. The nature of this work involves a great deal of long distance communication. Assessment of the needs of the clients will be ongoing so as to best evaluate when to incorporate additional support. When a client is in therapy, it is advisable and ethical to interface and work cooperatively with his therapist (with the client's permission). A search is a major therapeutic intervention and therapist awareness and involvement can be of great value during the course of treatment. Many excellent therapists are not familiar with adoption dynamics. The adoption professional, as a specialist, is able to be a resource adding significantly to the maximizing of positive outcomes. Pasted from < R2RCLEclhNhT8U_Y0tSOVbkCcPsf5asqIEulAKn0U8maw1k2g446W_aTn_Uso uXgA/CCTriad%20Social%20Worker%20Handbook/E.%20The%20role% 20of%20a%20professional%20in%20a%20search> The Role of the Professional in a Search Page 11
  12. 12. Personal Characteristics of the Professional Doing Searches Monday, May 17, 2010 10:50 AM PERSONAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE PROFESSIONAL DOING SEARCHES The identification of desirable personal characteristics of a professional doing searches may be used as a guide for assigning this important role. Recognizing that there are many styles that produce successful outcomes, an awareness of factors influencing outcomes could be helpful. While there is no one way to do anything, the following have been found to be significant: * organizational skills * an in depth comprehension of adoption issues and the need to connect with original family * a sense of responsibility to maximize positive outcomes * an understanding that long term outcomes are complex * an empathy for the circumstances that led to the adoption originally * an awareness of power and control issues within oneself * tremendous flexibility. Organizational Skills The professional who has good organizational skills will be better able to conduct a well focused search. Agency files may include case notes, social history forms, psychological testing, hospital records, court records and other documents. Learning to recognize important information contained in an agency file will be central to an efficient and completed search. Extracting the potentially useful information narrows down the focus of attention. A review of the file content including case notes, (when they exist), is helpful in getting a sense of the family dynamics. This is relevant when making decisions about which family members one might contact. Keeping track of the steps one has taken is a major aid. Clues surface in a manner similar to working a puzzle. A seemingly unimportant detail may become an important lead as information gets uncovered. Understanding the Profound Nature of Adoption Issues & the Need to Connect A sensitive professional understands adoption issues and that the need to search is derived from a profound source deep within each person. It is typical for adopted persons and birthparents to express these needs in a manner that becomes recognizable in relation to their role. One can actually identify a "script" of what is Personal Characteristics of the Professional Doin Page 12
  13. 13. recognizable in relation to their role. One can actually identify a "script" of what is usually said by adoptees and birthparents. This script encapsulates the adoption experience for each. Gaining an understanding of the depth associated with the words is the training ground for providing sensitive services. It is hard to ignore the message that is delivered consistently by triad members. Adopted persons want to know who they look like and why the adoption happened. Below the surface of these needs are issues related to the existential "who am I?" and whether the adoption was an act of love or rejection. The first gets manifested with the question "who do I look like?" arid the latter with "why was I adopted?" En Ia cara esta todo. Esta til historia, estan ti£ padre. tit madre, tus abzielos y bisabitelos, tal ve: hasta un tio lejano de qi'ien ya nadie se aciterda. Detras de Ia cara esta la personalidad, las cosas buenas y menos buenas que recibiste de tus antepasados. La cara es nitestra primera identidad, lo que nos permite ubicarnos con la vida y dec ir vean, aqili estoy. Asi citando a los trece, catorce anos, come nzaste a pasar horas enterasfrente al espejo. comprendi que era justo eso lo que estabas buscando. Por cierto, mirabas los granitos y los pun tos negros, a la nariz demasiodo grande de repente, pero tambien era otra cosa. Al sustraer y eliminar los rasgos de tufamilia materna, tratabas de hacerte una idea so bre Ia cara del horn bre que te habia puesto en el mundo... Un dia el hq~o, observandose en el espejo, habria entendido que dentro de el, habia alguien mas y quede este alguien mas- querria saberlo todo. Existen personas que persiguen incluso durante toda la vida la cara de lapropia madre, del propio padre. pag.81 Donde el corazon te lleve. Susana Tamaro Translation: -Everything is in the face. Your history is there, your father, your mother, your grandparents and great grandparents, perhaps even a distant uncle that no one remembers. Behind the face is the personality, the good and less good things that you got from your ancestors. The face is our first identity, what helps us situate ourselves in life and to say look, here I am. So, when you were 13, 14 years old, and you began to spend hours in front of the mirror, I understood that it was exactly that that you were looking for. You certainly were looking at the blemishes and the blackheads, or the too long nose, but it was also something else. When you eliminated the features given to you by your maternal family, you tried to get an idea of the face of the man who put you on this earth. .one day, the child, looking at himself in the mirror, would understand that within himself there was someone else arid that- about this someone else- he'd want to know everything. There are people who search their entire lives for the face of their own mother, their own father. Birthparent scripts include a complementary need to tell their children the reasons for the adoption. They want to make certain they know that love and circumstances guided the adoption decision. They also want to be reassured that Personal Characteristics of the Professional Doin Page 13
  14. 14. circumstances guided the adoption decision. They also want to be reassured that their children are alive and well. Being intimate with, and sensitive to, these scripts will greatly influence the dedication of the professional. It will also affect how he guides, educates and validates his clients. Empathy for Circumstances Then and Now Cultural changes in our society have dramatically changed the view of single parenthood. Where before pregnancy without marriage was strongly censured, now it hardly raises an eyebrow. Having a historical perspective will affect how the adoption circumstances will be viewed by the professional. Histories contained in agency files are to be handled in a sensitive and non judgmental manner. It is not unusual for case notes to include highly subjective statements about the clients. It is wise to consider that the passage of time may have modified both the perceived and actual situations and people. Using the material contained in the file as a guide, instead of as a marker of current truth, would be a wise stance. There are families described as totally chaotic who when relocated years later may be functioning in a well balanced manner. Conversely, glowing reports about clients may reflect a truth of the past but not the present. The passage of time may uncover a birthfamily that has gotten beyond the crisis of the adoption. It may also reveal the ideal adoptive parents to be divorced and with new mates. Having a frame of reference that is reality based and allows for change to happen within families will influence the management of the case. The mind set being described is relevant on a regular basis to guard against assumptions that may compromise search outcomes. Further, taking into account the effects of adoption on all triad members will be of assistance when assessing current circumstances. This will be especially true when either party is going through a troubled time. Helping participants become aware of adoption influenced patterns within themselves can produce therapeutic change facilitated by a well trained professional. Maximizing Positive Outcomes Empathy and a genuine understanding of the issues experienced by those touched by adoption, will create a higher likelihood for positive outcomes. Completing a search in a timely manner, pays attention to the lifetime of waiting; lost time which can't be recaptured. Being entrusted with the important role of intermediary requires a personal and professional commitment to caring. This will increase the determination to find the sought party because there is a conviction that it is everyone's right to connect with original family. This comes from the Personal Characteristics of the Professional Doin Page 14
  15. 15. that it is everyone's right to connect with original family. This comes from the understanding that family cut offs are maladaptive. When the agency assumes the intermediary role, it does require that both the searcher and the sought party agree to the contact. Paying attention to how the invitation for contact is extended sets the tone for subsequent steps in the reconnection process. It is much like a delicate dance where each step attempts to follow the lead of the other person. Understanding Long Term Outcomes As significant as a search is, framing it from a realistic perspective is useful. The search is not a cure all. It does provide an opportunity for a major therapeutic intervention. Even when the desired direct contact is not possible, there is no such thing as an unsuccessful search. A multitude of new knowledge invariably gets imparted: both parties learn the other is alive, the invitation for contact opens a door of possibility to future contact and non identifying information may be shared. All of this, is highly significant in light of the absence of previous knowledge about each other. When contact does occur, having the ability to communicate directly about core issues paves the way for tremendous healing by all. However, this does not define the long term outcomes. As in all of life's relationships, there will be many stages impacted by compatibility and many other factors. What the nature of the relationship will be 1, 5 or 10 years hence cannot be predicted. Such is the flow of life. Successful searches involve opening doors of possibility and communication. Just as life is complex, so is this journey. Removing the previously existing barriers is success itself. Awareness of Power & Control Issues Searching involves a major entrustment which can not be underestimated. It turns over the control of a multitude of areas to someone else whom the searcher does not know. Power and control issues exist as the professional determines how and when the search will happen, what is shared with the searcher, and what constitutes appropriate and ethical practice. When the professional is mindful of the vulnerability of those he serves, power and control issues will be diminished. One area where these factors come into play is the handling of information from the file and newly discovered material. Sensitive sharing of appropriate information allows the searcher to be a partner in the search even when identifying information may not yet be released. Ongoing updates of progress also assists the searcher who is unable to conduct his own Personal Characteristics of the Professional Doin Page 15
  16. 16. updates of progress also assists the searcher who is unable to conduct his own search. This responsive pattern of interaction, validates the searcher's need to be a part of the search, while keeping the process appropriate. It is very difficult for triad members to know that the professional has information that pertains, but is unavailable, to them. Flexibility Searching requires tremendous flexibility. This may mean that the work schedule includes evenings and weekends in order to accommodate the parties involved. It may mean meeting in an office or at a park. Each step of the contact involves an evaluation of possible courses of action. The client may, at first, convey a desire to correspond for a period of time and then suddenly reverse himself and want to meet the other triad member the next day. It is not enough to know that this is normal. Supporting the decision makers, (the clients), through this, will require a willingness to flow with it by the professional facilitator. This does not remove his responsibility to guide the participants if a desired course of action does not appear sound. Throughout the course of the search, the professional will be assessing and providing appropriate input. Flexibility also involves not having a fixed way or time period for when to establish a direct contact. It is suggested that there be a minimum standard including a preparation session (or alternative pathway defined by the agency) for both parties and the obtaining of release forms. Beyond that, when adults are involved, it is appropriate to give them control over the timing for direct contact as long as it is by mutual agreement. It is frequently observed that while the professional is acting as the go between, that there is a displacement of role importance that disappears when the direct contact occurs between the principals. That is, the birthparent or the adopted person may create a strong bond with the professional which typically disappears when direct contact happens with the other triad member. Being able to handle this shift, while not creating yet another loyalty struggle for those involved, is vital. A professional who understands the dynamic will not feel a blow to his self esteem when this happens. Instead, it will be perceived and experienced as a normal part of the process. Pasted from < xn4Hstgcjr8iXlAMU3wg0RzsUDP41bf345s4lC0MW2UP3cGpYQXPZc8hEg/CCT riad%20Social%20Worker%20Handbook/FPersonal%20Characteristics% 20of%20the%20Professional%20Doing%20Searches> Personal Characteristics of the Professional Doin Page 16
  17. 17. Personal Characteristics of the Professional Doin Page 17
  18. 18. Who May Search Monday, May 17, 2010 10:59 AM WHO MAY SEARCH? Adopted Adults and Their Birthparents Post adoption services are intended to respond to the needs of all triad members. As such, decisions will be made as to who may initiate a search. When dealing with adults, it is appropriate to give equal voice to birthparents and adopted persons. That is to say, either one can request that the other be found so as to attempt contact. Defining adulthood is relevant. The most typical adult defining ages for these services are 18 and 21 years of age. The agency will determine at which point services can be provided directly to the adult. An emancipated minor, under 18, who is living on his own and supporting himself would receive adult status. A 20 year old, being supported by his parents, attending school outside of his parents' home would be treated much as a minor would be. This means that the adoptive parents and the adopted person would be involved in the search process. At the very least, because in truth, the 20 year old is not a minor, parental endorsement would be important. Establishing guidelines for the adoptive parent role is necessary, given the varied scenarios that will present themselves. Adoptive Parents While adoptive parents were primary clients at the time of the adoption, it is not appropriate for them to conduct a search on behalf of their adult children. Their support is invaluable, but appropriate respect of boundaries is central here. Their children are adults now arid honoring their adulthood in decision making is vital. An extrapolation of this, involves not asking for, or requiring, adoptive parent permission in order to do a search. There is no life situation where parents of competent adults are given this power. Sometimes adoptive parents fund a search for their adult children. Usually these parents become part of the search process joining in with their children. While there may be dialogue with them throughout the search, an awareness of appropriate conduct so as to keep the focus on the adopted person is important. For example, sharing the progress of the search directly with the adopted adult Who May Search Page 18
  19. 19. For example, sharing the progress of the search directly with the adopted adult is desirable. Hearing news and outcomes firsthand has a powerful impact because the agency professional is the link to the birthparent. Every piece of news is significant and direct sharing is appreciated. This honors and conveys an understanding of the magnitude of the experience. Supportive alternative services can be developed to be responsive to adoptive parents without stripping their children of their power to behave as adults. This offers an opportunity to the agency to continue to be available to them at a time when they feel particularly vulnerable. A search sets off insecurities in many adoptive parents about the permanence of the bonds with their children. Helping them express and process their feelings constitutes a valuable service. There are adoptive parents whose children invite them to participate through correspondence and other forms of contact with birth family. It is usual to witness strengthened bonds within these families. The overt validation of the need to search creates a powerful glue between parent and child. It assists in the redefinition of self, belongingness and relationships. When working with adoptive parents it is helpful to explore their adoption issues and how they have manifested themselves through the years. Looking ahead to the impact of a search, expands the horizons beyond their 6wn fears and experience. Reading material and support groups can be of great value to reinforce these efforts. Courageous Blessing, by Carol DeMuth, is suggested reading for adoptive parents. This book devotes itself to helping adoptive parents understand the need and issues related to a search by their children. Helping them understand that their children often block their need to know in order to protect their adoptive parents, creates a heightened understanding. Additionally, there are those parents who endorse a search and yet their children don't trust that this gesture is genuine. A central fear of adopted persons is that if they pursue a search, they will be rejected by the only parents they know. Having experienced the loss of the original parents and knowing the pain they bear, makes it too frightening to risk the new loss. Even when cognitively they know this will not happen, emotionally, they often get stuck in a fear pattern. For many, the resolution to this conflict is not to tell their parents that they are searching. When adoptive parents communicate the support over time, they effectively give ongoing permission, freeing the adopted person to pursue his quest when the time is right for him. When opening closed adoptions, adoptive parents do have full input regarding contact. In this situation it is appropriate because minor children are involved. This manual will not focus on this area of practice. Who May Search Page 19
  20. 20. This manual will not focus on this area of practice. Birthfathers Birthfathers were often excluded from the adoption process. Agency files may nonetheless contain his identity and other information. There are an increasing number of birthfathers seeking contact with their children arid searching on their behalf is appropriate, even in the absence of birthmother involvement. This means that birthfathers are given equal status to the birthmother and the adopted person. When offering services to them, attention must be paid to the reality that there is a percentage who are incorrectly named. The risk then, involves connecting two people incorrectly. Letting both parties know about this when the birthmother is not involved, allows participants to evaluate their willingness to risk. There are those who will get DNA tests to ascertain the relationship. It is their right to take these steps with the support of the professional. An extension of this occurs when the birthmother has been contacted and the professional is asked to now seek out the birthfather. There are situations when the wrong person is identified even then. Awareness of these complexities will assist the professional as he processes and guides those involved. Other Relatives Siblings of the adopted person will often come forward asking for search assistance. Decisions will be made internally as to whether this service will be provided with or without birthparent authorization (endorsement). There are instances when the birthparents wish to turn over the search to the children they have raised because of their o~ issues. Getting their written approval, proof of identity and release forms for this action will protect the agency. There will be situations where the offspring of birthparents learn about the adopted child and seek verification and contact. Practice guidelines need to be formulated regarding how to handle these requests in the absence of birthparent authorization. A similar scenario may exist with grandparents or other relatives seeking contact with the adopted person. While birthparents and siblings tend to be the primary interest for adopted persons, there may be situations where it would be appropriate to extend the service to other relatives, especially the grandparents. Again, it would be wise to obtain written authorization, proof of identity and release forms from the birthparent. This approach protects the service providers Who May Search Page 20
  21. 21. release forms from the birthparent. This approach protects the service providers when the identity of the birthparents would be released through direct contact with these extended family members. It also acknowledges the extended family and the benefits derived from facilitating whatever level of contact becomes possible. When the agency file indicates that the grandparents knew of the adoption, services may be extended to them while protecting the identity of the birthparents who don't wish to give authorization. for direct contact. This would be in the form of contact with identifying information withheld and would involve an intermediary during the course of the exchanges. Though a limited service, it would still offer an avenue for services to extended family members. Special Situations When the sought person is deceased, facilitating contact with other relatives is appropriate. Decisions will be made as to which member's) are approached. Parents and offspring of the deceased would be the most logical to contact. Confidentiality gets redefined after a death. Legal opinions may be sought at each location for how to best handle this. There will be situations where the search involves a triad member who is limited mentally or physically and his care is handled by others. In these situations, the caretaker may become the decision maker about what is possible. The agency and its representative will make decisions about how to handle unusual situations where a primary voice is given to others. Mental and physical limitations don't necessarily mean that the person in question is unable to make some self determinations. It may mean that the input of those who care for him, or are part of his family, will assist in the course of the reunion. Gary', age 35, requested that his birthmother be found. When she was located by the agency professional, she was telephoned The conversation was brief she asked to be called the next night and she verified that her husband knew about the adoption. The next night, the husband answered the phone and the conversation that ensued brought to light that this birthmother had Alzheimer's. Her ability to manage the course of the reunion was nil. Her husband stepped in as the contact person, receptive to welcoming Gary. Release forms were obtained from him as her caretaker because the course other disease was quite advanced. Gary was able to meet a very large extended family as a result. While these situations are not typical, having protocol for handling them is relevant. Who May Search Page 21
  22. 22. When Is It Appropriate to Deny Search Services? In the vast majority of cases, requests for searches can be safely and appropriately acted upon. Sometimes situations occur where a denial of services may be in order. Among these would be when the requesting person: * seems intent on hurting the sought party * has a focus on getting money * is involved in a serious addiction and is not in treatment Assessment of the functioning of the person being served is an ongoing process. The adoption professional will evaluate red flags and make determinations based on this. The person entering into contact is trusting that the facilitator will be overseeing areas of concern. Conversely, the searcher also wants to be alerted to potential dangers if the found party exhibits behaviors that could pose a threat. As the intermediary, the professional makes recommendations based on his training arid experience. He is the "gatekeeper" as long as he is involved. Pasted from < _G8eRwjH43iDnqfy4ANZfColCMgB5KF82fWDcC1KLCqhhlEcY662u26AY9Kc g/CCTriad%20Social%20Worker%20Handbook/G.%20Who%20may% 20search%20> Who May Search Page 22
  23. 23. The Preparation Monday, May 17, 2010 11:01 AM THE PREPARATION This chapter will examine the preparation process from the stand point of the searcher and the found person. Issues particular to adopted persons, birthparents and adoptive parents will also be covered from each perspective. While there is an overlap of similarity, there are some areas that are more relevant to one party than the other. Preparing the Searcher The preparation of the searcher allows him to explore and learn about frequently represented issues in the reconnection process. The professional guides, validates and stimulates introspection during this highly complex life stage. This educational step expands the individual's personal experience so as to help him see the larger picture from the perspective of his own role and the other two primary roles within the adoption experience. The more one has an understanding of each role and its interfacing with the others, the more the navigation of the search is made manageable. Searchers will often request services using the need to give or receive medical information as the primary reason. This provides a socially accepted area of focus and minimizes the emotional risk of expressing deeper needs. Professionals are able to validate the importance of medical history while expanding the perspective that searching in and of itself is totally normal. Furthermore, it needs no justification. The examination of why, and what one expects, is done for self exploration, not to convince the professional. Following an adoption focused national pro gram, a man called the featured agency to vent his thoughts. He began by saying that he was well into adulthood and felt a need for his medical records. He vehemently stated that he had no interest in his birthmother - that he didn't care about her. The professional spent some time sharing what she had learned from working with adopted persons and birthparents. She, in essence, gave him permission to feel normal about whatever his needs were, including the possibility of contact with his birthmother. The Preparation Page 23
  24. 24. At the end of the exchange, with a great deal of feeling he exclaimed: "Js it possible to love someone very much that you have never met?!" This type of shift in emotional tenor is not unusual. Self protection tends to be paramount until there are feelings of safety that allow the entrusting of these intense feelings. This is especially so with men in our culture, where the expression of feelings is often blocked. Looking at the timing and expectations of a search is an opportunity to verbalize beginning thoughts and feelings about one's adoption experience. The mobilizing of an active search often uncovers the depth of the needs within the person. There is no way to know what the outcome of the search will be, so considering many possible scenarios is constructive. Among these would be the acceptance or refusal to have contact, the reasons that tend to influence each 6f these outcomes, the possibility of finding an emotionally healthy or unhealthy relative, and discovering that death has robbed the searcher of the opportunity to know the other party. Experience has taught us that most adopted persons and birthparents accept the invitation for contact. Sometimes the found persons will say that they had previously thought about searching but didn1t know how, or didn't want to intrude in the other person's life. Birthparents especially will say that while they welcome their children's approach, that they didn't feel entitled to even inquire about their them. Conveying this typically expressed sentiment to adopted persons is very important. They often feel abandoned and forgotten, lacking the understanding of the dynamics of birthparents. Given today's attitudes about sexual behaviors and single parenting, they find it difficult to understand the climate of the time periods covering their adoptions. When the person being approached is unreceptive to contact, an examination of typical reasons as well as those particular to the unavailable person will be helpful. This does not remove the hurt of rejection felt by the searcher. This hurt can be represented by ranges of sadness and anger. Claiming one's right to know is understandable. However, it doesn't always produce the desired result. Unreceptive persons often will consider points on the continuum of contact. This means that sometimes a letter &/or picture will be accepted or at least read over the telephone, allowing the searcher's voice to be heard. This may result in a response regarding the current situation and why it is preventing direct contact. Three way telephone conversations are also optional. Confidentiality is maintained, if that is what is desired by the participants, by using first names. The intermediary is the facilitator. The Preparation Page 24
  25. 25. The intermediary is the facilitator. Another area of exploration is the discovery of a sought party who may, or may not, be emotionally healthy. Fantasies often revolve around extremes; expectations of finding people who are perfect or absolutely terrible, are very typical. Dealing with whatever the reality is, often requires some processing of what becomes known. There are those who claim they can accept anything about the other person. That is, until they are dealing with real people and real situations. Differences in lifestyle and values can create problems. Dealing with what is, versus what is imagined, becomes the task at hand. When death robs the searcher of the sought party, grieving is very typical. Most people are surprised by the intensity of their grief. The lost opportunity to know each other often releases regret that the search did not occur sooner. There is often a need to visit the grave and walk through the years with extended family members. Facilitating contact with relatives relieves some of the pain. The searcher needs to understand that he frequently will be "reviving" the deceased as he may look, act, move and think much like that person who died. This adds a frequently unexpected dimension. There may be a reciprocal need to strengthen the bond through a commitment to contact since the searcher is an extension of the deceased. Sorting through a relationship that is all its own, separate from the deceased, can be complex. Being aware of the ramifications of the death, will assist both parties in building whatever is possible without replacement issues interfering significantly. The Roller coaster of Emotions The search unleashes a roller coaster of emotions that are often represented simultaneously. Joy and anticipation may coexist with fear, anxiety and sadness. Journaling is suggested to assist in the reflection about the multitude of feelings and thoughts that burst forth. It also offers an opportunity to look at what the impact is, over time. It is now better understood that a suppression of adoption related feelings is typical in order to survive (cope). When potential contact is offered, it often unleashes heretofore unexpressed and/or inaccessible thoughts and feelings. This frees the person to finally get in touch with himself in a safe environment and sets off an intensity held under check- for many, for a lifetime. Searchers often believe that the completion of the search will create a peaceful internal experience. While feelings of magnificent wholeness are expressed rapidly pursuant to a search, being prepared for the continuing roller coaster is The Preparation Page 25
  26. 26. rapidly pursuant to a search, being prepared for the continuing roller coaster is important. The link is but an early chapter in the reconnection process; the complexities, fantasies and uncertainties abound. By considering these issues before an immersion in a search occurs, the searcher becomes better equipped to deal with the emotional outcomes. The preparation stage gives the searcher a chance to look at how he handles a wide range of emotions, what his communication skills are, the nature of his relationships and more. His life skills will come into play during this time. A frequently expressed concern is that the contact with the sought party constitutes a totally new and unknown territory. Helping the person make the connection that all new relationships go through a wide array of stages is relevant here. By looking at his life experience, his strengths and how he handles a variety of situations, he is better able to demystify this particularly charged venture. There is no question but that a search embodies a major life altering event. Personal patterns of life and relationship management will be impacted. It is typical to witness a strengthening of those involved as the healing process evolves. This in turn will impact the ability to relate in a more trusting and intimate manner with significant others. The adoption separation (loss) affects trust, which questions the permanence of relationships and therefore blocks the ability to be intimate to the degree possible in less wounded others. The adopted person learns he was not rejected and is worthy of receiving and giving love. The birthparent rejoined with her child, learns she is not hated by her child and is worthy of receiving and giving love as well. The force of this awareness catapults the participants to an emotional change that feels as engulfing as a tidal wave. Managing this intensity is part of the roller coaster. Integrating its healing capacity makes dramatic internal changes happen. This brings about existential, emotional and psychological change and growth. The shared nature of this experience creates an intense intimacy between two adults with a limited shared history. A respect of boundaries is of vital importance at this time. Primal needs can get interwoven with sexual overtones. The search creates a developmental recycling, revisiting stages from infancy through adulthood. It is very typical for participants to report that there is a need at the early stages to stare, touch, and be held. It is a time of "falling in love". This is akin to the all dependent infant, needing to be nurtured by his mother. Unmet infancy needs get addressed well beyond the point of infancy. It is important to point out that these needs are not present because of adoptive parent inadequacies. These are The Preparation Page 26
  27. 27. these needs are not present because of adoptive parent inadequacies. These are related to unfinished business between the birthmother and her child. In most instances, they are resolved appropriately. Genetic sexual attraction is the term used to describe many aspects of this experience when it takes on a sexual flavor. It can occur between the birthparent and his her child as well as between siblings. Paying attention to the incest taboo by raising it to a point of consciousness, assists participants as they manage their emotions. Most people preparing for a contact don't see themselves as vulnerable to the dynamics being described. Revisiting this while the contact evolves is relevant. By then, it is no longer a distanced, theoretical framework regarding possible feelings. Instead, it is a real situation with real people. Romantic feelings can also occur when the adopted person resembles the other birthparent or one's own youthful self. Regressing to the emotional dynamics of the birthparent- to- birthparent relationship or to one's departed youth can create massive emotions. It is akin to falling in love again with that other birthparent or falling in love with oneself. It may even have a piece that hangs onto the what might have been if things had been different. None of this is pathological. It is part of the progression of traversing the years impacted by the adoption. This journey involves regression, confrontation with self and others, healing and potential growth. All of this is dependent on the participants' willingness to do the hard emotional work embodied in the search. Finding ways to manage these complicated situations will depend on each twosome being honest about the mutual vulnerability. Again, drawing from one's own experiences of setting limits brings it into more familiar territory and makes it more manageable. Many will report that an awareness arises regarding needs within themselves of unexpected proportions. This is often surprising for those who felt adoption was of manageable proportions prior to the search. Many will admit that it was too risky to admit these needs, especially if there was no chance of meeting them. Commitment The searcher explores his commitment to following through when contact is accepted by the searched. There are those who, when faced with the reality of going forth, get fearful and back out. While this does not constitute the majority, it can be very painful for the other party who has made himself emotionally vulnerable by opening the door to contact. This does not mean a lifetime The Preparation Page 27
  28. 28. vulnerable by opening the door to contact. This does not mean a lifetime agreement to stay in touch. It represents a responsive exchange for a least a period of time which allows the relationship to be explored. One way to safeguard against over commitment, is to proceed without making an overabundance of promises. Those found often will express a fear of being dropped once they have opened their hearts and revisited their emotions related to the adoption. The fear of losing one another again so more than some are willing to risk. Telling Family and Friends Support during a search can come from many sources. Exploring who is being told about the search allows the searcher to assume control over this decision. It is his right to decide the timing and to whom he entrusts this personal journey. Both birthparents and adopted persons are often reduced to childlike status in adoption related matters. A point in fact is that neither can even do his own search. There aren't other life situations where this would be the case. Telling adoptive parents is frequently difficult for adopted adults. They usually will say that they don't wish to hurt their parents. A closer examination reveals that there is also a fear of losing these parents in light of the loss of the original ones. While cognitively it may be clear that this is not likely to happen, emotionally the risk feels too great. Focusing on his adulthood and accompanying right to choose (do) whatever he wishes, can be very empowering for an adopted person. When ready, feeling powerful enough to tell them without asking for permission, (as a child might do), he will better recognize the strengthening within. He is then better able to absorb that he does have a right to respond to his needs. Additionally, he can allow his parents to own and manage their emotions and needs. This mutual respect of boundaries impacts on the redefinition of the relationship from an enhanced adult perspective. Mark, 33 years old, asked for information from within his adoption file. He wanted to learn as much as he could about his birth family. Two years later, after taking time to digest the information he had received, he asked for search assistance. He did not wish to share this step he was taking with his parents. He had concerns about upsetting them and was not willing to risk this. The search was completed and contact was established with his birthmother and birthfather. During the course of these events, he often discussed the timing and apprehensions about telling his parents with the agency professional. There was a great deal of exploration about the possible outcomes of telling them and how he might respond to whatever their reaction. The Preparation Page 28
  29. 29. After the completion of his search and after giving himself the time to process this major life event, he told his parents in person. To his amazement, they responded positively. They did not exhibit any hurt and were very understanding of the is need to pursue the contact. Having allowed himself the time to consider his choices, Mark found himself in a strengthened position by the time he told them about the search. If they had responded with anger or distress, he would have of course, been disappointed However, by this time, he felt he could handle whatever the reaction. Even the telling is managed more competently when one is delivering it from a more adult perspective. Birthparents also experience fear of telling their parents, spouses and children about their lost/found child. Here too, the fear of losing relationships can be overwhelming. They already are cognizant of the massive effect of losing a child. Risking further loss requires calling up a courage of tremendous magnitude. Allowing each birthparent the power to determine the timing of the telling and helping with anticipatory practice can strengthen a frightened (vulnerable) birthparent. Shame, a long time companion, can begin to dissipate as a coming out of the closet occurs. With each telling, the head is held higher and self esteem grows. In most instances, the mates and children are accepting of the news. Husbands and wives often have to process the sexual intimacy that occurred with someone else. Even when they had knowledge about the adoption, a new level of reality exists when the adoptee enters the picture. Children of birthparents often ask why the news was not shared before. Most are glad to incorporate another sibling. When there is a negative response, it often has to do with realigning their image of their parent. It also frequently involves feelings of vulnerability that the new arrival will displace their status in their parents' hearts. Birth order by definition becomes modified. Most of these situations are reconciled with time. Whatever the outcome of sharing a search, the searcher is well served when he has had a chance to look at the ramifications of telling others. There is no way to be certain of anyone's reaction. Therefore, the more entitled the searcher feels to pursue a search, the better he will handle significant others. Defining the Relationship Through Names and Titles Familial titles such as mother, father, son, daughter tend to be loaded in the adoption experience. Loyalty struggles abound for adopted persons. What does he call his birthmother, birthfather , aunts and uncles? Through his choice of vocabulary he allows, (or doesn't), himself to claim his family of origin, to The Preparation Page 29
  30. 30. vocabulary he allows, (or doesn't), himself to claim his family of origin, to belong. Giving him permission to use whatever vocabulary he chooses, gives him yet another opportunity to try out whatever feels comfortable at the moment. Some will alternate a first name with a parental type word like "mom". Allowing himself the right to legitimately belong to both trees, birth and adoptive, may take time. Being claimed is also central to the adopted person's experience. Many report an internal conflict about the right to even exist. This is very existential and emotional in nature. It seems to relate to a primal experience when the birthmother couldn't acknowledge her child in uteri &/or after birth. This was her way of surviving emotionally the impending loss of her child. Nobody understood the impact of this on the developing child. Therefore, being acknowledged through the search has a tremendous healing capacity. Taking it one step further, most adopted people are not willing to be anybody's secret after a search. Shame is part of the adopted person's script as well. There is shame in feeling rejected and not worthy of being kept within the original family fold. The child within assumes the blame for this situation. Diminishing or ridding oneself of these feelings, creates a previously elusive strengthening. Birthparents also struggle with the entitlement to claim their child. The break in the relationship created by the legal process divested them of their motherhood/fatherhood in relation to this child. This often extends into the next generation especially in relation to grandchildren. The grandparent title is sometimes reserved for the adoptive grandparents complicated by loyalty issues. It often is up to the adopted person as to what the birth family will be called. Therefore, being claimed with family titles is another way to allow entitlement. A sense of healing and wholeness after contact is reported consistently by both parties. Adopted persons speak about feeling a part of the planet instead of feeling like an alien from outer space. A sense of being grounded is typically expressed. The roots that hold trees tall and strong, do the same for the adopted persons. Having access to one's source is everyman 5 right. The preparation process dovetails into the processing of these and other topics as they arise during the course of the search and reunion. Being able to recognize issues as they present themselves, allows the professional to be of assistance to both the searcher and the found person during the time period of his involvement. Pasted from The Preparation Page 30
  31. 31. < gkDKHVTrzlJFH1Paz50tMIbWY_u05bB6A5_xjpOYGkhQj4w/CCTriad% 20Social%20Worker%20Handbook/H.Preparing%20the%20searcher% 20for%20what%20may%20occur%20> The Preparation Page 31
  32. 32. How to Conduct a Search Monday, May 17, 2010 11:01 AM THE HOW TO'S OF SEARCHING The agency file is the central resource for doing a search. That is why updating information, whenever either party makes an approach is so vital. Current information contained in the file can shorten a search considerably. It also provides knowledge about probable availability to contact. When organizing the available information, helpful content will include full names, birthdays, addresses, school and church affiliation and who knew about the adoption. Each state has its own rules for what type of vital statistics records are open to the public. Learning one's own state is vital. At the same time, mobility leads to searches around the country. Therefore, learning basic searching techniques while checking for variations around the country is relevant. There is not just one way to begin or complete a search. Each person will define priorities regarding the order of steps to be taken. Attention will be paid to making the search as cost efficient as possible for the client. Being knowledgeable about resources and how to use them is central to this. The majority of the work is typically done by telephone. There is seldom a need to go on location to uncover the whereabouts of a sought party. Sometimes records are obtained that require written communication and a fee. Each searcher will develop experience that will guide his decision making about these expenditures. Typical Resources The most typical resources for searching include birth, death and marriage records, city directories, telephone books and directory assistance, motor vehicle records, voter registration and church records. Sometimes there is a need to pursue more obscure means such as property, title, probate or census records. While most searches produce the desired results of locating the sought party, occasionally a quest may prove lengthy and costly. Each professional will define a cut off point which is determined by common sense and by funds assigned by the client. Birth Records Birth records are usually found at the county and/ or state level. Each state will have its own rules for who may obtain information contained in birth records. Data that How to Conduct a Search Page 32
  33. 33. its own rules for who may obtain information contained in birth records. Data that could be helpful in these documents includes the maiden name of the mother, the name of the father, their ages at the time of the birth, address, profession of parents and their state of birth. Many agency files will already have this information. However, there are time periods when the practice of the day was to gather minimal information and pursuing this data becomes vital. Death Records Death records are among the most useful in the search process. Especially when seeking birthparents, it is wise to check for the deaths of their parents. The Social Security Death Index provides birth and death dates, where benefits were sent and the social security number which identifies what state it was obtained in. This index is available on disc and through databases which will be discussed later. Once a death is located, seeking the obituary, funeral home and perhaps the cemetery, is next. The obituary provides next of kin, married names of offspring, sometimes locations of offspring, church affiliation, funeral home and cemetery. Many main libraries have death indexes and can locate an obituary easily. When that is not the case it may be necessary to get a death certificate. This can be time consuming as some states take lengthy periods to respond. There is also a fee for obtaining these documents. Sometimes it is possible to pay an additional fee using a credit card in order to expedite the processing of the request. In small towns, it is often more cost and time effective to locate the funeral home or the cemetery. Both funeral homes and cemeteries are usually helpful in giving information about the deceased and his family. Sometimes obituaries will be on file, providing more current information than that found in the agency file. Marriage Records Marriage records are important resources especially when seeking women, whose names change. County and state level offices often house these records. A large proportion of people marry in the home territory of the bride so that is usually a safe place to begin to look. Learning the name of the spouse adds significant data. Sometimes obtaining a marriage announcement is indicated in order to get names of kin, wedding party, church affiliation etc. Paying attention to the fact that there is a high incidence of divorce, will diminish the chance of following around a name that was previously shed. This is particularly the case when searching for a birthmother who may have married very soon after the adoption. Marriages that blossom during this period often suffer from the impact of the adoption and don't survive. Rushing to have subsequent children does not remove the anguish related to the missing child. Therefore, more than one marriage may need to be sought. How to Conduct a Search Page 33
  34. 34. In some areas, a marriage record will include current and previous marriages, providing an expanded amount of information. It offers the opportunity to contact people who knew the person being sought. Even when a marriage has ended, it is not unusual for a previous mate to know the whereabouts of a former spouse. Discretion will be used depending on the role (adoptee or birthparent) of the person one is seeking. The application for the marriage license sometimes is available. It often includes the address at the time, age, names of parents and state of birth. This can be very helpful for expanding the radius of the search, especially when the agency file is not complete. City Directories City directories cross reference names and addresses of heads of households for cities and towns. Old editions are usually housed at main libraries and state archive libraries. Current volumes may be found at general branches. Many times it is possible to get information over the phone. The name listings are arranged alphabetically and provide address, place of employment and spouse. The address listings of the city directory provide the name of the resident, his employment and his spouse. This resource also provides the neighbors of the people at a given address. City directories are useful for following the movement of people through the years, to discover the name of the residents when one only has an address and vice versa. Sometimes agency files contain the name and address of a birthparent but lack information about her parents. The city directory can be of assistance here. Sometimes the disappearance of a listing may signal a move or a death. These clues can be very helpful in locating the desired parties. When doing a search, locating libraries with city directories from many cities and for various time periods becomes relevant. Genealogy and state archive libraries are excellent resources for these. Again, sometimes assistance is available by telephone and sometimes only through correspondence. The latter can be a very slow path to getting information and may require pursuing an alternate path of discovery. Newspapers The most typical use for newspapers in a search is to locate an obituary. Many libraries will look these up when a death date is provided. When the library has a death index, it can even locate information about members of a family in a time efficient manner. Local level libraries have newspapers on microfilm for their area and in some cases, adjoining areas. Main libraries, state libraries and universities tend to be the custodians of newspapers (on microfilm) from diverse geographical areas. How to Conduct a Search Page 34
  35. 35. areas. Main libraries with genealogy divisions can guide a searcher towards other libraries with the desired resources. Telephone Books and Directory Assistance Current and old telephone books are tools frequently used in searching. Outdated telephone books are usually found at main libraries and archive libraries. Cross referencing information found through other sources can confirm whether one is on the right track or it can unearth new information. For example, a record may contain a birthmothers address but no names for her parents. The telephone book may yield the father's name at that address. Since many birthparents resided with their parents at the time of the pregnancy, this information can lead to the expedient completion of the search. Directory assistance can expand the knowledge base significantly. Helpful operators will sometimes scan entire area codes for a sought name. When unpublished numbers surface, they are able to confirm the name and address connected to the unpublished number. This means that though an unpublished number will not be given out, that confirmation of a current address for the sought party can occur. Decisions will then be made on how to proceed. In some instances, telephone companies will contact the person with the unpublished number and ask him to contact the professional. Usually it will suffice to state that the need relates to an urgent family matter. Discretion will be used in pursuing this avenue on a case by case basis. The risk here is the possibility of involving other household members, which would typically not be desirable. Calls of this nature raise anxiety and curiosity and should be used cautiously. Nationwide telephone directories can be purchased on CD-ROMs or can be accessed through providers such as the CSRA or the Internet. These are updated regularly and offer the opportunity to scan the whole country for the sought name. Voter Registration Records Voter registration records are of great value both in the location and verification of information. These most often contain married and maiden names, date 'of birth, state of birth, address and other registered voters at that address. It is usually possible to obtain information by phone. The records are usually housed at the county court level. In some instances a written request is required when inquiring about registered voters. When possible, sending a fax will speed the process. How to Conduct a Search Page 35
  36. 36. Motor Vehicle Records Each state has its own guidelines for whether motor vehicle records are obtainable by the general public. When available, these provide a current address when the name and birth date of the sought party is known. In some instances it is possible to obtain the information provided on the application form. This may include a place of birth and parents' names. Church Records Many churches maintain records regarding their members. This can include birth, baptismal, marriage and death records. They frequently also have present and past directories of their membership. When a family leaves a church, the name and location of the receiving church may be contained in their records. This then, will identify the new area of residence. In some cases, church staff and members may have information about the family being sought. There will be variability about what information they will provide to non members. School Records The most useful school records are those at the college and university level. While available information will vary from place to place, the registrar's office will usually confirm and/or provide the years of attendance, degree obtained, and address while a student. The alumni office may also provide this information. Additionally, a current address may be on file. Some campuses cross reference maiden and married names, providing these upon request. Records from primary and secondary schools are not easily available. There are schools that will confirm a graduation date and over relevant information. Directories of students tend to be accessible as public information and as such, may be helpful. Other Resources There are a variety of other resources that are available but typically used less frequently. Among these would be divorce, probate, property and tax records. Additionally, there are a large number of professions that require a license to practice. State licensing boards usually will provide at least the professional address and telephone number of the licensee. This information is useful when the state of residence is known but the exact location is not. Census records are used on occasion when information contained in the agency file is limited and the search goes back many years. Contained in these records will be names and ages of people who lived in the household, name of spouse and How to Conduct a Search Page 36
  37. 37. names and ages of people who lived in the household, name of spouse and occupation. This can be a cumbersome search tool with limitations because census records are sealed for 75 years. There are records associated with the military that can be helpful in a search. The most accessible tend to be the ones with the Veteran's Administration. One can learn the branch and years of service. If the person is deceased they will provide additional information. Each step of a search, determinations will be made about which resource to pursue which will bring about the desired result. It makes sense to use techniques that are most often successful and then move to the more obscure ones. Computer Data Bases Computer technology is evolving rapidly. There are services that are on line which integrate voter registration and motor vehicle records, city and telephone directories and more. Using data bases of this sort can be very time and cost effective. They are available on a state by state and national basis. The caution here, is to build discernment as overuse can prove to be very costly. Computer data bases are usually a logical place to start to search since so much information is gathered in a composite manner about a large number of individuals. It is still important to know how to use the other searching techniques. This is especially the case when there is no information about the desired party within the data base or there are so many possible candidates that narrowing down which one is correct is too costly. Pasted from < Bzqo9sp82hgqmgHUOHNSbMDritEt_IAkCzF9UZBobELQ/CCTriad%20Social% 20Worker%20Handbook/How%20to%20conduct%20a%20search%20> How to Conduct a Search Page 37
  38. 38. Making Contact Monday, May 17, 2010 11:02 AM MAKING CONTACT WITH THE SOUGHT PARTY Preparation for contact will be provided both to the searcher and to the sought/found party. This will occur during the course of the professional's involvement and before direct contact is established. Issues particular to each person's role will be examined as well as those particular to the other triad members' roles. The goal is to assist all involved in expanding their horizons beyond their own experience and understanding. By providing an opportunity for anticipatory thinking, the evolving relationship is better managed by those involved. Again, each agency will define how resources and education are made available to clients in order to minimize requirements and controls. At the same time, attention will be paid to sound professional involvement. Making Contact with the Adopted Adult When a search has been completed and the desired party found, making an approach carefully is central to long term outcomes. Each triad member will have his own issues to deal with. Incorporating this awareness into the contact, will convey a sensitivity that may set the tone for what evolves. A first contact with an adopted person can usually be safely made by telephone at his home. Confidentiality issues don't typically exist in relation to others knowing the person is adopted. Calling during day time hours allows the person to check out the affiliation of the caller if he wishes to. Otherwise, a call in the evening or weekend is acceptable. When the invitation for contact is extended, the adoptee may need time to consider. Giving him options regarding the pacing for contact allows him some control over how the steps will be taken. When time is needed to consider the invitation, the professional has to maintain a balance between serving the requesting party and being appropriately responsive to the found party. There are people who need time to digest the significance of the approach. Demonstrating a respect for this will serve all parties well. Some adopted people are overjoyed that their birthparents have initiated the search. There are also those who feel out of control yet one more time in their Making Contact Page 38
  39. 39. search. There are also those who feel out of control yet one more time in their adoption journey since the search was not under their direction. Being sensitive to this can discharge the potential for non participation. When telephone contact is not possible, a letter may be sent. It is recommended that it be kept brief so that elaboration can occur when there is a conversation. For example, the letter may provide the affiliation of the professional and a brief message requesting the person to contact the agency. One of the most usual concerns when contacting an adopted person is whether he knows he is adopted. For that reason, it is not advisable to plunge into a search focused conversation. It is wise to first feel out his awareness of his adoption. An easy entree is to identify oneself with the agency that arranged the adoption and to ask if that organization means anything. A negative response does not automatically mean he doesn't know he's adopted. Continuing the line of verification will require caution. While most people know they are adopted, there is a percentage that do not. There are those who have not been told, but have suspected that they were adopted. Nonetheless, caution is indicated, as being told on the telephone by a stranger is very traumatic. In cases where the person does not appear to know, it may be advisable to contact the adoptive parents. There are many fully self supporting adults living at their adoptive parents' homes. Decisions will be made as to how to approach them when they are the ones being searched for. Letters may be sent to both the adoptive parents and the adopted adult so as to not violate the home of the adoptive parents by going behind their back or excluding them. This does not mean that if the adoptive parents are opposed to a reunion that the agency will discontinue its efforts to communicate the options to the adopted person. This approach is an effort to balance respect of boundaries involving the prior client (adoptive parents) within their home while allowing the adopted person to decide on his own behalf. The truth of the matter is that these situations are complex. When adoptive parents are supportive, the management of the case becomes simplified. When they are opposed, the adopted adult is potentially thrown into a loyalty conflict which may obstruct his ability to enter into contact. Again, the professional offers options. Each found person has to determine what he is able to handle, facing the realities in his life. The agency professional serves as the intermediary in offering the contact. If the sought party does not wish to participate, then he honors that. It is possible to offer a continuum of possible contact that may eventually lead to a direct link. For example, this may include letter writing through the agency or speaking on Making Contact Page 39
  40. 40. For example, this may include letter writing through the agency or speaking on the telephone using a three way call. Making Contact with a Birthmother Establishing contact with a found birthmother requires careful attention to confidentiality issues. Approximately 90% of birthmothers are open to contact. However, reaching that stage of readiness may take some time. Among the most difficult considerations for birthmothers are those of telling husbands and children. It is quite common for birthparents to say that they have not discussed the adoption through the years with others, not even their parents. Invariably the relationship with their parents is impacted as silence governs through the years. When the adopted person reenters the picture, there is typically a healing within the birthparent's family. This happens as secrecy is eliminated when contact occurs. Communication between the birthparent and her parents usually contributes to this. Whenever possible, it is recommended that birthmothers be telephoned during the day. Keeping the call informal in tone, makes it more possible for her to maintain her privacy in case her family is not aware of the adoption. Once it is verified that she is the person on the line, then a gradual revelation of the nature of the call allows her to convey her ability to talk with the agency representative. Asking yes/no questions allows her greater freedom to respond. Statements conveying that the call relates to a personal matter allows her the chance to indicate that the professional may continue. Asking her at regular intervals if it is still a good time to talk, gives her the safety to speak at a better time. In the event that a telephone call is not possible, then a written communication may be an option Using plain stationery is advisable. The nature of the message is best kept very simple so that anyone reading the letter would not know that it relates to an adoption. Attention paid to her protection is vital. When the agency file indicates that her parents or siblings know about the adoption, it may be necessary to engage their assistance to contact her. The risk here is that the relatives may make decisions on behalf of the birthmother or convey an incorrect or slanted message. This usually happens because family members wish to protect the birthmother. Since years before, birthmothers often ceded to parental pressure to pursue an adoption, giving them the chance to make a decision without outside pressure is Making Contact Page 40
  41. 41. adoption, giving them the chance to make a decision without outside pressure is appropriate. As an adult and a central party, that is her right. Making Contact with a Birthfather As previously stated, there are a percentage of birthfathers who are incorrectly named in agency files. For that reason, caution is vital when approaching him. It is optimum to seek out the birthmother first when a search is initiated by an adopted person. This allows the opportunity to verify~ the birthfather's identity. Sometimes, even with this step of caution, an incorrect person is contacted. A birthmother may truly believe the person she named is the correct one. However, there are times when there were more than one partner and she wishes it were the one she named. This conflict is often expressed by birthmothers faced by this dilemma. There will be times when the birthmothers is not open to contact and is not willing to confirm the birthfather. If there is a named father within the file, pursuing a search for him based on that record is appropriate. When there is a question about the identity of the birthfather, alerting the adopted person and the possible birthfather is critical. DNA testing may be indicated. Additionally, preparation and support of both parties includes an assessment of the willingness to risk emotionally. Reconciling oneself to the truth of a mistaken father/child link is very difficult. Jim asked for a search for his birthmother. When she was contacted. she agreed to send and receive a letter, but refused further contact. She did verify' the name of the birthfather contained in the agency file. Jim asked that his birthfather, Dan, be contacted. This request was acted upon and Dan was found soon thereafter. Dan indicated that he had never been told about Jim. In spite of the shock, he was willing to pursue contact. Because there were details in the file pertaining to Dan that were wrong, the contact was made with great caution. There was the possibility that he had been incorrectly named Both men agreed that DNA testing would be done to ascertain their relationship. Even through this period of uncertainty they began to establish a pleasant relationship. It was a conscious decision on their part, with a conscious awareness of the risk The DNA testing concluded that Dan was not Jim's birthfather. Jim was devastated as he at least felt he had made contact with one side of the is birth family tree. He also began to feel a tremendous amount of anger. Having tried to be respectful of the birthmother's privacy, he now felt he needed to do Making Contact Page 41
  42. 42. be respectful of the birthmother's privacy, he now felt he needed to do something to get the correct information. Up until this point the agency professional had been involved in processing the happenings. Jim decided to search for his birthmother himself (It is appropriate for each person to decide his own course of action and the professional in no way interfered with this.) He successfully found her and was able to obtain the name of the other possible father. He again enlisted the assistance of the agency professional to locate and contact this other person. This anecdote illustrates the many ramifications of incorrectly named birthfathers. The emotional havoc and risk that accompanies this cannot be underestimated. At the same time, it is not indicated to withhold services for fear of complicated outcomes. Risk assessment and support of the participants allows the involved parties to decide what they wish to handle. Sensitivity to the birthmother is also relevant because it brings to light, years later, a sexual history from her past. Whatever privacy can be afforded her, will safeguard the relationship with her child and others in her life. There are many named birthfathers who never were told of the adopted child. Sometimes agency files will reflect whether this is the case. When the birthmother has already been included in a contact, she can provide information about the man's knowledge. All of this will play a part in how the exchange will proceed with him. When it is possible to determine the place of employment of the birthfather, contact there tends to be a safer way to approach. It affords him some privacy to discuss the matter without jeopardizing his marriage. It allows him to consider entering into contact and to convey whether being called at his home is acceptable. When it is necessary to call him at his home, asking for him when he does not answer the phone, requires great care. This is especially so if the caller is a woman. Each person being approached has the right to privacy and to determine when and how to tell others. Safeguarding this in an ethical manner is essential. This will usually mean identifying oneself by name when asked, but not by affiliation. The intent here is not to misrepresent, but rather to offer confidentiality to the birthparent. If there is substantial probing by the person answering the telephone, judgment will have to be used as to what is revealed. Risk assessment is continuous. There may be situations where one says that the call pertains to a personal matter. Needless to say, this will raise curiosity and risk. There will be times when the risk is felt to be too high in the effort to maintain confidentiality and the best course is to hang up. These considerations will apply to a birthmother call as Making Contact Page 42