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What Are Sibling Rights After Adoption

What Are Sibling Rights After Adoption

Dear Megan,

I don’t know if you can answer this. I found out I have a half sibling. She’s 37 years old. Our mother says it was a closed adoption and I can’t try to contact her. What I want to know is can I contact a sibling even though it’s a closed adoption? You don’t have to answer. P.K.

Dear P.K,

Many people wonder what are sibling rights after adoption, and I’m so glad you’ve reached out for advice. I think it’s wonderful that you want to reach out to your adopted sibling! It’s an opportunity for a new connection, possibly more family to love, and to satisfy any mysteries or questions lingering out there.  For the adopted sibling, making a connection with you can fill in gaps or missing pieces in her life.

what are sibling rights after adoption

I have some advice about this, which I’ll explain below, but first I wanted to answer your most basic question: the law does not prevent you from contacting your adopted sibling

Laws about sibling rights after adoption

Adoption laws essentially terminate the rights of biological parents and give rights to adoptive parents. Adoption records are sealed by the courts in most states, although this is changing. What this means is that the courts may not give you any information about a particular adoption.

There are some state laws regarding sibling rights after adoption, especially in the context of foster care. When a child is adopted through the foster care system, siblings are important. The law protects sibling relationships.

Nothing in the law says you can’t look for an adopted sibling or to make contact with that sibling. It is up to you to decide whether you want to look for and then contact your adopted sibling.

Here are some important points I think you should consider as you think about making contact in a closed adoption.

What do you hope to accomplish when you make contact with your adopted sibling

I think it’s important to be clear on what you want from this relationship. Some siblings just want to satisfy their curiosity. They want to learn about their sibling’s personality, maybe see what they look like. Some just want the adopted sibling to know that they have a sibling.

If you are an only child, many siblings want to reach out to the adopted sibling in hopes of adding that sibling to their family. Many siblings talk about the adopted sibling as if they are a long-lost sibling, the sister or brother they never had.

This is less common, but other siblings I’ve spoken to want to reach out to share medical information or to complete a family tree. Whatever your reasons, it’s important to understand what your goals are in contacting your adopted sibling. This will help you balance other factors at play, like your adopted sibling’s privacy.

Consider your adopted sibling’s privacy

If your sibling’s adoption was closed, there’s a chance that your sibling doesn’t know she is adopted. I suggest you do a little research first, ask your parents, or others who might know, if the adopted sibling knows about the adoption. Obviously, this is great information to have ahead of time. You will need to decide if you are comfortable telling your sibling about the adoption.

Even if your adopted sibling knows she’s adopted, she might not share this aspect of her story with her friends and loved ones. If you decide to make contact with her, you should do so in a way that protects her privacy. In other words, don’t post a message on social media that others might see.

Consider your mother and extended family’s privacy

It’s up to you to decide whether you will tell your mother that you’re planning to contact the child she placed for adoption. However, in some ways, this is your most important consideration.

If you reach out to your adopted sibling, she will almost certainly want to make contact with her biological parents. You need to be ready for this and how you will respond. Therefore, if you’ve never talked with your mom about her adoption journey, this is a good time to do so.

Birth mothers (read my story here) go through a lot of pain and loss when they place a baby for adoption. For many women it’s the hardest choice they have ever made; and for many others, they never get over it. Like any loss of a loved one, the pain doesn’t entirely go away. People just learn to manage it. You need to understand from your mom how she feels about making contact with the adopted sibling.

If you make contact with the adopted sibling, you are essentially forcing your mom to make contact as well. It will be difficult for her to say no, and will possibly force her to deal with something she’d rather not. Many birth parents worry that if they refuse contact now, they are abandoning their child twice. This is a lot to ask of your mom, so getting her approval for making contact could be important in your situation.

Your adopted sibling might want to make contact with the rest of your family as well. Once your adopted sibling knows your identity, finding other family members is pretty easy. You should consider how the rest of your extended family might feel if the adoptee wants to reach out to them.

Are you ready for a relationship with your adopted sibling

Reuniting with an adopted sibling can go any number of ways. It can be really smooth where everyone is satisfied, wants the same things from the relationship, and move forward easily. Other reunions are complicated. Sometimes people don’t want the same things. Maybe you are satisfied with one conversation and a few photos, but your adopted sibling now wants to be part of your family, sharing holidays and other special occasions. I’ve spoken with siblings who were excited for the adopted sibling to be an active part of their lives, and the adoptee wasn’t interested.

There are situations, too, where the adopted sibling or their adoptive parents aren’t in a good place in their lives. Finding new family members can mean a new support system, emotionally and sometimes financially. You need to be ready to address this if it comes up, set boundaries, be respectful.

I think it’s wonderful that you are considering reaching out to your adopted sibling! Hopefully my explanation and advice are helpful as you decide how to move forward. I wish you and your family all the best!

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