Until we are “living the moment,” it is impossible to know what will unfold. There are times when a file is opened, for example, and information is shared that is inconsistent with what the family was told at the time of adoption. Sometimes there is a change in the child’s birth date, or perhaps a different spelling of a name, or the notation of siblings. Sometimes the new information goes well beyond that. Even “minor” changes tend to be major changes for kids because “changing their story” can be deeply unsettling.
Sometimes the road goes in a different direction all together—families sometimes find the orphanage, or the child’s file no longer exists, or the “keeper” of the file is unwilling to share information. Occasionally, caregivers or others who are scheduled to meet the family don’t show up for a variety of reasons, all of them very difficult for a child of any age to understand.
Sometimes a lot more information suddenly becomes available. Many years ago, a fourteen-year-old girl and her family were traveling on a Ties Program. Her file read that she had been found on the doorstep of an orphanage, nothing more. The family visited the orphanage expecting to “be” in the place their daughter lived prior to her adoption. When they arrived, a worker opened her file and said, “What was in your records was incorrect. In fact, your birth father brought you here, and he still lives here. Would you like me to call him?” You can imagine the excitement and anxiety the family felt.
This story is uncommon, but not unique. One of the hardest things we do is to try to help families understand that they may learn nothing new, or everything they have ever wondered about. This level of uncertainty can be very hard for children and parents to deal with. It’s complicated!