Washington Post writer Tara Bahrampour reports on internationally adopted teens returning to their homelands to trace their roots. For some this means meeting with biological family members, for others just gaining a sense of place. The piece has a substantial discussion of birth searches:
Some adoptees, like Deanna, want to go deeper.
“They’re looking for their identity. They’re looking for someone who looks like them, they’re looking for why were they given up,” said Anna James, founder of International Adoption Search, which locates birth families, mostly in Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. “The truth is better than not knowing anything.”
James’s researchers go to birth mothers with photographs of their biological child and a letter from the adoptive family. The birth mothers are usually happy to be contacted, James said. Many gave up their children because they were not married or could not afford to keep them.
“They’ve spent all these years wondering what happened to them,” James said. “It’s kind of a relief to them to know that the child has been adopted into a loving home with all these opportunities.”
It is not always easy for adoptive parents to watch their children investigate a different life. “I guess I’ve had some mixed feelings over the years,” said her mother, Karen, whose reserved manner contrasts with Deanna’s effusive displays. “It wasn’t something that you expected to have happen. In international adoption, you don’t expect that you’re ever going to have the birth family be part of your life.”
But Deanna wouldn’t let it drop. “From the time that she was 4 years old, she was wondering about her birth family,” her father, Roger, recalled. “She would ask, did she ever have any brothers and sisters in Kazakhstan, what were they like and would it be possible to meet any of them?”
When Karen heard about James’s agency, the family decided to try it. Eight hundred dollars and 14 months later, they received a letter from a researcher. He had found Deanna’s birth mother, Maryam Sevastianova. A mother of eight, she sold cigarettes and beer out of a metal stall in a remote coal-mining town called Solonichka.
The researcher’s letter recounted how he had approached her in her metal stall and showed her photos of Deanna. Maryam later said that her brain registered that she was looking at one of her children. But she couldn’t figure out which one. As she realized who the child was, she began to sob.
You can read the complete story here.