Why Birth Mothers Don’t Search

The other day, during an email exchange about adoption search registries, a colleague pointed out that, compared to the number of birth mothers searching for information, it seemed that the registries were overpopulated by adoptees. He asked me why I thought that to be the case. Did the lack of mothers searching correlate to the desires of the mothers to be contacted by their adopted children?

The short answer to that question is no: if adoptees begin searching and do not immediately find a matching search request waiting for them, either on an online or state registry or at the adoption agency, then they should not, in my opinion, take that as an indicator that their mothers desire no contact. However, the expanded answer should be something understood in more detail to help avoid any feelings of rejection adoptees may internalize from the disappointment of not finding a birth mother actively waiting.

So why do birth mothers not search for their relinquished children?

To begin to gain perspective on why a birth mother would not be adding her name and contact information to the plethora of search registries, one has to first understand the environment that surrounds the act of relinquishment.

Despite the way adoption is portrayed today, as a “loving choice” made by an expectant mother who does not want to or cannot parent her child, in the not too distant past, the unwed pregnant woman often had no choice but to surrender her baby. Without going too in depth about U.S. adoption history, shaming was used as a tool to get mothers to relinquish; the evidence of forced relinquishment speaks to its prevalence.