COLUMN: Adoption – To search or not to search

I have been on quite a trip with my cousin these past few months. She is actually not really my cousin.

by Pauline Buck

I have been on quite a trip with my cousin these past few months.  She is actually not really my cousin. She was adopted, which has been the focus of this journey. Thora is 59 and was adopted at birth – presumably the child of a teenage pregnancy in the ’50s when it was unheard of for young moms to keep their babies.

When the red tape around adoption files was loosened a few years ago, I wasn’t sure if that was a good idea. I was visualizing a total stranger walking up to the door of his or her birth mom and saying, “Hi. I’m your daughter (or son)!”

I also wondered how the adoptive parents would feel. Would they say “Now, after we’ve raised you, you don’t want us to be your parents anymore?”

Happily, I discovered that the government has more common sense than I had given them credit for. By watching my cousin start her search, I learned that while information about birth parents and adopted children is available, there is a procedure for acquiring it. Details aren’t just handed out willy-nilly.

Thora lived a happy, normal life.  She was adopted by a loving family that was comprised of many aunts, uncles and cousins, and while she knew she was adopted, she never gave it much thought.

In her early teens, she discovered she had a lovely singing voice, was a natural on the guitar and liked to write her own music. Once in a while, she would wonder where this talent came from, but the curiosity was fleeting.

When Thora reached her late 40s, she and her husband received the devastating news that she had developed Parkinson’s disease, a turn of events that really got her wondering about her biological background.

However, she hesitated to start the search. She did not want to hurt her family’s feelings, but she was starting to get anxious about it. She felt like she was on an emotional roller coaster. To search or not to search?

In August 2011, after both her adoptive parents had passed away, she took the plunge.

The process involved contacting Vital Statistics, receiving her birth mother’s name, then contacting the Adoption Reunion Society to request an active search.

Three months later, Thora was a bundle of nerves, having heard nothing and worrying about “who” she would discover and what the rest of the family would think. It turned out the rest of the family was 100 per cent behind her on this.

In February 2012, word came.  The Adoption Reunion Society reported they had located a woman who is also the daughter of Thora’s birth mother.

Would she like them to contact that person to receive permission to pass on her information?  This is where I started to feel OK about the system.

They don’t give “searchers” personal information about family members they have located.  It all has to go through proper privacy channels.

Within a week, Thora, who by this time was beside herself with excitement, had spoken with and emailed her new “sister.” She learned there is music in their family but no Parkinson’s disease; there are three other half-sisters and there was a baby brother who died in infancy.  Their mom had passed away 17 years ago.

The first sister contacted lives in L.A. but used to live in Vancouver’s West End along with another sister who still lives in Vancouver. One is on Vancouver Island. One is in Alberta. The four women in Canada have met, hugged, cried, laughed and amazed each other with their similarities.  The sister in L.A. has shared all this over Skype, email and  telephone. A meeting was planned to happen, after this column was written.

For Thora’s full story visit

Pauline Buck is a local blogger at