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by Abigail Van Buren

Adoptees' Need to Know Is Both Emotional and Medical

DEAR ABBY: A letter recently appeared in your column from a mother who was upset because the birth mother of her adopted daughter had written to her requesting to meet the girl.

I am an adoptee who is actively involved in helping other adoptees and birth mothers with their searches. I believe you replied correctly in advising the mother to tell her daughter about the letter she received. However, I think your advice should have included, in addition, a message about the importance of knowing about the medical history and the current medical condition of the birth mother. If the girl still does not wish to meet her birth mother, that's fine. But the adoptive mother and the birth mother should remain in contact with each other so that if a medical necessity should arise, or should the girl change her mind, contact could be made.

The need to know about our biological roots varies among adoptees and surfaces at different times in our lives. But it will eventually become an issue. No matter how good our relationship with our parents, or how much we are loved, there's a basic need in all adoptees to know who we are, who we look like and the circumstances behind our relinquishment.

It usually has no reflection on how we were raised, and a child's finding a birth parent is not to be feared as many adoptive parents believe. No one will ever take the place of Mom and Dad. If a "find" results in a relationship, then all the better. Often there are other siblings to be gained, or at least half-brothers or sisters, and there is always enough love to go around.

This has always been a sensitive issue and one that we are just beginning to learn how to deal with. You may use my name. -- GARY STRODE, TULSA, OKLA.

DEAR GARY: There are many sound reasons for encouraging and facilitating reunions between birth parents and their children. An opportunity for them to meet should be made available if both parties are willing. The secrecy that once shrouded adoption is no longer necessary now that society has come to understand that a pregnancy outside of marriage is not an unforgivable crime.