A phone call between the two primary parties is the best way to make initial contact. If possible, do not have a third party intermediary make the call. As one adoptee put it, “This may be your only chance to hear your mother’s voice.” Although, we have to reassure you, this form of contact is successful 95% of the time, if it happens that you are one of the few where it’s not successful, and you are positive you have the right person, come back to us for suggestions for further follow-up.
Before you make the call, go to a quiet, comfortable spot in your home. Make sure you have no distractions such as TV, radio, other people, children clamoring about, etc. Write out a script of what you want to say. The following is our suggestion; you will want to put it into your own words before you call.
It is much more preferable to call someone’s home, if possible. But, sometimes you have no choice and have to call at work, and, if so, it’s very important to say from the get-go, “I’m sorry to bother you at work, but this is the only number I could find. Is it okay to talk about a personal matter now, or would you prefer to call me later at your convenience?”
Make sure you speak only to the primary party about the reason you are calling, and NEVER reveal to a third party the purpose of your call. If you are calling your mother or father, DO NOT EVER “out” them to anyone else.
Say, “May I speak with Mrs. So-and-so?” If she is not available, give your name and call-back number or ask when is a good time to call back.
If the answering party continues to question why you are calling, say, “I am doing research on the Whatsit family of such-and-such place. I am looking for Mrs. So-and-so, whose maiden name was Whatsit.” If they continue to want to talk, say, “I have to go now. Thank you for your help, and I will look forward to speaking with Mrs. So-and-so at her convenience.”
If you get only an answering machine or voicemail, do not just hang up and call back again and again. Many people screen their calls when they don’t recognize the number on their caller ID. Leave a message: “My name is — and I am calling about the Whatsit family. I’ll try back in a couple of days if I don’t hear from you.”
When you do get the party on the phone, repeat your name and where you are calling from. Ask, “Is this a good time for you to talk about a private family matter?” Make sure the whole family isn’t hovering around or she has visitors. Say, “If it’s not convenient, I can call back at any time you say.”
If she indicates it is okay to speak, begin, “As I said, my name is —. I think we might be related.” She’ll probably ask, “Oh? How?” and you can say “I was born [birth name] on [date] in [city, state].” PAUSE
If you don’t hear a loud gasp or “Oh my goodness!”, say, “Does that mean anything to you?” DO NOT EVER say “I think you’re my mother!” You must let her come to the realization herself, at her own pace, and really “own it.”
If she indicates, yes, she does recognize the name and date of birth, immediately say, “I am so happy to have found you! I am 99% sure we are a match, but there are things we can do to verify it 100%, if you want, such as registering with the state registry, DNA test — whatever you are comfortable with.”
Be sure to reassure her that you do not want to intrude in her life or make her feel uncomfortable, that she might want a few hours or days to think things over, etc. You have the rest of your lives and no need to rush into anything. Just let the conversation flow naturally. Ninety-five percent of the time, the loved one will be happy to hear from you and at least know you are okay.
We have had reactions ranging all the way from, “Oh, yes, I think I am your mother, but I can’t talk to you. My husband and other children don’t know about you.” –to– “Oh my God! I’ve been searching for you for thirty years! Where are you? I’m coming right now!”
Do not begin pressuring her for information, for example, about your father. Let her manage the conversation, both pace and content. If you press for details about your father, she might feel hurt and discarded. Don’t forget, mothers are just as afraid of rejection as adoptees are. ← Memorize that sentence and believe it!
If she indicates that your birth name or date of birth have no meaning for her, ask her leading questions about the facts which led you to her to begin with, i.e., “Is this not Jane Doe Whatsit who was born [date] and lived in [city, state]? Your father was — and you have [sisters, brothers]?” IOW, don’t immediately assume you have the right person but keep her talking.
If she continues to deny knowing anything, back out of the call gracefully. Apologize for disturbing her and say, “Please keep my name and number in case you think of or hear about someone with your name and other identifying information who fits the description of the person I’m looking for.”
Whatever the outcome, positive or negative, follow up the conversation with a note and photo. If positive, “I’m so happy to have found you, and I am excited about the prospect of us getting to know each other better.” If negative, “Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I am so disappointed that you are not the person I was searching for. If ever you think you can help me, please get back in touch with me at any time.” Include your Facebook address so she can check you out. Always leave the door open.
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If the call is to the father, the procedure is the same, except you will ask if the name of your mother is familiar to him and your date and place of birth.
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If the call is to a son or daughter, you will say, “I am looking for So-and-So who was born [date] in [city, state] and who was adopted shortly after birth.” If they say they were not adopted, again back out gracefully, but leave your name and number. We’ve actually had adoptees who did not know they were adopted who confirmed it after the mother called and called her back.
Please don’t hesitate to ask us to help. We’re happy to do practice calls with you anytime.
Your Search Angels