Dear Abby re: your column dated 8-31-14 from "Keeper of the Secret in Illinois"

Abby received a letter from an adoptive mother:

"Many years ago, we adopted three children through our state's child welfare system.  At the time, we knew they had full and half-siblings somewhere "in the system"  We have not yet told our children they have biological siblings, although they do know their birth parents are no longer living due to drug abuse. 

I was recently able to locate two of the full siblings through Internet research, and I have been following their lives on their social networking pages.  Both are adults now -- one is a college student; the other is a young mother.  I am torn. My children are teenagers now and old enough to be told they have other siblings.  But should I uproot these young women's lives to learn about us and meet our children?  I'm also not sure whether they know the circumstances of their biological parents' deaths or would want that information.

It doesn't seem fair to dump all this on a college student and a young mom, but my children have a right to know, too.  I almost wish I had never started searching.  Please advise."  -- KEEPER OF THE SECRET IN ILLINOIS

Abby's reply to Keeper of the Secret:

You are obviously a caring and sensitive woman.  I agree that your children have a right to know they have other blood relatives.  I'd be very surprised if the young women your children are related to were shocked by your contacting them.  They are older and may have some recollection of their siblings.  

However, before discussing this with your teenagers, I recommend that you make the initial contact to be absolutely sure the two adult siblings would like to meet your children.

Lynn's thought on Abby's advice:

1.  The adopted teenagers have a right to know they have older siblings

The teenage adoptees have a right to know they have full siblings who are adults.  In fact, it would have made more sense to advise them of this knowledge when they were younger as part of their adoption narrative, including that their parents had drug abuse issues, which later resulted in their deaths.  Which is more difficult information---that you have two older siblings or your parents died from drug abuse?  Why tell part of the truth?

This information about older siblings may have been comforting to the two younger siblings knowing that one day they could reunite with their older siblings since their parents were deceased.  Many siblings know about each other when they are placed in separate homes for adoption through a state agency as there may have been mandated visits between siblings and parents before the children became available for adoption.   Maybe there is no secret at all.  Maybe these 4 siblings know all about each other but the 2 younger ones have never mentioned it since their mom believes it to be a secret.

2.  I disagree with Abby's advice that Adoptive Mother play confidential intermediary to a reunion

It is not the adoptive mother's responsibility to protect the older adult siblings from the truth.  It is not the adoptive mother's responsibility to facilitate a reunion as if she is a paid confidential intermediary.  The adoptive mother chose to seek out information about the two older siblings and she rightfully acknowledges her younger children's right to know them.  Yes, tell them about their older siblings and if they are interested in knowing all about them, show them the information and let them process it emotionally and decide for themselves if they want to contact their siblings now or in the future.

The thing that bothers me about Abby's advice is that she is making truth conditional on what the older children want as far as reunion goes, and that is not really the issue here.  The issue is that this information should NOT BE A SECRET in the first place.


  1. I agree, Lynn. The a-mom should not be playing confidential intermediary. Abby was wrong on this one.

  2. Hi Elle! Another issue that my husband and I discussed this morning was that on some level this adoptive mother fears reunion with the older siblings. Why else would she share info about the deaths of the parents but withhold knowledge of the older siblings?

  3. hope you send abby the link to your blog today. she needs a correction.

  4. Could not agree more this advice is totally inappropriate

  5. I agree with you completely, Lynn. Hopefully you sent your thoughts on to Dear Abby. I have a feeling she is going to be receiving a boatload of mail on this one.

  6. Abby is often wrong and she is on this one.


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