Title 7:

[Cover photograph: Luke King / Cover image: fern sculpture by Virginia King]

Blood Ties with Strangers:
Navigating the Course of Adoption Reunion over the Long Term

by Julee Browning

Edited by Jennifer Lawn

Social and Cultural Studies 7
(November 2006)
ISSN: 1175-7132


This is a revised version of a Masters Thesis in Social Anthropology (2005) which reports original research conducted with twenty adoptees, adopted under closed-stranger protocols, who have maintained regular post-reunion contact with their birth families for more than ten years. It examines the themes of the mothering role, family obligation and family membership to uncover how adoptees navigate their family membership within and between two families (adoptive and birth family). This study presents the thoughts, feelings and observations of the participants in their own words to convey a deeper understanding of their experiences. Drawing upon in-depth interviews, this study has sought to expand on car Her research focussing on the search and reunion and immediate post­reunion stages to examine the long-term experiences of adoptees in post­reunion.

The principal finding is that reunited relationships have no predictable pathways and are approached with varying levels of ambivalence and emotional strain, and that there is no fixed pattern of family arrangements and relational boundaries. While closed-stranger adoption will eventually cease, this research may assist in understanding the issues surrounding the reunion between anonymous gamete donors and their offspring in the future.

About the Author:

Julee Browning completed her Masters in Social Anthropology in February 2005 and then became involved in several research projects including Labour Market Dynamics, Transnational family Obligations and Growing up with a parent suffering Schizophrenia. Julee is now a Strategic Analyst for the Counties Manukau District of the New Zealand Police where her research projects are wide and varied and span from best business practice to specific crime type problems. Julee can be contacted at juleeab@ihug.co.nz.

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