For couples reading this who are just beginning their adoption journey, we know at this point that it’s impossible to imagine your family years from now. But, the truth is that the baby you will adopt, will eventually be an adult. There is information we would like to share with you now that can help you raise your child to have a positive view of their adoption. The practices put into place as children grow will help them with their identity as an adult adoptee. This varies from sharing age appropriate information with your child, to maintaining the agreed upon openness with birth families, as well as setting social media boundaries.
Search and Reunion Process
Adult adoptees who desire to search for their birth parents and are looking for identifying information often contact Adoption Associates for help. As long as the adult adoptee is 18 years of age or older and was adopted through our agency, we are able to assist them through the search and reunion process. We are happy to share the necessary steps they need to take and provide support as they search for information.
Adult adoptees often have unanswered questions surrounding their adoption. Sometimes it’s because the adoption agency was not able to obtain that information from the birth parents in order to give to the adoptive family at the time of the adoption. Another reason might be because the adoptive parents had a difficult time discussing their adoption with them during their childhood.
In addition to sharing information with your child, it’s important to maintain and respect the boundaries within the adoption. It might often seem like it’s easier to take the information you know about a birth family and try to find them on social media. We strongly encourage you to contact the agency for assistance instead. There are several reasons why social media boundaries are important, but safety and confidentiality are the top reasons to avoid this route. When it comes to social media, it’s so easy to share information, photos, etc. that boundaries may be unintentionally crossed. The boundaries regarding confidentiality should be respected by both adoptive parents and birth parents, and social media sometimes blurs these lines.
Meeting Birth Mother
If your child’s birth mother is open to the idea of meeting your child prior to age 18, we would suggest that you consider gently encouraging this possibility. If your child reaches age 17 and hasn’t already had a visit or communication with their birth parent, there are multiple benefits from your encouragement to do so. When you offer this to your child over the years, you are letting your child know that you support them meeting their birth family. And, that you will be there to support them in that visit just as you have supported them throughout their childhood.
As it relates to openness in adoption, this visit can be a beautiful transition from the communication that took place between you and your child’s birth mother. This visit can lead to ongoing communication that takes place between your child and their birth mother. Even if an adoptive family only communicates through the agency to their child’s birth mother, a note could be written to their child’s birth mother that explains the desire to schedule a visit together. The birth mother can then relay her thoughts and desires about the possibility of a meeting.
Openness in Adoption
Another suggestion we would like to offer is the importance of maintaining the openness agreement throughout the years. As our lives get busier, communication/openness sometimes decreases. Or sometimes the dynamics in your relationship change. Maybe you move, or maybe a global pandemic arises as we are experiencing right now. No matter what life brings, maintaining the original openness agreement with the birth family beyond the first few years of your child’s life is crucial.
There is such a positive impact on adoptees who are provided information about their birth families. Even if that information is limited, adoptees benefit from knowing all they can about their adoption story. Adoptees benefit most when this information is shared with them and open discussions take place regarding the positiveness of their adoption story. Open discussion beginning when they are a young child and lasting throughout their childhood provides them with confirmation that their well-being was and is of the utmost importance. Openness with birth parents varies among adoptive families. But what should be the same is the openness regarding the topic of adoption, and that it is discussed in every adoptive family’s home. We would like to offer the following suggestions to adoptive parents in order to receive and share information with their child.
Some Recommendations for ADOPTIVE PARENTS are:
- Keep and record all information provided. Make sure all documents are safe, secure, and easily retrievable.
- Talk about adoption from day one with your child, and share what information you have in a developmentally and age-appropriate way.
- Answer the adoptee’s questions about adoption at their level at all times. Always tell your child the truth. The questions may be difficult or challenging to answer if the information is unknown. Acknowledge that, as well as the adoptee’s feelings about it.
- Educate schools and peers about openness in adoption so that your child doesn’t feel isolated by their experience. It’s helpful for teachers to be aware of positive and appropriate adoption language.
- Seek information about the adoptee’s history at their request. Ask them if they are interested in learning more and continue to ask them as they grow. The adoptive parent should provide what information is available and support the adoptee in the quest for further information. Adoptive parents shouldn’t focus on obtaining information out of their own curiosity.
- As long as they are 18 years or older, adoptees have the ability to gain identifying information.
- Offer to pay for counseling if desired or needed as a follow-up to their search. Remember that it is the adoptee’s story, and the level of information sought needs to be directed by them.
Home study training emphasizes the importance of talking to your child about their adoption from the time they are an infant. Please take some time now to learn about how to practically tell your child’s adoption story through the years, and learn why it’s so important for parents to talk about adoption. Below are helpful articles for you to read:
“Talking With Your Children About Adoption Part A: THE BASICS” by Ellen Singer, Center for Adoption Support and Education
“Talking With Your Children About Adoption Part B: DIFFICULT INFORMATION” by Ellen Singer, Center for Adoption Support and Education
“Talking to Your Child About Adoption: Recommendation for Parents” by Nicole M. Callahan, National Council for Adoption
Pre-Recorded Webinars are offered by ADOPTION LEARNING PARTNERS. Website: www.adoptionlearningpartners.org
Can We Talk? When Kids Start Asking About Adoption
In the car…in the kitchen…at bedtime…it can happen when you least expect it. Your child asks you a question about adoption and you don’t know how to answer it. Join us for a webinar featuring Pat Irwin Johnston, author and adoptive parent, as she discusses common questions kids ask. She addresses how to share tough stuff and how to answer questions with limited information.
Is That My Birth Mom On Facebook?
Online tools like Google and Facebook have revolutionized the way we look for information and connect with one another. Your teen (or even tween) may be searching for birth relatives online. She may also be approached online by a birth relative, or someone posing as one. This webinar will share strategies on talking to your children about searching and preparing them for possible outcomes. It will also identify safety risks and discuss how to avoid them.
Birth Family Search
Birth Family, First Family, Original Family. All terms commonly used for the people who are connected to our children through blood relation. And though we may imagine that our tweens and teens may want to search “someday” for these connections, the truth is that every adoptive family today should be proactively making choices about searching NOW.
This webinar will share the realities of birth family search today and provide tips and tools to make informed choices.
Tackling Tough Adoption Talks
You know talking about adoption is important, but sometimes life isn’t that agreeable. A complicated story, a lack of facts, or information that’s hard to share with your child can make talking about adoption really tough. Join Jayne Schooler as she discusses how to tackle tough talks.
An Insider’s Guide to Identity and Adoption: Real Life Stories. Expert Advice.
A guided discussion on the impact adoption has on identity formation. A panel of adult adoptees shares personal stories from their childhood and teenage years, reflecting back on how openness in adoption factored into their identity formation.
Adoption & Identity: Nature, nurture and the lifelong journey to self.
Michelle Madrid-Branch shares her personal journey and the things that helped and hurt along the way. An adoption-competent therapist joins her with advice on what adoptive parents can do to help foster a healthy sense of self, while keeping their adopted children along the way.
The waiting time is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about adoption and some of the issues that may need your attention as your child grows. We hope you use this as a learning tool to enhance your adoption journey preparation.
If you are a current client with AAI, remember to log onto www.myadoptionportal.com to complete a summary in the Domestic Education section after you have read and reviewed this material.