We hear from prospective adoptive parents pre-adoption that they feel that the expectant woman holds all the cards. We hear from birth mothers post adoption that they feel that adoptive parents hold all the cards. As uncomfortable as it may be to admit, there is some truth to both of these sides. So how do we cross the divide in a way that facilitates an ongoing relationship where the child can flourish. Because after all, that is what both sides should be focused on—how they can establish an ongoing relationship where the child in in the middle, but not “caught” in the middle.
Both Sides Afraid of Being Judged
Lack of communication is the bane of many relationships, but none more so than the relationship between prospective birth mothers and adoptive parents. Each side feels vulnerable. Each side is afraid of being judged. When fear governs, true communication seldom happens, and lack of communication almost inevitably leads to problems in the future. It’s not easy for either side to talk about some of the issues that must be discussed. Adoptive parents want to be chosen by the expectant woman, and are tempted to agree to anything. Expectant women are in crisis and often aren’t sure what they want. Fear and confusion rein.
Creating a Family pushes constantly for good counseling for expectant woman and adoptive families, but this doesn’t always happen and even when it does happen, all too often we hear that the deeper issues are never discussed until after the adoption. Some of this is inevitable since how in the world can either birth parents or adoptive parents anticipate how the relationship should develop. People change; life circumstances change; thus our goal in the pre-adoption discussions needs to be on setting a basic framework for the relationship and agreeing on a way to make changes as needed. Use the following ten topics as a discussion starter. What other topics would you add???
Ten Essential Topics Every Adoptive Parent and Prospective Birth Mother Must Discuss Before Adopting
- What does open adoption mean to you?
- What is your philosophy of openness and who is considered “family”?
- Draw a picture with circles to show where you think adoptive parents and birth parents stand in relation to the child as an infant, at age 8, 18, and 28?
- Describe how you envision the relationship when the child is different ages?
- How would you react if the birth parent or birth family asked for the child to attend a birth family reunion with extended family members?
- How might you handle the open relationship if either the adoptive parent of birth parent moves?
- What form of communication works best for you: phone, in person meeting, emails, Facebook, letters to each other, letters via your adoption agency?
- Whose responsibility is it to initiate contact?
- Is it important to either adoptive or birth parents that they be able to name the child?
- What should either the adoptive parents or the birth parents do if they want to alter the openness arrangement?
- How would you like to be told if the other side feels that you have overstepped the boundaries?
- What do you want the child to call the birth mother?
- How would the birth parents like to be remembered on the child’s birth day, Mother’s Day, and Christmas or Chanukah?
- What role do you envision the birth extended family members (birth grandparents, aunts and uncles) to have in the openness arrangement?
Would you add anything to the list?Image credit: Sean Driellinger