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Honoring Agreements with Birth Parents
June 11, 2018
Establishing an agreement for contact between birth parents, the adoptive family and the adoptive child(ren) is an important part of the adoption process as a whole. Adoptions can be completely closed, completely open or anywhere in between. Some birth parents request only developmental and/or and yearly updates. Others want to be able to have continual phone conversations and meetings. Some birth parents do not want any contact at all. Regardless of what agreement you have established with your child's birth parents, it is important that everyone respects the arrangement in the best interest of the child.
The New York Times published two personal stories about breaking contact agreements between an adoptive family and a birth family. In the first story, the birth mother and the adoptive parents agreed that the adoptive son could seek out his biological mother when he was 18 with their permission or 25 without their permission. As he grew up, the adoptive mother wanted a more open relationship with him, sending letters and requesting additional meetings. When he was in college, she found him online and invited him to her wedding. The adoptive family was not happy that the birth mother disregarded their agreement.
In the other story, the birth mother and the adoptive parents agreed to have a completely closed adoption. The birth mother was not interested having a relationship with the child, and she did not even want her name shared with the child. To her surprise, when the child was a young adult, the adoptive mother gave her the birth mother's name, and she sought her out. The birth mother was not happy that the adoptive mother disregarded their agreement.
In both cases, the child stands to be hurt. Having an agreement in the first place creates boundaries that help the adoptive family and the birth family protect the child best. Each family is different, but they choose a course of action that will best suit everyone's needs, especially the child's. In the first story, the birth mother ignored the arrangement to satisfy her desire to create a more open relationship with the child, but it put him in a very awkward situation with his adoptive parents. In the second story, the adoptive mother was likely trying to provide answers to her daughter, but it put her daughter at risk of being rejected.
As you enter into an agreement with a birth parent in your adoption journey, make sure that it will work for everyone involved. And if something changes as the child grows, be open, honest and protective of the child's heart.