The relationship between adoptive parents and their child’s birth parents can take many forms. In some cases, communication is limited to letters and photos distributed via the adoption agency. Other families opt for more direct contact with their child’s birth parents. Whatever the case may be, navigating this unique relationship can require special care and consideration. To help families address common issues as they arise, Deb Shrier, LICSW of Adoption Resources has answered three real-life questions from adoptive parents.
Q: In letters written by my 3-year-old daughter’s birth mom, Geri, she continues to call our daughter “Jennifer,” which is the name she had given her at birth. Should I remind Geri that our daughter’s name is Emily? I am concerned that Emily might be confused or upset when she eventually reads these letters.
A: This issue comes up in all different ways for adoptive families. For your daughter’s birth mom, she remembers her daughter as “Jennifer.” Perhaps that name has meaning for Geri, and that might be something you ask when you write back. At some point, when you share the letters with your daughter, she might ask why Geri refers to her as “Jennifer,” and you can explain that it was her birth name. It’s another opportunity to share bits and pieces of your daughter’s birth story.
Q: It’s been 10 years since our twins were born, and we have continued to send letters and pictures to the agency. We’ve asked the social worker if our children’s birth parents have requested the information, and we’ve been told that the birth parents have not been in touch with the agency since our twins were 2 years old. Should we even bother to keep up with the photos and letters?
A: At the time of placement, you likely signed a document stating that you will provide annual letters and pictures for the birth parents until the children are 18 years old. It is important to honor this agreement. While your children’s birth parents may not be requesting the information at this time, there may be a reason why. For instance, they could have moved and did not contact the agency with an updated address. We have had situations where birthparents reach out to us after several years to request whatever letters/pictures might be in the file. We suggest making copies of whatever is sent to your twins’ birth parents so that you can show your children.
Q: When we had our last meeting with Sara, our daughter’s birth mom, she asked for my email address so we can write to each other directly. At this point, I’m not completely comfortable with it – I’m not even sure why. I told her that I would check with my social worker and get back to her about it.
A: Oftentimes, adoptive parents set up a separate email or photo/letter exchange account just for communication and photo sharing with birth parents. That way, birth parents have an opportunity to check it when they are able, and adoptive parents can share pictures at any time. Some of the websites that current clients have used include 23snaps, Dropbox, and SmugMug.
If you have your own questions about what it is like to be an adoptive parent, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Adoption Resources. To get in touch with one of our counselors, please call us at 800-533-4346 or fill out our contact form.