Why Should We Stay in Touch with the Birth Family?

Something deep inside of each us wants to explore our life story. We sit at the feet of our grandparents to hear stories about our family history. Many research through endless records to find out their ancestry. But what if you were adopted and didn’t know who your family was?

 

Not every adopted child has the opportunity to know much if anything about their biological family. They might have been adopted from an orphanage that has no information about their family. Or, their adoptive family might have decided to not pass on their biological family information.

In years past, the common school of thought was that it was best for everyone for the adopted child to cut ties with their biological family. State laws commonly close adoption records until a child is 18. If the adoptive family chooses to not stay in touch with the biological family, finding them years later can prove to be very difficult.

Here in the U.S. adoptees many times struggle getting access to information about their birth parents or family. If they are able to get information, they can spend years tracking down someone from their biological family.

Thankfully organizations like Adoption Registry Connection and The ALMA Society help adoptees and birth families find each other and reconcile.

Our son’s records are closed

As many of you know, we adopted our son from foster care. He was placed with us when he was eight-months-old. He turned two-years-old just a few weeks after we adopted him. By state law his adoption records are closed. His birth family can’t access them. In fact they didn’t know for sure that we adopted him. Our son can’t access them until he turns 18. If he will know anything about his birth parents and extended family before he is 18, he will have to learn that from us.

We got to know different members of his biological family during the first several months of his placement in our home. After we adopted our son, we were open to keeping in touch with his biological family. That was over two years ago, and even though I think they still live in our area, we have not remained in contact.

As we approach another holiday season, my thoughts turn back to the idea of reconnecting with his biological family. Danielle and I are open to sending our son’s biological family updates at least once a year that includes pictures and a letter with milestones reached, activities and interests.

What is the purpose?

First, our son probably will want to know his life history. Yes, we are a part of his story, but he will want to know where he came from. We want him to know his story. Staying in touch with his birth family can help us answer his questions when he asks.

Second, I expect that eventually one day our son will want to know who his biological family is. We want to save him the hassle of searching for them by keeping in touch with them.

Don’t want fear to drive our decisions.

Fear of hurting our son. Fear of him rejecting us. Fear of complicating life. I guess any or all those could happen and more, but I don’t want the fear of what might go wrong drive our decision to stay in touch with his biological family.

I pray for wisdom and insight as we move in that direction. Maybe this year we can set up a way to send his birth family pictures and an update. I imagine that they would like to know that he is loved, smart, good-looking, funny…the list goes on.

What we do today really can make the future potential reconciliation go so much smoother. Besides, he should know his own life story.

If you are an adoptee or birth parent, have you reconciled with the biological family? Have any insight for us and other adoptive families?

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Kennethcamp3d

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I am a longtime Austinite. Married my beautiful wife over 25 years ago. Adopted our son September 2012. Currently a writer and loving it. Previous jobs and careers include project management, missionary, and pastor. I enjoy sports (both watching and playing), traveling, reading, digging in dirt and hanging with my friends and family.

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5 thoughts on “Why Should We Stay in Touch with the Birth Family?

  1. Donna and Heather…thank you both for taking the time to share your experiences with birth families. Even though your experiences have been very different, both of your comments give some invaluable insight, not only for us, but also for other readers.
    A common thread of which I have written about before is that it seems important that our children at least know there life stories. Even though this often times can be difficult for them to process, it is a part of their tapestry.
    May we be wise as we help each child know who she is and from where they come.
    Thanks again!

  2. My thoughts…..
    Hello, we have quite a different story from the one below. We have openness with birth families which includes visits, phone calls and some face book with various members of the family. When we decided to do this type of openness, our thought was … what if this was our niece, nephew, or our families grandchild, niece or nephew. Wouldn’t we/they want the opportunity to keep in touch? So.. we started getting to know our new family. Over the years, we adopted three more half siblings. We have openness with some of their parental biological family but not the father with one. With another, it is the aunt and the grandparents. Two of our children have openness with birth fathers and family. It takes work and lots of communication and of course, age appropriate explanations to the kids. However, we would not change this for the world. A while ago, the kids oma described to our kids the day that their birth mother became part of their family. This was a story, I could never have told with the same emotion and detail. With our three oldest, we were able to visit the hospital when the fourth child was born. It was awesome because we could tell them that this is where they were born, this is what happened when their birth mother had them etc. Our kids are so very lucky to not only have our family’s love but the love of their biological family as well. We also gained more extended family as the kids have other siblings with different adoptive parents whom we are also in contact with. Sure there are some worries but in our case, being open has worked. With one of the children’s birth father, it took a while because it wasn’t safe, however, he changed his life and we now have a great relationship with him and his family. We believe that this is a blessing for all of us. If it is at all possible, take your time and get to know whomever you can in the birth family. Jot down the information, take pictures, get to know them, discuss what you are comfortable with and keep doing that over the years. Sometimes adjustments need to be made. When our third child was adopted, we waited 6 months before connecting for a physical visit just because we needed that time as a family to attach and to heal as it wasn’t a pleasant court process. Go with your heart. Once adoption is final, it is up to you, the parent what you do as far as openness. The child is usually made crown ward without access, so they can be adopted, however, that doesn’t mean there can’t be openness after adoption. I must add, it took years before birth family knew our last name, they still don’t know where we live exactly, However, that isn’t an issue with them and there aren’t any safety issues anymore with any of the families.

  3. Having adopted five girls that involve four and a half different sets of birth families (two of the girls are half siblings), we have had different experiences. We told all of them that at 18 we would help them search for their birth parents.

    Obviously, having the freedom to contact a birth family member would be good in order to learn about the medical history. The files we have on our girls do not necessarily give us the information to fill in the blanks at the doctor’s office. It can become quite frustrating.

    The first daughter, (B’s) dad came to our house a few times when she was 3 and 4 then moved to another state. She was removed from birth mom and dad was not available to take her for a few years. He asked us to adopt her as he felt she would have a better life with us rather than with a man and his sons. We kept in touch with grandparents and even stayed at their home in another state once. When B was 12 1/2 and life in our home was tough, she wanted to live with birth dad and birth brothers. After lots of therapy, we agreed and sent her out to him. A long and bad ordeal occurred over the months there and she ended up back with us after learning “the grass was NOT greener on the other side.” It did grow her however, into finally accepting our rules and allowed her to let go of birth family and love us. Now, 13 years later, she is getting to know two half-sisters, an aunt, and (carefully) birth mom through FB. The therapist told us that at age 12 kids can handle the details of why they were placed in foster care and why parental rights were terminated. I think that knowledge increased undesirable behaviors at that time…hence the extreme difficulty we had before allowing her to move away. We are excited for the day that we get to meet the sisters and the aunt. It has been great to be friends on FB (they requested to be my friend too) and get to know them and pray for them. I will say, the first FB message came from the aunt and shook B up. She came straight to me even though she was about 21 asking what she should do. We decided that B would tell the aunt to FB me and ask me to be her friend so that I would get to know her first. A few months later, B was finally interested when she felt safe. The day birth mom sent her a FB request two years later; terrified was the best way to describe B. After several months of a lot of discussion and ignoring the request, B said yes just to see pictures and other information that may arise. I don’t think B contacts birth mom. I do know that we had to reassure B that we love her, she is OUR daughter, God brought her to US for a reason, and we will continue to support and protect her always.

    The second daughter, (M) is interesting. She had a severe heart problem so her parents were order to attend the doctor’s appointments that I took her to regarding her heart. I got to know both of them barely, because they either slept or talked on a phone. However, several months later, a case worker accidentally said our last name. The birth mom promptly must have looked us up in the phone book that printed our address as well. I began receiving calls every 6 – 7 months and just took notes on everything she was telling me. I learned a lot about her and her new boyfriend (not M’s dad). We chose not to change our number because we did not feel threatened by her calls. About 6 years ago, birth mom shared with me that she had been attending church because she knew we did and that she thought we had adopted her daughter after fostering her for 1 1/2 years so she wanted to be a Christian and know how to live when her daughter found her at 18. She finally asked me to pray with her so she could become a believer. WOW! I never dreamed our ministry to become foster and adoptive parents would have that kind of an impact on the birth family. During M’s teen years, we talked about birth family and prayed for them. Again, behavior became very difficult (I think from denial of parents history). The week before M turned 18, she got on a friends FB and messaged birth mom. Immediately, birth mom called me in hysterics, asking if that was her daughter, saying she looks like her. M told me what she had done and I was furious. I had asked her to wait until the actual birthday because with this one, we were under court order not to let her meet any birth family until 18. I also wanted to protect my friend’s feelings because she had difficulties understand why things happened as they did because she loved her daughter. When birth mom called me, I asked her what time she got off work. My husband and I met her with a folder of pictures I had spent the day putting together. I felt we needed to explain why we had never told her we had M and help “grow her daughter up” before she actually met with her. I knew M wanted to see what she could get from birth mom because M was in a very materialistic phase. We arranged a birthday dinner at a restaurant so birth mom could attend. It was a nice way to meet. Birth mom has been desperately trying for the last two years to get a chance to know her daughter only to be shut down by her. That part is very sad. It has increased the phone calls for me to deal with because what I thought would happen between them did. When we got M, she was 6 weeks, she is now 20 and birth mom and I are friends by phone. M found cousins from birth dad’s side on FB and contacted them. It has been very messy and caused fights for her with them. They don’t accept her. I think her wandering behavior now at 20 is a result of her stepping out on her own with both sides of her birth family and finding that none of them are grounded and most of them make extremely poor choices. M has become very untrustworthy over the past few years. Now, she is requesting to move back home with us so she can get her life together – in one month.

    The third and fifth daughters, (MM and K) have yet another story. MM came to us at 4 weeks. We had nothing of the birth family – no contact, no pictures, etc. We adopted her at 1 yr and life was good. Just over 4 ½ years later, we were called with her little sister. She came at 2 days old straight from the hospital as a legal risk placement. MM loved K but did not know they were sisters. The first court hearing for K was on MM’s birthday. An uncle was there so we took pictures. We had K with us but MM was not because she had been adopted 3 yrs earlier. He asked about MM upon learning K had been placed with the people that had adopted her sister. (The aunt and uncle did not know about MM due to birth mom’s lies. The aunt and uncle had been asked about taking K as a placement but they felt she should be with her sister so they could grow up together.) The uncle gave us money for MM for her birthday. Again, life was good – no fear of K leaving. We told MM on her 5th birthday that K was her birth sister and where the money for her had come from. Then there was another court hearing and birth mom attended and a worker brought the girls’ birth half-brother. We took pictures and finally had something regarding the birth mom for MM (and also K) when she was older. Then, when K was 9 months old, visits with birth mom began. We were filled with fear because we knew it was not a safe plan for K’s life, however, two months later, they stopped. As MM became a teen, I would occasionally ask her if she was interested in finding out about her birth mom. She just wanted to see a picture and then did not care to see anything more for a while. Eventually, we decided to try and meet the birth aunt and uncle so she could know her cousins. They were safe enough and we were hoping to meet at a public park. It never happened. Each time I would give a suggestion of times we could meet, communication would stop. This was in spite of the fact the aunt said she was interested. Neither MM nor K seems interested at this point. I did a FB search on names I had been given and found pictures of other aunts and cousins I have saved to a file for the girls. I see many physical similarities to the aunts and cousins. The girls are content knowing I have the pictures if they decide to look at them again. I will help them when they decide they are ready.

    Our fourth daughter, (AM), came at 8 weeks with pictures of many siblings. I cherish those pictures and maybe one day AM will as well. I wonder constantly about AM’s birth family. I have notes on paper that I have chosen not to share with her yet because I know she would be upset and I saw how well that worked with the first two. Besides, I am waiting for her to ask and she knows I am willing to talk. This story is yet to unfold as I have no information on where the siblings are – those that aged out of the system and those that were adopted. She is fearful knowing that birth mom should be released near AM’s 18th birthday. We have let her know birth mom cannot find her and she is safe.

    I have tried to let the girls know they are free to ask questions any time and I will try my best to answer those questions or find them out and let them know. For school projects, they usually asked if it was okay to just use our family for their work. My answer and proudly stated, “Of course!” I tell them I could not love them any more than I already do if I had given birth to them myself.

  4. I’m anxious to hear input from adoptees. As we look forward to the upcoming adoption of our foster daughter,we wonder how to best store/share bio info with her… How much and when? Do we share info with the bio family? Meet them? Leave well enough alone?