Those who have been blessed by adoption want to honor their journey in a meaningful way. Many have used the symbol of adoption to share their love for open adoption. As you can see in this image, the adoption symbol is a triangle interwoven with a red heart. Each side of the triangle symbolizes the adoption triad: adoptive family, birth family, and the adoptee. The heart intertwined represents the love involved in the relationship of adoption!
When you began the adoption process, you might have imagined the day you'll hold your baby in your arms. In your minds’ eye, you see family portraits with parents and children, imagine family vacations, and creating a life with a child to love. But it's important to remember where a birth mother may fit into this story.
Lifetime encourages you to recognize that everyone in the adoption triad plays a role in establishing a healthy, safe life for the child. This doesn’t mean a birth mother should have unchecked access to you and your child, but understanding what each party should (and should not) contribute to the triad is an important first step.
This part of the adoption triad has an obvious role: providing daily care, love, and support for the child. As parents, they're completely responsible for the child from a medical, financial, and emotional standpoint. Adoptive parents are also responsible for helping their child develop a healthy self-esteem as it relates to adoption. This means being open and honest from the beginning that the child was adopted. It means sharing, age appropriately of course, that the child’s birth parents created this adoption plan to provide the best life possible for him or her. Perhaps most importantly, adoptive parents should fully understand that curiosity or questions about birth parents are in no way a statement that they are unhappy with their lives. It is natural to be curious about who we are and where we come from. Addressing these issues openly and honestly are always best.
Adoptive parents have a great responsibility to honor the commitment they made to the birth parents in regards to ongoing contact. If you agreed to send pictures and letters, send them. If you agreed to schedule visits, then schedule them. This is a relationship built on trust and the more proactive you are in maintaining it, the less opportunity it will have to get awkward.
It's likely that someday, if contact doesn’t happen, your child may search out his or her birth parents. You don’t want your child to hear from a birth parent that you promised to keep in touch and then didn’t.
Birth parents are a very important piece of the adoption triad. They'll always have a biological connection to their child, but at the same time, they need to honor their choice and maintain the level of contact they agreed to. It can be hard to manage expectations at times, if they thought, for instance, that the child would still call them "Mom and Dad." Gentle conversations and understanding can help them understand that the child is not confused, but having two sets of parents might be.
You may find that birth parents have made negative choices after placement. If you are ever concerned about your child’s safety, both physical or emotional, it is acceptable to reset the boundaries. However just because some of the choices are not things you may approve of, don’t change the agreement. And always express your concern and hope for them that they get back to a positive place.
Children deserve the truth, provided to them in a manner they can understand. As the child gets older, you may share more or answer questions they have. When you present the truth from the beginning, a child is not confused about who they are or where they came from. It's only when parents wait to tell them that there's a great shock and potential for relationships to crumble. Part of loving your child is loving where they came from, and that includes their birth mother. It may be hard to do, but embracing your child means embracing the challenges you may feel when your child expresses curiosity. This will demonstrate to your child that you are not afraid of the subject and they will continue to entrust you with their thoughts and questions.
The three sides of the adoption symbol may, at times, feel like a delicate balance. By understanding everyone’s point of view and what healthy boundaries look like, fitting everyone into their roles in the adoption triad will result in positive outcomes.