Category Archives: Open Adoption

We’re OK Letting Birth Mom In But Birth Dad is Scary

Question from Kate: I’m close to my son’s birth mother and a few of her family members. But his birth father is incarcerated and is a violent man.

I have some things I’d like to send to my son’s birth mom and her family but I’m concerned about disclosing our address because I don’t want it to get back to the birth father. I’m uncomfortable discussing it with his birth mom because it makes it seem like I don’t trust her with the information. I don’t know what to expect long-term with her and her relationship with my son’s birth father. Suggestions?              ~~ Kate
open adoption advice

How to Have Contact with Birth Mom & Privacy with Birth Dad

Dear Kate: Would it be possible to get a box at a nearby mailbox rental store? UPS and the US Postal Service offer them, as do other packing and shipping places (non-USPS ones look like street addresses). For an annual fee you may be able to keep in contact AND maintain some privacy, until the time you feel more comfortable.

How To Communicate with a Birth Parent

While an offsite mailbox may solve the surface issue, it doesn’t address the deeper issue of communicating clearly with your son’s birth mom. Perhaps the reason that it sounds like you don’t trust her with the information is because you don’t trust her with the information.

Would it be possible to take the very brave step of talking this over with her? Of telling her your concerns in a way you’d like to hear them if the roles were reversed?

I might say something like this:

I’m looking for ways to keep you in the loop, Gina, without exposing us to Rick. Because of all you’ve told us about him, I am sure you can understand why we’re not ready to give him access to us. One day we might be ready, but for now, we feel it’s best that he not have our contact information.

What are your thoughts on that? (pause to listen.) Are you in touch with him, or do you plan to be? (pause to listen.) Where do you think the line should be drawn on what information he has about us? (pause to listen.)

Listen to what she says and attune to her. Do you get the sense that she is able to maintain a wall of privacy for the sake of the son you both love? Do you sense that she doesn’t perceive Birth Dad as dangerous as you do (if so, why)? Do you get the sense that she is trustworthy on this subject?

Simply having this conversation has the potential to take you more deeply into a trusting relationship with Birth Mom, which will serve your son well in the coming years. If you end up still feeling unsettled about the safety of your son and your family, you can still fall back on the offsite mailbox solution.

See also: How to Set Adoption Boundaries
See also:  A Father’s Struggle to Stop His Daughter’s Adoption

Dear Readers, what say you?

~~~

About this Open Adoption Advice Column

  • I may occasionally call on others to help with answers, to tap into group wisdom.
  • I am not trained as a therapist. Please do not rely on words in this space to make your own major or minor decisions.
  • Readers are encouraged to weigh in thoughtfully and respectfully. I ask everyone to remember that this is a teaching endeavor rather than a shaming endeavor, and that we aim to bring light rather than heat. It’s my belief that people do the best they can with what they have to work with, and our goal is to give folks more to work with.

Send in your own open adoption question. I’ll either offer an answer or find someone who can address your issue.

How Can We Open Up Our Adoption When We’ve Been Hurt So?

Question  from a reader asking for open adoption advice

Dear Lavvie: We want an open adoption to avoid a future search for birth parents by our daughter one day, and we don’t want her to have to walk this path alone or to feel like she has to do it behind our backs or without our support.

Your book pushed us to think about our triggers and boundaries. We had a failed adoptive placement prior to adopting our daughter in which we returned a child after 2½ months with us. It was highly traumatic.

We went on to adopt our daughter, now 5, and we are working through our issues. We would like to have a more open adoption someday that includes contact with her birth family. We talk openly and positively with our daughter about adoption and her birth family, and are figuring out how to make the move from Box 3 (low contact + high openness) to Box 4 (high contact + high openness).

How can we navigate our triggers and form appropriate boundaries, in light of the trauma we experienced and the issues we’ve had with a birth parent?

(One example of an issue is that we do not post photos online of our children, but our daughter’s birth parent is posting photos on an unsecured homepage. We were furious because we’d asked please not post photos.)
open adoption adviceMy response: It’s understandable that you would have triggers from a failed placement. And it’s commendable that you’re willing to do your part to heal that trauma. Two things will come of that.

First, healing! Find a trauma-informed therapist in your area (see this excellent state-by-state guide to adoption-competent therapists compiled by Adoption Today magazine) and have that person help you process and release. As I’ve heard said, “what we can feel, we can heal” — which means you’re already primed for healing simply by acknowledging your pain and being willing to release it (sometimes holding on to pain seems like a good idea but really it’s not).

In addition, you’re already doing well in knowing that this past trauma may be affecting your ability to open up. You’re mindful of what may be influencing your openness-in-adoption decisions, which is a strong step forward. [see also Kellie’s comment below, her first point.]

The second benefit  that will come is knowing that healing comes. This means that if/when your daughter is faced with her own grieving and healing one day, you’ll be in position to help her understand that healing can come, will come. You’ll be able to uphold that for her from your own profound experience.

At this time, I would say don’t push Box 4 (but also, don’t push it away). Focus first on cultivating openness within your home, your heart, your relationship with your daughter. This will give you space and time to heal from your wounds and deal with your triggers. As you attune to her long-term needs for her roots, her story, her identity, this very opening to her is what will transform your fear of contact into a desire for contact –the shift into Box 4 that you want to want to make (<== that’s not a typo, wanting to genuinely want something.).

The focus on open-heartedness, on being cautiously vulnerable, will also help make boundary-setting easier. When boundaries are set from a place of love for your daughter rather than fear of hurting your own tender spots, they are more likely to be more functional, effective, appropriate.

Regarding the photos, that sounds like a conversation that needs to be had [please see Kellie’s comment, her second point, below]. You can say to the birth parent (let’s pretend we’re dealing with a mother named Kayla) the same thing you might say to a sister-in-law or aunt who posts pictures after you’ve expressly asked them not to. Firmly yet gently, I would say something like,

Kayla, do you realize that even after we asked you not to, you posted photos of our daughter online? We have reasons why we don’t want pictures made public, and we’re happy to tell you why we think it’s in Daughter’s best interest to have this policy. When you go against our reasonable wishes, it harms our relationship. I’m guessing that you WANT to have a trusting relationships with us, with our daughter, so that we can more fully include you in our lives. When you break our trust, it makes us want to hold back and not even give you the pictures because we think they’ll be misused. Isn’t that the opposite of what you want?

Sometimes I take the tone I would use with a loved one (say, my son or daughter) and use it with the birth parent [please see Kellie’s and Amy’s comments below]. By this I mean even if I’m furious, my goal is not to discharge my anger but to help them find their own reason to change their behavior. To teach them how to treat me instead of to punish them for not doing so.

Dear Readers, what say you?

See also: How to Set Adoption Boundaries

~~~

About this Open Adoption Advice Column

  • Rather than tell people what they should do, instead I say what *I* might do were I in the asker’s position.
  • I reserve the right to call on others to help with answers from time to time, to tap into group wisdom.
  • Please understand I am not trained as a therapist. Please do not rely on words in this space to make your own major or minor decisions.

As always, readers are encouraged to weigh in thoughtfully and respectfully. I ask everyone to remember that this is a teaching endeavor rather than a shaming endeavor, and that we aim to bring light rather than heat. It’s my belief that people do the best they can with what they have to work with, and our goal is to give folks more to work with.

Send in your own question for possible inclusion. Subscribe so you don’t miss anything.