Whether you are an adoptive or birth parent, you are bound to have endless amounts of questions about the adoption process and about others involved. This is completely normal. What you are about to embark on will be one of the hardest and possibly the most rewarding journeys of your life. It is only normal to have questions for both your agency and the other members of the adoption triad. It is important that you think about what your questions may be early on. You will want to get to know each other quite well, and it is normal to ask a multitude of questions. There may be some vital adoption questions that you have as an adoptive or birth parent that you will need to think of before you place with someone or before you accept a placement. Take some time and flesh out these adoption questions with others in your family or people that you trust so that you do not miss anything. Also, further research articles like this one to find out what adoptive and/or birth parents have asked each other in the past. Being fully informed before making any decision will be vital to a successful adoption journey and a continued relationship.
Open or Closed
The topic of open or closed adoption is always the very first topic I encourage birth and adoptive parents to discuss. This is so vitally important. You must know before embarking on an adoption journey whether the other party wants an open or closed adoption and what that looks like for them. You do not want to find out months down the line that one party is hoping for something that the other party cannot deliver.
Many of the most heartbreaking scenarios that I have heard in my time as an advocate in the adoption world have been around this topic. This may be that a birth parent wanted an open adoption only to find out that the adoptive parents only wanted to send updates once a year. On the flip side, it may be that an adoptive parent had hope for an open adoption only to find out that the birth parents wanted it completely closed. Both of these scenarios happen and both can be avoided by having an open and honest discussion early on. Build your trust in one another with this question and answer it truthfully. If you are an adoptive parent who is not comfortable with an open adoption then do not agree to it. Not only is this manipulative but it is completely unethical.
If you are a birth parent who wants an open adoption, be clear about that from the beginning. Do not feel pressured into a placement where the adoption is not open. You will find someone to place your child with who is okay with an open adoption. Do not place your child until you feel comfortable. Open adoption can be incredibly successful and healthy for your child. Take time to look into the differences between open and closed adoption to decide what you would like and move forward from there. Make sure that whether you are an adoptive or birth parent that you are open and honest about your expectations. Speak to each other about what open or closed adoption will look like for your situation as that may not mean the same to each party. While open adoptions are not always legally enforceable, speak with your agency about putting something in writing so that you both understand what is expected of each side.
Religion and Discipline
The questions you will want to ask surrounding religion and discipline will vary based on whether you are an adoptive or birth parent. If you are a birth parent, it is completely common to ask this question of the adoptive parents with whom you intend to place your child. While you will not be raising your child, it is only normal to want your child to grow up in a home with which you are comfortable. You may not be comfortable with the family who has a religion different than your own. You may have been brought up as a certain religion and want that for your child. That is completely your choice and completely something for which you can advocate. You may also not want your child to grow up in a home where physical discipline is an option. You may have grown up in a home where people yelled and not want that for your child.
My husband and I both really strive to have our children grow up in a home that does not have physical discipline or yelling. It is completely normal to still have hopes, dreams, and general expectations for how your child is raised. You will still want what’s best for them and it is completely acceptable to ask these questions. You will likely be the one choosing the adoptive placement for your child, so knowing all of the information you can will be important.
If you are an adoptive parent, you may ask these questions of a birth parent to see if there’s any way you can honor a certain culture or religion. You may want to ask these questions just to find out if there is some sort of expectation about religion or discipline. For you, it will be more to make sure that you are a good match for this family especially if there will be an open adoption. These are great questions to ask just to find out the background of a child’s birth parents as well so that you may inform your child more about where they came from or know more about interactions they may have in the future in the case of an open adoption.
Questions surrounding family history may be more important to adoptive parents than to birth parents. The question of family history will be important for your child’s health as they grow. It will be vital to know if the birth family has any allergies or anything that is genetic that may be an issue for the child. My youngest child developed an allergy to strawberries early on. Thankfully, we had already known that his birth father was allergic to strawberries. For this reason, we did not introduce them to him until he was over the infant stage. Knowing what we knew, we were careful about introducing any sort of fruits to him and did it only in small batches. Knowing this information saved us from having to deal with a severe allergic reaction. On the other hand, I had a friend who had a child who was adopted in a closed adoption situation. He had a severe reaction very early on to a food that may have been avoidable had they known his family history of allergens.
As an adoptive parent, it may feel awkward asking about family history and it may be something that you ask once you have built a stronger relationship. However, it’s really important and just smart to ask. It is likely that the birth family will be completely understanding about why these questions are being asked. Speak with your doctor about questions that would be important to ask a birth family so that all of your bases are covered. Even if you have a closed adoption it may also be wise to see if the birth family would be comfortable leaving information with your agency or with a trusted party so that if something does come up you can ask those types of questions through a third party as your child grows. There may be a physical or mental illness that occurs where treatment could be delivered more quickly upon knowing the family history.
If you are a birth parent, you may want to know the adoptive family history simply out of curiosity but also so that you know if there is a history of people dying young in their family. Will the birth parents be subject to certain genetic diseases that may affect their care for your child? Has anyone in the family died early from cancer that runs in the family? Is there a history of mental illness that may challenge the adoptive parent’s ability to care for the child? This question isn’t as commonly asked of adoptive parents, but it is certainly a valid question. Use your discretion on whether or not this is something that will matter to you or that you feel you should ask.
Further expounding upon the idea that a birth parent may want to know more about how their child will be raised, it may be wise or something that you find as important to ask an adoptive family about their values. The values with which your child will be raised may mean a lot to you. You may want to know if the adoptive family values family time and extended family. You may want to know if they value going to church together, traveling, or being in nature. Values can be anything from religion to cultural beliefs to ways they live their lives. You may want to place your child with a family who has the same values or similar values as you. It may be important for your child to grow up in a family that values certain things that your own family did not value as you were a child. Think about the hopes and dreams you have for a child and what type of family you hope they grow up in. Ask about these values and see if it’s something that each prospective adoptive family holds dear.
As an adoptive parent, you may want to ask the birth family about their own values just to get to know them more. This may be especially true in an open adoption situation. You will want to know as much as you can about each other in order to build a relationship and trust. Getting to know the values each one holds will be important in building a bond and also gauging compatibility for placement.
If you are entering an open adoption, knowing the future plans of both sides will be incredibly important. Even if you live close to one another at this time, either party may have plans to eventually move away. They may eventually have plans to change their occupation. They may simply not know where they will be in five years. In order for an open adoption situation to work, there has to be a certain level of communication and trust. It is important that both parties communicate what their plans are with the understanding that those plans may change. We may not know what will happen five years from now, but we can give our best idea. My husband and I do not plan on moving out of the state that we were are in, but we were clear with our child’s birth parents that we did not know what the future holds. However, we made it clear that we were committed to an open adoption and would do the best that we can to maintain that communication whether through video or physical visits as our children grew. Future plans will be something that both parties will need to discuss and have a general understanding of what will happen in the event that future plans make open adoption more difficult. This is not necessarily a make-or-break for any adoption plan, but something that is just important to discuss.
The more you discuss topics that bring a sense of openness and trust, the better communication and better footing on which your adoption journey can begin. Think of any questions you would want to know of the family that you are going to be in a relationship with for years to come. With open adoption becoming more and more popular, this is becoming more and more important. If you are a birth parent, ask any questions that you may have pertaining to things that are important to you. If it’s important for you to know an adoptive parent’s religious beliefs, make sure to ask about that. As an adoptive parent, you can ask a birth family anything that would be important for you to know for the sake of your child. You may want to try to be less intrusive being on this side of the adoption triad, but you will likely still have a desire to ask questions and may find certain questions such as health questions vitally important. Consult with your adoption professional on some common adoption questions and also continue to educate yourself. If you have questions as your adoption journey continues, don’t be afraid to pose those. The end result is that you will feel that your placement is one of mutual respect, understanding, and open communication.
Lita Jordan is a master of all things “home.” A work-from-home, stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of five. She has a BA in Youth Ministry from Spring Arbor University. She is married to the “other Michael Jordan” and lives on coffee and its unrealistic promises of productivity. Lita enjoys playing guitar and long trips to Target. Follow her on www.facebook.com/halfemptymom/.