Whenever someone adopted a child, the first thing I asked was “What can we get you?” It wasn’t until I adopted my own daughter that I realized we actually needed a lot of stuff. We also needed people—to visit us, to answer our parenting questions, and to just be there. I also hadn’t thought about other people who could use gifts not only during the time of placement, but also during holidays as well. With Mother’s Day fast approaching, I always think about gifts that birth mothers would like as well.

Not all gifts cost money. This guide also points out the way that you can give your time to support families who are a part of the adoption triad. 

If you’re searching for ideas to support and celebrate those in the adoption triad, here are some ideas for you!

Finding Special Gifts for Birth Families

Birth parents are truly amazing and inspiring people. It isn’t lost on me that for me to be a mother, someone else gave me her child. It is something that is extremely emotional for me. Anytime my daughter does something cute, smart, awesome, etc., I think of the wonderful woman that allowed me to parent her. (I just cried writing that short paragraph—I can’t say enough about how much I appreciate my daughter’s birth mother). 

There are so many ways we can celebrate birth mothers. If you have an open adoption and give gifts, here are some ideas to consider. If you can, have a conversation with birth parents and/or social workers at your agency about other gifts that might be appropriate as well.

– Handmade items from your child: When I talk to birth mothers, this is something they talk about a lot. Whether your child draws a picture or makes a card for Mother’s Day, this is definitely something that is appreciated. (I also recommend taking your child to a place where he or she can paint pottery or picture frames, etc., that last longer and will be used in the house! As a mom to an artist, it’s often hard to find spots for all of the pictures!)

– Photographs and photo books: This is another thing that birth mothers told me they love to have access to. Maybe you have created a Facebook page for birth families to see photos—and that’s great, but having physical framed photos are often great items to gift. I like photo books too. This is a great way to highlight all of the things your child has done in a year. Children grow so fast, and it’s a fun way to highlight the year. (Pro tip: Order an extra for yourself as this makes a great gift for your child as well!)

– Jewelry: I recently spoke to an adoptee who had a necklace that matched one that her birth mother had. It was an important item to her. There are also many necklaces with the adoption triad symbol. This is one of my favorite necklaces available on Etsy right now.

– Technology to Stay “In Touch”: I’ve been doing my research on these items because I love them so much. We have so many faraway family and friends that I think would benefit from these. If you have a relationship with birth family members where these would be appropriate, I’m obsessed with bond bracelets and friendship/long distance touch lamps! This doesn’t only benefit a birth parent, but your child as well who might be missing relatives. 

Looking for other special gifts for a birth mother? Read this. 

Showering a Couple Who Has Recently Adopted

When you’re an adoptive parent, you may not have a traditional baby shower. Since things can change at a moment’s notice, many people who have adopted had “meet the baby” parties and showers after they received a placement. Here are some ideas to help adoptive families after they’ve come home with a new family member. 

– Give them the gift of your time. One of the things that no one warned me about (because most of my friends had given birth to their children) was how unprepared you feel when you adopt a child and bring him or her home. We didn’t have nine months to get used to the idea of bringing a baby home. One day I was binging Friends and eating popcorn on my couch, and the next, I was a mom, on duty 24/7. I loved having friends come over just to hang out, share stories about parenthood, and help me adjust to my new little person and jarring new reality. As many of you who have been new parents before remember, you don’t leave your house for a while, so stopping by to see someone is often also a gift of social engagement, which is so important!

– Start a meal train. Start a meal train, drop off food, or even have takeout delivered to their house. New parents are adjusting no matter the circumstance, and sometimes, when you’re trying to feed a tiny baby every two hours, you don’t take much time to feed yourself. My husband and I found ourselves eating at a restaurant down the street way too often because grocery shopping in the dead of winter with a new baby wasn’t always a priority. I also couldn’t wrap my head around cooking for a few months. This is a gift of not having to worry about one more thing! 

– Put together nursery parties. Though we had the bare essentials, getting everything for a nursery and walking past that room without a baby in it every day was depressing. We had a lot to do when we brought our little girl home. Since then, when people have asked for suggestions on what they can do for their friends and family who’ve adopted, I’ve encouraged them to find out what that family needs and help them get it all together. Seriously, their life just changed (for the better), and they might not have even thought about putting together the crib they ordered from Amazon when they left the hospital or that they’re going to need a diaper genie like…yesterday. When I read about a group of friends who threw a “Put Together the Nursery Party” for their besties who had just adopted, I loved this idea. They helped get everything together, painted, hung artwork, and washed and put new clothes away. Seriously, this is an amazing idea. Get together with your friends and plan one the next time someone you love adopts!

– Honestly, adoptive parents need everything. I had been around babies. People I loved had babies. I still had no idea all of the stuff I was going to need when I had a baby. I didn’t understand how fast she would grow, how many times I had to change her a day, all of the diapering necessities that were needed, all of the bathtime essentials, etc. My go-to for new parents now? If I had something I loved that made my life easier that first year, I give it as a gift. Getting into the swing of being a parent while also going through the emotional roller coaster that is parenting and adopting is hard. Little things like cute burp cloths, the best bottles ever, and pacifier clips are truly life-changing!

– Celebrate children who are adopted at an older age. Not everyone adopts a baby, and these people need your help and deserve your gifts as well. My sister adopted my niece when she was 5 years old, and we just celebrated her joining our family with a tea party, which was so fun and a memory that she’ll have of her family welcoming her. I also love the idea of experiences for older kids. Many times, older children are coming from foster care, and they may not have had the opportunity to do many things. Think about gifting them with a zoo membership, a gift card to dance classes, etc. Also, reach out to his or her parents. They may be missing major items in their house that they need to help raise their new addition. Though often these adoptions come from a foster placement, that’s not always the case, and these kiddos may need new comforters, clothes, toys, etc. The best gift? Consider babysitting for a bit so that parents can reconnect. No matter how much we love our little ones, we all need a break, and it’s healthy for everyone!

Gifts for Adult Adoptees 

I am blessed to know many adult adoptees. Though I wouldn’t suggest singling them out with a special gift because they’re an adoptee, I would consider seeking special gifts if it’s of interest to them.

I know quite a few adoptees who have begun to search for their biological families. If this is something you’ve chatted with them about and you feel like helping them by buying a DNA kit, etc., that would be helpful—by all means, make that purchase. I’ve gifted adoptees books from the perspective of other adult adoptees as well. 

Nicole Chung’s memoir All You Can Ever Know is still a favorite of mine that I’ve gifted to three friends already! 

Be sensitive and consider your relationship with this individual before purchasing anything. Not everyone wants to find her birth family or read about other adoptees, but if this is something you know she’ll like, consider it!

For more information about DNA kits and finding biological family members, read this article. 

Supporting Adoptive Parents and Birth Parents

One of the best gifts we can give to people as I mentioned earlier is our time. One thing that has been so, so beneficial to me is the time that women of color have spent educating me about hair. When I adopted my daughter, I knew there would be challenges. She is black, and my husband and I are white. I’ve studied cultural competency as part of my career and knew how important it was to ensure that she was represented culturally in our house, in books, in the toys she played with, in the activities that we did, where we traveled, etc. What I didn’t fully understand was hair care. 

So many wonderful women gifted me with products, resources, FaceTime calls while I styled, etc. Not all gifts are tangible. Some are experiences, phone calls, and texts. I wrote about this experience here

Another gift is to be there for this couple. Adopting is emotional. Your joy is because someone else has gone through a very difficult time. You may be a parent, but your child and his or her biological family is going through trauma. These emotions are overpowering at times, and coupled with the sudden lack of sleep, they can be overwhelming. Having someone to talk to is always an amazing gift. This is something I’m not sure I’ve thanked people for enough!

If you know someone who is a birth parent, check in on him or her often. Especially following a placement. Again, what she may need is your time, your presence, and the ability to have someone to talk to. 

Above all, ask how you can help and what she needs. Just asking is a gift. 

Read more about gift ideas for adoptive parents here

You Can Never Go Wrong with a Book!

Many of us who are part of the adoption triad spend our free time educating ourselves about adoption. I love to read from the perspective of adult adoptees so I can be a better parent. I read about transracial adoption, trauma in adoption, etc., constantly. I find that books can be one of the best gifts for families who are impacted by adoption. 

Check out these books for people of all ages. 

Though some of the gift ideas listed are more costly than others, the reality is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to let the people in your life know that you’re there for them. One of the things that I treasure most is an envelope of cards that people sent to me and my daughter from all over the country and the world, welcoming her to our family and sending me a note of encouragement. 

For more ideas about adoption gifts, check out this gift guide!

Julia K. Porter is an educator, writer, and cultural competency consultant. She began her career as a high school English teacher in Brooklyn, NY, and has taught college courses since 2008 and has done nonprofit work. Currently, she is the project manager for Celebrating Cultural uniqueness at Tiffin University. Julia has a passion for diversity and in educating about the nuances of adoption as that is how she chose to grow her family. Julia holds a Ph.D. in Global Leadership from Indiana Tech, an MA in English Literature from Brooklyn College, and a BS in English Education from Indiana University/Purdue University-Indianapolis (IUPUI). Her personal interests include reading, writing, traveling and experiencing new cultures, and knitting. She lives in Indiana with her husband, Kyle, daughter, Brooklyn, and Australian Shepherd, Hunter. For more information, visit www.juliakayporter.com.