Birth mothers who place their children in a loving adoptive home are a treasure! If that is you, pat yourself on the back. You have made a tough choice in tough circumstances. You chose life, which is the greatest gift you could give to your child. You made a plan for your child, which shows compassion, mercy, and aforethought. You are thinking about your child, which indicates deep love. You will always be your child’s mother, and there will always be that bond there. If you have an open adoption, you will have the opportunity to have input into your child’s life and see how he or she interacts in the family. If you have a closed adoption, that will be tough, and the doubts will be many. However, your love is no less diminished. It is only natural that you would want your child’s adoptive family to have the same love.
Understandably, you may have doubts about the adoptive family who is now raising your child. Will your child be safe in his adoptive family? Will he still remember you? Will he love his adoptive mom more than you? Will the adoptive family make your child a part of their family? Will they love him like their own? These are all valid concerns.
There may also be other ugly emotions that popup from time to time. Jealously, that the adoptive mom is doing a better job of raising your child than you are. Self-loathing, that you put yourself in a situation where you were unable to care for your own child. Anger at the man who made you pregnant. Loneliness if your significant other left you. Depression. All of these emotions are all understandable. The bottom line is that you made a decision in the best interest of your child.
Consider this: there are three beneficiaries of your decision to place your child in a loving adoptive home. In adoptive circles, it is called the adoption triad: the birth mom, the adoptive parents, and the child. First of all, you—the birth mom—are the beneficiary of your decision to bring your baby to term, to place your child for adoption. Perhaps you searched for appropriate adoptive parents on an adoption registry. Perhaps you even had some input as to who your child would be placed with. Perhaps you even have an open adoption where you have some contact with your child. Your choice has been a blessing. Having your child and making a life plan for your child has been empowering.
The second beneficiary has also been the adoptive parents. Perhaps the adoptive mom has been struggling with infertility. Perhaps she has been praying for a child for years. Your child has been that answer to the adoptive mom’s prayers. The circumstances that once were a crisis for you have been a blessing for someone else. A situation that was once bad news has turned into good news for someone else. That is a blessing!
And lastly, the third and most important beneficiary is the child. The child is now a blessing to someone else. This child now has a life, a purpose, and a future. What’s more is that the child has a forever family. You have made a difficult, heart-wrenching decision, but it was also a selfless one.
HOW WILL ADOPTIVE PARENTS MAKE MY CHILD A PART OF THEIR FAMILY?
Let’s face it: this is a real concern. As a birth mom, you had the first bond with your child. When you nourished yourself, you were simultaneously nourishing your child. You felt your child’s first kick inside your tummy. You were the first one to hold your child when she was born. When you decided to bring your baby to term, you were giving your child the greatest gift a mom could give a child: Life! Of course, you still love your child even though you won’t be able to raise him/her. And of course, you want the adoptive family to love your child just like you would.
As an adoption social worker, one of my greatest joys is participating in an adoption finalization. During the proceeding, many judges will admonish the prospective adoptive parents to make their new child a part of the family by providing, protecting, and caring for the new child. This is important because when the adoptive parents are sworn in, they hear this admonition and agree to abide by it. And it is a matter of record that they did so. That cannot be understated.
The question is, will the adoptive family treat your child like a biological child? That is a valid concern. That fear is valid. But I can tell you, as an adoptive father, I love my adopted kids just as much as my biological children. Sometimes, there is a temptation to love them more because they started at such a deficit. But the love is there, nonetheless.
So, what are some of the areas that adoptive parents need to treat their adopted children the same as biological children? Here are some:
– Name change. The first item that begins in the judge’s chambers is the signing of the adoption order which includes a name change. Most adopted children change their last name to match the adopted family’s last name. This shows that the child is truly a part of the family.
It is also a possibility to change the first name of the child as well. If you are a birth mom, you can’t help to be offended if the adoptive parents change your child’s first name. You may be thinking, “I gave her that name! How dare they change it!” That’s understandable. But think of it this way: the adoptive parents are showing tremendous love to your child. They are doing what any biological parent would do for their natural child. Think of it as a gift, not an offense.
– Health care. Although many states provide a form of Medicaid for foster children, this may or may not be the case for adopted children. In any case, be prepared to enroll your child in private insurance. Or perhaps private insurance can be used as a primary and the Medicaid as the secondary. The bottom line is that whatever insurance adoptive parents have their biological children on should be the same as the adopted children.
– Behavioral and mental health care. This may be the most important part of showing love to any adopted child. Here is the question any prospective adoptive parent should ask: “What measures would I take to ensure my biological child received excellent behavioral health?” Whatever that answer is, it should be the exact same as your adopted child. Many adopted children have behavioral health and mental health needs through no fault of their own. And in many cases, through no fault of the biological mom. Some of these needs do not present themselves until adolescence; so even though they may be “good” babies, they may turn into something quite different when the teenage years hit. Adoptive parents need to show love to their adopted child by seeking services to meet their child’s needs. If you are a birth mom, you can help by disclosing any mental health issues you or your family may have since many mental health disorders are hereditary. This way, the adoptive parents will be prepared.
Many adoptive parents feel frustrated and are at their wits’ end when their adopted child’s behaviors are out of control. They feel guilty. They feel like giving up. They feel like they have no choice but to disrupt a potential adoptive placement. Or if the child has been living with them for a while, they may be tempted to dissolve the adoption altogether, which is a legal action, similar to divorce. But there are other measures than can be taken, not nearly as drastic such as counseling, medication, respite, mentoring, and wilderness camps. All these options should be researched and considered, keeping in mind the question, “What would I do if this child was my biological child?”
– Advocate for your child. If you are a birth mom, you will have no stronger advocate in your child’s corner than their adoptive parents! Whether it’s fighting for special accommodations for your special needs child, defending your child against bullies, or helping your child to get the assessment he needs to determine whether he needs medication or not, an adoptive mom can be like a mama bear defending her cubs! You should have nothing to worry about.
– Same sleeping arrangements. Unless there are extraordinary reasons why an adopted child shouldn’t share a room with a biological child, they can sleep in the same room.
– Same school. If the adopted child and the biological child are around the same age, they should go to the same school. The only exceptions should be if the adopted child has special needs or behavioral issues.
Here is the reality: it is sometimes difficult to seamlessly transition a child into an already established family. It is not because there is anything wrong with the idea of adoption itself, but because each adopted child brings with him his own history, which could be far different from the adoptive family. Some older children have difficulty making the transition from their former life to their new “forever” family. Some younger children or infants already have special needs that will last a lifetime. So, in a way, the child does need to be treated differently, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. An adopted child is a special needs child by virtue of the fact that she is separated from her biological family. As a matter of fact, if the adoptive family does not treat the special needs child differently, we would wonder about their level of commitment. Remember this: different doesn’t mean unfair; it means the child is getting what she needs. Nevertheless, there can be some barriers to a child becoming fully assimilated into a family. Here are some:
– Transracial adoptions. When a white family adopts a black child, the differences are obvious. The differences in appearance, culture, and customs can make assimilation difficult. Also, everyday things such as food preferences, hairstyles, and skin complexion can make transracial adoptions hard. But it doesn’t mean that the adoptive parents love them any less. It just takes humility, flexibility, and teachability in order to make it work. They will need help from the outside. Who would be the best candidate to help bridge this gap? The biological mother! You can teach the adoptive mom about hairstyles, skincare, and family history. This alliance between two moms is not detrimental to your child. Quite the opposite!
– Behavioral issues. Many international children have experienced war, poverty, and abandonment. Many domestically adopted children have experienced abuse or neglect as well. With these unfortunate experiences come a level of trauma that other children have not experienced. And with this trauma comes different behavior issues such as food hoarding, self-harm, rage, and depression—even in infants. Adoptive parents must be prepared to handle these behaviors.
– Developmental disabilities. Many adopted children come with developmental disabilities, in other words, disorders that they were born with such as Down syndrome, autism, and epilepsy. They will need special attention their entire lives.
– Learning disabilities. Many adopted children are delayed in many areas, but especially educationally. It is very likely that they will need accommodations in school or perhaps a special school that can meet their educational needs.
Whatever their needs, adoptive parents show love by going the extra mile to see that their new child gets what she needs, just like they would if she was a biological child.
To be honest, society treats adopted kids differently. In movies, it is always the adopted kid that acts oddly. It is society that came up with the phrase “bad genes” to describe adopted children. But adoptive parents don’t think that way. May adoptive parents view it as their mission in life to care for adopted kids and that their adopted children were supposed to be with them all along. They are passionate about this mission and about caring for their adopted children the rest of their lives. It is not a burden, is it a blessing! If you’re a birth mom, rest assured that the adoptive family has unconditional love for your child just as strong as that for a biological child!
Derek Williams is an adoption social worker and has been in the field of child welfare and behavioral health since 2006, where he has assisted families in their adoption journeys. He and his wife started their own adoption journey in 1993 and have 8 children, 6 of whom are adopted. His adopted children are all different ethnicities, including East Indian, Jamaican, and Native American. He loves traveling with his family and is an avid NY Mets fan! Foster care and adoption is a passion and calling for Derek and he is pleased to share his experiences with others who are like-minded.