Contact With Birth Families - From Fear To Favor
As adoptive parents we face many challenges and obstacles on our adoption journey, and it doesn’t end when our precious ones come home either. Adoption is a truly life long journey with our children. Just like we have phases of parenting (Commander, Coach, Counselor, Consultant), we have phases of adoption.
In our experience as parents so far, and what we expect to come, there are several phases in adoption as far as walking it with our children is concerned. There’s the preparation phase as we get ready to adopt, the honeymoon phase where everything seems ‘warm and fuzzy’ as we bring our kiddos home, then the reality phase where our kids’ deeper healing needs surface and the reality of the joys and challenges of adoption are walked out. This last phase is really the longest because it doesn’t ever stop.
During this phase is where we walk out and face the fears we may have about ongoing contact with our children’s birth families.
I’ve had people ask curious questions about birth family contact, and much of it is from a fear of how this may affect your child’s emotional well-being, or whether your child would hurt you as they desire to know more or seek relationship with their birth mom or dad, leaving you feel like you’re ‘not really the parent’ by seeking something you can’t give them. All adoptive families have had these fears. I believe God has called me to share with you something positive that I pray will encourage you in this realm.
Some of our children have come to us through the foster care system, and obviously the circumstances of our children’s arrival into our family was different than many domestic or international adoption situations, but the question of ongoing contact with our kids’ birth families remains the same.
As parents of children adopted from ‘the system’ we were not obligated to continue any contact if we didn’t want to. We had no agency agreement to even send letters or pictures. Sometimes the frustration of how ‘the system’ treated our children made us feel like we had ‘a right’ to leave that stuff in the past, but we always tried to see things how our kids might see them. Regardless of how good or bad their history was, it is still their history nonetheless.
So, we adopted a policy with our kids of being factual, honest, gracious and open-minded and open-hearted about their birth families. We have always spoken respectfully about their birth families. We have honored them by sending pictures, updates and notes to them. We have put pictures of our children with their birth families on the wall in our home.
We also decided to make a trip and visit the birth families face to face. We hope to do this for all our children eventually. The two trips we’ve made for 6 of our children to see their birth families was something we walked carefully, appropriately and with the full disclosure to our children. We set things up, made the journey and even though there were moments when we felt that this ‘could get weird’, we earnestly put aside our fears as parents for the sake of our children and waited expectantly for God to continue to make something beautiful of the broken road previously traveled.
We had fun, took pictures, sang songs, went for a walk, remembered the good things and created good new memories for everyone.
We came away, and we were still the parents, still the ones our kids turn to when they have a need, still the ones that will forever be ‘Mom & Dad’ to our kids, but something happened that I didn’t expect to happen. I thought we’d ‘chit chat’ and ‘hang out’, but I was deeply touched when I saw the new life the birth families were living, where healing and growth had taken place in them, where healing and growth had taken place in our kids, and even in us as the adoptive parents. We discovered a sense of real hope, we experienced reconciliation, we saw new purpose, and much peace was experienced by each party.
I don’t think anyone came away feeling like anyone was ‘stuck’. It felt like we were all freer.
Don’t you hate that term “It is what it is”? Maybe it grinds on you, but adoption is what it is. Adoption is not about pretending to be something you’re not, you can’t often easily hide it, it isn’t pretty, there is much loss in adoption, it’s hard and definitely not for the ‘faint of heart’. We were not promised comfortable or easy as believers. Obedience is accompanied by real sacrifice.
However, embracing adoption in its entirety, and holding onto the hand of Jesus as we go has been our story, and we’ve never looked back. No secrets. No lies. Just honest, open conversation and a willingness to walk with our kids through their adoption life. The result - trust. We want our kids to always come to us about anything, especially when they want to talk about their birth family.
The fear? That was something we let “The Enemy” make into a bigger deal. Our heavenly Father, however, has shown all of us His favor as we have reached out in courage and love to the birth families of our children. Plus, it’s not all about us anyway, is it? We often forget to think about all the fear and regret the birth families may be feeling. Reaching out and loving them will do more for them than you can ever know or imagine. What an amazing witness of love our children will see when we love their birth family like that.