Here is a texting conversation from earlier this week between me and a friend of ours who has a family with two adopted foster kids, just like us:
Do you worry about the kids’ birthparents knowing your last names? Do they know them? Our Xmas card has our last name on it…not sure if we should send it or not…
The paperwork always referred to us as the T family so I don’t think D’s parents know. C’s does because we email but we don’t worry about him. Are you sending it to the mom and grandma?
Yes..we don’t have an address for A’s mom.
You have had concerns about the mom right? Maybe a regular Xmas card with a photo of just her inside?
That’s what we’ll do I think…
Safe and still thoughtful. This s*** we do is haaaaard!
There is a lot of literature out there about how open adoption relationships–where the adopted kids maintain a connection with their birthparents–are more healthy for the kids. That is totally true for our kids, and at the same time, the very nature of how our kids became available for adoption means that the relationship with their birthparents is a strained one, one that they and the courts decided wasn’t a healthy one to sustain in the traditional way. And because both of our kids’ parents signed away their parents rights essentially under duress, we have to think very carefully about whether it’s safe for those birthparents to know our last name, our home town, where we work…
It’s a complicated line that we have to walk with our children. We need to make sure they know they’re birthmoms loved them, but not create this illusion of a standard familial bond that will be shattered when they’re older. Both of their birthmoms willingly relinquished their rights in exchange for a letter and a photo once a year. We typically send cards and photos several times a year, but we never heard back from our son’s birthmom and after a year, the mail came back “unknown recipient.” Still, at Christmas time, I send a card and a photo to the only address we have, hoping someone will forward it on. Our daughter has regular contact with her maternal birthgrandmother, an elderly blind woman who sends a card on our daughter’s birthday and usually at Christmas but who has never asked to meet her this beautiful young girl. Her birthmom has been in and out of prison for the past seven years, and we receive regular mail from her only when she’s incarcerated.
As my friend said, navigating all of this is “haaaaard,” especially at this time of year. I would love to provide our kids the opportunity to know their birthparents, and that might still happen at some point, especially for our daughter. The reality though is that we have to keep our guard up and tread carefully. During the process of our daughter’s foster care in our home, when her birthmother still had protected parental rights, it was incredibly difficult realizing that each stumble in her life was a victory in ours. When she didn’t show up to court, we cheered inside, knowing that we were one step closer to becoming a permanent family with our daughter, and at the same time, we ached for this woman whose struggles were so great that they would inevitably sabotage any chance she had of keeping her baby. (We were spared much of this with our son, who was a year old when he came to live with us.) Those struggles clearly still continue today for both of our kids birthmothers. We wish them the happiest of holidays this season, and at the same time, we must keep our family safe into the New Year and beyond.