It’s November, which means we’re celebrating National Adoption Awareness Month! In recognition of this special month, I’d like to share an adoption story from a Lifetime adoptive couple, Lester and Redeetha, about what open adoption looks like when the child turns 18. Lester and Redeetha recently told us the story of their adult daughter MeLeigha, who, at 20, happened to see her birth father while on vacation in the Florida Keys. Her biological father, a truck driver, was making his way through the area where she was staying.
Since Lester and Redeetha maintained an open adoption with MeLeigha’s birth parents, she’d grown up having some contact with her birth family. However, she had never met them face to face. When MeLeigha saw her birth father, she recognized him immediately from the pictures she’d seen. At that moment, she decided to meet him.
This is a great testimony of how open adoption helps prepare your child for the future. As they grow up knowing where they came from and having a connection with their birth family, it prepares them to have a relationship with their birth family when they reach adulthood.
A post adoption contact agreement gives the birth parents and adoptive family the chance to establish expectations as the child grows up. In an open adoption, the adopted child has contact with their birth family through letters, social media, emails, and sometimes visits. Most open adoptions specify that, at 18 years of age, the adopted child will choose if they want to have a relationship with their birth family.
When your adopted child enters adolescence, it’s crucial they have a say about their relationship with their birth family. Over the years, they probably had many questions about their birth family, and if you raised them with open adoption, many of their questions got answered. Still, at some point, they will want to start communicating with their birth family on their own. So it’s important that you support them during this transitional time in their life.
Once your adopted child reaches 18, they will make the decision about meeting their birth family. As young adults, they’re curious about their roots. Studies show that adoptees experience a shift in their relationships with their birth family and adoptive family once they reach adulthood.
Maintaining open communication with your child during this time is essential. Let them know you support them and are excited for them to learn about their birth family.
Keeping the lines of communication open with your child about their adoption will help them feel secure as they launch into this new world of learning about their birth family. Make it easy for them to talk to you about their birth family. Ask them questions, not to pry, but to gauge how they’re processing this experience. Your questions could be something like:
- How are you feeling about meeting your birth sister?
- What did you feel like when you met your birth father?
- Do you think you’ll want to meet other relatives?
- How has meeting some of your extended birth relatives helped you?
- What are some negative feelings that came out of meeting your birth family?
- How can I support you?
- Is there anything I can do to help you during this time of meeting your birth family?
Talking About Your Child’s Birth Family
Throughout the child’s life, adoptive parents in open adoptions maintain contact with their child’s birth family. Now that your child has become an adult, you can still keep your relationship with them. Here are suggestions to continue this positive connection.
Avoid saying negative things about the birth family. You don’t want your child to feel as if you don’t accept their birth family. But, of course, if your child could be in danger due to contact with their birth family, that is different.
Treat them as real people: Like you, your child’s birth family has strengths and weaknesses. They’re normal people, so treat them that way.
Respect them: Keep in mind this birth mother gave your child life. She chose YOU to raise her child, and she deserves your respect.
Remain connected: Keep a general connection with your child’s birth parents through Facebook or Instagram. Don’t overstep your child’s relationship, but be there if there’s a need for contact.
Setting Your Child Up for Success
As adoptive parents, you undoubtedly want the best for your child now and in the future. Maintaining an open adoption gives your growing child the chance to know their birth parents and why they chose adoption.
When your child hits adolescence, they will begin making decisions about how much contact they want to have with their birth parents. It’s a transitional time for you and your child. Offer them your love and support during this time, just like you did their entire life.
As Vice President of Lifetime Adoption, Heather Featherston holds an MBA and is passionate about working with those facing adoption, pregnancy, and parenting issues. Heather has conducted training for birth parent advocates, spoken to professional groups, and has appeared on television and radio to discuss the multiple aspects of adoption. She has provided one-on-one support to women and hopeful adoptive parents working through adoption decisions.
Since 2002, she has been helping pregnant women and others in crisis to learn more about adoption. Heather also trains and speaks nationwide to pregnancy clinics to effectively meet the needs of women who want to explore adoption for their child. Today, she continues to address the concerns women have about adoption and supports the needs of women who choose adoption for their child.
As a published author of the book Called to Adoption, Featherston loves to see God’s hand at work every day as she helps children and families come together through adoption.