Building and maintaining relationships between adoptive families and birth families requires work and commitment, but it is important for children and youth who are adopted. Supporting these relationships is in the best interests of the child, as maintaining important connections may help minimize the child’s feelings of grief, separation, and loss and can help the child develop a stronger sense of self.
Ongoing relationships with birth families may help children and youth who are adopted preserve connections to their cultural and ethnic heritage and learn important genetic and medical information. Relationships with birth family members can also help children understand the reasons behind the adoption. Knowing their adoption story can help make the adjustment easier.
Some tips to help adoptive families build relationships with birth families include the following:
- Keep the focus on your child. Make decisions based on what is best for them. Recognize that your child needs all of their relationships and there is no need to make them choose one family or the other.
- Keep pictures, memory books, and stories from the child’s birth family. Photos and stories will help the child connect with birth relatives.
- Create traditions with birth family members. Involving the birth family in family traditions will help the child feel closer to them.
- Use technology to stay connected. Even if children can’t see birth family members in person, they may be able to connect over video chat or social media. But remember to set boundaries for what is and what is not appropriate contact.
- Be respectful and flexible. Children develop their sense of identity through relationships with birth parents and other birth family members. Always treat the relationship with respect, even when difficulties arise, and prepare to be flexible if aspects of the relationship change over time.
- Communicate honestly and with compassion. Seek to understand, share concerns openly, discuss expectations, and problem-solve together when needed.
Helping to build relationships between adoptive families and birth families may be challenging, but it is beneficial for the child and members of both families. Children should feel encouraged and supported as they work to form connections with members of their birth families and build positive relationships. The resources below describe the importance of helping children and family members build and sustain these relationships after an adoption.
Here are 3 resources to help build relationships with birth parents:
For more information, visit at https://www.childwelfare.gov.