Social Worker: Contact Between Adoptive & Birth Parents

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One may question, is it fair or right for an adult adoptee to expect his/her adoptive parents to now associate in family gatherings with his/her biological family?

There is not enough research on the outcomes of openness for those involved in adoption. That said, I guess this is a matter of choice with no right or wrong answer for how to feel. There are different degrees of openness ranging from mediated sharing via an attorney or adoption agency to fully disclosed adoptions, involving direct contact between adoptive family and birthparent. We cannot assume that all adopted people want open contact. Remember no one type of adoption fits every person’s wants and needs.

Historically, adoptions have been confidential, but that has changed, as our society has become more open minded, where strict confidentiality is not necessarily the norm. Regardless of the contact arrangement initially established when your child was adopted, when your son/daughter becomes an adult, the pathways of the adoption triad may change, based on current and divergent perspectives on open adoption. In other words, all bets are off. Adolescents moving into adulthood face normal transitions, along with the ones that are unique to adoption. They will have to make the choice to search for their biological family, which is normal or to choose not to, which is a positive decision too. Of course there are pros and cons with everything and we as one third of the adoption triad need to try to be supportive of our adult child’s curiosity about their personal history.

Based on one’s own comfort level at any given time, some parents may feel that it is okay with them to associate with their child’s birth family if he/she chooses to. They are secure in their relationship and know they raised their child the way they promised to do. They have a strong bond with their son or daughter and know they love each other unconditionally. They feel that being respectful of this relationship shows their child that they are available to them emotionally and are supportive of their choices. It is understandable for your adult child to be interested in learning first-hand about their medical history, discovering similarities in mannerisms and physical resemblance’s, as well as, developing a relationship with siblings. These parents feel supporting contacts and even attending biological family gatherings will put to rest any fantasy their adult child may have had.

Others may feel that under no circumstance do they want to meet or get to know their child’s biological family, despite their adult child’s desire to. They may feel insecure in their relationship with their child and still experience the pain of not being the birth parent. They may worry that this new relationship will jeopardize their standing as the primary parent. More importantly, they may also be concerned about the emotional impact having a relationship with the biological family will have on their child. The birth parent may have made subsequent improvements to their life or kept other siblings, which can cause emotional turmoil, even if your son/daughter is now an adult.

Adoption should be viewed as an ongoing process rather than a one-time event. Try to be flexible, open-minded and know that all feelings are normal and common for adoptive parents to experience.

by Leslie Zindulka, LCSW-R

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The information and advice provided is intended to be general information, NOT as advice on how to deal with a particular child's situation and or problem. If your child has a specific problem you need to ask your pediatrician about it - only after a careful history and physical exam can a medical diagnosis and/or treatment plan be made. This Web site does not constitute a physician-patient relationship.

This material has been provided by, an innovative adoption medicine private practice and educational service, dedicated to helping parents and adoption agencies with the complex pre-adoption medical issues of internationally adopted children. All medical interactions are performed via, e-mail, express mail, telephone, and fax. There is no need to make a live appointment or travel outside of your hometown. For more information, visit or call 631-499-4114.

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