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Maintaining Connections With Birth Families After Adoption

From the Child Welfare Information Gateway

Adoptions in which birth parents and their children maintain ongoing contact with the support of adoptive parents (also referred to "openness in adoption") is often in the best interest of the adopted child. No one type of arrangement for ongoing contact is right for every adoption, and communication and contact may change over time. However, supporting these relationships can help to minimize the adopted child's feelings of grief and loss and reduce the trauma of separation following the adoption process.

Helping Your Adopted Children Maintain Important Relationships With Family, a factsheet aimed at adoptive parents to help support children, youth, and birth families in strengthening their relationships, suggests that maintaining contact with their birth families may also allow children and youth to do the following:

  • Relate to birth family members as real people with strengths and flaws rather than idealizing or denigrating them

  • Develop a deeper understanding of their identities and a greater sense of wholeness

  • Gain access to important genetic and medical information

  • Preserve connections to their birth families, including their cultural and ethnic heritage

  • Understand the reasons for entering foster care or being adopted, which can lessen feelings of rejection and promote a sense of belonging

  • Increase the number of supportive adults in their lives

  • Create a foundation for lifelong relationships

Adoption professionals play a critical role in helping adoptive and birth families communicate regularly so children can maintain connections with their birth families. The National Resource Center for Adoption recommended the following strategies for adoption professionals to support successful communication between adoptive and birth families:

  • Encourage foster parents and kinship caregivers to build and maintain relationships with a child's birth family before the adoption to promote future relationship building

  • Help older children and youth address their needs about maintaining connections and building relationships with their extended families before an adoption has been finalized

  • Educate children and birth and adoptive families on ways to remain in contact (letters, emails, phone calls, personal visits, social media, etc.)

  • Introduce prospective adoptive families to current adoptive families who are successfully maintaining continuing contact after adoption so that prospective families can learn from them

  • Refer birth and adoptive families to agency or community mediation services for assistance in creating formal contact agreements

To explore further, check out these articles.

Connections Matter:  Relations with Birth Families are Important for Foster, Adopted Children

Postadoption Contact Agreements Between Birth and Adoptive Families

Visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway site. 


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