Working with Difficult Birthfamilies
All families present challenges over the course of time. That is just the nature of family. Let us take a look at some of the challenges that we may see with birthfamilies. Bear in mind that a family is not defined as “birthfamily” until after an adoption occurs. For purposes of discussion, here we will consider birthfamilies before and after the adoption takes place. This workshop will examine ways to assist families dealing with difficult situations.
Whether the adoption results from an unplanned pregnancy or an involuntary placement, there is an opportunity for skill building. Out of every crisis, an opportunity. That is, of course, if those involved are receptive to this and if those who surround them make it available.
A sure fire indicator of problems to come, involves those persons who refuse to accept counseling and education during the course of the pregnancy or the planning stage for an adoption. They are typically focused on arranging or fighting an adoption and getting “it” over with. Coping with the adoption decision and all its realities can be very challenging,
I have found that the most difficult birthfamilies are those who withdraw from contact when the adoption occurs. Finding ways to involve them requires a consideration of appropriate boundaries combined with a message regarding their importance in the family system created by the adoption. Immersed in their own anguish, they often can’t absorb that they are needed by the child journeying through life as an adopted person.
When two family systems are joined by adoption, initial observations about each other become more reality based over time. Some manifestations of conflicted relationships involve role conflict, overstepping boundaries, incompatible values, beliefs, lifestyle, etc. All relationships go through stages and shared moments that guide our assessment of each other. What may be difficult in the eyes of one, may be normal in the eyes of the other.
Being able to navigate family matters, will depend on the willingness of the adoptive & birthfamily to work together to resolve problems that may arise. This requires mutual respect, developing effective communication and reciprocal commitment .
Services prior to, and after, the adoption must include comprehensive counseling and education regarding the long term complexities of adoption. Incorporated in this must be the message of how important birthfamily access/contact is to the adopted child and his family. Additionally, the reciprocal message is important, for this is a two way street - that adoptive family contact/access is very important as well. The nature of the developing relationship will be defined over time.
PRESENTED OPEN ADOPTION CONFERENCE, TRAVERSE CITY, MI 1999
MAY BE REPRODUCED WITH CREDIT TO AUTHOR