“Having a sense of history can be enormously powerful for kids,” writes Angie Gallop, Today’s Parents. So, it should come as no surprise that one of the questions we often hear is “Should an adopted child know their biological parents?” And the answer is a little tricky. So, let’s dive right in.
Should an Adopted Child Know Their Biological Parents?
A child absolutely has a right to know that they are adopted (we’ll get into this more later in the article), but sometimes biological parents wish to remain anonymous (closed adoption).
Today, a small percentage of adoptions are still closed, which means birth parents and adoptive parents do not meet and do not share any identifying information. They do not have any contact whatsoever, before or after the birth. They may not know anything about one another, however, birth parents’ medical history is often shared with the adoptive family. In domestic adoptions “birth parents are required to fill out medical background forms that are often available to the adoptive family,” says Kathryn Patricelli, MA.
Additional non-identifying information can include:
- General appearance
- Medical History
- Adoption Agency
- Nature of the Adoption
In an open adoption, meanwhile, both parents and adoptive parents exchange identifying information about each other and have ongoing contact. This type of relationship tends to be incredibly beneficial for all parties involved and have grown in popularity over the years. Today, 95 percent of adoptions today are either open or semi-open, according to Jennifer Fairfax LLC.
“With open adoption on the rise, we’re learning how valuable it can be to share what we can with our kids,” writes Gallop.
How to Talk to Your Child About Their Biological Parents
There comes a time in every adopted child’s life when they want to know more about where they came from – specifically about their biological or birth parents. “It is natural that they should want to know about them, who they are, where they are, why they surrendered them,” writes Ann Brenoff, The Huffington Post. Here are a few tips to help adoptive parents have these types of conversations.
- Start the Conversation Early: “Parents have to be proactive, intentional truth tellers,” says Jayne Schooler, author and adoption advocate. Start the conversation at an early age, using age-appropriate language. Then, allow the conversation to grow and mature along with the child. This will make things significantly less stressful for you, and will help normalize adoption for your child.
- Be Open: “Parents have to think about how they communicate and what kind of environment they are establishing,” says Nicole M. Callahan, National Council for Adoption. It is also important to establish an open and honest dialogue around adoption. “Adopted children will ask the questions about adoption that they feel they have permission to ask,” says Schooler. It is important to make your child feel comfortable opening up and asking lots of questions about adoption, or anything for that matter.
- Be Honest: As there are many different levels of openness in adoption, there is also great variety in the amount of information that may be known about the birth parents,” writes Callahan. So, it can be difficult to try and fill in the blanks. However, always be honest. “If less is known about the birth parents or how the adoption came about, parents can explain some of the reasons why birth parents place their children for adoption,” says Dr. Betsy Vonk, Ph.D., an adoptive mother and a professor of social work and director of the MSW program at the University of Georgia. “They can tell their children that it is usually a very hard decision to make, but that they don’t know exactly why their birth parents made that decision.”
- Use Positive Adoption Language: “Positive adoption vocabulary helps to ensure that adoption is viewed as a wonderful way to build families,” says Angela Tucker, The Adopted Life. Positive Adoption Language, first created in 1979, is the preferred language used by Adoption Makes Family. Positive Adoption Language encourages respect for the emotions of all parties during the adoption process.
Need Someone to Talk to?
Adoption Makes Family, a non-profit (501-C3) licensed adoption agency based in Maryland, is here to help! Our adoption counselors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for your convenience.
24-Hour Hotline 410-683-2100
Adoption Makes Family was founded to meet the needs of birth parents and adoptive parents in a manner that is sensitive, compassionate, and personal. If you would like our advice or just need to talk, please give us a call at any time.
If you have any questions, you can contact us by phone at 410-683-2100, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or use our online contact form.
- Brenoff, Ann. “8 Things Adoptive Parents Should Never, Ever Do.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 3 Nov. 2014, www.huffingtonpost.com/ann-brenoff/7-things-adoptive-parents-should-never-ever-do_b_6043650.html.
- Callahan, Nicole M. “Adoption Advocate.” Dec. 2011.
- “Talking to Your Child About His or Her Birth Parents.” American Adoptions, www.americanadoptions.com/adopt/talking_about_your_childs_birth_parents.