Disclaimer: This article provides a framework for setting boundaries in an adoptee and birthmother or birthfather reunion. So, both parties decide together how the relationship will be and have set goals and expectations entering into the reunion with empathy, understanding and compassion, have an open mind, and respect they will have different narratives entering the reunion. You can’t contract behavior but you can create respectful experiences.
Why do 70% of adoption reunions break down?
Because there’s no roadmap.
The 5 agreements:
Everyone has been victimized.
Everyone has experienced loss.
Each person’s loss incomparable.
Everyone will make mistakes.
Practice forgiveness over, and over and over again.
THE 8 PACTS
GET TO KNOW EACH OTHER: Try to walk a mile in the other person’s shoes before thinking you know why something happened. Respect each other’s experience. We don’t assume we know the other person’s story. Get to know the person first, not focus only on the answers.
ASK PERMISSION: Ask each other permission before sharing important adoption information, regarding photos, letters or birth documents to build trust and control. Respect each other’s emotional bandwidth and emotional vulnerabilities. Write questions down to provide to each other, only answer what you feel comfortable with. As you grow stronger, you can answer more in-depth questions. Ask each other permission first before inviting more people into the relationship.
CREATE LEVEL OF CONTACT: Neither party has the right to control the contact. You get to negotiate the relationship together. It will be hard, but it’s worth it. Ask each other the following questions: How do we connect after reunion? What do we feel comfortable with phone, Facetime, text, email, letters? How about on birthdays and holidays? Gifts or no gifts?
SHARE YOUR STORIES: Provide space for each other to share your individual stories. The retelling can feel re-traumatizing especially for mothers. Use I statements when sharing each other’s pain towards the other “I feel…. I want… because….” Refrain from blaming to lessen re-shaming. No one’s pain is worse than the other.
BE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR OWN HEALING: You are not responsible for each other’s wounds. You are self-responsible for your own emotional and psychological pain. You can’t fill each other’s voids. You will regress to the age of relinquishment. It’s ok to attend therapy separately and together at times, and join support groups. You can’t rescue each other from their pain.
RESPECT THE RELATIONSHIP: Commit to the relationship, do not abandon each other or threaten each other. Because both the birthmother and adoptee are fearful of losing each other again. Ghosting is another form of betrayal. Stay in communication, hold regard together that this relationship matters. Take your time.
SHARING WITH OTHERS: Secrets don’t help people, they hurt. Plan together how or when to tell extended family members of your reunion. Come “out of the fog” to support each other if the fear is being “found out”. If you want to have relationships with extended family members- ask each other permission to do so.
RECOGNITION OF YOUR TRUST TREE: Respect the loved ones closest to you, and the other relationships on your trust tree.
Adoption is not the end of the process; it is, in fact, the beginning of one! Post-adoption care and services play an integral role in making any adoption successful.
Being personally acquainted with the situation, I had long recognized the importance of high-quality post-adoption and foster care services to ensure permanency, stability, and well-being for children. But that’s not all; certain other aspects demand our attention.
Post-adoption services help address sensitive aspects such as trauma (young children, adults, and even parents can suffer from it), loss, separation, sense of familiarity or belonging, etc. Such services can also help children and their families address their specific needs and help family members strengthen their bond and deepen their attachment to sustain the relationship.
Previously for many years, post-adoption services were only viewed as services provided after the legalization (finalized process) of the adoption – and in some cases, only for very short intervals.
However, now adoption professionals and families have recognized that a comprehensive continuum of multiple forms of support that vary in intensity levels is necessary to ensure well-being, long-term stability, and true permanency for adopted children and the families.
Post-adoption services are a vital support to the families raising the children in cases where they suffer from severe emotional, behavioral, or psychological challenges. With the help of support groups and sessions offered at the Celia Center, families can remain committed and effective. Our services help parents nurture children while catering to their special needs. As well as providing adoption competent therapy to children, teens and parents offered at Yoffe Therapy.
“There is evidence of a strong relationship between providing support to adoptive families as a matter of course or in the form of preventive services and positive outcomes in terms of the health, well-being, and stability of the family (Groze 1996a; Smith & Howard 1994)”
At Celia Center, we work to serve the goal of:
Support understanding of adoption by removing confusions surrounding the adoption process.
Improve parenting skills so they are able to deal with their new family dynamics.
Help parents and children cope with their traumas associated with adoption or foster care.
Improve child functioning.
Bridging gaps between the relational bands.
Prevention of adoption disruptions.
The importance of post-adoption services and support groups can be viewed in a survey of parents receiving post-adoption services. 80% of the respondents reported betterment in their households. Some excerpts from the survey are as followed:
“Research has shown that adoptive families’ needs are multidimensional and may arise at each developmental stage for the family and the adopted person. From a program development perspective, the research makes clear the need for flexible programming that permits families to return for services when needed and does not limit the extent to which they may receive services.”
“Adoptive families have a need for an array of education, support and therapeutic community services. And they need to be able to access this array episodically. This mix of services must be provided by service providers and therapists with an adoption-competent knowledge base and core values, who can see child and family strength amidst complex circumstances and concerning diagnoses.”
“For moral, social, and economic reasons, it is in the public interest to assure that families remain intact and strong. The pendulum has swung and society again recognizes the importance of strong family systems in combating society’s ills. Adoption support and preservation services help build strong foundations for families created by adoption. By developing and implementing these services, families involved in adoption, service providers and policy makers are assuring adopted children of every opportunity to become useful, productive citizens.”
Some concepts behind the support groups of Celia Center are:
Respite care and child care
Services for children and parents, including groups of people from every age group
Support services including support groups and informal contact with other similar families
Celia Center was not my goal as I started, but it eventually became one. As I kept progressing, it became the highlight of my life as I could see my efforts bringing positive results.
Being a foster child myself who also went through adoption, I was aware of the miseries one can experience in this process. These were not the miseries that life caused me but the miseries which developed from my detachment from the world.
We need to realize that there is a ‘need to heal.’ There is a need to break the ice for the people who never get the chance to speak about how they feel. Even when they do speak, they are either shut down or not understood. They are received in a way that pushes them deeper into their shells, where they develop several traumas and social dilemmas.
To heal is to recover, to be at peace. It means to overcome the inner demons holding you back from moving forward. To heal is to set one’s soul and mind at peace. Healing cannot be achieved overnight. You have to go through a process, or sometimes a series of processes, to reach that state of mind where you are no longer bothered by what used to haunt you.
In order to heal, you need to stand tall in front of your fears and deal with them. You need to be reminded that you are loved, cared for, valued, and that you cannot be suppressed any longer. In order to heal, we need to break the chains of quietness, desolation, and life of fears. We need to come out clean to the greener side of life. The journey to healing could be challenging, but it’s not impossible.
People who have been through traumatizing events tend to experience heavy emotional burdens. It’s as if, over the years, the time has chipped away a significant part of them. This fear and struggle, if nurtured over a longer period, breed physical and mental disorders. These diseases devour the person slowly and gradually, leaving behind nothing but a hollow shell.
I can understand that after going through severe trauma in your life, it is difficult to grow from it. But for how long? For how long are you going to sit in that dark room? For how long are you going to absorb the pain? We have all experienced one of those dreaded days where you don’t want to get out of your bed. You just lie down, contemplating life and past events – it’s relatable.
Speak up! Talk about the things that are bothering you. Don’t just sit there taking it all in. Don’t empathize with your misery. Be the master of your senses; don’t let anyone else control it or take hold of it. Healing is the process that will lead you toward recovery. Eventually, you will be able to break through the chains of depression, fear, and anxiety, and breathe freely once again!
When we don’t talk about these things, they grow bigger inside us. If they are not dealt with at the right time and with the right guidance, they explode in the form of anger, violence, traumas, and other such issues. To understand this better, consider a human being like a spring.
You keep pressing and pressing the spring so it will absorb all the pressure and reduce in size (getting oppressed), but when you reach the contraction limit, it will pop up. The spring will jump up even higher using the energy that compressed it, directed in the opposite direction. The same is with human feelings and emotions.
Don’t let your stored emotions burst into some kind of retaliation or anger. Don’t let it corrode your body and soul from inside. Don’t live with your fears. Value the life that you have been granted, and make the most of it by making it better every day. Believe in the power of healing, and believe that in observing your struggle you will surely be rewarded with something great.
For a free mental health consultation please visit Yoffe Therapy an adoption competent mental health center in the state of California.
 “Research on Postadoption Services: Implications for Practice, Program Development, and Policy” in The Postadoption Experience p. 295.
 “Perspectives on the Need for Adoption-Competent Mental Health Services,” Casey Family Services, October 2003, p. 72.
 “Adoption Support and Preservation Services: A Public Interest,” Spaulding for Children, revised May 2005
ADOPTION WISDOM offers insight and understanding of adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents. Includes chapters on Adoption Awareness, Basic Truths of Adoption, Search and Reunion, and an Ideal Adoption. ADOPTION WISDOM is a book for anyone who wants to kinow more about the lifelong impact of adoption.
There is no societal, cultural standard for the treatment of adoptees. There’s no Dr. Spock’s handbook for adopted parents, nor one for children. How could there be a way to communicate with newborn babies to teach them what is about to happen to them? Teach them coping mechanisms for being abandoned without explanation, often for a decade and many times longer. It is left to chance and we all just shoulder it to the best of our abilities. So, often people just ignore the adopted person as if you don’t exist. I can honestly say that because I am adopted, I have personally experienced being denied these rights, suffering repeated traumas and rejections from my adopted family and extended adopted family, and my birth families and extended families as well as my husband’s family.
This is a declaration of the daughter’s bill of rights. It is a list that few people discuss and many people take for granted; if you live within a normal, blood- related family you will rarely encounter these barriers. But, if you are adopted, your rights, continuing into adulthood, remain compromised. It is quite easy for a male dominated court to determine that a human child who cannot speak nor write, nor hire an attorney to represent their own rights should have their rights removed and maligned for the sake of other adults, those who did conceive you, or cannot conceive. The practice is inhuman and wholly unfair to the children. Scientific research is opposed to the practice, as it is proven to invoke long term psychological damage to the child. Family members from the adopted side as well as the birth side don’t know what to do. I am a member of an adoptive family in which there were two adopted children both products of church accessed closed adoption in the 1960s. My adopted mother had several siblings that could
not conceive, so we had three adopted cousins. All quite hush-hush. I always aspired to be a good daughter; but it was an unachieveable goal. I worked extremely hard to be a good daughter and failed miserably. I wish I had known at 20 what I know now. It took society almost my entire life to begin the groundswell of truth surrounding adoption.
Thus, I courageously add to the movement. I’ve created the Daughter’s of Bill of Rights for my own declaration of independence, to elevate the reality of adoption for every adoptee and prospective adopted parent, in the hopes that the suffering will be understood and lessened for those following me until adoption can be eradicated and honor returned to families.
The Daughter’s Bill of Rights
Right to the TRUTH about what happened and why this child was given up for adoption Right to be part of an ever-lasting family Right to receive unconditional love by all family members
Right to know that I’m adopted Right to counseling throughout my life with a counselor who understands adoption from my adult point of view, from the adoptees viewpoint Right to my own real birth certificate Right to reject a falsified birth certificate Right to know my own real name Right to change my name and use my own real name, or name I choose
Right to use that name as my identity, fragile as it is may be, and for others to refer to me as the name I choose Right to know my birth families when its right for me Right to know which family you’re a permanent part of
Right to a forever home Right to know your family histories and to be a part of that history Right to know your ancestry, your ancestral locations, to know where you’re from, A right to choose which family and history feels most right to me, should I feel I have to or need to choose; Right to be treated equally with other children in each family or extended family Right to be treated equally by all adults of those families, to be held in esteem openly and outrightly, not quietly in secret, in shame. Right to be invited to thanksgiving and Christmas dinners where family is celebrated; Right to receive invitations to weddings of family members; Right to attend weddings of family members; Right to be in family pictures at those weddings; Right to receive birth announcements; Right to receive graduation announcements; Right to attend graduations;
Right to receive notice of deaths in family; Right to receive invitations to funerals; Right to attend family celebrations; Right to attend funerals;
Right to be seated with the family at those events Right to inheritances in every one of my families, adopted and birth families; Right to be accepted as a family member to those family members in hospitals and nursing homes; Right to interact as a normal family member would and from time to time; to ask for emotional support, maybe even financial support; Right to be informed when a family member is in the hospital; Right to visit them as a family member in the hospital; Right to be with a family member when they pass away; Right to be treated like a family member at my death; Right to be buried with my family; Right to have society know the burden that is cast carelessly on adopted children; Right to affect legislation to remove the burden from the child; Right to have my birth family redeem the past, to break the cycle and include the adoptee and their other children equally Right to be included by all
Right to be loved Right to be
For without all of these rights, society continues to degrade the child given up for adoption throughout their life with mistreatment and abandon, despite the intentions of love by the adopted family. While the birth parents ‘go on’ with their lives, and face their own demons, they often believe in forgetting the past. The child has no opportunity to forget, the issue is front and center every day. The child carries the burden their entire life, passing the pain into future generations, making that child pay dearly for the transgressions of their birth parents. I am a good daughter who was robbed, at birth, of my full potential. I was thoughtlessly tossed away like a piece of trash, unwanted. I was pre-meditatively sacrificed by at my birth by my birth family to save the reputation of my teenage mother. In doing so, I was cast into a world where my rights were forever changed. I was robbed of the opportunity that every other daughter has, to have emotional familial fulfillment, to fulfill the simplest of human needs to, in the end, be a good daughter to my parents.