Reader: I have a question. We are considering adopting a friend’s baby who is currently in care. Social services are understandably concerned about the level of contact with the birth family as we both attend the same church and we would see them at least once a week which is far in excess of the recommended contact. Any advice? How do other friends and family support group members cope in this situation—we can’t be unique…
It sounds like your struggle is two-fold. For one, you will be adopting a friend’s baby
. You didn’t say your level of communication with this friend or how long you have been friends, but the concern, of course, is that if the baby was removed from the friend, whom will you choose: the friend or the baby? Because it seems that if neglect and/or abuse was involved, it’s likely not healthy for you to try to ride the middle of the road, attempting to continue the friendship while also raising the baby.
Second, you will be, it seems, thrown into an open adoption
should you choose (and be allowed to) adopt the child. Open adoption can be wonderful
when it’s a healthy situation for all parties; however, a child who has been removed from a biological parent is obviously in need of a healthier situation.
Even if you choose to attend another church in order to shield the child from biological family members, you still might run into the biological family at a local grocery store, at a park, or another venue in your community. And depending on the level of friendship you have with the child’s parent, you might have mutual friends who may choose to freely share information about the child to the biological parent or biological family members.
I obviously do not know the circumstances in which the child was removed from the biological parent, so I cannot say for certain that having any sort of interaction with the parent or the parent’s family is inappropriate. And certainly, people can change with time, education, support, and experience. However, before you seriously consider adopting this child, there are a few things I urge you to do.
First, consider why you are motivated to adopt this child
. Were you already seeking to adopt when this situation came about? Are you trying to keep this child in a familiar town and around people he or she already is bonded with? Are you attempting to help your friend out? Why this child at this particular time in your life?
Second, do your research on open adoption. Because whether or not you intend to have openness, you likely will have some simply by the characteristics of the situation at hand: mutual acquaintances and living near one biological family members. Some excellent resources on open adoption include these two books:
The Open Adoption Experience and The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption
. (The adoption triad
refers to the three parts of any adoption: the adoptive parent(s), the adoptee, and the biological parent(s). If you are going to adopt this child, you may have to consider, depending on the well-being of the biological family members and their relationship to your friend, making drastic changes. Moving to another area may be one of those changes. Though I am pro-open adoption in many circumstances, open adoption isn’t often the best choice for a child who needs to feel secure and bonded to his or her adoptive parents and be free of the “at least once a week” (as you share) presence of the biological family.
Third, if you weren’t intending to adopt prior to this situation, you need to learn what adoption is and what it entails. Oftentimes these things are addressed through the training you would receive via your adoption agency and/or your state’s child welfare agency. It would be helpful to join an adoptive parent support group, as well as talk to biological (birth) parents and adoptees. Adoption is a challenging way to build a family, and the adoptee’s needs are ongoing. A few books on adoption in general are Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew
as well as Real Parents, Real Children, and Adoption Nation.
Finally, a child coming to you with a traumatic past (even if the child is just a few months old) is at risk for developing RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) as well as have different types of delays and require many therapies, medical appointments, etc. Adopting a child from the foster care system
is a special needs adoption. It is essential that you understand what this means and make the decision to move forward in education, not out of ignorance. It would be wise to consult with an experienced attachment therapist prior to committing to the adoption.
There are many things to consider when choosing to adopt a friend’s child, and I urge you to take the decisions seriously and enter into the adoption journey, if you choose to, in education. Though many novice adoptive parents like to believe adoption is a beautiful, Hallmark-movie experience, such beliefs are detrimental to the well-being of the child who will have unique and urgent needs that require professional help, educated and loving adoptive parents, and a strong support system.
I wish you the best as you explore your options and consider adoption as a way to build your family.