Ask the Adoption Coach: Struggling With Open Adoption

Mother on computer with child
Reader: I have an issue I would like some advice if possible. We are foster parents and have been for almost 14 years.
We adopted our daughter at age 7 she came to us at age 4. We were open to a semi-open adoption and were giving bio mom pictures and emails, but this woman kept wanting more (and yes, I do understand and empathize with her); however, our daughter has stabilized and continues to make strides with us. This woman has said nasty things about me on anti CAS sites and then expects more pictures, videos and even visits with our daughter. I put an end to the communication because she was talking of going back to court and trying to get C back (which is not possible). Now after 6 months she emails me and says “she’s sorry I have a problem with her but that is no reason for her daughter to suffer.” Ugh! OUR daughter is not suffering, she has not asked about her bio mom, nor is she interested in her.
C has been through another adoptive family before us (long story) and does have some attachment issues but we are working on it. I know what I am doing is right for our daughter, but why do I feel guilty? What would you do? I emailed her back saying not to contact us. Oh yes, and she is back in town. I am afraid she will look for her, she knows where we live.
Adoption Coach:
Dear Reader:
Your emotional struggle is typical of many adoptive parents who have ongoing open and semi-open adoptions. I admire you for carefully considering your options as far as openness. I’m an advocate for open adoptions when they are safe and healthy for all parties involved.
First, remember that you are C’s mother. Period. I do not say this to dismiss the biological mother in any way. She will always be C’s first mother and biological mother. However, your job as C’s mother is to nurture her, love her, teach her, and protect her. I believe it’s completely natural for you to feel guilty, to yearn for the situation to be better and less murky, and to wonder what the consequences (positive of negative) of your parenting decisions will mean for C. It’s evident to me that at this time, C’s biological mother demanding with her daughter is not what is best and she is struggling with anger (voicing her concerns on public message boards), boundaries (trying to guilt-trip you into believing you aren’t doing what’s best for C), and relationships (healthy give and take).
There are a few security measures I believe it would be wise for you to put into place, with the hope that they are simply precautions and not necessities. First, I would make sure you have a security system installed in your home with security signs outside all entrances. If you notice C’s biological mother driving in your neighborhood or sitting outside your home, you should file a police report every time. Having a paper-trail is wise. You may reach the point where filing restraining order is necessary.
I would also notify your daughter’s school of the situation at hand and talk to them about what you want to see happen. Would you like that C remain in the school building after dismissal until you can go in and pick her up? Would you like to accompany the class field trips? Would you like a special code put on her school (and medical, at her doctor’s office) file, a code only you know, so that C’s biological mother cannot gain access to those files?
Finally, you might decide to hire an adoption lawyer to handle all communication between you and C’s biological mother. Through the attorney, you may consider sending C’s biological mother a letter, stating that you will contact her when and if C desires contact and you deem it appropriate, and that going forward, all communication must be done through the attorney. Do not respond to communication that comes to you otherwise (Facebook, e-mail, phone, text), thought certainly keep record of those if you should need them to file a restraining order. You might consider changing your e-mail address and phone number (or blocking her number), and increasing your privacy settings on any social media accounts. I would also recommend checking your daughter’s social media account privacy settings (which is a good thing to do, anyway) and speaking with her about what you expect from her in this situation (communication with her biological mother). Your attachment therapist can assist with this.
I know these suggestions sound a bit cold. But do not look at security measures as ways of shutting C’s biological mother out. Rather, these are suggestions on how to keep your daughter safe and to help her continue to flourish attachment-wise. Furthermore, you need to focus your energy and heart-space on your daughter’s needs and on your own health and happiness, not on C’s biological mother’s struggles.
Best wishes to you and your precious daughter. What a wonderful blessing that she’s progressed so much! That’s something to celebrate.