Dear Annie, You Were SO Off-Base With This Advice

When one of your kids has significantly more contact with their birth family than another, cutting off all contact is not the answer.

Shannon Hicks October 18, 2017
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Dear Annie,

I do not envy your job of giving sage advice to folks in tricky situations. And I don’t like to judge, really I don’t. But I’d like to respectfully offer some alternate suggestions to your reader Anxious Adopter. You see, I am an adoptive mom in a similar situation. I’ve adopted twice, and one of my children has significantly more contact with birth family members than the other.

But here’s the thing. It’s not fair to deny one child access to relationships with birth family members because another child can’t have that same type of relationship. As long as they are healthy relationships, I honestly believe that the more people that love my kids, the better. It’s true, open adoptions can be challenging to negotiate (especially when you have different levels of openness with different birth families), but that doesn’t mean you should cut off contact. While open adoption is not the ideal in every case, many children and adults benefit from maintaining contact with their birth families.

Here are a few tips for dealing with the perceived unfairness between siblings:

Talk, talk, talk

Empathize with your daughter, because the situation truly is not fair. Let both children know that expressing their feelings (which will likely be conflicting) is okay. Tell your daughter the truth about her life story in an age-appropriate way. And if you feel like you are still out of your league, work with a therapist to help her process her story and lack of relationship with her birth family.

Celebrate both kids

Let your kids help you create life books (I did this with my daughter when she was around 4 years old and she loved it). Celebrate your children and talk positively about both birth families. Answer their questions as honestly as you can.

Make a letter/picture box

Consider helping your daughter buy or make a special box where she can put letters or pictures that she would like to give to her birth family if she could. I did this with one of my children and I promised that I would only read the letters if that child gave permission. Getting questions and thoughts out of their heads and onto paper can be a good way to help kids process loss and their feelings about it.

You say that “your children’s best interests must come first” and I absolutely agree. However, if it is in a child’s best interest to maintain contact and develop relationships with his birth family, it’s not fair to deny him this opportunity just to make things seem “equal.” Good parents don’t treat kids equally. They treat kids fairly by giving each one what they need.


A Contrary Adoptive Mama

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Shannon Hicks

Shannon is mom to two amazing kids who joined her family through foster care adoption. She is passionate about advocating for children through her writing and her job as a kindergarten teacher. You can read more from her at Adoption, Grace and Life.

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