Before we begin, two notes:
- This article is written from the perspective of an adoptive parent.
- This article should in no way be construed to imply that all, or even most, birth parents will ask adoptive parents for money.
If you haven’t noticed, I’m a huge proponent of open adoption. I believe that my children’s birth families are my families too, in much the same way that my husband’s family became my family when we got married. Even typical family relationships can be difficult or dramatic sometimes. Open adoption family relationships add some complexity. Without my children’s birth families, my children wouldn’t be my children. That’s huge. Our family wouldn’t be a family without our birth families.
Typically, though certainly not always, adoptive parents are financially better off than birth families. Finances are often part of the reason some birth families place their children for adoption. In these cases, the lack of finances are often due to larger issues, such as a lack of education, so financial problems are in no way solved through placement. When a birth parent is having financial difficulties, s/he may reach out to the adoptive parent for money. This puts the adoptive parent in an awkward position. After all, we owe our family’s existence to this person? Why shouldn’t we loan him $100 for car repairs? Why shouldn’t we give her $300 to make rent?
Unfortunately, that approach is problematic.
First, if you are in the period between TPR and finalization, it may be illegal to exchange money with your child’s birth family. Any requests for money during this time must be made through your agency or attorney. I’m not trying to be stingy here. You could literally jeopardize your child’s adoption by exchanging money before finalization. Don’t do it by yourself. Talk to your agency or attorney.
Second, when does the owing end? Children are priceless. How much money do you feel like you need to give someone to thank her for your children? If you get into that mindset, you’d be giving unlimited amounts of money. I don’t know about you, but I know I don’t have unlimited amounts of money.
The best advice I can give you is this: Treat your child’s birth family as you would any other family member.
Don’t immediately react emotionally. Think about it. Do you have the money to give? You could be more than willing to buy a new set of tires for the birth family’s mini-van, but if you don’t have $500 to give, it doesn’t matter. Your nuclear family comes first. That’s the promise you made when you adopted your child.
If you do have the money, assess the request, substituting another family member or the birth family member. If your sister asked for $100 for groceries, would you give it to her? If your cousin asked for a month’s rent, would you give it to him?
You may have read that question and thought, “I wouldn’t give my sister a penny. That witch stole my identity!” That’s a valid point. If the birth family member you’re thinking about has a checkered legal past or is an addict, you must take that into consideration as well. Similarly, if you provided your child’s birth mother money for rent, and she went out and spent it on insanely expensive shoes, you have every right to decide you’re not going to help next time.
Remember that just because you give money once, doesn’t mean that you have to do so every time. You may not always be able to say “yes,” and that’s OK. If you’re concerned that the money may not be spent wisely (see the aforementioned shoes problem), you can offer to go to the provider directly.
Over the past 10 years, our children’s birth parents have occasionally asked us for money. Sometimes we’ve been able to say yes. More often, we’ve had to say no, especially during the times where my husband or I have been out of work. For the most part, I don’t feel too guilty about not being able to offer monetary assistance. I do feel guilty about one of the times we did offer assistance, though.
We had been saving to get a big-ticket item for our family as a whole. One of my children’s birth parents asked for a large sum of money, and we gave the money we had saved. Not long after that, my husband lost his job. So, not only did we not get the item that would have been very fun and useful for us all, we didn’t have any savings either.
I don’t blame anyone for that. There is no crystal ball. I’m not angry at anyone over it. But it did force me to think long and hard about the future. We had always said yes, because I felt we owed it to our children’s birth families to help them. That incident made me realize that what we owe to our children’s birth families, first and foremost, is to provide our children with the best life we can provide. Our children come first. That’s why their birth parents placed them with us. Sometimes, being the best parents for our kids means we have to say “no” to their birth parents.