The child. Adoptive Parents. Birth Parents. In the adoption community, these three groups comprise the Adoption Triad. The Adoption Triad symbol can be seen on posters, letterhead, public service announcements, and even jewelry and tattoos. For those belonging to the triad, the symbol is dear to their hearts; sacred, even.

In the simplest of representations, the symbol is a triangle with the child at the top and the two types of parents on the bottom two points. Often, the symbol is shown with a heart intertwined to mean that adoption is about love. The center, however, is always empty. The extreme Adoption Triad Icon-01personal nature of those belonging to the adoption triad require them to be at the forefront—those symbolized and even named, but there is another person or group of people that are vital to adoption. Even though they are at the center of the adoption process, they are a silent partner. It is fitting that the heart of the triad, the space that all three groups share, is empty. The center symbolizes the silent partner in the adoption process—the person or group that makes it all possible and who often holds the pieces together: the social worker.

Social workers involved in the adoption triad are often focused on pregnant women considering adoption. There may be no more difficult decision than one that a prospective birth mother faces when deciding to place or raise a child. It is often a social worker that helps her navigate the torrent of that decision, help the woman see and understand all her options, to know what support is available no matter her decision, and to be her foundation when her entire world is collapsing. Once the decision is made, the role of the social worker is far from over. The social worker provides continued support through the pregnancy and birth, and then after the birth, for an often-single mother who chose to parent, or a grieving mother who chose to place. If adoption is the choice, the social worker may also work with adoptive parents.

To celebrate National Social Worker Month and to honor the powerful work that social workers do for birth mothers, Joshua Redfern, the Director of Social Work at, was asked to share some advice that he has for expectant mothers who are thinking of placing, birth mothers who have recently placed, and those who placed a long time ago. His advice is a wonderful example of what the silent partner in the adoption triad does.

Thinking of Placing:

  • Realistically look at all your options.
  • Prepare emotionally for grief and loss.
  • Surround yourself with positive but realistic people who can support and encourage you.
  • Be clear about your expectations.
  • Ask tons of questions.
  • Have someone clearly explain all the legal stuff.  Ask questions until you understand what is happening.

Recently Placed:

  • Remember what you planned to help you deal with the grief.
  • Remember that grief is normal.
  • It’s okay to take time off or to take it slowly to get back into things. Do whatever truly helps, but make sure you aren’t just avoiding life and your feelings.
  • Allow specific times to grieve heavily but also work to be productive and happy at other times.
  • If you chose an open adoption, evaluate how it is actually working for you. Is it a healthy relationship? Do you need more, less, or something different?
  • Reach out to others including your counselor, caseworker, or social worker. If you don’t have one, get one. You will need the support of a professional.
  • Reach out to other birth moms, but remember that everyone is different.

Placed a Long Time Ago:

  • Remember that grief is normal, even after a long time.
  • Continue to allow specific times to grieve heavily, such as birthdays and Mother’s Day, and then be productive and happy. Find joy in your life in spite of your grief. It is there.
  • If you have an open adoption, evaluate how it is working for you. Do you need more, less, or something different?
  • If you had a closed adoption, is it time to find your child? Get support from others on this, particularly other birth parents and adoptees.
  • If you had an open adoption but lost connection, consider reconnecting.
  • Share your success and failures with new birth moms. Be a mentor!

Those of us in the adoption triad are very grateful to the many men and women who are our silent partners.  We couldn’t do this without you!