Open adoption creates unique relationships. You have gained not only a child, but new adults you may consider as family, too. Having open communication with your child’s birth mother and/or birth father puts you in a position where you can help them in more ways than you’d probably expected.

1. Stay in touch

Let them know you were genuine when you said you wanted open communication. If you’ve agreed upon weekly emails, don’t skip any. You may not always get a response, but those emails will be read. Sometimes, a birth mom or dad may be focusing on other things and will catch up on several emails at once. The same for phone calls or FaceTime sessions. Be available and reliable. Our relationship with our son’s birth mom started as weekly emails, then morphed into texts, in-person meetings, and following each other on social media sites. Any relationship takes time to develop; so allowing your communication to change forms is totally normal as long as you always take that time for them.

2. Tell your story

Share your adoption story with as many people as possible. Open adoption is a new concept for a lot of people. If you want the negative narrative to change, you must help in making it more commonly understood and accepted. Adoptive parents can help their children’s birth parents by building up their reputations. Answer questions. Educate. Do speaking engagements at seminars or churches; it will help make the title of “birth mother” or “birth father” more understood and respected. Birth parents will begin to feel more comfortable having people know about the placement of the child. (Note: this can all be done without revealing the birth parents’ identity if that’s what they prefer.)

3. Encourage with resources

If you love the adoption community as much as I do, you’ll constantly come across helpful websites, videos, articles, etc. Send those along to birth mothers and birth fathers if you think it’s something that may help. Encourage them by sending a link to a support group’s site. Share with them an adoption story video that you found similar to your story. It’s good to show them they aren’t alone. You can even find other birth parents online and ask if they’d like to exchange emails with your child’s birth parents so they can make a connection with someone who’s already been through it. One caveat though–don’t bombard them. There’s a ton of content online, so asking “Would you mind if I sent you this?” first can’t hurt.

4. Give meaningful gifts

Gifts for your child’s birth parents are not mandatory. Anything you give them will obviously pale in comparison to the new life they’ve given you; however, remembering them with holiday or birthday gifts is an easy way to show them they’re loved. It doesn’t have to be expensive. You can even make your own. Give a copy of your child’s artwork, or a framed photo. One gift we gave our son’s birth mother was a quilt made of some of his baby clothes. This is a little expensive, around $120, for someone to make from Etsy. If you have the means, see if you can offer something that will support their future, like paying for some college textbooks.

5. Honor the similarities between them and your child

Point out the good qualities they have in front of your child. Speak highly of them. Let them all know you notice and love the biological similarities they share: blonde curls, a crooked left pinkie toe, or a great laugh. You want your child to know those details that are inherent in their bond. Furthermore, let friends and relatives know that they should not speak negatively about the birth parents in front of your child. Ultimately, the relationship is what you make it to be, and you have the opportunity to make it great when everyone is on the same page and the child knows he or she was placed for adoption with love.