It’s no surprise that feeling connected to others has been proven to improve your health—be it mental, emotional, or physical. Having a strong connection to others oftentimes leaves us feeling like we’re accepted, part of something bigger than ourselves, and hopeful knowing that we’re not in this alone. Before we decided to pursue adoption, my husband and I knew very little about adoption other than the face value: that of hopeful parents wishing to start our family via foster care and adoption and that of hopeful waiting children looking to find forever families. But we soon discovered that once you make the decision to take that first step, click that next link, and call an adoption agency, you become part of a life-changing choice that will shape the rest of your lives as an adoptive family.
There are many connections related to adoption that may not be apparent or understood until you’ve started along the path no matter from which direction. Connections between birth parents and agencies and waiting couples; connections formed through support groups available to adopting families, birth families, and adoptees; connections between adoptive families and local service outlets such as pediatricians, school resources, and community groups.
While adoption can appear abstract and disjointed, there is an underlying strong connection between the child, the birth family, and the adoptive family otherwise known as the adoption triad. This article What Is the Adoption Triad states that a child placed into an adoptive family is forever linked to his birth parents, whether or not both or even one is known. This is a connection that will exist for an adopted child’s lifetime. Similarly, the child’s adoptive family becomes his forever family, and as such, adoptive parents are forever linked to their child through adoption. The adoptee is therefore connected to both her birth parents and adoptive parents. Birth parents and adopted parents are linked—no matter open or closed adoption or domestic or international—through the adopted child.
But the adoption connection does not end with these three immediate groups. Both adoptive families and birth families also involve and include extended family members: grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Whether or not an adoption is open or closed does not negate the importance or connection these relatives will have to the adopted child. It’s important, then, for both birth parents and adoptive parents to be respectful of each other as equal parts in an adopted child’s life.
As a child is placed into a forever family, he is also introduced to close family friends who also oftentimes play an important role in upbringing such as taking on the role of a godparent, introducing their children as future playmates, attending important functions and celebrations.
Outside of forever family members and close friends exists support systems and organizations that also play important roles in fostering strong adoptee relations and providing opportunities for birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees to connect with one another. Agencies, social workers, and support groups, too, can play a connective role in an adoptive family’s world as the family grows together and an adoptee’s understanding of his adoption changes with his age.
While some adoptive families choose to go it alone, moving away from support services and association with other adoptive families, my husband and I were embraced from the start by a local support group and have since embraced the group as our extended family— they having played an important and intimate role in our adoption story from day 1. This connection has been instrumental in many of the choices we have made on behalf of and with our children based on years of forever families who have walked the road we’re now walking (both parents and their children, many of whom are now grown) who have been willing to share their experiences with our family.
Eleven years into our journey, I don’t claim to know how all of these adoption connections will play out. Some connections have been forged for a lifetime, while others, like any relationships, have changed or faded due to the unexpected and sometimes unfortunate wear and tear of life. What I do hope for, for our children is that we have, through unfolding this tapestry made up of family, friends, extended family, and support systems, is a clear and continuing connection our children can count on as they continue to walk their own paths and form new connections, rekindle old connections, and know that we are all in this together.