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AF answers your parenting questions.May/June 2005



Have a question? Ask our panel of experts.

Reaching Out to the Birthfather

Q: We've met our 9-month-old son's birthfather only twice, though we see his birthmother frequently. As far as we know, this young man's parents don't yet know about our son. He responds to our e-mails, yet seems reluctant to meet our son. How can we increase the openness of our relationship with him?

A: Open adoption relationships are not one-size-fits-all, and they evolve over time. What works for your son's birthmother may not be right for his birthfather. Try not to compare the two.

Does the birthfather live with his parents? Depending on their attitudes about sex before marriage and unplanned pregnancy, his reluctance to discuss your son with his parents may be well-founded. Talk with him about this.

Bearing these considerations in mind, if you'd like to suggest a visit, choose a venue where he would feel at ease. This might be a park or a museum, depending on his interests. The activity will lessen the pressure and fill in some spaces. Talk about the role you see him playing in your son's life, giving concrete examples of what that means to you.

Also, let him know how much you appreciate his commitment so far. His involvement is indicative of the love he has for your son, and it should be commended.
—Brenda Romanchik,
Insight: Open Adoption Resources and Support
Royal Oak, Michigan

A: It sounds as though the birthfather is not ready to handle a relationship with your son or a more intense relationship with you at this point. This may change, but you must respect his decision.

It's also possible that he won't change his mind, and, in case he doesn't, you should try to get information about him for your son now. When you speak or write to the birthfather, ask him to tell you about his interests and talents, as well as his medical history. See if he's willing to write a letter that your son can read when he's older, or ask him to give you photographs taken at different times in his life.
—Vicki Peterson,
Wide Horizons for Children
Waltham, Massachusetts

Adoption Assistance

Q: I found that I couldn't exclude my adoption reimbursement from my income on my taxes because my employer's program is not "qualified." My HR department advised me that the costs of filing the plan "outweigh the benefit to the company." What might these costs be? I'm considering lobbying my company's president to file it.

A: Your HR department was probably referring to the annual requirement to report plan activity using IRS Form 5500. The IRS may investigate if any red flags are raised by the information given. Also, there is some cost involved with the reporting, but it is relatively small. A nudge from one or more employees should convince your company that the goodwill generated will be worth the cost.

I'd suggest the following resources to educate yourself before your meeting: www.dol.gov/ebsa/publications/AC_112204_report.html and www.mwe.com/info/adoption/index.html.
—Douglas Dormire Powers,
Employee-benefits litigation specialist, Baker & Daniels
Fort Wayne, Indiana

Differences in a Blended Family

Q: My husband and I are adopting a baby boy from Guatemala. We have three biological children, so we're worried that he'll feel very different. How should we respond to questions from others, and what should we tell our kids?

A: Answer questions matter-of-factly. You can simply say that, because he was born in Guatemala, he looks like people from Guatemala, and that your family has adopted him.

It is important that you give your children at least some general information about why their brother was available for adoption, and why he will be joining your family. Save the details to share directly with him when he is older. For now, it is enough to tell your children that his Guatemalan parents weren't ready to be parents, but they wanted a family to love him forever.
—Ronny Diamond,
Adoption Resource Center
Spence-Chapin, New York City

A: It's terrific that you're thinking about such issues, even before you bring your new baby home. Your Guatemalan child will look different from others in your family, and he will receive a good deal of attention based on this fact alone. Instead of trying to protect him from feeling "different," help him feel good about being different by taking pride in his Guatemalan heritage. If he is comfortable with his identity, it will pay off later on, especially as he reaches adolescence.
—Vicki Peterson,
Wide Horizons for Children
Waltham, Massachusetts

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