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Step-adoption and the Birth Family

by Vicki Peterson and Kathleen Silber

Have a question? Ask our panel of experts.

Q: I’ve helped raise my fiancée’s five-year-old daughter almost since birth. I plan to legally adopt her after the wedding, and we all consider me her father. Recently, after years without contact, the birthfather’s parents, who live in a nearby town, asked for an ongoing relationship. I would like to raise her as my own, without the distraction of these new grandparents (until our daughter asks, when, naturally, we would tell the truth). My fiancée argues that we should not keep our daughter from her biological relatives, even at her young age. What do you advise?

A:I advise against keeping any secrets from your daughter. You and your fiancée should get to know the birthfather’s parents. Once you are comfortable, the two of you should accompany your daughter on her initial visits. Although these are her birth relatives, at this point they are strangers to her. Follow her cues as to how often to see them. When you do move ahead with the legal adoption, hold a festive celebration, so that she knows how special your tie is to you and other members of the family.

—Vicki Peterson
Wide Horizons for Children, Waltham, Massachusetts


A:Children at this age always fare best with concrete information, so direct contact will be helpful. I wouldn’t worry about your relationship; although you have not yet adopted the girl, you are, in fact, her dad—you have raised her since she was an infant. A relationship with her grandparents will not diminish your role in her life. In fact, a child cannot have too many people in her life who love her. Just as your child can love multiple parents, she can love multiple grandparents.

—Kathleen Silber
co-author of
Dear Birthmother and Children of Open Adoption

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