Ask AF: Reluctant About Birth Parent Contact

A parent wonders how to establish a safe relationship between a daughter and her birth parents who have an unstable past.

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Q: Our three-year-old’s birth parents have never really been a part of her life. She doesn’t even know who they are, but they recently began asking for contact. I’ve sent photos at their request, but I refused when they asked if she could go to their house for a party. (As far as I know, both are drug users, and their lives are very unstable.) What should we do?

A: I recommend that you and your birth parents reach an agreement about the type and frequency of contact you will have over the years as soon as possible. You might want to enlist an adoption professional to help you. It’s always best to work out this type of agreement before placement, but better late than never.

You appear to have negative feelings about the birth parents. It’s important to keep in mind that your daughter will internalize the messages you send (both verbally and non-verbally) about her birth parents–”I am bad because I came from someone bad.” For the sake of your daughter’s self-esteem, it’s important to communicate that her birth parents love her. When she is older, you can talk about the problems in their lives that prevented them from parenting her.

If you feel your daughter’s birth parents are unsafe, you can decide that you won’t allow visits at this time. This is your right and responsibility as a parent. If you agree to a chaperoned visit, you can state explicit boundaries, by telling them, “If you show up for a visit under the influence of drugs, you won’t be allowed in our house.”

As to your statement that she doesn’t know who they are, I think she should, and now is a good time to introduce them. Whenever you talk with her about adoption, start by mentioning the fact that she grew in her birth mother’s tummy. Refer to them by their first names, as well as by the terms “birth mother” and “birth father.” I also recommend having photos of the birth parents in your home (in a scrapbook about her adoption). If you don’t have any, ask for some the next time you send photos to them.

 

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