What Birthmothers Want
It’s a question that gets asked often, about what birthmothers want in an adoptive family?
For starters, though, remember this: no woman is considered a birthmother until they have given birth and elected to place their child for adoption… so expectant parents considering adoption should never be referred to as “birthparents” in advance. (That’s “putting the cart before the horse” at best and it’s presumptuous or coercive at worst.)
There are different contexts in which this question gets asked, so let’s explore them, one by one.
What do prospective birthparents look for in searching for a home for their child/ren?
In Abrazo’s experience, most expectant moms exploring the adoption option don’t start the process looking to place with a wealthy family. (Financially-stable, yes… rich, no.) They’re not looking for the family with the biggest house or the fanciest vacations. When Abrazo’s staff asks prospective birthparents what they want in a family for their child, the #1 response we hear is “… good. I want good parents for my baby.” Good is relative, though, so then we ask “what does good mean to you?” And that’s when more specifics tend to get discussed.
The majority of parents we talk with who are considered adoption for their child/ren initially hope to make first-time parents of a childless couple with infertility who have no other means of becoming parents. Prospective birthparents often ask us for a family from Texas, either because they hope to be able to see their placed child periodically via open adoption, or because they are native Texans who want their child to share that proud legacy.
Most of the potential birthfamilies who contact Abrazo seek to place with Christian parents, but very few come to our agency with specific racial requirements, unlike adopting parents, for whom race is often very important. The majority of birthparents are seeking to place with adopting parents who are their age or a decade older; rarely are birthparents open to placing with an adopting couple who are older than their own parents.
What do birthmoms want for their child/ren?
This is a loaded question, but the short answer is this: parents who are placing the right way and for the right reasons are never “in it for the money.” They may need to have pregnancy-related expenses covered during pregnancy, but it is the child’s best interest that truly comes first. And towards that end, what they want for their children is what any good parent wants for their child: love, safety, permanence, and security. (Plus all the little extras that make for an idyllic childhood: parents who are able to get on the floor and play with them, family trips to Disneyworld, a room of their own, two parents that love each other, the resources to get a great education, and maybe even a pet or a sibling or two?)
What do placing parents want for open adoption contact?
Most parents do not have clearly defined open adoption expectations in advance of placement. (This is why it is typically ineffectual for prospective adopters to ask prospective birthparents in a first contact “so what kind of contact are you going to want with us after the adoption is done?”)
Before actually becoming a birthparent, it’s hard to anticipate how adoption grief is going to impact you and how much contact you will or will not want to have with the adoptive family.
Most placing parents do know, however, that they are going to want to know where their child is going, and with whom, and they want to know the door is going to be open if and when they do feel ready for contact. They want to know the adopting parents are genuinely kind people whom they can trust to do right by their child, and they want to know the adoptive parents will not seek to shut them out of their child’s life once the ink is dry on the adoption documents.
They want adopting parents who genuinely care about them and their child/ren, who will not judge their lifestyles and who will raise the adoptee to understand the intricacies of the decision made on their behalf.
Some will want primarily sent updates, while others will want periodic visits and others may be more comfortable with staying in touch through occasional phone calls. Work out a written post-adoption contact agreement that gives everyone the ability to enjoy clear expectations about what is agreed upon, and then honor it faithfully.
Why do some birthparents search for their adopted child/ren years after the adoption?
The simplest answer we’ve heard to this question is this: “birthparents don’t go looking for what they know; they go looking for what they don’t know.”
Birthparents whose children’s adoptions have always been open don’t feel any need to search for a child whose well-being and whereabouts have always been known to them. (Makes sense, doesn’t it?)
But birthparents who have been cut off from contact, who have lost touch with the adopting family over the years or for whom there is reason to fear the child’s welfare is uncertain have every reason in the world to go looking for the child they placed. It’s what any responsible parent would do, after all? Most are not looking to disrupt their placed child’s life, but to ensure that the adoptee is safe and happy and doing well.
We know that oftentimes, adoptive families who get wind that their adoptee’s birthparent is trying to make contact after an extended absence may understandably feel anxious, but please receive their outreach with an open mind, and be as charitable and welcoming as possible? Assure the birthparent/s that you are open to rebuilding a relationship, as long as it meets everyone’s needs, but be transparent about holding off on involving any minor adoptee in those contacts until there is a clear understanding of trust, intent and boundaries.
Three needs are a common thread in all three of the scenarios above: the need for respect, access, and truth, and these desires should be easily understood by any adoptive parent.
What prospective placing parents and what birthmothers want– before and after adoption– is what any of us would likely seek, were we in their shoes, so keep this in mind and respond accordingly, as genuinely as possible.