When your family opposes adoption
Adoption is never an easy choice to begin with, but it can become even more difficult when your family opposes adoption.
Whether you are thinking about placing a child for adoption or adopting a child, it’s normal to want your family’s approval.
It’s not required, of course. Your family’s consent is not required in order for an adoption to occur.
There is no “age of consent” in Texas, so legally, any teenager old enough to get pregnant can make an adoption plan without her family’s knowledge or permission. And while homestudy workers are required to ask adopting parents what their family’s feelings are about the pending adoption plan, the negative response of extended family is not considered a “deal breaker,” per se.
And yet. (And yet…)
It’s hard to go through placing a child or adopting a child without the support of the people you love. Family opposition to adoption is not uncommon, but that does not make it any less painful.
When family doesn’t “get it”
For birthmother Monique, knowing her mother disapproved of her adoption plan added untold stress to an already-difficult situation.
“She told me she gave up everything to raise me as a single mom and me deciding not to do the same thing for my baby felt like a slap in the face to her,” she says. “I tried to tell her this isn’t about her, it’s about me and my child and what I want for us both. But to her, it seems like I’m saying what was good enough for her isn’t good enough for me.”
For Dave and Shari, who came to Abrazo to adopt, their family’s refusal to back their adoption felt like a rejection of them, as well. “They knew all we had gone through with the infertility treatments that didn’t work! For them to suggest we hadn’t tried all we could to have a baby of our own was totally unfair. And then to say they weren’t sure they could love a child who wasn’t related to us by blood just made us look at our own family in a whole different light. (And not a good one.) It took awhile to get over that, for them and for us.”
In time, of course, Monique’s mother came to realize she would rather be a part of her grandchild’s open adoption than lose her access to her grandchild forever. Dave and Shari’s relatives, too, came to love the adopted baby just as much as their other nieces, nephews and grandkids.
In both instances, however, Abrazo’s clients found that their families’ resistance to adoption and their initial lack of support did have some lasting impact on those family relationships.
For Juanita, who came from a very traditional family, choosing adoption meant offending her family’s cultural mores. Initially, her parents, who hailed from Mexico, told her she would bring shame upon the family name if she shirked her parenting responsibilities by placing a child for adoption. Her father went so far as to tell her she would be dead to him if she went through with the adoption. Her sisters told her they would blame her for breaking their father’s heart by placing.
However, it was eventually her mother who showed up at the hospital to support her after birth, revealing that her dad’s aunt had once lost a child to closed adoption, and that in time, her father would surely come around. Juanita found the courage to allow her child’s adoption to proceed, and although one of her sisters still bears her ill will for doing so, her parents have forgiven her and even participate in visits with the adoptive family when they come back to see Juanita.
Not all relatives’ hearts do soften over time, however, nor does every relative always find it in their hearts to embrace an adoption after it happens. This is a painful truth, as one adoptive parent discovered, when a deceased relative’s will was read in court, revealing the inheritance was divided among all the grandchildren except for the adoptee. It is also hurtful for birthparents who must never display their placed children’s photos nor utter their names for fear of offending family member who disapproves of the adoption decision that was made.
If it becomes clear that the child you place or the child you adopt will be treated unfairly by your relative(s) as a result of the adoption decision, then it is your responsibility to shield that child to whatever extent you can– not denying the truth, of course, but rather, aiming to minimize the child’s exposure to those who would reject him/her.
How to break the news
There is, unfortunately, no magical formulation by which you can reveal an adoption plan and be guaranteed a positive response every time from every relative.
Generally, Abrazo recommends breaking the news in a private setting, one-on-one, using I-statements: (“I know you know how hard things have been for me/us lately and I know you want the best for me/us so I hope you will find it in your heart to support me/us because I/we have been feeling that adoption is going to be my/our best option, given my/our circumstances.”)
Keep in mind that the first response you get to this news doesn’t have to be how the listener/s will always feel about it. They may respond with shock or anger or horror or disgust or compassion or confusion or hope, and any one of those reactions would be normal.
Know, too, that most relatives’ resistance is likely rooted in concern for you, and that they may come to feel differently about the risks involved once they learn more about the open adoption process, how it works and why it matters.
Be prepared to get different responses from different relatives; one set of in-laws or birthgrandparents may feel very differently than the other, and that’s okay, too. Adoption practices were handled very differently in yesteryear, so be prepared to help educate your relatives about what open adoption is and isn’t, if you find this would be helpful.
Give them time to come around. Assure them that you are carefully exploring your options, that you are not making any snap decisions, and that you are only working with the best of adoption resources. Welcome them to ask you questions, if you do welcome their interest, or invite them to join Abrazo’s Forum if you prefer that they get information within our community. (A couple books that may also be useful for relatives of adopting parents are In On It, Adoption Is a Family Affair, and for birthgrandparents, check out Meeting the Adoptive Parents and Walking the Open Adoption Trail.)
If your relatives oppose your plans and drag out the heavy artillery (ie., offers of financial support in exchange for your commitment to keep the baby or to pursue additional fertility treatment,) consider getting a counselor involved to help you evaluate to what extent those offers would or would not impact your decision– and potentially, your future. A few joint counseling sessions with your relatives might also be a good idea, if the family dynamics have any bearing on your decision-making process?
Ultimately, however, you are responsible for your fate (and that of your future child/family,) so keep this in mind, whatever you decide. When your family opposes adoption, that says much more about them than it says about you, so make your own best choices and know that the kinfolk who truly love you unconditionally will come around eventually, whatever choice you make, and regardless of how they feel about it from the git-go.