Adoption is… A Triad

When I became an adoptive mother, I didn’t understand the importance of the adoption triad. I didn’t even know what it was!

The adoption triad includes three roles that make adoption possible: The adoptee, the birth parent(s) and the adoptive parent(s).

This triangular connection exists even if adoptive parents and birth parents have never met. The connection exists solely because of the adoptee—who knows both of them.

Understanding the adoption triad helps the adoption process—no matter what role you play.

I’ve met adoptees who know they’re adopted and they’re close to their adoptive parents. However, there is no acknowledgement of the birth parents and the role they play in their story.

With traditional adoption, an adoptee spends nine months in the womb connected to their birth mother—and possibly longer if they spend additional time together after birth until an adoption is finalized.

This connection includes a voice, a scent, and often a touch that the child knows intimately.

Most of the time—no matter where they were born—the bond to a biological mother is strong. When a child experiences a change in caregivers we are learning that they sense great loss, even if the change takes place immediately at birth.

Every adoptee may express that loss differently.

Feelings can span from strong expression to no expression at all. It’s the responsibility of adoptive parents to recognize that the loss exists either way. We need to make room for the grief when we talk with our children about their birth parents. If they’ve made unhealthy decisions or the adoption is closed or you have very little details, we might think it’s best to ignore the topic all together.

The truth is, without birth parents, there simply is no adoption.

My advice? Talk to your adopted children honestly about their story. Let them express how they feel about their birth parents and teach them to love and forgive if needed. Help them understand that their biological parents chose life and in most cases loved them and wanted the very best for them. No matter what the story is, no matter how hard it is, birth parents are an important part of the triad. We must honor them in our unique adoption stories.

I understand this is not always an easy thing to do.

When my son AJ started asking questions at the age of five, it was extremely difficult. I wasn’t sure how to respond. I understand why some adoptive parents want to avoid such challenging questions, because I wanted to avoid them!

After interviewing adoptees and birth parents on ADOPTION NOW, I’ve learned it’s my role to guide AJ through his story with truth, understanding and compassion—in an age appropriate way.

After we talked about his birth mother, AJ asked, “Why would a mom leave her baby?”

I felt my heart break. At that moment I realized how painful and difficult this was for my son to understand.

My love for him could not take away the pain, but my love could offer him comfort. I could listen—and I could help him feel heard.

Each player has a voice in the adoption triad. When we understand the importance of each role, express our needs and respect each other, we’ll have healthier approaches and I believe healthier adoptions.

We’re seeing a huge change. Birth parents are being heard, because open adoptions are more prevalent. Many agencies now provide post placement counseling for birth parents to help them grieve. The more we expand our knowledge and resources, the more we’ll grow as a community.

Remember to embrace that no matter how messy your adoption triad can be or how wonderful, we share a great purpose and together we create amazing adoption stories.

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