Sixteen years ago when I was trying to locate a woman who wanted to plan for the placement of her child in the hands of adoptive parents, “birth parent” was used to refer to the parent who gave birth to the adopted child. With the increased variety of methods by which families can be created, I guess the term “biological parent” came into vogue. Adoption is only one way to create a family, after all.
What Do Biological Parents Do???: Many biological parents who have to place their child in the hands of adoptive parents do so with significant personal sadness. The circumstances that brought them to the point of having to do so is often quite unfortunate, leaving a personal scar that may never heal. Biological parents may have to PLAN an adoption, because they love their child and want the best for them, realizing that they cannot care for them. It is not necessarily, as i have heard many state, that the child involved was “given away”. This term in actuality is offensive to many in the adoption community.
Baggage Carried: I do not think that as a group people who adopt necessarily consider the developmental differences to which these childern may be prone. Impoverished living conditions, poverty, abuse or genetically carried predispositions may all be contributing factors that are unknown to a prospective adoptive parent and child. In a professional role, there is a responsibility to both be aware of and appreciate this fact. I also believe that it is the role for every professional who touches the life of an adopted child to become an educator for both the adoptee and adoptive parent in terms of the differences that are present. Teaching the adoptee and the adoptive parent how to deal with the problems that may be present, so that functioning is at the highest possible level is extremely important. Parents need to be empowered to locate professionals who are adoption savvy – aware of the issues. As well, the possibility of screening a child who was adopted in
Birthdays: From their perspective, the adopted child will always understand that there is a person or people who chose to not care for them after they were born. Children who walk into your office will carry throughout their lives a feeling of having been rejected, on some level. Birthdays will always represent a day of loss for them. They may be exciting, but sad as well. Sometimes adopted children withdraw from their adoptive family on that day, not wanting to confront this aspect of their lives. Instead, they may bury their head into a solitary activity, avoiding others.
Environment: Children who are adopted may come from homes that are void of adequate nutrition. Biological parents of adoptees who choose not to raise them may do so because of poor financial circumstances. They may have need for the money that the legal process invovled in the actual adoption process may be a motivating factor for them to go this route.
Child trafficking: This is something well documented in China. The following link provides a detailed definition of this term and after reading this, one can come to appreciate how trafficking can influence a person: www.unicef.org/southafrica/SAF_pressrelease_notetrafficking.pdf The emotional toll that this takes on a human being cannot be understated. The article that I reference here gives a very real picture of the very issue.
Orphanages: If a child was in one internationally or domestically prior to placement there may be factors that cause delays in the development of communication skills, nutrition and overall growth. Sharon Glennen, PhD., CCC/SLP has documented this in her articles that are readily available online. In her article “Orphanage Care and Language” she talks of her own experience in adopting a child from Russia. Her travels to various orphanages and observations made during her visits are documented. Amongst the red flags that she notes are a lack of environmental stimulation from adults, delays in language development, low birth weight, limited play opportunities. Some children are left drinking from bottles or may not be assisted in learning how to eat with utensils. One can surmise that the need for a multidisciplinary team evaluation and treatment approach in working with these children is essential to help them reach typical developmental milestones.
In closing, I quote Susan Soon-Keum“ADOPTION is bittersweet,” said Susan Soon-Keum Cox, vice president for public policy and external affairs at Holt International, a Christian adoption agency based in Eugene, Ore., with an extensive program in China. She states that “The process connects birth parents, child and adoptive parents in an unequal relationship in which each party has different needs and different leverage. It begins in loss”. www.cityrooms.blogs.nytimes.com: *“For Adoptive Parents, Questions without Answers” We all need to be sensitive when we deal with all of these parties. Families where there is an “open adoption”, where the adoptive parents and child have a relationship especially in domestic ones, where we as professionals have a possibility of gaining more information. In some cases it will not be and you will have no history at all….there will be gaps in our knowledge of that with which we deal. This is an unfortunate reality with which we all must sadly deal.