Open Adoption Interruptions Due to COVID-19

Birth parents are devastated when visits get postponed, here are some work arounds for families

The challenges are endless during these crazy COVID times. I don’t think anyone was fully prepared for the difficulty that has come with all the new restrictions and everyone is doing their best to become accustomed to their “new normal.” As an Adoption Counselor, I have seen many birthparents reach out to me who are really struggling with their new everyday life. While there has been a major financial burden placed on a lot of people, it is also important to realize the emotional and mental strains that have resulted from being quarantined.

Many birthparents have had to face postponed or cancelled visits with their children and their families.

And while they completely understand it’s out of everyone’s hands, they are still often left feeling more isolated and alone than ever. The indefinite timeframe of when everything will “get back to normal” is adding additional weight and fear to the situation. “Is everyone healthy? When will I get to see my son again? Will he forget who I am until then?” The unanswered questions can turn into an unending spiral. While we cannot “fix” the pandemic visiting limitations, there is still a lot that families can do to help.

What Can Families Do?

As we are experiencing, even outside the world of adoption, feeling connected from afar is vital to maintain connections and relationships. Everyone is craving human interaction to help stay grounded. People “coming together” in out-of-the-box ways are constantly streaming stories online. Families seeing relatives in nursing homes through windows, grandparent visiting their grandchildren by standing on the other side of the street, birthday party car parades, Zoom weddings and baby showers…the list goes on and on.

For a birthparent who might already struggle with anxiety or depression or who is living on their own without the support of family, this can be an extra challenging time. Even for birthparents who might have strong family and friend circles, missing a visit with their child due to the pandemic can be devastating.

Now more than ever, it’s important that adoptive families make a strong effort to maintain that connection with their child’s birthparents. Even if it’s not officially time for a visit or update, checking in to see how he or she is doing, would really go a long way.

We have already seen many adoptive families who are doing such an amazing job of trying to support birthparents during these hard times.

Mary, an AFTH Birth Mother, Explains How Her Daughter’s Family Is Making a Point to Stay Connected

I am a proud birthmom of a beautiful 3-year-old baby girl. I have been lucky enough to have a fantastic relationship with her parents. We text a few times a week, video chat and we normally have 2 visits a year. This year, I got up the courage to ask for another visit. Not that I was worried about their reaction or answer, I’m just always very conscious and aware of our boundaries and I never want to push too hard. That being said, they were very excited to set up another visit for May 2nd. We were going to meet halfway (they live in Virginia and I live in Delaware) at the Baltimore Aquarium. I was so beyond happy to have another visit with my baby girl and honestly, I adore and love them as people so getting to see them is equally important to me.

However, with everything going on now, obviously that visit has been cancelled. To say I was heartbroken would be a huge understatement. I already suffer from bad depression and the entirety of the situation has really been a challenge. I’ve been so honest with them about my mental health struggles that they have been very concerned about how all of this was affecting me. We talked about it and we’ve been having video chats almost daily, even if it’s only for a few minutes. We do it after dinner and I’ve been reading her books before bed. Their kindness and understanding of my feelings is more than I could have ever expected when I began this journey 3 years ago. I could not have picked better people to be her parents, but I am beyond blessed to have them in my life. They genuinely care about me as an individual, not just her birthmom. They give me unconditional, no judgement love and I try my best to make them proud and return the love. Everything about this quarantine has been difficult, but I’m trying to stay positive and with their love and support I think I’m doing alright.

Offering More Connection During Quarantine Can Have a Profound Impact on Your Relationship

While every open adoption is different, taking the time to reach out now can be very meaningful. It won’t look the same for every family. Sending an email to your social worker with extra photos or videos to be passed along to your child’s birthparent would be a great way to brighten up their day. Maybe your child has been busy making crafts and you could pass some along. If comfortable setting up a “virtual meeting” with the birth family, Facetime, Skype, and Zoom make seeing each other from afar easy. Private Facebook groups and 23Snaps are other ways to keep autonomy however create a space for back and forth communication and sharing of videos and photos.

Many people, including adoptive families, are facing personal struggles during this time, but taking these small steps can really go a long way for a birthparent. Please remember that COVID is affecting everyone, and it is during times like these that we must reach out to our loved ones, including birth parents!

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