Category Archives: Birth Grandparents

Holiday Gift Guide for the Birth Parents in Your Life

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                The season of giving is officially upon us. While many adults devote their next few weeks to holiday shopping for their children, parents, siblings, aunts, and uncles, there are other individuals who deserve recognition. Many adoptive parents grow contemplative over the holidays,wondering what they can offer to their child’s birth parents. What gift can you give someone that can possibly convey how much you appreciate them and how thankful you are for the ultimate gift they’ve given you? Holiday shopping for birth parents can be difficult, but as we all know, sometimes the simplest gifts are the ones that matter most. Here are some ideas for heartfelt holiday presents for your child’s birth parents.


Symbolic Teddy Bear

                Teddy bears are often synonymous with young children. Why, you ask, are we recommending a teddy bear for an adult? Because it’s possible to create a bear that birth parents will not only love, but cherish forever. If your child is a toddler who no longer uses their baby blanket, it is the perfect time for this gift. Use your child’s blanket to create a teddy bear to give to their birth parents. Another possibility? Ask your hospital for your infant’s baby blanket prior to discharge. Use this infant blanket from the hospital to create a bear. Trust us, there won’t be a dry eye in the room when this gift is opened.

Handprint Calendar

Calendars are a useful tool for everyone. Create a calendar template on your computer for the upcoming year. Place paint on your child’s hand and decorate each month with their hand prints in a unique way. Create an American flag handprint for the month of July, a turkey handprint for November, or snowflake handprints for January. Bypass creating the template and purchase a handprint-ready calendar here.

Homemade Photo Magnets

Think again before you begin throwing out your bottle caps and drink lids. Save these items to make custom, homemade magnets with your child. Paint caps and lids before adding an adhesive magnetic strip to the back. Cut out photos of your child and glue them to the front of the caps. This unique present will be sure to warm some hearts. Visit a tutorial here.

Friendship Bracelets

Friendship bracelets are a childhood favorite that even adults can appreciate. Buy some string from a local craft store and help your child make matching bracelets for themselves and their birth parents. This present is one that birth parents can take with them anywhere as a reminder of their child’s love.

Send a Hug

Sometimes, we aren’t able to be with our loved ones during the holidays. In this case, children have the opportunity to send “hugs.” This easy craft allows children to make hugs to send in the mail. This gift is perfect not only for the holidays, but also as a “just because” present as well. It’s never a bad idea to show someone how much you love them and wish you could be spending time with them. For a tutorial on this easy craft, click here.

Matching Holiday Ornaments

For many families, it is a tradition to let children pick out a new holiday ornament each year. When you take your child to pick out their new ornament, buy multiples of the same ornament and give the others to your child’s birth parents. This gift allows birth parents and children to have a special item that connects them each holiday season.


Holiday shopping for birth parents can be a difficult, but with these unique and heartfelt gifts, you can have fun while knowing you will make someone else so incredibly happy.  As Winnie the Pooh once said, “sometimes, the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”

 

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Birthfathers’ Rights in the Adoption Process: Know Your Options, Know Your Rights

Birthfathers’ Rights in the Adoption Process

Birthfathers’ Rights in the Adoption Process: Know Your Options, Know Your Rights

There is a common misconception in today’s society that a child’s birthfather has less rights than birthmothers do and that they are unable to make choices regarding their baby. Did you know that the birthfather starts out with the same legal rights as birthmothers? Birthfathers have a right to parent their child and a right to object to an adoption of their child even though statistically, many adoptions take place listing unknown birthfathers or birthfathers who choose to be uninvolved in the process after being notified and some men who voluntarily relinquish their rights and choose to be involved in some level of an open adoption. As a birthfather, it’s important to be aware that you do have a choice and there are laws to protect your rights and even more important is knowing what those laws are and how they affect you.Birthfathers’ Rights in the Adoption Process (1)

Notifying the Father of the Adoption

Whether an expecting mother is working with an attorney or an adoption agency, the representation for the adoption will do whatever possible to make sure that the father is aware and decides either to consent or contest the mother’s decision to make an adoption plan regardless if both parents are in a relationship or even speaking terms or not. This is done in advance to avoid a situation in which an absent or uninvolved birthfather steps back into the picture and challenges the adoption. With that said, there are occasional situations when a birthfather reaching out to the agency to contest the adoption after the child is already placed in the home with an adoptive family and this is called a disruption. However, if the birthfather knows about the adoption and his rights, receives counseling, is made aware of all his options, and feels adoption is the right choice for his child, chances of disruption are significantly lowered. Adoption is less likely to be disrupted or challenged if the child’s birthfather participates in the planning and is fully aware of his rights along the way. Adoptions From The Heart welcomes the father’s presence and participation in making the adoption plan. Whether or not the child’s mother wants an open adoption, the father is able to decide the level of openness he would like as well as the number of visits each year. Even if the father isn’t in agreement with the adoption, he still needs to be kept well informed of the events and be very much aware of his rights.

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Laws of Birthfathers’ Rights Vary by State

Every U.S. state and territory has a statute providing for the termination, surrender, or relinquishment of the parental rights of the birth mother and birth father. What termination means is that the parental rights end the biological parent-child relationship. Each state has its own requirements that must be met regarding making this decision. Only when this relationship has been ended, the child is legally free to be adopted. Even though these laws differ in all US states, please find a few highlights of child adoption laws for the states where we are licensed in below.

To check the laws of the state in any of the other states, feel free to check out www.childadoptionlaws.com.

Pennsylvania

“…(d) Putative father.–If a putative father will not file a petition to voluntarily relinquish his parental rights pursuant to section 2501 (relating to relinquishment to agency) or 2502 (relating to relinquishment to adult intending to adopt child), has been given notice of the hearing being held pursuant to this section and fails to either appear at that hearing for the purpose of objecting to termination of his parental rights or file a written objection to such termination with the court prior to the hearing and has not filed an acknowledgment of paternity or claim of paternity pursuant to section 5103, the court may enter a decree terminating the parental rights of the putative father pursuant to subsection (c).”

New York

“…(d) Of the father, whether adult or infant, of a child born out-of-wedlock and placed with the adoptive parents more than six months after birth, but only if such father shall have maintained substantial and continuous or repeated contact with the child as manifested by: (i) the payment by the father toward the support of the child of a fair and reasonable sum, according to the father’s means, and either (ii) the father’s visiting the child at least monthly when physically and financially able to do so and not prevented from doing so by the person or authorized agency having lawful custody of the child, or (iii) the father’s regular communication with the child or with the person or agency having the care or custody of the child, when physically and financially unable to visit the child or prevented from doing so by the person or authorized agency having lawful custody of the child. The subjective intent of the father, whether expressed or otherwise, unsupported by evidence of acts specified in this paragraph manifesting such intent, shall not preclude a determination that the father failed to maintain substantial and continuous or repeated contact with the child. In making such a determination, the court shall not require a showing of diligent efforts by any person or agency to encourage the father to perform the acts specified in this paragraph.”

New Jersey

“…(b) The birth parent, except one who cannot be identified or located prior to the placement of the child for adoption, shall be offered counseling as to his or her options other than placement of the child for adoption. Such counseling shall be made available by or through an approved licensed agency in New Jersey or in the birth parent’s state or country of residence. The fact that counseling has been made available, and the name, address and telephone number of the agency through which the counseling is available, shall be confirmed in a written document signed by the birth parent and acknowledged in this State pursuant to section 1 of P.L.1991, c.308 (R.S.46:14-2.1) or acknowledged in another state or country pursuant to section 1 of P.L.1991, c.308 (R.S.46:14-6.1) a copy of which shall be provided to the birth parent and the agency conducting the adoption complaint investigation pursuant to section 12 of P.L.1977, c.367 (C.9:3-48) and shall be filed with compliance.

Delaware

“…(2) The biological father and any presumed father of a child; provided, however, that the consent of the alleged biological father or presumed father need not contain an admission that he is the father. In the event that the named biological or presumed father disclaims paternity, an affidavit signed by him to that effect shall be attached to the petition in lieu of a consent from the natural or presumed father. It is further provided that in the event of a petition containing statements described in § 906(7)b.(ii), (iii) or (iv) of this title, after a hearing in which it is established on the record that the mother and father of the child are not living together as husband and wife openly and that they have not done so nor married since the birth of the child, the Court may, following consideration of the social report, dispense with the requirement of the father’s consent in compliance.”

Connecticut

“…(b) A petition for termination of parental rights shall be entitled “In the interest of …. (Name of child), a person under the age of eighteen years”, and shall set forth with specificity: (1) The name, sex, date and place of birth, and present address of the child; (2) the name and address of the petitioner, and the nature of the relationship between the petitioner and the child; (3) the names, dates of birth and addresses of the parents of the child, if known, including the name of any putative father named by the mother, and the tribe and reservation of an American Indian parent; (4) if the parent of the child is a minor, the names and addresses of the parents or guardian of the person of such minor; (5) the names and addresses of: (A) The guardian of the person of the child; (B) any guardians ad litem appointed in a prior proceeding; (C) the tribe and reservation of an American Indian child; and (D) the child-placing agency which placed the child in his current placement; (6) the facts upon which termination is sought, the legal grounds authorizing termination, the effects of a termination decree and the basis for the jurisdiction of the court; (7) the name of the persons or agencies which have agreed to accept custody or guardianship of the child’s person upon disposition.”

Virginia

“…B. No consent shall be required of a birth father if he denies under oath and in writing the paternity of the child. Such denial of paternity may be withdrawn no more than 10 days after it is executed. Once the child is 10 days old, any executed denial of paternity is final and constitutes a waiver of all rights with respect to the adoption of the child and cannot be withdrawn.”

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Have Courage and Be Strong

Now that we have researched the specific laws in our state, we are now confident and capable of exercising our rights. Although each state differs in law, the rights of the birthfather are clearly stated in all 50 states. Birthfathers start out with the same legal rights as birthmothers and have a right to parent their child and a right to object to an adoption of their child. Adoption law has a processes for establishing and terminating a birth father’s parenting rights, but the law does not eliminate all uncertainly.

One problem that birthfathers face is that everyone around them assumes that they don’t care and often times, birthfather pay a price for not exercising their rights says Mary Martin Mason, the Minneapolis-based author of Out of the Shadows: Birthfathers’ Stories. “They were incredibly guilty and incredibly guilty to have lost their children” according to Mason. “This had affected their adult lives-their marriages, their jobs, their relationships.” They weren’t able to move on. It can take a lot of courage for a birthfather to walk through the doors of an adoption agency and we understand that and recognize the immense strength of the brave birthfathers who do take that step.

Adoptions From The Heart wants to personally become more birthfather friendly and cater to their specific needs since much of what is out there focuses on adoptive parents and birthmother needs. We believe by implementing birthfather focused literature, support groups, creating a “Birthfather Friday” marketing campaign, and encouraging general, open communication we can help empower the often forgotten birthparent. If you are an expecting mother struggling to find the courage to tell the father that you are pregnant, realize that you are not alone. Often times than not, your social worker can help you. If you are a birthfather, we hope this article helped you and shed some light on your very real and legal rights in the adoption process. Yes, it may put you out of your comfort zone at first but we assure you, the benefits of knowing all of your rights and exercising your ability to help create an adoption plan for your child if you choose is well worth being as involved as possible. It’s important not become the forgotten half of the story. Your voices is just as important and needs to be heard.

For help or advice please contact us today at 610-642-7200. If you are a birthfather and would like to share your story with us or participate in our “Birthfather Friday” series, please call us or email us Adoption@AFTH.org.

10 Thing Every Birth Mother Wants Adoptive Parents to Know

Patricia Dischler, author of “Because I Loved You: A Birthmother’s View of Open Adoption”, chose an open adoption for her son in 1985. While she has had the opportunity to build an open and meaningful relationship with her son’s parents, she knows that many parents do not get the opportunity to have a positive relationship with their child’s birth mother; which, she believes, can often lead to uncomfortable situations when parents cannot answer some of the important questions that begin to ask when they begin to explore the issues of being adopted.

When making the decision to place their child for adoption, there are a multitude of thoughts and emotions that birth parents go through. For those parents who have gone through an open adoption, these feelings may be familiar. For those who have not gone through an open adoption, here are 10 things that Dischler believes that adoptive parents should know:

1. I did not place my child because he or she was “ unwanted” I wanted my child so much that I continued a pregnancy filled with unanswered questions

2. I chose adoption because I loved my child. This paternal love allowed me to put his or her needs before my own when making my choice

3. This choice affected more than just me. He or she has a grandmother, grandfather, aunts and uncles who love my child as well, and he or she will be missed.

4. I wish for the day I can look into my child’s eyes and say “I love you” one more time.

5. I hope you will teach respect to my child by showing respect for me in your discussions

6. I wish I could be there to answer my child’s questions about adoption, but I trust you to answer them truthfully as best you can.

7. I will never stop thinking about my child. He or she will always be a part of who I am.

8. I would never try to disrupt my child’s new family with you. I put too much emotion and suffering into making this choice to allow anything to disrupt it- including me

9. I hope that you will teach my child about his or her beginnings—about where he or she was born and who I am.

10. In my eyes, you will always be my child’s Mom and Dad and that thought brings me happiness.

While Patricia is able to provide some insight into her personal experiences as a birth mother, it is important to remember that everyone’s experience is unique.

What is some advice that you would offer adoptive parents from a birthmother’s point of view? What are some things you’ve learned from your child’s birthparents?

Birth Parents and Placing a Child for Adoption without Family Support

Deciding to place a child for adoption is not a decision that is made overnight. Birth parents are extremely strong individuals that sacrifice so much for their baby’s future, but just because they are strong it does not mean that they do not need support during the adoption process. Sometimes when a expecting mother shares her adoption plan with family members, she doesn’t receive love and support. This blog post will explore those situations and provide expecting mothers who are choosing adoption with other ways to receive care and support during their adoption placement.

Placing Without Support


 

When Family and Friends Don’t Understand Adoption

Telling your family you are pregnant can be an overwhelming task if you don’t feel you are prepared to parent. Will they support your decision to consider adoption? Will they want you to raise the baby on your own? Will they want to raise the baby? There are a lot of questions rumbling around in your head before having that conversation with your family and it is important to know you are not alone. There are great resources available online like this one that can help you figure out the best way to broach the topic with your family members. They might even benefit from online resources too. Pages like Adoptions From The Heart can provide family members with a wealth of information about adoption and how to be supportive through the process.

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Comments from family and friends like, “I could never give up my child because I love them too much,” are extremely hurtful. It is important to remember the real reason you are considering adoption- you want what is best for your child because of how much you love them.

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Sometimes it is helpful to understand why friends and family might be saying intentionally hurtful things or feeling uncertain with your adoption plan.


Why There Might Be a Lack of Support After Placement

Before and after placement, it can be hard for your family and friends to really relate to your thought process and what you are going through. Kacey Bailey a contributor for Adoption.com, outlined some reasons why they just might not be understanding you in one of her posts. Here is what she gathered from her own experiences:

1. They’re afraid to feel what you are feeling or what you’ve felt.

The first time I attended a group of birth mothers was when I was pregnant. I sat there, staring at these girls, terrified to be where they were in just a few short months. Pain was written in their eyes and I was literally afraid to feel that way. I had no words for them. I yearned to reach out and comfort these precious souls, yet was terrified to open myself up to them as they were doing for me. The reality of what birth moms have done for a child, to willingly allow another person (or persons) to stand in her shoes, is unimaginable. It seems unfair of birth moms to expect their friends and family to attempt empathy, especially when it’s so frightening to be that distressed.

2. You’re an individual.
The story of how I became a birth mom isn’t too exciting, nor is it uncommon. Girl meets boy. Girl and Boy become friends. Girl and Boy have a one night stand. Boy leaves when Girl gets pregnant. While it’s so very basic, it’s also exceptionally complex. Allow me to be selfish while I say that what I experienced was different than what anyone else will ever know. My personality led me to where I needed to be, my thinking process is what guided me to my son’s parents, and my pain was felt in a way that nobody else will feel. I’m an individual. Take anybody else whose story lines up with mine in every manner, and we will have two different experiences. Birth moms should not expect someone who hasn’t experienced a similar situation to try to grasp the amount of hurt that is endured daily.

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3. They wish they could help more.
I had many friends abandon me when I became pregnant. Others stood awkwardly at the sidelines. It’s been 5 years since placement and I know now that most of the reasoning behind it was simple. They wanted to offer me the world. They wanted to offer me food, a job, a place to stay, a way to provide for me. In my pride, I refused it all and they were left not knowing how to help. It’s one thing to tell them “just be there for me” when nobody knows what “there” is. They gave the advice they would have given to themselves and since they couldn’t do it all, some did nothing. Not out of spite, or anger, but rather out of fear. People fear what they don’t know. Let them know that you just need a shoulder to cry on. When that’s all they offer you, be appreciative.

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4. Everyone handles grief in her own way.
Yes, there are the 5 stages of grief that we all experience after a loss. How we work through them are different. There was a fellow birth mom who dived into school just days after placement. I laid in my bed and cry for a few weeks, then stood up one day and went back to my life as well as I could. Some people may start up a new hobby while others will invest themselves into an old one. There are many ways to cope with loss, everybody is unique. Thus, there aren’t any people out there who know how I handled the loss of a child—nor how I’m handling it right now. My friends don’t know that my sudden outbreak of tears is actually a healthy release. It’s certainly not fair for me to expect them to know, that while my tears are a sign of frustration and longing, they’re also a sign that my healing process is an ongoing process.

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5. Sometimes, they think you need to “get over it.”
I have been told to “move on” from this child more times than not. As I stand there, in tears, I see a friend roll her eyes and look away. It’s not as if my pain is interrupting her life. It’s more that her healing process is different from mine, and she doesn’t understand that. While there’s part of me who wants to cut those people out of my social group, there’s a smaller, smarter part of me that uses this as a teaching opportunity. I explain, and while explaining, I heal. Talking has always helped my mind to organize emotions. While she may scoff and respond with, “I just don’t understand why you can’t move on.” I just smile and say, “I don’t want to”. That child is my heart and soul. He is part of me in a way that he will never be part of somebody else. I hold him sacred in my heart and if I were to cut ties with his memories, I would lose part of who I have become.

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A lot of what Kacey felt and still feels is not uncommon for birthparents. If your family or friends don’t understand, it is important to realize that sometimes…they just don’t understand and then to explore options for other types of support during your adoption journey.


Finding an External Support System

Birthmother Quote

When you place through an adoption agency, many will offer some sort of continued support for birth parents before, during and after placement. Taking advantage of these resources might not always feel natural or like something you want to do, but it has proven successful for so many birth parents. In a previous blog  we discussed the importance of support. One AFTH Birthmother remembered the feelings she had surrounding her first support group meeting:

“I didn’t want to go at all, but I knew deep down that I needed to go. I reluctantly RSVP’d. I dreaded it and looked forward to it at the same time, knowing it was out of my comfort zone. My feet and heart were heavy when I walked into my first meeting, which was only 2 months after I placed my daughter. I was a ball of nerves with a pocket full of tissues. I kept telling myself I wasn’t ready to talk, but I thought hearing other stories could be helpful. I teared up as soon as I walked in the room and saw the other women who had done the same thing I did. It made adoption even more real for me, if that’s possible. It helped me realize that it affects many women from all walks of life and that I wasn’t the only one struggling with it.”

Whether you need support before or after placement, there are options for everyone. Use links like this one to find support group meetings or counselors in your area. Birthmombuds  is another great online resource where you may find support. And if you get the courage and are brave enough, share your story. Often times, people don’t know who they can turn to for support and you might find other birthparents or others who have been touched by adoption who will then become your support.

Another Perspective of Open Adoption: How Birth Grandparents Stay Involved and Build a Relationship

The popular news column, “Dear Abby,” featured a post by a caring grandmother that read:

Dear Abby: My teenage daughter will be giving birth soon, and she has decided to place her baby for adoption. I have told her that whatever she decides, I will support her decision. Here is the difficult part: This will still be my biological grandchild. When this beautiful child is lovingly handed over to the adoptive parents, I will be losing a grandchild. I am already in mourning. Are there other grandparents out there who are going — or have gone — through this and how are they coping? I already see a therapist, but I would still like to know how others are coping. — Un-grandparent in Ohio

Dear Un-grandparent: I wish you had told me more about the kind of adoption your daughter has chosen for her baby. If it is an open adoption in which she will be kept informed about the child’s milestones and progress, ask the adoptive couple if they would welcome you as an “extra” grandparent for the child. If I hear from others who have gone through this process, I will let you know, because I’m sure they will write to help you through your heartache.

This exchange inspired the following blog post about open adoption, adoptive families and birth grandparent’s involvement in life post placement.

Birth Grandparents and Open Adoption

The Early Stages of the Adoption Plan

Answers to Some of the Tough Questions

Learning of your child’s choice to make an adoption plan might leave you wanting to ask a lot of questions, here are some common questions and answers that other people in a similar position had about what adoption meant for them as grandparents.

Will I still be a grandparent if my child creates an adoption plan?

• What does being a grandparent mean to you?
• Does this vision fit with your child and the adoptive family’s vision?
• How do you see yourself being involved in an ongoing relationship with your birth grandchild?

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Your grandchild will always be a part of your life regardless of whether your child chooses to parent or place the child with an adoptive family and open adoption gives you the option to send updates and be updated on their life.

Can my child handle the emotional strain of making an adoption plan?

• How has your child coped with grief and loss in the past?
• How have you managed loss in your own life?
• Are you in some ways blaming yourself for your child’s current circumstances?
• What family rituals are in place to commemorate losses?

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The life experiences of your child may be very different from your own. It is important to step back and realize that this will be one of the biggest and most difficult first decisions as a parent that your child will make. They need to decide what the best thing will be for their child.

How can I best demonstrate my love and understanding for my child?

• How can you support your child no matter their decision?
• What can you do to prepare yourself for this life change?
• What role does your child want you to play while they are contemplating their decision?
• What expectations does your child have of you should they choose to parent or plan an adoption?

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Give yourself permission to grieve the upcoming changes in the life of your child, no matter their choice. Ask for help if you need it and if you don’t know what to say sometimes just being there shows you care. Birth grandparents usually have some kind of influence the birth parents’ decision to parent, abort or place the child for adoption. It is important to not to have your wishes pressure or sway your child during the decision making process. They might be make a different choice than you believe to be right, but in the end it is their decision and having you, the grandparent, as a support system for them is what they need most.

How can I stay involved with my birth grandchild and their adoptive parents after placement?

“We have experienced parenting, so we know what we’ll miss, whereas a young birth mom doesn’t always realize this,” said Janice Widner, whose daughter placed a child for adoption years ago, in a Chicago Tribune article. “So for birth grandparents, adoption can be harder emotionally.” It is not uncommon for birth grandparents to feel less important in the adoption process because the birthparent’s have the final say when it comes to open adoption. Keep in mind that this is your grandchild and that is different than being a parent again, help and support your child make the best decision for their life.

Birth Grandmother with grandchildren
If your child is placing through open adoption, it might be a good idea to have a conversation with your child about your desire to be a part of your grandchild’s life after placement. You and your child could approach the adoptive parents and ask them how they feel about grandparent involvement in the child’s life as well and agree upon something that works for everyone involved. One grateful birth grandmother responded to the Dear Abby post explaining that each summer the adoption agency her daughter and son-in-law placed through sponsors a picnic that is attended by birth and adoptive parents as well as grandparents, other family members and of course the adopted child. Adoptions From The Heart hosts a picnic just like this one in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Connecticut.

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Other ideas of ways to stay involved and connected from actual adoptive parents who have maintained relationships with their child’s birth grandparents include:
• Crochet a baby blanket, sew a quilt or if you aren’t crafty head to a nearby store and purchase a baby blanket.
• A photo album, collage, or just pictures of the baby’s birth parents as they were growing up. It will be wonderful for your grandchild to see themselves in their birthparent’s at different ages and adoptive parents like to have photos of other members of their child’s birth family!
• A family tree and compete medical history from your perspective would be an invaluable gift because birth parents don’t always know as many ins and outs as you might.
• Write letters. Some adoptive parents keep scrapbooks or binders with letters, cards and items from birth families for their children
• We keep in touch via email and visits; sometimes we meet halfway in between our homes to go to the zoo or aquarium.

Building a Relationship to Last a Lifetime

Having a relationship with a grandchild is a desire for some birth grandparents and building that relationship through honest communication with birth parents and adoptive parents can help make that possible. Whether it is letting the adoptive family know of your love and support through letters and visits, or establishing a valued friendship by going the extra mile, it might just make all the difference.

Similar Building Beautiful Families Blog Posts:

https://afth.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/bith-grandparents-how-can-i-stay-involved

Outside Resources:

http://withlove-birthgrandma.blogspot.com/
http://oliveyouforever2011.blogspot.com/
http://birth-grandma.blogspot.com/