The Impact of Adoption on Birth Parents

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Overview of the Impact of Adoption on Birthparents
What Birthparents Experience
How Birthparents Cope
Resources for Birthparents

This article is addressed to you, the birth parent. Although the adoption community sometimes overlooks your contribution and sacrifice, this article addresses adoption from your point of view. Placing a child for adoption is not an easy thing to do, not at the time of placement nor years later. How do you get through the experience, and how does it affect you later in life?

This article cannot address every aspect of your experience-the topic is just too broad. It focuses on the most common experiences of parents who have voluntarily placed their infants and is divided into four parts.

Part 1 is a brief overview of the impact that adoption may have had on you. It focuses on three topics: coping with grief, romantic relationships, and parenting issues.

Part 2 discusses your experiences during three time periods: (1) the birth and placement of the child, (2) the years after placement but before the child becomes a legal adult, and (3) the time after the child becomes an adult. Specific coping issues for each period are addressed.

Part 3 looks at ways that you can cope with your feelings and gives specific options for facing your grief.

Part 4 contains a list of resources where you can go for help, including the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse (NAIC).

One point to remember is that you are not alone. Many others have felt the same feelings and had the same experiences as you. A number of birthparents have come forward and are willing to offer help, as are others in the adoption field.

Overview of the Impact of Adoption on Birthparents

Coping with Grief

All birthparents must deal with grief. Many are sad about not being able to raise or have a relationship with their child. Some have said that they eventually adjusted to the loss of the child, but that the pain and grief lasted a very long time. Others have said that life was never the same after placing the child. Birthparents' whole lives are affected.

If you are a birth parent whose adoption was arranged confidentially, you may have many questions. You probably do not know what became of your child. You don't know if your child's life with the adoptive family is happy and if the child is loved and treated well. You may wonder if the adoptive parents ever told the child he or she was adopted. If so, you may wonder how they spoke about you. You may question what it would have been like to have raised your child. Unanswered questions such as these can be very difficult to deal with.

Most people at some time in their lives experience grief when they are separated from a loved one. However, in adoption, there are no standard grieving processes or approved rituals to help birthparents cope. When a well-liked co-worker accepts a new job in a new city, there is often a going away party. When a loved one dies, there may be a religious service, a wake, a funeral, and visits to the survivors' home by friends and relatives. But birthparents' grief is distinct from most other types of grief, because it is not always socially acceptable to talk about what happened.

Unresolved grief can cause problems in a number of areas. It can affect romantic relationships, parent-child relationships, the ability to work effectively, and a person's feelings of happiness and usefulness. If you are having trouble in your life, it could be related to your not having fully grieved for the child you placed for adoption.

For most birthparents it takes time to move past the initial grief of placing a child for adoption. Some realize they need professional help to deal with the emotions that accompany the loss. Others feel fairly positive from the beginning about the adoption decision and accept that the decision brought with it certain consequences. But just about all birthparents wonder how their son or daughter is doing, especially when the child has reached the age for important events such as starting school, graduating from school, getting married, or becoming a parent.

Credits: Child Welfare Information Gateway (

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