Your First Birth Parent Meeting
Consider for a moment the last time you were a stranger somewhere. What did it feel like? What did you do? What made it better? Worse? How did others help? As a stranger:
- We generally feel nervous or anxious.
- There is an uncertainty and a suspicion of others and of ourselves to navigate the experience successfully.
- We are completely dependent on others. Will they tell me where to sit? When will I know it is my turn? What will they think of me?
- Sometimes there is an irrational desire to please the others or to gain acceptance from them.
- Sometimes we take matters into our own hands and create a way to gain acceptance by going along with what we think will make them happy.
- We feel vulnerable, unprotected, mistrustful and afraid.
Now think of a time when you were a stranger and you felt welcomed. What was that experience like? How did it make you feel about yourself? How did it make you feel about the others? When welcomed:
- We feel less fear and anxiety.
- We can breathe. We feel safe and more at home to be ourselves.
- While we still may need to depend on others, our dependency is cloaked in trust.
- Our suspicion is replaced with hope.
- If we feel the attitude of goodwill, we will feel welcomed.
Knowing this and understanding the way you may feel, and the way birth parents may feel, think about what you can do to make this meeting more welcoming.
In truly welcoming another, we generally take the “I” “me” and “them” out of the equation and replace it with “you” “us” and “we.” It’s not that the other person matters more, it is simply that they matter as much. This is extremely important to form a relationship with the birth parent. The roles each of you will play will shift and change as your adoption journey moves forward. There will be times when you may feel powerless. There may be times when you feel the birth parent holds all of the cards.
Then, something changes, and the power you have may seem larger than life. It may now be the birth parent who feels small and helpless. During these shifts, if you establish a relationship which genuinely welcomes each other; that respects each other and honors each other, you will be able to trust in each other as people and rise above the challenges to forge a relationship that is sustainable. With a welcoming heart and an attitude of goodwill, strangers will be strangers no more. No matter the outcome, a child will be in a forever family that understands the meaning of kindness and goodwill.
Our adoption specialists and some of our adoptive parents have put together a few general tips for your first meeting. Consider these as you prepare for your meeting:
- In order to not be intimidating to the birth family, you should dress neatly, respectfully and casually.
- Show them photos of your family, pets, vacations, neighborhood or anything else you feel will help get you acquainted better.
- Everyone will be a little nervous. Acknowledge this and try to be as relaxed as possible.
- Everyone will have questions. It is better to ask questions in a relaxed, informal manner, rather than using a formal interview style. Use open-ended questions, such as “what” “how” or “tell me more about …” without sounding like a talk show host.
- Remember, not everyone is a great conversationalist. The meeting may seem clumsy or stiff at first, but keep working to break the ice. It may help to recall that you are not the only one feeling a little uncomfortable.
- Often, the confines of an office or meeting with your workers present can inhibit genuine conversation. Do not hesitate to suggest going to visit in the park or getting a bite to eat together. This will help to ease the tension.
Commonly Asked Questions From the Adoptive Parent to the Birth Parents
In preparing for the visit, you will have many questions. It is important to organize them, and understand you may not get all of your answers at the first meeting. Below are some questions you may consider for this first meeting:
- What did you like about our profile or DVD that made you consider us?
- Is there anything we can clarify or explain from the profile or DVD?
- How are you feeling?
- What brought you to consider adoption?
- Why did you choose an open adoption?
- How much did you know about open adoption before you came to CYFS?
- How do your family and friends feel about your plans?
- Is this your first child? If not, how old are your other children? What are they like?
- What is your cultural background?
- What hobbies or interests do you have? Are there any special talents or abilities you would like us to help this child develop?
- Tell me more about how you picture our relationship going forward as your child ages? What kind of contact would you like?
- If this is a trans-racial or multi-cultural adoption, do you have any suggestions as to what we can do to keep the child in touch with his or her race/culture?
- Would you like to exchange phone numbers or email addresses?
- Would you like to meet again? If so, what would be the best way to set that up?
Suggestions For Additional Conversation
- We want you to know more about our family, so we brought some current photos.
- It is important to us that you feel comfortable. So, what other information would you like to know about us that might help?
- Thank the birth parent(s) for considering adoption and for considering you. Let them know that, while you are wildly excited about the opportunity to become adoptive parents, you understand this is a big step for them. Reinforce that you will do whatever you can to help them feel confident in their decision. AND if they decide adoption is not what they want for their child, you will respect their decision.
- Your adoption specialist will be giving you information on your specific situation. You will be prompted to ask or avoid questions that would not be appropriate to your specific situation.
To learn more about your first visit, ask your adoption specialist for the CYFS FACE TO FACE booklet. This booklet will help you organize your thoughts and begin to create a relationship based on respect and trust.