Many people don’t get open adoption–at least judging from the reaction I received when I mentioned that I was looking for resources on this topic. They don’t get why adoptive parents would be worrying right alongside birth mothers and fathers about explaining adoption to the children the birthparents are parenting.
Those of us who understand open adoption absolutely get it.
Most Birth Mothers are Already Parenting
Now don’t go all word police on me—yes, birthmothers will always be a mother to the child they place for adoption, but most are also mothers to children already in their home. These children are birth siblings to the child being placed for adoption. The concept of adoption and the relationships it creates can be confusing. Depending on their age, birth siblings know that their mom is pregnant and know that most pregnant moms come home with a baby. They also likely sense the emotional turmoil of their mom as she struggles with the deciding whether to parent the child she is carrying or place for adoption. They need help in making sense of what is happening both now and in the future. Many adoptive parents and social worker care enough to try to help. I just wish I had more resources to share.
Resources To Explain Adoption to Birth Siblings of Adopted Children
- Sam’s Sister by Juliet Bond. (3-7 year old) The only book I’ve found written specifically for birth siblings of adopted children. The story is told by 5-year-old Rosa, whose newborn brother is placed in an open adoption. Compassionate.
- Motherbridge of Love by Xinran. (4-10 year old) A picture book about the love between a child, a mother, and a birthmother. I think the age range is a bit ambitious since most 10 year olds could be bored, but it is a good conversation starter even at that age. It is written to explain adoption to an adopted child, but its focus on the birth mom makes it appropriate.
- The Tummy Mummy by Michelle Madrid-Branch. (ages 3-6) A wise owl guides the Tummy Mummy in a book that shows the love of both birth moms and adoptive parents for their shared child. It is written to explain adoption to an adopted child, but its focus on the birth mother makes it appropriate.
- The Mulberry Bird by Anne Braff Brodzinsky (ages 6-12) Mother bird is doing her best to raise her baby alone until a storm destroys her nest and she must decide whether it is best for her child to continue to struggle on her own or should she place him with another family that has a strong safe nest. This is best as a read aloud book for the 6-8 age range, but I would suggest reading it out loud to even the older kids to allow time for discussion.
- The Rainbow Egg by Linda Hendricks. (ages 4-8) An unconventional chicken finds herself with egg, but no nest and unable to raise the chic. She is guided to a chicken house where she decides it is best to place her egg with a chicken family with a nest. There are parts of this story that are confusing, but it does focus on the birthmother and could be a good conversation starter.
- W.I.S.E. Up Powerbook by Marilyn Schoettle (6-teens). Great resource for older adopted kids, and I would assume that much of the information would also be appropriate for older kids whose mother placed a child for adoption.
- A first mother once told me that she used old episodes of the Discovery Channel TLC series Adoption Stories to explain adoption to the children she was not placing. Since it is geared for adults, and primarily for adults that want to adopt, I was skeptical, but she thought it was very helpful. I would recommend that the mother watch it first to make sure that it is sending the message that she wants and that it is age appropriate. Given the emotional nature of adoption and the appetite of reality TV, there will undoubtedly be other shows on adoption that might be useful as well.
- Another birth mom shared that she involved her 10 and 15 year old in reviewing adoptive parent profiles and encouraged them to suggest questions for her to ask them.
- The following books are designed to explain adoption to children who were adopted, but at least cover first families and thus could be used to explain adoption to a birth mother’s other children.
- In My Heart (ages 3-8) by Molly Bang. This picture book celebrates the bond between all types of parents and children.
- We Belong Together: a Book about Adoption and Families (ages 3-6) by Todd Parr. We Belong Together explores the ways that people can choose to come together to make a family.
- How I Was Adopted by Joanna Cole (ages 4-8). Explains adoption in general.
- Mr. Rogers-Let’s Talk About It: Adoption by Fred Rogers (ages 4-8). I love Mr. Rogers. He doesn’t focus on first families at all, but I just lover his general philosophy and calming demeanor. He is a brother through adoption.
I’m hoping you will suggest resources that I’ve missed. Specifically, what general adoption books include some talk about the decision from the birth family’s perspective?
Image credit: gmayster01 on & off …