Tuesday Topic: Returning to Visit First (Birth)Families

I know it isn’t really Tuesday, but I’ve missed posting your questions the last few weeks and decided I would do one today despite it being Wednesday.  My girls had a four day Easter weekend, so it feels like Tuesday to me!

This great question came from Leslie who asked:

Our 7 year-old Ethiopian daughter, K.,  has been with us for a year.  We are in process of adopting a 3 year old boy and hope to travel for court in July.

We are trying to decide whether to take our daughter with us. I met her birth mother when I was there last year and liked her very much, although, of course,  it was a very emotional meeting.

My husband is concerned about our daughter’s attachment to us being impacted if we take her to visit.  K seems attached to our family and happy.  She used to throw tantrums a least once per day about not getting her way – clothes, food, etc.

In the last month the tantrums have been rare.  She sometimes pouts, but is not crying and throwing herself on the ground.

I would like to take her to visit and we probably will not be going to Ethiopia again for several years.

Has anyone taken their children back to Ethiopia to visit birth relatives after only a year or so?  How did you prepare them?

I know she will feel some sadness but I don’t want her to be devastated and feel torn.

What would your advice be?  Have you returned to your child’s country and have you taken your child with you?  Have you gone back to meet their first family?  My guess is that together we have had a variety of experiences and it would be great if we could each take a moment to share our thoughts.

Please leave a comment for Leslie, and for me – I would love to hear from you!

Lisa


This post may contain Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

0 Comments

  1. Kirstine
    April 27, 2011

    Good question. I know this family is going back to China to adopt a girl, and they are taking their daughter with them. But she has been home for some years though:
    http://ourlittletongginator.blogspot.com/2011/04/

    Reply
  2. Teresa
    April 27, 2011

    Hi,

    I am very much pro-visits to birth family/country, but 1 year on it's just too early for her.
    She needs to settle and you need to be a lot more attached.

    This can completely divide her loyalties and can have a huge impact in her attachment and happiness.

    I would not take her just one year after, specially if you were having behaviour problems until so recently, it can be very overwelming and too confusing for her.

    Good luck.

    Reply
  3. Leslie
    April 27, 2011

    Something different struck me, besides the birth country/ family visit. For a newly adopted/ attaching child (one year is still new), the prospect of a new sibling can incite deep insecurity, even if on the surface they are also excited. About 9 months after adopting my then-7 year old daughter, we were coming up on a visit trip to another country for my younger daughter's adoption process. She had some major regression of lashing out, kicking, pinching, etc that I hadn't seen in a couple of months. That and several other previous incidents were clear to me that she felt threatened that there wouldnt be enough love for her when her sister came. We drew pictures and I wrote on hers, "I will always love you. I promise." and put it on the refrigerator, and kept her from ripping it up when she was scared and mad. I still have it on the refrigerator. She bonded very quickly with her sister on that trip, but even subsequently, she still had to frequently be reassured of still being chosen and loved. In that case, I think it would have harmed our bonding to leave her home and seemed to her like someone else was being chosen over her. You know her best, even though as parents we always worry if we're doing the right thing. It could be realistic pre-trip jitters or sibling fears or many other things. It doesn't mean she (and you all) might not benefit from a trip back.

    Reply
  4. Carla
    April 27, 2011

    I agree with Teresa, it is too soon. We tell our adopted daughter from ET that when she is older she can go back to visit. Our oldest bio daughter has made two mission trips to the very place our adopted children are from. I was so excited the first trip she made because she visited the birth families and took video and photos. The last night before coming home she could not find that particular camera and she kept it with her passport because she didn't want to lose it, it just came up missing. We were so upset but see now that it was the best thing for us, at that point it would have made it more difficult for our adopted daughter to move on and attach to us. We are just praying that God will show us the right time for her to go back and visit someday if it's possible. It sounds like your daughter is still having major adjustment issues. It has been over two years for us and still have a lot of bonding and attaching to do. It just takes time. Also read a blog recently of a family who took their adopted daughter back to China with them to pick up another child and she seemed to do okay while there, but now she is having night terrors every night since they have been home.

    Reply
  5. Paula
    April 27, 2011

    I agree that one year is too soon. Our daughters will have been with us for two years when we return to Ethiopia to bring home our new son. For them, it is definitely too soon for a trip back to visit the birth family. My husband and I have been able to visit the birth family and so we have exchanged pictures and information, and that was even a little overwhelming for the girls. I think it would bother them a lot that they can't speak Amharic anymore and therefore would only be able to communicate through an interpreter. They also have some complicated situations in their birth family that are still difficult for them to understand. We very much want to take them to see their relatives SOME DAY… but that day is probably still a few years into the future.

    Reply
  6. Sandy
    April 27, 2011

    I agree with the previous poster. We traveled back to Florida a year later (24 hours from home), but chose not to visit our daughter's birth family because we thought it was too soon. She seemed to be attaching well to us..but at 4 years old it just seemed like it would bring many more problems than benefits. I do hope to visit her birth family at some point in the future.

    Reply
  7. Marissa
    April 27, 2011

    We are closely connected to all of our adopted children's birth family. While I feel very lucky to have such a wonderful and unique relationship with these people, it also takes a huge toll on my kids emotionally. Spending time with close birth relatives takes a lot of emotional preparation and significant care when we return from visiting. Quite often it divides us for a period of time and sets us back in attachment.

    Last year I visited one of my son's birth family in Ethiopia. There was a big part of me that felt horrendously guilty for not bringing him back to visit, but most of me knew that bringing him back was not the right thing to do. The memories, the loss of language, the heartbreak, the loss, the discomfort, the expectations of him…….it would have hit him in a way that I don't think is healthy. We are instead saving for and planning a trip in 5 years. I think that will give him enough security and comfort to go back.

    Reply
  8. Marissa
    April 27, 2011

    (cont.) Every kid is different and every reationship is different. Only the parent can decide what is best for a child. Given the experience I have with my three kids I feel that relationships with birth families are incredibly important BUT going too far too fast can be quite destructive. I don't think it's anything you can't work though. That said, I doubt it would end up being the joyous moment that you or especially the birth mother might hope it to be.

    Reply
  9. Kayla
    April 28, 2011

    I do not have any experience in taking my kids back to their birth countries/to meet their birth families. However, I do relate to the question of if I were going back to Haiti, would I take them. I think it is very tempting on my part to want to take them simply because of the money end of things. Trips like that are expensive and it almost seems like a waste of my money to not take them with me if I were to go. (In other words, if I am planning to go and spending money on airfaire, hotels, food, etc. I might as well take them and get the most bang for my buck especially since those trips are so far and few between.) And ready the original question, I sensed there was a bit of those thoughts coming from the poster too.

    Reply
  10. Kayla
    April 28, 2011

    Obviously, money isn't the main reason you would choose to include your children but for most people, it does come into play. I think for me one of the things I have found is that, by nature, I am a "just plunge in" type person and that I have a tendancy to rush ahead of what God might want for me. Something I read years ago is that the voice of God is never frantic. That has been such a good reminder to me that if I am hearing things that are encouraging me to hurry into a decision or that I have to do something right now because the chance might never occur again, that it's probably not the voice of God. And I think this is no different. Those thoughts I might have of "well we should just go and do it because who knows if we will ever have the chance to go again" seem to be within that frantic type thinking that my experience tells me to be wary of.

    Reply
  11. Jen
    April 28, 2011

    My daughter came from the foster care system. I've had her for almost seven years now. Last year she was diagnosed with PTSD. Recently, I've let her talk to her birth mom on skype, and I noticed an increase in negative behavior. Take into account any trauma that your child may have experienced. Even just being taken from her birth home would have been traumatic for her. Seeing birth parents or even hearing their voices can trigger buried emotions that children aren't ready to deal with yet.

    Reply
  12. Lori
    April 28, 2011

    I have not done what you are talking about, however, we did just travel back to the country where our first two children were adopted from in order to pick up our newly adopted son. It has been three years since the girls were in their country.

    However, my husband and I made the decision to travel alone (and make a heritage trip later) so that we could spend time one on one with our new son. We were really glad we did that as when we got home we found that he bonded very easily with his sisters and almost ignored us unless we made a special effort to engage him. So, my advice would be to have a special time in country with just this new child and use the time alone to begin building a relationship.

    Reply
  13. Cici
    April 28, 2011

    I firmly believe that adopted children should be offered any opportunity to see birth parents. My experiences are different because I adopted through local foster care and not another country. However I can tell you that for my 5 achildren even though visiting sets them back some in attachment and behavior, not visiting when they knew they could have sets them back much much farther. Yes a visit can bring up memories and anguish but this can give your child a chance to work through some of the trauma.

    I believe that children have a deep visceral attachment to birth parents and birth family. It is so much more than we, never having been adopted, can understand. I strongly encourage you to take your daughter with you. I would also like to point out that we never know what the future holds. What if in the interim between this trip and your next something happens to the birthparents. How will you explain to your daughter that she could have visited but you choose to wait and now it is too late?

    Reply
    1. Margaret
      May 1, 2011

      This really speaks to me! Our daughter has not visited her birth mother, but she speaks to her on the phone. At first it was every month, but when she lost her Amharic, we had to have someone translate and she was also reluctant, so it's much less often. We are planning to go to ET next year, after she has been with us for 3 years. Our son also reconnected with his birth relatives in ET a couple of years ago, after he had been with us for 5 years. These meetings are full of conflicting emotions for our children, and the fallout from them can be difficult. But my gut tells me that it is very important for them to have these opportunities, and providing them will ultimately help their feelings of security in who they are, and in our family.
      However, when we went to ET to bring our daughter home, we didn't bring our son along…and the focus of that visit was ONLY on her. I don't think I would have been able to be supportive of her and all she was going through, and our son (connecting with her and birth family.) Becoming siblings was a challenge for them, but I think it was OK to start working on that at home in the US, instead of on the (intensely anxiety provoking) trip to bring her home…

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

I accept the Privacy Policy