- Strong Reunification - when you're working with birth parents who are on the path to reunification they tend to relax a little bit knowing their children are in good hands. This can lead them to focus more on their recovery, whatever that is supposed to look like, spending their energy getting better rather than mourning the loss of their children/being angry at the system. I've also found we are often the only "light" some of these parents have had and our encouragement has gone a long way not only in helping them to get better but also as reunification occurs in that we're able to help coach them as parents even after the case is over. There have been a couple situations where we've been able to really cheer on parents as they get their life together to get their children back.
- Decision to Relinquish - In both of our adoption cases the relationship we've had with the birth parents has played a factor in their decision to relinquish. At the end of the day, the parents have come to the decision that their children would be "better off" staying with us than going home to live with them. I can't imagine how agonizing that decision is. I know it may seem like they make that choice so they can leave their kids and continue partying. I'm sure this happens but hasn't been our experience. Our children's birth parents have come to the conclusion that their children are loved, they are safe, and we as parents will provide them with the life they want their kids to have.
In both of these examples, continued contact with the first parents has been a side benefit (or, a primary benefit I suppose). When #3 went home with his first parents they would call me to talk about why he was doing X and I was there to coach them as they learned to parent in a healthy manner. I am positive that this contact will be beneficial for summer as she continues to grow-up.
The agreement with our newest 4 includes a level of contact not usually seen. I'll explain that in a future post but basically one parent has a form of custody. The other chose to take chances in court and lost, therefore having no formal agreement. That being said she still has our Google Voice number and can call, text, leave messages, etc. to maintain contact according to what we feel will be beneficial (after adoption occurs).
This has paid off HUGE for us recently.
Often times when you adopt you have limited information about medical history. You get whatever the caseworker tells you, often whatever the parents felt like sharing, and that's typically it. It's awkward when you answer questions at the doctors office because it's either "I don't know" to things like "is there a history of cancer in the family" (or even "was the baby born vaginally") or when you have to say things like "He was born addicted to meth" when you haven't yet explained that you are the adoptive parent. When you have a good relationship with the first family this changes. You can at least ask the questions you need answers to (they may not answer, I suppose) and you might be able to trust the answers they give you.
This recently paid off for us in a big way. One of our newest 4's birth parents was admitted to the hospital. This parent texted us to let us know. Later they texted us to let us know it was serious and wanted to talk to us. (Granted, sometimes this can be a ploy or drama produced by birth families and that is something that needs to be considered as well). In this case we learned that this parent has a serious heart condition. A grandparent died from this condition in her early 30s. This parent is about that same age and experiencing the same symptoms. All 4 of our children need to be monitored by a cardiologist for this same condition. It's the type of things even biological parents don't always know about until their child collapses in middle school during a sporting event. It is highly likely one or more of our children have a congenital heart defect that will lead to congenital heart failure if not treated properly throughout their lifetime.
We are beyond blessed that we were able to find this information out before some sort of tragedy struck and it's only because we had this relationship with the first family.