Many years ago I was at the forefront of advocating for open adoption and even access. I believed then, and still do, that we can't simply erase the first years of our children's lives and pretend that the relationships (good or bad) with the genetic parents and extended family won't continue to pull at our child.
Of course, that was back in the age of dinosaurs when the openness and access was done by letter or phone call, or maybe the occasional scheduled visit. It was also done with the adoptive parents' knowledge.
Well, among the New Realities of Adoption is that the communication that now occurs between the genetic family and Junior is likely to take place through social media, without our knowledge, without our permission, and without our monitoring. Junior may well be having daily chats with birth sibs, with birth parents, with aunts, uncles, friends of birth parents etc. and the adoptive parents know nothing at all about it. The only sign may be the increased acting out that results.
If you think that this isn't happening with your child----- think again. All of our kids learn quickly how to set up hidden accounts that we can't find. And don't think that because your child came from a foreign country that the parents don't have access to computers. They do. It may not be the parents who communicate with Junior - often its a sibling who wasn't adopted or its the grandparents or birth mom's current boyfriend.
The problem, of course, is that if these people were emotionally healthy they would be initiating the contact via the adoptive parents - but they aren't. They may not be out to harm the family, but they sure don't help it as they fail to understand the emotional impact on Junior of their communications and how this can pull apart a fragile attachment and create confused loyalties. Very often the genetic parents lie about how Junior came to be adopted - they minimize their drug abuse or violence and blame the mean old social workers who never gave them a chance to clean up and keep Junior. I understand the guilt and remorse that underlies this, but I also understand the way this makes Junior feel kidnapped and emotionally disoriented. And, for children or youth who also have FASD, adhd, ODD, long term impact of neglect and abuse and all the rest - this added emotional complexity invariably fuels the chronic conflict that the family is already experiencing.
Even when the genetic family means well, there is still going to be upheaval - any normal 15 year old has complaints about their parents - when you have a pre-teen or youth who also has the above mentioned behavioral issues and then they have free rein to complain to the genetic parents ("My parents don't understand me" "My parents are too strict" "My parents yell at me all the time" "My parents ground me for no reason" "My parents don't trust me") you can be sure the genetic parents are giving lots of sympathy and assuring Junior that they would be soooo much nicer.
This is a very difficult reality because for the most part, the genetic parents have "issues" just like the children. They may have severe lifestyle challenges, addictions, fasd, and other concerns; or, they may have stabilized their lives. However, you can bet they don't have boundaries nor do they have respect for the integrity of the adoptive family and most importantly, the capacity to prioritize the best interests of the child.
Friends, this isn't going to end. This is a reality we have to live with. What I am advocating for here is that the adoption professionals start overtly addressing this and developing strategies to help adoptive parents manage this dynamic. I looked up a bunch of adoption conferences that are happening this year and the only ones I could find that even acknowledged genetic parents were the old fashioned things about how to have openness with a young birth mom who made an adoption plan at baby's birth. Well, that's not good enough.
We need to know how to recognize the signs that Junior may be in contact, and even seeing, genetic parents. We need to learn how to help Junior work through the conflicting messages from both sets of parents, we need to learn how to avoid a power struggle with the genetic family, we need to learn how to deal with our own feelings about this. Oh, so much to do on this topic.
So, like everything else I write about, this is one more thing we need to be discussing openly and putting on our self-advocacy list.
In the meantime - do some healthy breathing, hug someone who cares about you, and know that you are doing better than most with the challenges you face.
You are entitled to a better day.