5 Questions You Have About Pictures and Letters
What to Know About Post-Adoption Contact with Birth Parents
Adoption is more open than ever before. Today, more and more adoptive families are communicating directly with their children’s birth parents through emails, text messages, phone calls, social media, face-to-face visits, video chats and more — and as technology continues to evolve, so do these relationships. Now, the only real limits on the type of contact you can have with your child’s birth family are their comfort level and your own imagination.
However, at a minimum, there is one thing nearly every adoptive family will agree to in their post-adoption contact agreement: sending pictures and letters to their child’s birth family as their child grows up.
If you work with American Adoptions, your post-adoption contact agreement will likely include picture and letter updates, which you will be sending directly to your child’s birth parents at regular intervals, as outlined in your agreement. Whether you send these updates through email or a photo-sharing app or send hard copies through the mail, these updates can really paint a picture of your child’s personality, the activities he or she is involved in and the life he or she has in your family.
Sharing pictures and letters of your child’s life as they grow up is a great way to stay in contact with the birth parents. Here, find answers to five of the most common questions about post-adoption pictures and letters.
1. How will we know when and how to send updates to the birth parent(s)?
During the adoption process, you will make an agreement with the birth parent(s) outlining your post-adoption contact. While these agreements are often not legally enforceable, they are in some states. Regardless, adoptive parents should enter into their post-adoption contact agreement (PACA) with full commitment to follow through. Not only are legally binding PACAs becoming increasingly common, but it is also important for the sake of your child and your relationship with the birth family to keep any promises you make about open adoption contact.
The schedule you agree to in your post-adoption contact agreement will include the intervals at which you should send photos and updates to your child’s birth parent(s). It is a good idea to track these intervals on your calendar and set up reminders on your phone. This will help ensure you never miss a scheduled update, even when you are busy caring for a new baby!
Of course, this agreement outlines the minimum contact schedule, and many adoptive and birth parents today also find themselves sending shorter, more frequent text messages or emails just to check in. Over time, most adoptive and birth families are able to find a natural pattern of contact within their relationship, as they would with any other friendship or relationship.
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2. What should we include in our picture and letter updates?
In general, each update should include a minimum of 8-10 photos (but the more, the better!). When sending adoption pictures and letters, be sure to include a variety of photos of your child: school portraits, photos of your child playing sports, holiday pictures, and any other activities the birth parents would enjoy seeing. If you’re struggling with what to include, here are some common things birth parents love to see and hear about in updates from the adoptive family:
Milestones: Pictures and descriptions of special moments, like your child standing for the first time, rolling over and smiling
Life with your family: Pictures and stories that show how much your child is loved — smiling with their parents, visiting their grandparents and playing with siblings
Special occasions: Pictures and anecdotes that highlight fun and exciting moments in your child’s life, like first-day-of-school photos, trick-or-treating and opening birthday presents
Your child’s interests: Dance and piano recitals, sports games, family vacations, etc. For younger children, describe their favorites (toys, foods, colors, etc.)
Your child’s progress: Developmental milestones and health updates; for older children, information about how their sports teams are doing, what they’re learning in school, etc.
Mementos: Samples of your child’s schoolwork, pictures your child has drawn or notes they have written for their birth family.
When in doubt, think about the things you would share with any other friend or loved one. Remember, your child’s birth parent(s) chose adoption because they wanted to give their child a happy life full of opportunities. Send pictures and updates that show that their child is thriving because of that decision!
3. If we are updating the birth parent(s) through email, text messages, etc., do we still need to send hard-copy photos?
Not necessarily. Your contact agreement should address whether you will be sending email or hard-copy pictures and letters. If you have direct contact with the birth family through text and email, it is okay to just continue with that contact. However, you might also ask the birth parent(s) if they would like hard copies, as well.
Even if you are updating the birth parent(s) another way, it can be a good idea to send hard copies of photos occasionally. This can make it easy for birth family to display the photos in frames or add them to a photo album or scrapbook.
If hard-copy pictures and letters are included in your post-adoption contact agreement, you should continue to send them on the agreed-upon schedule to ensure that, at minimum, the birth parent(s) are receiving these updates, even as other forms of contact (phone calls, text messages, email, etc.) may naturally ebb and flow.
4. What about the birth father?
If your child’s birth father is involved, you may have ongoing contact with both birth parents after the adoption. This is a great opportunity for you and for your child, who can develop meaningful relationships and will have answers to their questions about both of their birth parents.
If you have a relationship with both birth parents, how you communicate with each of them may vary depending on their relationship with each other. For instance, if the birth parents are in a committed relationship and living together, your contact agreement may involve sending one set of updates to their address to share, including both birth parents in a group text or sending emails to a shared account. On the other hand, your contact may look completely different with each birth parent, and that’s OK, too. Your post-adoption contact agreement will address your contact schedule with each birth parent.
5. What if we are struggling with our post-adoption relationship?
As with any relationship, it is natural for challenges to arise in your post-adoption relationship with your child’s birth parents. Open adoption isn’t always easy, but remember that it is always worth it for the sake of your child.
At American Adoptions, we want you to feel supported in your relationship with your child’s birth parents, which is why we are always here to provide guidance and answer our adoptive families’ questions in the years to come. You can always contact your adoptive family specialist when you need advice or support.
If you have any questions regarding your picture and letter agreement, or when you are due to submit your correspondence, you can also contact Michelle Downard, a member of our staff who is also a birth mother. Her personal adoption experience makes her a great resource to answer your open adoption questions.
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