The COVID-19 pandemic has affected us all. All members of the adoption triad have been forced to adapt to these changing situations. For many, the pandemic has brought up new concerns — most notably, finances.
Just like you may be, many birth parents are struggling with layoffs, furloughs and reduced working hours. They may have brought it up in one of your open adoption meetings, or they may have directly reached out to you for assistance. It can break your heart to see your child’s birth family in such a precarious position, but what can — and should — you do to help them?
For many adoptive parents, birth parents feel like extended family. But, while you may not hesitate to provide financial support to extended family members, you may not be sure of how to approach a birth parent’s financial struggles. Yours is already such a complex relationship, thanks to the nuances of adoption, and money will make it even more complicated.
To maintain as positive a relationship as possible moving forward, we advise against providing any sort of financial support to birth parents. Instead, consider these suggestions:
1. Listen with empathy and understanding.
The best thing you can do for a birth parent is to listen to their concerns. It’s tempting to want to jump in and “fix” things as best you can, but there’s only so much you can legally and ethically do as the adoptive parent of their child. Don’t try to minimize their concerns; empathize with what they’re feeling now and be their emotional shoulder to lean on.
As we’ve all discovered during this pandemic, emotional support can be a lifesaver. Knowing that they are heard and understood — and that they’re not alone — can make all the difference to a birth parent, especially if they have no one else to talk to.
2. Suggest local and national resources.
While offering direct financial help is not recommended, you can still help a birth parent find the resources they need. If you live in the same state, consider referring them to resources you’re familiar with. If you don’t live in the same state, you might do some research, or you can refer a birth parent to national programs like:
- 211: The United Way National Helpline: A free and confidential service that helps people across North America find local resources including food and nutrition programs, housing assistance and more
- On Your Feet Foundation: An organization that supports all members of the adoption triad with resources, financial assistance, coaching and retreats to get them back “on their feet”
- Community Action Network: A list of non-profit organizations that help families living in poverty become self-sufficient
- Feeding America: A nationwide network of food banks and food pantries
- National Low Income Housing Association: A database of state- and city-funded rental housing programs
3. Find inventive ways to share open adoption contact.
COVID-19 is making in-person open adoption meetings near-impossible — but that doesn’t mean you should slack on your open adoption contact. On the contrary, sharing regular contact with a birth parent during these times (especially if they’re struggling) will give them something to look forward to and celebrate.
There are many ways that you and your child can “spend time” with a birth parent in a safe, socially distant way:
- Video chats (through apps like Zoom, Google Duo and Facetime)
- Texts, phone calls and emails
- Messaging through apps like GroupMe, WhatsApp and WeChat
Rather than just call to check up, see what fun activities you and your child can plan — like a virtual game night, a virtual museum tour or another out-of-the-box activity.
Of course, be sensitive to a birth parent’s schedule and financial needs, and follow their lead when it comes to open adoption communication.
4. Refer them to their adoption specialist.
If your child’s birth parent is struggling, remember that their adoption specialist is always there to provide counseling and support. While American Adoptions cannot provide financial assistance to birth parents after placement, our team will always provide free counseling. And, if necessary, we may be able to refer birth parents to additional resources in their area.
Similarly, if you are struggling with financial requests from your child’s birth parents, reach out to your adoption specialist for guidance and suggestions.