“This is Us” never fails to drop adoption wisdom, whether it’s exploring Randall’s journey as an adoptee from birth or Deja’s journey as a foster care adoptee. This week’s episode focused on the latter, reminding us once again that adoption is a lifelong journey for all involved.

*Spoilers ahead!*

Last week, we saw a teaser with Deja becoming upset after her new boyfriend Malik pressured her during their supervised date. As her adoptive mother Beth soon found out, Deja wanted to see her biological mother — but had held back her desires to avoid upsetting Randall and Beth.

Seeing how important the topic was to Deja, Malik told Beth about their conversation — and the fact that Deja had asked before about seeing her mom. He helped Beth realize that she and Randall had been too focused on their own lives to make the effort to schedule a meeting, to the detriment of Deja’s well-being.

When Beth approaches Deja about seeing her mom, Deja attempts to blow it off as “no big deal.” And thus follows a conversation that will be all-too-familiar for many adoptive parents and adoptees.

“Yes, it is. It’s a very big deal,” Beth responds.

Visibly torn, Deja finally admits, “I don’t want you to think that I’m ungrateful for everything you and Randall do for me. That’s why I didn’t want to say anything.”

Despite her biggest desires, Deja chooses to protect the feelings of her adoptive parents rather than stand up for what she wants. It’s a decision that many adoptees — whether adopted as infants or through foster care — unconsciously make when the time comes to visit or find their biological family

And, although Beth quickly shows enthusiasm for inviting Deja’s mom to dinner, the storyline teaches us, once again, an important lesson about adoption.

So, let’s dive in.

An Adoptee’s Desire to Connect with Birth Parents

It’s a story as old as adoption itself: An adoptee wants to reconnect with their biological family but, in expressing their desires, is afraid of how their adoptive parents will take their news. Unfortunately, there are a few persistent narratives about adoption, one being that an adoptee should always be “grateful” for their adoptive parents, who “should” be all the family connection that an adoptee needs.

We know that’s not the case. Biological connections are important, especially for an adoptee establishing their sense of self-identity. While birth parents will never fill the same space as adoptive parents, they play an instrumental role in helping a child understand their personal adoption story. Adoptees have a natural curiosity about their birth family (regardless of their personal background), so they will want to know more, at one point or another.

But, when an adoptive parent is not open with their child about the adoption story, this curiosity can be a point of conflict. Many adoptees are led to believe (consciously or unconsciously) that they are “betraying” their adoptive parents by seeking out their birth parents, and it can test relationships unnecessarily. Some adoptees feel like they are forced to choose between adoptive and birth parents.

In reality, birth parents and adoptive parents should both be active parts of a child’s life — and it’s the adoptive parent’s responsibility to protect that.

How American Adoptions Supports Birth Parent Connections

At our agency, we recognize the importance of open adoption relationships. A healthy open adoption is beneficial to all involved — birth parents, adoptive parents and adoptees. That’s why we set certain standards to ensure that the path is always there for a child’s knowledge of their birth family history.

Every adoptive parent who works with our agency must be comfortable with a certain amount of open adoption contact. In our experience, being open to this basic communication tends to inspire even deeper connections and relationships in the years to come. After all, it’s all for the adopted child’s sake.

Our specialists also talk at length with adoptive parents about the importance of maintaining open adoption contact, whatever their preferences may be. This is to avoid situations just like Deja and Beth’s. When an adoptive parent is committed to and open with their child about the open adoption relationship, there is less of a chance that an adoptee feels torn between their two families. Being in contact with both parties is simply a natural occurrence.

We applaud “This is Us” for the ever-important adoption lessons and look forward to seeing what else transpires from Deja’s upcoming visit with her birth mother. In the meantime, if you want to learn more about our open adoption policies, please contact us online anytime.

You can watch “This is Us” online here.