Invisible Birth-Fathers

It is often the case that birth fathers seemed to be overlooked in the adoption process. It is commonly assumed that they rarely are impacted or want much to do with the process. However, indeed they are impacted and do want to be included!

When deciding to put their baby up for adoption, many birth mothers fail to provide the name of the birth father and/or even tell the birth father of the plan. The birth father is often looked as a legal issue – adoptive parents, adoption agencies, and birth mothers are relieved when a birth father is "no where to be found" or left out of the equation. This, however, is not a reason to be relieved. There are many cases where a birth father finds out about the adoption long after the child has been placed – and legal action is pursued.

"The cases of Baby Jessica and Baby Richard-each involved a birth father who learned only after the fact that his child had been placed for adoption, and who went to court to claim custody.  Any responsible adoption lawyer will emphasize the birthfather's role during his very first interview with adoptive parents,"says Washington, D.C., adoption attorney Mark McDermott.

"I refer to that as the number one way to avoid contested adoptions, by treating the birth father as a real issue on day one," he says. McDermott noted that many birth mothers simply assume that things will be easier if he remains unnamed. The birth mother may not even be aware that the birth father has legal rights. She also may have personal reasons for counting him out.

"Although the birthmother cannot be forced to name the birthfather – an adoptive family can refuse to work with her if the father is unnamed. For a couple longing for a baby, passing up a chance at parenthood may seem too much to ask. But the alternative-a post-placement revocation-is far worse.

"Just ask Andrew and Barbara Ship, a Rockville, Maryland, couple whose first son, Aaron, was removed from their home after one month when his birth father returned to claim custody. Andrew and Barbara had attended, and wept at, the baby's birth in Pennsylvania. They had brought him home to his nursery and conducted a "bris," the Jewish circumcision ceremony, with 100 relatives and friends in attendance. Yet when Aaron's biological father surfaced to say that he wanted the child back, a Pennsylvania adoption attorney informed the Ships that they had little legal standing. The agency that had arranged the placement had misled them: Aaron's birth father had never relinquished his parental rights.

'I think we have to become more birth father friendly,' says Mary Weidenborner, of Spence-Chapin, a Manhattan-based adoption agency. She cites the need to recruit more male social workers, invite birth fathers to conferences, and tailor more literature to biological fathers. It can take a lot of courage, Weidenborner noted, for a birth father to walk through the doors of an adoption agency. But, she adds, 'I think there's much less guilt or shame when the birthfather feels that he came in with his eyes wide open and was able to make a plan that he thinks was good for the child.' "

A few resources and stories

Below you will find links to websites that feature specific stories on the adoption experience.

Sarah's story. Sarah became pregnant for a second time at a very young age. This story recounts her experience with deciding to go with adoption.

Brennan's story. This story features a birthfather and his experience with adoption.

Two stories, so similar yet so different.

A Birthmother’s Book of Poetry

A Birthmother's Book of Poetry

by Susan Van Sleet
Post Adoption Consultant

Susan's Reunion Story: A Birthmother's Book of Poetry

"Written for the purpose of promoting deeper understanding about the adoption experience of the nineteen sixties…and the silenced emotions carried within my own heart for nearly three decades."

A Few Thoughts

As an artist it seemed quite natural for me to paint. Deep emotions were released. The poetry, however, came many years later, after reunion with my birthdaughter and when I allowed myself to pen them. As a married woman, and mother of three sons, it has been a most eventful life. We are family, my husband, our sons and me.

My firstborn child, a girl, was raised by wonderful parents she calls mom and dad. She was adopted at birth. We have met, at her request, and I am known as Susie to her.

She will probably never completely understand the adoption experience that physically connected us briefly, nor should she be expected to. She has always felt loved and secure …if only I had known.

The following poems will perhaps enlighten others who may have lived through the same or similar adoption experience.

It was a life choice, however, and it was made in her best interest at the time. She is a lovely woman and I am grateful that we've met. It has brought me inner peace of the highest order.


A birthmother's heart knows where it belongs
Yet feelings of yearning are forever strong
Sometimes all alone… she needs it that way

Who can imagine her deep-seated sorrow
As each new day becomes a tomorrow
With hope or fear or anger or tears
Her emotions continue over the years …

And then one day as if by magic
She tries to erase
That haunting thought of
…Who has my face?

I beg of you to understand
Those of you judging in reprimand
It was a different time, a different place
Please leave me alone,
I need my own space …

We Have Met
And we have grown
Claiming an abstract space
We call our own

Life's puzzle piece
Shall it remain?
Or leave quietly
As in it came
A heart is always a heart
But then a name, just a name …

Ode To a Birthmother

When a birthmother's heart bids her go seek
Healing through truth begins to speak
Of the mother with child not kept together
And the love she gave in trusted measure

…You have permission to unlock your heart
For a child's life was shared from its very start
Your gift to others so generously shared
Proves love for your child, beyond compare …


Can you imagine after all of these years
The unspoken words and repressed fears
To confront now the issues never uncovered
And try to explain them to yet another

This child of mine is deserving to know
With knowledge comes truth
Is this truth really needed …
Back decades ago

Who considered my sorrow
People saw only the day
Unprepared for tomorrow
To the system I say

My tomorrow is here
And where are you now
To help with my fear …

To My Birthchild

Who are you my child,
raised by another…

Who are you my child
and who is your mother

Who are you my child
will I ever see

Who are you my child,
do you look like me

If fate plays its part
and someday we meet …
Will the pain be erased,
will we then feel complete

A puzzle at times this
thing called adoption
Yet I know in my heart,
I chose the right option

In closing I know
if fate never takes place
I will see you in heaven
God has saved us our space …

The Wish

A birthmother's wish
Might it come true
And how would you know
It is my wish for you

A connection by longing
And with it some fear …
Will you seek a reunion
Is the time drawing near

Please grant me acceptance
As you hear what I say
It is our first chance
It is our first day …

A Certificate

A certificate of birth
Filed not with the rest
Years later I knew
You would follow your quest

To find me
To know me
To love me at best …

Credits: Susan Van Sleet

A little history behind adoption!

Since ancient times and in all human cultures, children have been transferred from adults who would not or could not be parents to adults who wanted them for love, labor, and property. Adoption’s close association with humanitarianism, upward mobility, and infertility however, are uniquely modern phenomena. An especially prominent feature of modern adoption history has been matching: the idea that adoption substituted one family for another so carefully, systematically, and completely that natal kinship was rendered invisible and irrelevant. This notion was unusual in the history of family formation, especially because the most obvious thing about adoption has been that it is a different way to make a family. Practices that aimed to hide this difference ironically made modern adoption most distinctive!

In the United States, state legislatures began passing adoption laws in the nineteenth-century. The Massachusetts Adoption of Children Act, enacted in 1851, is widely considered the first “modern” adoption law. Adoption reform in other western industrial nations lagged. England, for example, did not pass adoption legislation until 1926. Observers have frequently attributed the acceptance of adoption in the United States to its compatibility with cherished national traditions, from immigration to democracy. According to this way of thinking, solidarities achieved on purpose are more powerful—and more quintessentially American—than solidarities ascribed to blood. Yet adoption has always had a symbolic importance that outstripped its statistical significance. Adoption has touched only a small minority of children and adults while telling stories about identity and belonging that include us all!

Conservative estimates (which do not include informal adoptions) suggest that five million Americans alive today are adoptees, 2-4 percent of all families have adopted, and 2.5 percent of all children under 18 are adopted. Accurate historical statistics about twentieth-century adoption are, unfortunately, almost impossible to locate. A national reporting system existed for only thirty years (from 1945 to 1975) and even during this period, data was supplied by states and territories on a purely voluntary basis.

Since 1950, a number of major shifts have occurred. First, “adoptability” expanded beyond “normal” children to include older, disabled, non-white, and other children with special needs. Since 1970, earlier reforms guaranteeing confidentiality and sealed recordss have been forcefully criticized and movements to encourage search, reunion, and “open adoption” have mobilized sympathy and support. The adoption closet has been replaced by an astonishing variety of adoption communities and communications. Adoption is visible in popular culture, grassroots organizations, politics, daily media, and on the internet.

Adoption history illustrates that public and private issues are inseparable. Ideas about blood and belonging, nature and nurture, needs and rights are not the exclusive products of individual choices and personal freedoms. They have been decisively shaped by law and public policy and cultural change, which in turn have altered Americans’ ordinary lives and the families in which they live and love.

Birthmother Resources

Goodmorning fellow bloggers! The following blog willgive you some information regarding birthmothers and important resources available to them.

From the day you find out of your pregnancy to the day you decide to make an adoption plan to the period following the placement, your life can seem like a blur. Just finding out you're pregnant can be a total crisis alone and many are stricken with fear and doubt. It is important to remember, you are not alone in this. Even mothers who plan to have a baby, may feel overwhelmed with the news. Below you will find some links to resources that may be helpful to you as you go through the process. provides several blogs of women who are at all different stages of the process. You can read their stories and scroll through their experiences. This website provides a lot of different information for women in your shoes!


Birth mom buds is an organization that supports mom's who are expecting and are considering adoption. Here you can find peer counseling, support, and friendship!


This website is another one that provides a wide range of supportive resources for women.


This website also provies a lot of information including support groups, chat rooms, and supportive services.

Impact of Adoption on Birth Parents

Hello Bloggers!

The following blog discusses some feelings that tend to emerge in many birth parents when going through the adoption process. Although these feelings are not always the same for everyone, there are a few that are more common than others.

Each parent faces a very unique experience in giving their child up for adoption. It is nearly impossible to generalize all of these experiences and feelings, however research indicates the emergence of a few themes.

In response to the adoption placement it is common for the birth parent (s) to grieve the loss of the child. This may begin with the pregnancy, after the birth mother has committed to placing the child. As the birthparent(s) prepare to be separated from their child, they plan for a great sense of loss;  however, in giving the child up for adoption, they hope that not only does the child have a better life, but they too have a better life.

When the child is born and physical separation takes place, the birth parents may have feelings of doubt, guilt, and regret. It is also common for the birth parents to feel numb, in shock, and/or in denial. Although these are similar emotional responses to death, it is different in that there is rarely a public acknowledgment, and friends and family of the birth parents may attempt to ignore the loss by pretending that nothing has happened. Because of this, finding support can sometimes be challenging, especially if family members or friends were not supportive of the decision in the first place. 

Research suggests that, "When birth parents first deal with their loss, the grief may be expressed as denial. The denial serves as a buffer to shield them from the pain of the loss. This may be followed by sorrow or depression as the loss becomes more real. Anger and guilt may follow, with anger sometimes being directed at those who helped with the adoption placement. The final phases, those of acceptance and resolution, refer not to eliminating the grief permanently but to integrating the loss into ongoing life.

  Placing a child for adoption may also cause other (secondary) losses, which may add to the grief that birth parents feel. No one fantasizes about having a baby and then giving it up, so expectant parents who are planning to place the child for adoption may grieve for the loss of their parenting roles. They may grieve for the person their child might have become as their son or daughter. These feelings of loss may re-emerge in later years, for instance, on the child's birthday, or when the child is old enough to start school or to reach other developmental milestones.

 At first, there may be shame associated with the unplanned pregnancy itself and with admitting the situation to parents, friends, co-workers, and others. Shame about the pregnancy may lead to feelings of unworthiness or incompetence about becoming a parent. Once the child is born, the decision to place the child for adoption may prompt new feelings of guilt about 'rejecting' the child, no matter how thoughtful the decision or what the circumstances of the adoption."

This may all seem very overwhelming but knowing that other birthparents have gone through similar experiences may also be reassuring and comforting. It is important to remember that there are many ways to cope with these feelings and overcome those that bring you down.

See the following link on how to gain control over these emotions:


Choosing an Adoptive Family

Hello Bloggers!

Below you will find some information (and hopefully some encouragement) in regards to the process of picking an adoptive family.

Choosing an adoption plan for your child is a challenging decision that takes tremendous courage and strength. In an emotionally tolling period, it can be very difficult to put the needs of your child above your own. If you have made the decision to follow through with adoption, we commend your selflessness and bravery.

So you've been in contact with an agency and now it is time to pick an adoptive  family. How is it possible to know what kind of family is perfect for your baby? It is important to remember that you are not alone in this process. An adoption counselor or specialist will help you figure out what you feel is best for your child and match you with a selection of families based on your specific wishes. But how do you know what is best?

It may be helpful to start with imagining a day in your child's life. When she wakes up in morning, is she in a house in the suburbs or a townhouse in the city? A ranch in the country with a big yard to play in? When your child walks down the stairs, is she greeted by her adoptive mother or adoptive father? Both? Now imagine that she has just finished breakfast and wants to play. Does she have siblings to go outside with? Maybe she is in a neighborhood with kids her age or there is a playground nearby for her to swing on the swings. Flash forward several years – do her adoptive parents have college in mind? Perhaps she attends a trade school or joins the family business.

There are so many things that you may envision for your child but are there some that may supersede the rest? Such as choosing a heterosexual couple over a same-sex couple or maybe vice versa? Is it important to you that one parent stays home or that they both work? When your child misbehaves, how will they discipline her? Will they spank her and/or place her in timeout?

Having all this to consider can feel overwhelming. Your adoption counselor will walk you through each step at a pace that is most comfortable and least stressful for you. Once you have decided what you wish in an adoptive family, you will be provided with a selection of adoptive family profiles.

In each profile you will find a variety of different information and pictures about each family. This information is likely to include the educational background of each parent as well as their home and location, occupations, family size, personal goals, motivations, reasons for adopting, and/or wishes for their new adoptive child. Using this information you will work with the counselor to select a family that matches with your specific wishes.

It is possible that you will know right away. Some birth mothers open an adoptive family profile and immediately feel as though they have found the right one. However, many mothers also do not feel as though they connect right away. It may take you more time and that is perfectly okay! You may not feel a connection with the selection of families you are given. If so, ask your counselor for a new group of family profiles.

You will be able to not only view different profiles but also meet with the adoptive family. You will be given an opportunity to ask them more questions that may not have been addressed in their profiles. Do not hesitate to gather the information that you want and need. They will be equally as eager to get to know you as well!


Happy New Year fellow readers,

I know the blog has been a little neglected but here's poem I came across from one of the wonderful, strong women I work with who have made an adoption plan…I'd be interested to hear your thoughts!

A birthmother’s prayer

They laid the baby in her arms
she watched her newborn son sleeping
she bowed her head in silent prayer
and asked the Lord for his safe keeping
you know his life has just begun
sometimes it won't treat him fair
so be with him when I can't
all I can give my little one
is this Mother's Prayer.

She tries her best to explain
as she holds his little hand
she says you're meant for better things
I hope that you can understand
all the papers have been signed
and your new home's waiting there
and one day they'll tell you soon
how you were the answer to
another Mother's Prayer

Openness-The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Dear fellow reader,

I want to add a side note, like many things in adoption openness is something that has to be decided by each individual. It a very complex dynamic that may often times be difficult to manage and it certainly is NOT for everyone. For some healing comes from focusing on other aspects of their lives and the constant reminder of an adoption plan through visits or pictures may prove to be too painful and may hinder their healing process. That being said here are some facts we know about open adoptions.

Research from the book the Open Adoption Experience


Children have a connection to their birth parents that begins even before birth and cannot be changed by any legal process


Children need information about where they come from to help form a personal identity it’s better for children to deal with reality


Children need to know that their birth families care about them and the adoption didn’t represent a rejection


Birth families need not represent a threat to their children or to the attachment between children and their adoptive parents


Birth parents often feel more at peace when they know the outcome of their pregnancy and their adoption plan.


Any developing relationship is often healthier when it is open and honest.


Adoptive parents feel more authentic when they receive permission from the birth parents to be their child’s parents and see that the birth parents involvement doesn’t take away from their parent child relationship.


We also know that birth parents and adoptive parents experience this process very differently in many ways, what many do not know is that often some feelings are the same for both. Now you may remember a posting from a few months ago where we reviewed the grief cycle, here it is again with a little twist.



In adoption in order to gain anything one first must lose…a family, a child, dream depending on which member of the Adoption Triad(birth parent, adoptive parent, adopted child) you’re focusing on.

Adoptive Parents whether through infertility, failed pregnancy, still birth or death of a child have experienced one of life’s greatest blows prior to adopting.

Birth Parents experience a tremendous loss of giving birth to a child and having to give up not only their child but a “normal” parent/parent child relationship with that baby.

It is these losses and the way they’re accepted and hopefully resolved which set the tone for the lifelong process of the adoption.


All members of the adoption triad may wonder what they did or didn’t do to deserve the loss.

Adoptive Parents may wonder if their bodies have rejected them because of infertility and may also worry the birth parents may reject them for not being “good enough” parents.

Birth Parents often reject and condemn themselves for being irresponsible.


Birth Parents and adoptive parents may experience a sense of deserving such rejection leading members to experience guilt or shame.

Adoptive Parents often feel shame about their inability to have children biologically, and may experience responsibility and guilt for causing pain to birth parents. Their happiness may feel like  a huge price to pay for someone else’s sadness.

Birth Parents may often feel guilt or shame for conceiving a child and not being able to take care of their baby.



Adoptive parents and birthparents share a common experience of role confusion. They are handicapped by the lack of positive identity associated with being either a birthparent or adoptive parent (Kirk 1964). Neither set of parents can lay full claim to the adoptee and neither can gain distance from any problems that may arise.



Adoption alters the course of one's life. Birthparents, adoptive parents, and adoptees are all forced to give up control. Adoption, for most, is a second choice.

 Birthparents did not grow up with romantic images of becoming accidentally pregnant and surrendering them for adoption. In contrast, the pregnancy is often a crisis situation whose resolution becomes adoption. In order to solve the predicament, birthparents must surrender not only the child but also their volition, leading to feelings of victimization and powerlessness which may become themes in birthparents' lives.

For adoptive parents, the intricacies of the adoption process lead to feelings of helplessness. These feelings sometimes cause adoptive parents to view themselves as powerless, and perhaps entitled to be parents. Some adoptive parents may seek to regain the lost control by becoming overprotective and controlling, causing them to be too rigid. This control issue also translates into relationships with birth parents, it may cause adoptive parents to overcompensate or pull back depending on how they respond to this loss of control.

Best Wishes,



Open Adoption- the other side of the story

As you all my know I often base my posts or struggles I notice while working with some of my birth mothers. This month's post is no different. One of my favorite clients is negotiating an open adoption relationship. At one point I asked her what do you think this is like for the adoptive parents? My client sat back a little dazed and couldn't find the words to answer me. This got me to thinking that in times of grief one may often become too focused on their sadness and ignore the feelings of those around them. So I've decided to post the other side of the story.

One adoptive parent described her story, “When he asked about where babies come from I took advantage of the opportunity to tell him that ladies have babies, and, I added, "Usually when a lady has a baby she brings the baby home and is his mother; but sometimes if a lady knows she doesn't know how to be a mother or can't take care of a baby the right way she may ask another lady to be the baby's mother." This was my story, and I stuck to it for a good, long, time. I reasoned, that to have an open arrangement with this biological mother, would put a face on someone who was not to him, at that time, more than a story.

I also worried, that having an open adoption situation where the biological mother visited or called and where pictures were sent on a regular basis would make an adoption feel like unpaid foster care, was that all I was, a caretaker for someone else’s child?  While I admired the golden curls he had inherited from one of the biological parents, I worried about that this little boy might never love me like he will love his birth mother.

They say that loss is always involved in adoption—to the birth parent, the loss of the placed child; to the adopted child, the loss of the first parents and of one’s own biological roots; to the adoptive parent, the loss of the biological child who might have been. But only the first two of these are strictly adoption-related losses: Had George and I never adopted, we still would have experienced the loss of our biological children. We knew that having an open adoption would ultimately benefit our son but I had only a vague notion of how it might be good for us. It seemed to be a constant reminder of my flaws, the fact that I was incapable of having children of my own.

 Also, although this may sound awfully cold-hearted, I worried about my developing relationship with my child constantly, and how having 2 mothers in his life would affect him. Is there room for everyone in his heart? Will he one day want to go back to his birth family? Will I be a good enough parent? Could someone else have done it better?

I think back to a movie I once saw…a story of two mothers one mother explained this very complex relationship, this child can have us both, love us both and he will be a better person because of me and because of you.