The Future Of Adoption Reform

Informed by an article at Lavender Luz

Imagine a glorious time in the future when all adoptees can get their original birth certificates and all open adoption arrangements are codified with a contract and truly open. I certainly could go further but the realist that I am will stick with these two that would be an improvement. Won’t it be great to be finished with the hard work of adoption reform?

While changes in adoption laws and policy are necessary, these alone will not make Adoption World all better. If laws were the endpoints, then the passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments would have resulted in immediate equality for formerly enslaved and free African Americans. But they didn’t. Now, even 150 years later, our society struggles with these same issues.

Reforming policy and law is one necessary step, but it’s not the last step. Not until ideas of respect, empathy, and inherent value of others also take root in people’s hearts can true and enduring change happen. There are things that we do because an external force (rule or law) makes us do it, but the other comes from values we carry within our self. It’s good to have good laws; but it’s even better when those laws are followed naturally, because they’re viewed as the right thing to do anyway.

With the desired reforms in adoption, we don’t just want to see compelled behavioral change (because I have to), we want the spirit of the changes (because it’s in line with who I want to be). In reforming adoption, how can we help people move from “because it’s a requirement” to “because it’s the right thing to do?” Some of what I do is write this blog to advocate for a reformed perspective on adoption and foster care as well as some tangential issues.

To put this in adoption terms, even though adoptive parents and birth parents may have a Post-Adoption Contact Agreement, that doesn’t always mean the agreement comes from the heart. The law says one thing, but the vibe among those in the adoption constellation may say something else. The adopted child will likely sense such a disconnect when contact is made from obligation rather than a desire for connection.

Even if the law says that an adoptee can get his original birth certificate, IF the vibe he senses from his adoptive family isn’t an open one, he may actually feel as though he’s not free to get his document. He intuits the mixed message from his adoptive parents: Yes you can, but no you may not.

I have often read about adoptees who wait until the death of their adoptive parents to begin searching for their original parents? My adoptee mom waited until the early 1990s, only to learn that her original mother was dead and believed that since her original father was so much older, he had most likely died as well (and he had died, 30 years earlier). Even if the adoptee had been legally free to start looking, they never really felt free to do so. A law opening up an adoptee’s original birth certificate would be ineffective for the adoptee, until and unless their adoptive parents have given off the vibe that frees the adoptee to access it (or if that is in the adoptive parents’ possession, actually handed it over to them on request).

Ideas start big at the macro level, but implementation needs to reach all the way to the micro level, to the minds and hearts of individuals. Fortunately, much is already being done in Adoption World to bring about such changes. It is my hope that my small effort here is some part of that change.

The Importance Of Names

From the UK Mirror

A mum-to-be has sparked an interesting debate online, after confessing she’d found herself in a bitter row with the biological family of her soon-to-be adopted twins.

The woman and her husband are due to become parents to a gorgeous pair of twins when they are born next year – but while everything had been going smoothly between the two families, they’ve recently come to a huge road block over names.

“My husband and I are in the process of adopting two cute little twins that will be born in January,” the 25-year-old explained on Reddit’s Am I The A**hole forum.

“The biological mother is a 15-year-old girl, G, who doesn’t want to keep them. She’s the daughter of a friend of a friend of ours and somehow it got through that we wanted to adopt so her family called us as soon as they knew that G was pregnant.”

The couple have been with G all throughout her pregnancy and have assured her that even though she doesn’t wish to be a mother to the twins, she can still be a part of their life and visit them whenever she wants, as they’ll all be living in the same city – despite the fact the teen has shown no interest in having a relationship with them at all so far.

“As soon as we found out about the baby, we began looking for names and when it was confirmed that it were going to be twins, a girl and a boy, we decided on the names Ellie and Evan,” the woman continued.

“Last week however, we were informed that G had chosen names herself; Walter and Agnes. She didn’t choose them because of a relative, just because she thought they sounded cool. I don’t think I have to mention how outdated the names are and my husband and I simply don’t like them.”

The mum-to-be added that even if the name chosen by G were great, they’re still hers and her husband’s children and they will be raising them, therefore it’s their place to choose the names.

“They will also get our last name and legally be our children, which was decided and agreed on five months ago,” she continued. “G’s family is upset with us for not accepting their ‘real’ names and is threatening to look for new parents.”

The mum explained that while she was considering naming the girl Ellie Agnes to appease the family, there was no way she would ever name the boy Evan Walter.

Although it appears to be empty threats from G’s family, the woman turned to Reddit to question whether she was justified in putting her foot down when it comes to naming their adopted babies.

“I think you need to look at it from the bio moms perspective. She is giving you a really big gift. Regardless of practicality, opportunities etc, these are her babies. Naturally she would want to give them a name, it’s practically the only thing she will ever be able to give them,” one suggested.

“You will be the ones to comfort them, you will be the ones to cuddle them, you will be the ones there for every milestone. I understand hating the names, but I would try to either keep them as middle names or talk to her and see if you can come up with better names together.”

In my all things adoption group, the comment was –

To me it basically comes down to whose names are they?…The baby boy and the baby girls. It’s as simple as that. It’s not the adopter’s names nor the birth mother’s names…it’s the names she chooses and gives them. So it’s their names. Their name is their property, belonging to each of them. To take that away is identity theft, as happens in the majority of adoptions. It kinda happened in my adoption, as my adoptive parents didn’t know/weren’t told my name so chose what I was to be called. I was 38 before I learned my original name…MY name. I usually liken it to me calling someone by their wrong name eg Barbara, but I call her Bernice. She’d put me straight pretty damn quick, yet Adoptees live a life by the wrong name and are expected to put up and shut up! Adoption should be about the child’s needs and about their rights, respect and
autonomy, not ownership, imbalance or superiority. When will people get that?

My own experience –

My adoptee dad used to tease my adoptee mom by using her name at birth. It turns out that both of them had names relevant to their genetic heritage – for my dad, his middle name was the name of the man who fathered him. for my mom, her middle name was her grandmother’s middle name – my grandmother had lost her mom at the tender age of 7 and was seeking to honor her. I am against adoptive parents changing adoptee’s names. The change in the last name may be a governmental requirement as regards financial responsibility but then again, these days, with remarriage so common, does it really matter what the last name
of the child is ?

Preventing Adoptee Suicides

I was already aware that the statistics are worrisome. I didn’t know there was a month dedicated to focusing on this particular issue. Suicide is a sad and desperate choice no matter who chooses it but it is an individual choice and yet affects everyone who ever knew the person.

Attempted suicide is more common among adolescents who live with adoptive parents than among adolescents who live with biological parents. The association persists after adjusting for depression and aggression and is not explained by impulsivity as measured by a self-reported tendency to make decisions quickly.

You may be fortunate enough to be an adoptee who does not struggle with suicidal thoughts. But some adoptees struggle in silence, feel shame or feel disenfranchised and marginalized. I am seeking to share what some adoptees know, and the broader public should know, that suicidal adoptees are not an abnormality.

There is a need to talk about this issue more openly and in the mainstream. This is so important because adoption is sold as a “win-win” scenario. Talking about suicide is hard and uncomfortable. Talking about it in connection with adoption – which often has much joy but is more complex than most people realize – is challenging.

Generally, people would not have any reason to know that some adoptees struggle. The issues are real, and should be discussed more openly. Dismissing adoptee related suicide or mental illness will not help anyone. It will however further disenfranchise vulnerable adoptees.

If you are an adoptee with suicidal thoughts, know that you are not alone, other adoptees have felt this way too. Please reach out for help and know that you deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. If you know of an adoptee who is at risk, please do not be afraid to likewise reach out and help them to access appropriate support services. Do not be afraid to ask direct questions about suicide. You can’t put the idea of suicide in someone’s head by talking about it. Asking direct questions can help you to determine if they’re in immediate danger and in need of assistance.

So much of the messaging around adoption is invisibly supported by the interests with a financial stake in promoting it. However, the separation that precedes the placement of a baby or young child into adoption causes a trauma that may be subconscious and not consciously recognized by the adoptee or the people who have adopted them.

4.5 percent of adopted individuals have problems with drug abuse, compared with 2.9 percent of the general population. This is striking because it is a far higher a percentage than the 2% of the population who are adopted. Despite what adoptive parents are told and hope for, no matter how loving and nurturing an adoptive parent, no matter how deeply loved an adopted child may be, many adoptees will say, that “Love is not all we need.”

One adoptee describes their own experience this way –

“So what does it feel like to be adopted? A weird amalgamation of rejection and acceptance. Someone’s trash is someone else’s treasure… It’s been difficult for me to accept that my parents actually love me, and that they’re not just putting me on a shelf somewhere to gawk at and to call their own. I’m still figuring it out.”

Often, adoptees don’t want to upset their adoptive parents with concerns about depression or anything that could be seen as ingratitude, including normal, healthy curiosity about their own genetic, biological roots. This is very common among adoptees. No one mirrors you while growing up to assist you in forming a sense of identity and self-worth. Many adoptees describe intense feelings when they give birth to their own child. Finally seeing a human being who is biologically and genetically connected to them for the very first time. Adoptees lack a recognizable source for personality traits, temperament, and abilities. It’s difficult to feel connected without knowing where you inherited your love of playing music, or curly hair, or shyness, or why everyone in your family is athletic but you.

Another adoptee notes –

“There is a certain detachment to adoption. Being ‘chosen’ rather than ‘born to’ does it. Because we did not arrive by natural means, and so much mystery (or outright lies) are our baggage, we often feel not only that we do not fit in, but that we are disposable. That’s the thing about being chosen, you can be unchosen. And some adoptees aren’t going to wait for the dismissal; they are going to finally take control of their life by ending it.”

It is true that some adoptees (my dad was one of this kind) have the resilience and temperament to lead perfectly happy lives. He simply chose to accept that his adoptive family was the only family he needed and was quick to dismiss any curiosity my mom had as an adoptee as ill founded. I believe that he had a deep-seated fear of knowing the truth regarding why he was adopted.

If you love someone who is adopted, be aware of this risk factor. The best thing we can do for our adopted children, friends, siblings, and spouses is listen and validate their sadness as a normal and natural need to know why. I am grateful that my mom had me to share her feelings with. Someone who understood that these feelings in her were valid and reasonable.

Please Be Mindful

Please be mindful of what you say about an adoptee’s birth parents and extended birth family – regardless the circumstances or how you personally feel. Remember that this person shares genes and inheritable aspects with that family of origin.

From an adoptee – As a child I internalized the messages about how I was so much better off adopted, that I was convinced my mother must have been a very evil person. I thought perhaps a witch or a prostitute and would tell everyone this. I was secretly petrified I would be just like her. (Note: she’s not, she was a vulnerable woman who was not supported to keep me.)

Of course, it is known that children have no filters or sense of decorum and will often repeat the perspectives of adults around them – thus comes this sad recollection. One of my earliest memories is from when I was 5 years old and a classmate told me I was adopted because my biological mom didn’t love me. It was so hurtful and it took me a long time to get past it.

The same advice applies to one parent or family bashing the other parent or family. Regardless of whether these are biological, foster families, adoptive family. All of these are part of a child’s history and life experience and when you do this, you are saying in effect that a part of the child is equally bad.

The Ideal Perspective ?

The most common experience from those I have witnessed is a lifetime of regret on the part of the birth mother. That is why my all things adoption group encourages expectant mothers to at least try and parent their newborn for some significant period of time before giving their precious baby up for adoption.

On the other side are voices trying to convince expectant mothers that the BEST thing they can do for their baby is let them go. And so today, I saw this description of that mindset . . .

This is from a “Bravelove testimony”. Although this perspective is from an adoptee testimony, it could have just as easily come from adoptive parent testimonies, birth mother testimonies or adoption professional testimonies. It is often seen as the desired perspective that adoptees should hold of their adoptions. It is often praised as a perspective showing love and respect for birthmothers, yet to me, it is reducing women who are birthmothers to the decision they made and dismissing them as complex people who were dealing with complex situations.

“A birth mother has three options. She can choose to have an abortion, and I wouldn’t be here right now. She can give birth, but choose to say “no this is my child and I don’t care what kind of life she has, she is mine and I’m not going to let her go,” and be totally selfish, but my birth mom chose the most selfless option. And probably the hardest; to carry me for nine months, give birth to me through all that pain and suffering and then look me in the eyes” and say “I love you so much I can’t keep you.”

Some version of the above, maybe not so direct but with similar implications, is often seen as the ideal attitude for an adoptee to have in order to “come to terms” with their adoptions.

I have reversed my own thinking about adoption (both of my parents were adoptees and both of my sisters gave up babies to adoption). I’ve done my best to understand the history of adoption and my grandmothers who surrendered their babies in the 1930s as well as how the thinking about adoption has changed over time, fewer births due to Roe v Wade, more open instead of closed adoptions, the advent of inexpensive DNA testing and matching sites opening up a whole new wave of reunions between adoptees and their birth parents. It appears to me no matter how good of a job adoptive parents did in raising a child, no matter what kind of wealth supported amenities they were able to offer (private school, horseback riding or ballet lessons, etc) adoptees and their birth parents seem to yearn for one thing throughout their lifetimes – to be reunited. This says something powerful to me about the whole push to separate women from their babies. When those adopting are evangelical Christians (whether the good people adopting believing they are doing some kind of saving grace for any unwanted child are motivated by that or not) the leadership of that religious persuasion is seeing adoption as taking the children of heathens and converting them to the faith.

I never did think that the choice a woman makes – to surrender her child or not – was selfish or selfless. All birth mothers are simply human beings who were doing the best they could under whatever circumstances they were dealing with. Each one has my own sympathetic compassion for the effects of that decision on the remainder of their lifetimes.

What Does It Feel Like ?

Today’s very sad story . . .

I wonder if everyone has a breaking point. Where they’re just done. Numb. Detached from everything that once was…..I moved out of my adopted parents’ house a year ago into my own house that I’m still renovating. Today I stopped by to see how they’re are doing as my adoptive mom is dying. I went to my old bedroom and found it completely empty. Why am I so upset about this? My adoptive dad threw out EVERYTHING that had come from India with me. No more photos or books in my native tongue. Gone is my baby book filled with what I liked and disliked. And the most terrifying loss? My little teddy bear that kept me company when I flew to America. I feel like I was abandoned again. I feel like that little girl again in the orphanage, crying for her mom. Crying. Crying. Nothing.

In a situation like this, one can only hear the sorrow and feel for the loss. And often, since there is no fixing a situation like this, that is all that is needed. It was a horrible abusive act on the part of her adoptive father. No excuse for such heartless cruelty. The least they could have done is either box it up and ask her to come get it or allow her some space to chose what she wanted before they cleaned out her room.

They Always DO Grow Up

A question was asked – when adopting a child, particularly a baby, do the adoptive parents ever think about what will happen when that child is an adult ? And by that I mean after the parents are dead. Will that child have a legacy or a family or a tribe (other than their friends if they are lucky enough to have friends) or partners to last a lifetime ?

The person posing the question goes on to wonder – did you ever think, will your child when they are an adult, get what they need or deserve from family property ? Do you really think that your adult will hold onto a claim to your family ? When everyone is sitting around talking about Aunt Jenny, how will that make your adult child feel ?

One response was this –  you adopted a child to love, that does not automatically extend to other people, who may not feel the same way as you, the adoptive parent, when it comes to sharing an inheritance or even in how they actually feel about the adopted kid. Lots of families and other people “play along” with the game of pretending the adopted child is the same as if you had given birth to them for the adoptive parents sake. Sadly, there have been cases of adoptees who have been denied family keepsakes, etc after the adoptive parents’ death specifically because of the adoption. Adoptees told they are not worthy because the charade is over.

Adoption in most cases is very much about the baby. The savior/hero thought process of most adoptive parents focuses on the baby/child. It’s such a short term view of a real person and their entire life.

I found this story very interesting – So I’m adopted: my grandfather left me a trust fund and none of the biological grandchildren have one. They all contested his will. They didn’t understand why I received a trust fund. However, they did all receive some money from his estate. I was the one who saw my grandfather weekly and never asked for money or anything. He would take me out for dinner and always slip me a $20.00 for gas. I was always grateful. I loved my grandfather best because he was like me – his parents died and he was abandoned with his brother. So we both had that hole in our souls. When he was dying, I made sure I was there with him. I was the product of a forced adoption and I have an adopted son (from foster care). He will receive a portion of the trust from my grandfather and the trust will be split with my husband. I made certain to set it up for everyone five ways. My adoptive parents are still alive and the will they have created is so stupid that I just cannot. However, I will get some amount monthly until I die, then my remaining money goes to their own blood relatives and is divided up among them. My kids will receive nothing. When I’ve shared the will with a few close friends, they are all like WTF ! The way my adoptive parents hold money over my head, even at this stage and age, is so annoying and uncalled for ! I wish people realized you cannot be buried with your money.

This really spoke to me on more than one level. I don’t know what the laws are now but when my mom’s adoptive parents created a generation skipping trust, my mom told me that it was against the law for adoptive parents to disinherit adopted children. So, my mom and her also adopted brother, received income from the trust but cannot cash it out. However, my mom also struggled with the way her wealthy adoptive mother held money over her head. I also experienced that when I went to England with my adoptive grandmother. I had very little in the way of spending money. She was like – I paid for this trip, be grateful (as I watched her spend freely on her self). It’s not like she had to directly earn that money with hard work. My grandparents got in on the ground floor of Circle K when it first started. It made them wealthy as the stock appreciated. My grandfather retired as a vice president of a bank. He died at a relatively young age – in his 60s. My grandmother lived 3 decades longer on those funds and traveled the world and was always giving money away in philanthropy. I think she did it to earn respect. She actually grew up poor.

One more story and I have to end this for today – my son was placed at 4 days with his adoptive family. He is now 33. Typical closed domestic infant adoption. He lived with and cared for his maternal adoptive grandparents for the last five years. They both passed on either side of Christmas. His grandmother’s literal last words were “don’t kick him to the curb”. She must have sensed what was coming. The family gave him to the end of March (about 3 months) to move out. Once he was out of his grandparents house, he will continue to get paid $500/month but only for a year. They want to basically be done with him. That’s how his adoption ended. Thankfully, he has moved “home” with me and I am happy to have all of my kids back. We’re planting fruit trees now. I changed my own final documents years ago to provide for all four of my children equally.

Disrupted

Perspectives from a thwarted adoption . . . .

“Just experienced a disrupted adoption. Mom changed her mind after signing the paperwork. I will forever treasure the few days I had with that little girl and hope her and her mama stay safe on their journey to independence. I’m sure I looked like a crazy lady walking through the Dallas/Fort Worth airport carrying a diaper bag, car seat, and duffle bag of baby items with no baby, just sobbing on and off. TSA definitely gave me some weird looks when I got randomly selected to have all my luggage searched and I just kept crying as they took items out. Luckily the winter storm and rolling blackouts in Texas meant there were fewer than normal people at the airport to witness my sob-athon.”

The most obvious question is – Why wouldn’t she just give all that stuff to mom?

The most obvious answer is – They’re expensive and she wants them for the “next time”. 

What does a genuinely nice reactions look like ?

One couple went to Target and bought mom and baby boy everything they could possibly need and gave these to the mom with a card congratulating her and expressing their understanding related to her decision. They had that little boy’s needs set for his entire first year. They were really respectful of mom’s decision and didn’t try to talk her out of it in anyway. PS this was a black couple, comfortable financially but not wealthy, and they always behaved well and offered things if mom chose to parent.

And to treat the hopeful adoptive mom in this story with consideration – her being sad is understandable. I think its ok to be sad, even if the baby wasn’t hers in the first place. She wished them well and doesn’t seem to have been angry. She never referred to the baby as “hers”, no display of entitlement nor was she angry.

It is so easy to criticize and judge. Every one of us needs to reach into our hearts for a sincere understanding of the place other people are seeing things from. Often their personal experiences are coloring their perceptions.

It Matters What We Are Called By

The name of a thing does not matter as much as the quality of the thing.
~ Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

A person’s name is the greatest connection to their own identity and individuality. Some might say it is the most important word in the world to that person. … When someone remembers our name after meeting us, we feel respected and more important. It makes a positive and lasting impression on us.

I love hearing my sons say “Mom” and my grandchildren say “Grandma”. My oldest son, now 20 years old, sometimes says Steve or Debbie when referring to us but I see this as a maturity thing. Though most of us will still say Mom or Dad even when we are in our 60s, if we are so lucky to have them still living. Back in my early 20s, my young daughter (preschool age) did also sometimes call me Debbie. The children hear other people refer to us by our given names and that is a factual reality, we do carry the names we are given, unless we change them intentionally.

Adoptees are mostly never allowed to keep their birth given names after adoption. Their names are changed and their birth certificates altered. This is the erasing of an identity.

With foster care, the circumstances can be slightly different, as illustrated by today’s story.

Children ages 5 and 6 have spent 1 year with their current foster family. They have been in foster care for 2.5 years. The Termination of Parental Rights has already happened. The current foster family intends to adopt them.

Now the foster mom is crying that the kids keep calling her and her husband by their first names. They insist on calling their biological parents mom and dad. This is totally understandable as those people are their original, natural mom and dad. However, the foster mom says this hurts both of the foster parents’ feelings. Their reason for wanting to adopt is to grow their family. They want the kids to accept that, after adoption, they are the mom and dad now. They don’t want to be called by their first names going forward. They set an example by calling themselves mommy and daddy. The kids continue to persistently call them by their first names. The foster parents call the original birth parents – biodad or biomom – or even by their first names. Kids remain adamant and keep saying my “real” dad or “real” mom.

And the hurt feelings for the foster parents do not end and this matter to them because they’ve never had kids of their own before. They suffer from infertility and after years of trying, they want to become parents by adopting. They’re adopting to become “parents” not simply babysitters.

It upsets them that the original natural parents hardly made an effort to visit the kids and yet the kids still remember them and call them their parents, mom and dad. The foster parents are seeking to drive a wedge between the kids and their original natural parents by saying “A real parent takes care of you. Does not choose an addiction over you or go to prison.”

The foster parents are seeking to intentionally disrupt the children’s relationship to their original parents because it simply hurts them too much to not be called mommy and daddy by these children. The foster mom has said that it has always been her dream and desire to adopt. She is laying down the law !! She will not be called by her first name after adoption.

The foster parents had a fantasy that by now the kids would be happy to call them mommy and daddy. They believed that since these kids are so young, the kids would easily bond with them as parents by now. That after having been in foster care, these kids would be happy to receive a new mommy and daddy.

It would seem that good quality healthy people would not be obsessed with molding a child to be something they are not, when they are supposedly trying to help that child by adopting them. Why would they insist on erasing the factual family history from an innocent, already traumatized child ? Reasons why reform has become such an important concept in adoption and foster care.

The Uncertainty Inherent

Today’s story is about a birth mother who’s daughter, put up for adoption, has rejected contact with her 25 years later thanks to the Dear Therapist article in The Atlantic.

My daughter gave a child up for adoption about 25 years ago. She already had one child, and although I offered to help her raise both children, she felt it wouldn’t be fair to us or to the baby, so she gave her up to a very nice couple, whom we both interviewed and liked. The couple has kept in touch with us both over the years, sending pictures and updates on their daughter.

My daughter always felt that in time the child would want to get in touch with her, and in fact, her adoptive parents have encouraged this, but the girl has always said she didn’t want to. This is very painful for my daughter. Can you give us an idea as to why the young woman might not want to meet her birth mother, or offer any explanation that would make my daughter feel less rejected? She has even tried contacting her on Facebook, and the response was that Facebook was not an appropriate place to discuss this relationship. But no reciprocal contact has ever been made.

Blog Author’s note – It’s tough being a vulnerable, under supported, financially struggling birth mother. I get it. In my own family, the two children put up for adoption have since reconnected with this but that does not un-do all the years of living lives separated into other families. Even for my own self, I’ve re-connected with my actually genetic, biological relatives but it doesn’t make up for not knowing each other for decades. It is better to know who they are, it’s just tough building a relationship after so much time has gone by. So I am interested in this response.

Answer from the therapist –

I’m glad you’re curious about why the woman your daughter put up for adoption 25 years ago might not want to meet her birth mother. I say this because you write about your daughter’s pain and feeling of rejection, but I’m not sure that your daughter has a good sense of how her adopted child might feel—not only about this meeting, but about the circumstances that led to the adoption and her life since then.

Something to consider: Adopted children don’t get to choose whether or not they are adopted, or what family they’ll end up in. Adults make these choices for them. Given their lack of choice in what happened, making their own decisions about how to handle their experiences later on matters greatly.

Of course, different adoptees will make different decisions, for all kinds of reasons. But too often, adults try to dictate how they should feel and what they should do with regard to their birth parents. Sometimes it goes something like “You shouldn’t try to find your birth parents; after all, your mom and dad will be so hurt.” Other times it might be “Don’t search for your birth parents, because it might disrupt their lives or that of their families. They chose a closed adoption for a reason.” Or: “You should definitely search for them, because you’ll regret it later if you don’t.” Or: “How can you refuse to meet your birth parents? Don’t you realize how lucky you are that they’ve reached out and you have the opportunity to know them?” None of this, of course, respects the feelings of the person who was adopted.

Right now, there doesn’t seem to be much regard for your daughter’s biological child’s wants or needs—your perspective seems to be all about your daughter’s desire for this relationship. In fact, there’s so little regard for this young woman’s feelings that your daughter, despite knowing that her biological child has consistently said she’s not interested in meeting, reached out to her on Facebook.

As for why someone who was adopted may not want to meet her birth mother, the reasons are as varied as the individuals involved. Some adopted children feel angry or abandoned by the birth parents, especially if there are other siblings who stayed with one or both biological parents, as is the case here. (This may feel like being the “unwanted child.”) Some adoptees don’t have those feelings—they are living a perfectly happy life—but there’s fear of the emotional turmoil such a meeting might bring. It could raise new questions of what might have been; it could reveal information that the adoptee would rather not have known; it could start a relationship that doesn’t work out, resulting in a loss that could be quite painful on top of whatever feelings of loss the adoptee already has.

I’ve also heard from some adoptees who have met their biological parents that they found the experience disappointing. Despite imagining that they’d have a lot in common with their biological parents, upon meeting they felt as though these people were aliens with different interests, worldviews, personalities, and values—leaving them with a sense of emptiness. Some have told me that they would have preferred to maintain whatever fantasy they had of their biological parents rather than be faced with the much starker reality.

All of this is to say: A lot can go wrong, so it makes sense that some adoptees would choose not to be in contact with their biological parents. But whatever this young woman’s reasons, she doesn’t owe your daughter an explanation. It’s not her job to meet your daughter’s emotional needs.

Instead, gaining a better understanding of what those emotional needs are might help your daughter feel less pain about not meeting her biological daughter. I imagine that she has a lot of complicated feelings about the adoption that perhaps she doesn’t fully understand, and talking to a therapist about them might not only lessen the intensity of the longing but also help her consider what she’s asking of her biological daughter and why.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that your daughter’s biological child may feel differently about reaching out at another juncture in her life. She may have some questions about the family’s medical history one day, or decide that she wants the experience of seeing her biological mother face-to-face. If that time does come, it will be important to focus on her needs. There’s a difference between a phone conversation and a meeting, and between a meeting and embarking on a relationship. The less this woman worries that her biological family might want more from her than she’s willing to give—which is likely how she feels now—the more open she might become one day to making contact. But even if she doesn’t, the most loving thing you can do for her is to honor her choice.