How to cope with unexpected birth mother contact
Susan Ogden from Adoptions Together describes how her agency developed their response to help adoptive families and birth families navigate their relationships online, and the lessons that she and her agency have learned one family at a time.
The presentation was given as part of the 5th Rudd New Worlds of Adoption Conference which had a focus on contact between birth and adoptive families. Susan Ogden describes some of the specific clinical and relationship issues that can arise when social media is used to contact birth mothers and adoptees. She peppers her talk throughout with recommendations and advice regarding preparation for contact and management of the ongoing contact.
The entire presentation is just over an hour long and well-worth listening to. Although the presentation is for an audience primarily of adoption practitioners, the recommendations are of equal value for adoptive parents and birth families. Susan Ogden thinks there are probably thousands of adoptions where contact has been opened up by Facebook. many of which are probably going well and may have found their own path to grow relationship.
“We see the ones that are problematic and have turned to us for help. So they are probably not representative of the majority”
She uses 4 case studies, which cover typical scenarios, to illustrate her talk.
- In case 1 an adoptee contacts their birth mother on Facebook and the birth mother contacts the agency to find out what to do.
- In case 2 a birth mother contacts the adoptee via Facebook. The adoptive parent is very distressed and contacts the agency.
- In case 3 an adoptee wrote a letter to his birth parent. A lot of the relationship is managed via Facebook.
- In case 4 the adoptive mother declares to the agency her intention to use Facebook to find the birth mother.
In all 4 cases the adoptive family-birth family relationships had been compromised.
Questions about birth family contact through social media
Here are the questions and issues addressed in the video
What are the first steps to take to prepare for birth family contact?
What should we do if my child is contacted by her birth mother on Facebook?
How do I prepare my child for the possibility of social media contact with his birth family?
Is it OK to use Facebook for contact? What are the alternatives?
What is the goal of contact and what part does social media play?
How do I manage social media contact?
How do I create safety and boundaries around social media contact?
How should we begin contact?
What do I do if contact on social media becomes problematic?
What support should I expect from my adoption agency?
How can adoption agencies help adoptive parents with social media contact?
Susan Ogden (2013) “My Birth Mother Friended Me!” Adoptive Family Relationships in the Social Networking Era. 5th Rudd New Worlds of Adoption Conference: Contact between adoptive & Birth Parents – What Works? 11-12 April 2013. UMASS Amherst. Link to conference archive.
Susan Ogden is the former Director of the domestic infant adoption programme at Adoptions Together. She is an adoptive mother.