Staying connected during COVID.
Tips to continue building your open adoption relationship.
COVID has changed so much in our lives, especially our contact with others, but the importance of contact in an open adoption relationship remains vital. Now that we know COVID isn’t going away soon, we are all finding ways to manage the risks while staying connected to friends and family, and prioritizing in-person contact with the people that are closest to us. We’ve probably also experienced the difficulties of navigating the differences in people’s expectations and practices, which can lead to hurt feelings, disappointment, and misunderstandings. Whether you’re approaching adoption planning with an expectant parent, or building your open adoption relationship after placement, or have been living your open adoption relationship for years, communication and contact between adoptive families and birth families is essential and deeply meaningful to everyone involved.
Here’s how OA&FS is supporting our clients as they navigate COVID during the adoption planning process.
- When you receive the call that you’ve been chosen, we will provide recommendations as to whether the introductory meeting will be in-person or via video conference. Location, due date, whether it’s a last minute placement, and other extenuating circumstances will inform our recommendations.
- We will check-in with each party to ensure everyone feels comfortable with the meeting plan. We will review the agreed upon precautions if meeting in-person (masks, not hugging or shaking hands, distancing, etc.), and will help ease the potential awkwardness of this by providing support and tips before and during the meeting.
- We will talk with each party in general about the complexities that COVID introduces into the open adoption relationship and ongoing contact.
- As part of the introductory meeting and during the adoption planning process, we will encourage each party to share:
- How they are navigating COVID and the degree of precautions they are taking.
- What they imagine contact will look like before and after placement.
- Ideas regarding ways that relationship building and connection can be enhanced in addition to in-person contact/visits.
- Brainstorm around any potential hurdles and perceived differences in your respective approaches to COVID.
- The OA&FS counselor will research and communicate information on the hospital’s COVID related practices, and how that may impact the hospital experience.
- We will provide tips for communication, and will be there to support these discussions before, during, and after placement.
Examples of what clients have done:
- Some birthparents have chosen to send gifts via mail when they aren’t able to do in-person visits. It can provide comfort to have a tangible symbol of themselves in the child’s life.
- Some birth and adoptive families have expanded their quarantine bubble to include one another. This might involve going to each other’s homes, if both parties share a similar precaution level, or visiting outdoors (by bringing extra masks and hand sanitizer, especially if this is important to you.)
- Some families have rented an Airbnb in the expectant mother’s town days or weeks prior to her delivery, spending time getting to know the birth family and/or her support system.
- Several folks have tried to set up more frequent video calls, and this has worked with varying levels of success. If the call is during a time where baby is sleepy or not alert, the adults can still enjoy connecting and focusing on relationship building.
- Using the ‘Marco Polo’ app to send video messages. This can make texting more personable and offers a fun way to send video snip-its of yourselves or the baby (if after placement).
Why in-person visits feel important to birthparents after placement.
- Feeling assured of the adoptive parents’ desire for and commitment to the open adoption relationship
- Feeling valued by adoptive parents
- Feeling validated in their role as birthparent
- Continuing their connection and relationship with the child
- Further developing relationship and connection to the adoptive parents
Tips for communication.
- Proactively & periodically check in about future visits, since this is such an evolving situation.
- Open and honest communication is key.
- Acknowledge differences in approaches and comfort levels.
- Focus on being empathetic.
- Remind each other of their importance and value.
- Reassure and remind one another to not take precautions personally.
- Be flexible to find middle ground or a way to have a visit that feels comfortable for everyone.